If you want to enjoy tranquility of nature with murmur of rapids, rustling of leaves and chirping of birds near Helsinki city center, VanhaKaupunki/ Helsinki Old Town is the perfect destination for you. VanhaKaupunki is that place from where the story of Helsinki began. This town, located on the mouth of Vantaa river, is one of the most beautiful places in Helsinki where you can spend a day leisurely, admiring the nature.
1st time we visited the place on a sunny day in autumn. During fall season this area looks amazing with autumn colour. In winter it turns into a fairyland. Let’s make a virtual tour to Helsinki Old Town aka Helsinginvanhakaupunki through my clicks.
History of Vanhakaupunki - Helsinki Old Town
In 1550, the Swedish King Gustav Vaasa founded this old town on the banks of the Vantaa River. The aim was to improve the country’s domestic and international trade by using the river. Geographically the area was perfect for new settlement as it was connected with the internal parts of the country as well as with outside world by water.
Rapids of old town Helsinki /The vanhakaupungin koski:
One of the most popular places in old town is the rapids of old town Helsinki. The 200 metres wide rapids lead into the sea via two channels. One part of the rapids has a fish ladder and another part is protected.
There is an old power plant dam on the one channel of rapids.
The island of Kuninkaankartanonsaari is situated between the two channels. The Finnish word Island ‘Kuninkaankartano’ means Royal Manor. Kuninkaankartanonsaari, the Island of Royal Manor in English, is the place where main Manor of King Gustav Vaasa was. Today it is the home to Museum of Technology – only general museum of technology in Finland. This museum tells the story of technology and industry of Finland and Finns.
Koskenranta is an idyllic restaurant on the banks of the rapids. The location makes it different from other restaurants. It is a unique experience to sit on the open terrace of the restaurant and enjoy drinks. The terrace is closed in winter.
Power Plant Museum:
The Vanhakaupunki hydropower plant is the oldest working power plant in Helsinki. The museum is open for visitors from late spring to early autumn. The Museum of Technology entrance ticket includes the admission to the Power Plant Museum.
Statue of Catherine of Saxony-Lauenburg:
Vanhankaupunginlahti/ old town bay area offers prime opportunities for birdwatching as it is a significant nesting and migration area for birds in Helsinki. Over 300 different species of birds have been sighted in the area over the years. Lesser spotted woodpeckers, thrush, nightingales, wagtails, sedge warblers, Eurasian reed warblers and bearded reedlings are important among them. There are six bird watching towers, four accessible bird watching platforms and one bird hide in different parts of the bay. It is also a good place for hiker as there are nice long walking trails.
Lammassaari is another island close to Vanhankaupunginkoski rapids , next to Kuusiluoto. It is a great for a short walk through the nature and a perfect spot for bird watching or bird photography. An easily accessible path is made by duckboard through nature. Finnish word ‘Lammassaari’ means island of sheep but you can’t find a single sheep there. You will find different species of birds. The bird watching tower on Lammassaari is an excellent place for observing the nesting of grey herons on Loppi island which is located on the other side of the bay.
Villa Anneberg /Annala Manor (Annalan Huvila)
Villa Anneberg, commonly known as Annalan huvila (Annala Manor), is the oldest operational wooden villa in Helsinki. It was designed in 1820s by Gustaf Wasenius, an influential entrepreneur of that time and it is named after his wife, Annala. Nowadays Annalan huvilan ystävät association runs a cafe in the villa.
Annala Manor is surrounded by an idyllic public park. This park is known as Annala Garden. It is a parfect place for taking a stroll or for a picnic. Hyötykasviyhdistys organizes garden related events and courses at this yellow wooden building located in the garden. There is a small kids play area in the other side of the garden.
How to go to Vanhakaupunki:
Helsinki Old Town is easily accessible by Public transport from anywhere in Helsinki. Nearest bus stop is Annalantie and Tekniikan museo. Bus no 71, 55, 506 goes there from City center. Going by car is convenient as well. There is a spacious free public parking in the town.