Day 1.  A walk from Helsinki’s Market Square to Tervesaari island

With Finland celebrating its centenary this year and the country being a firm favourite of ours, it seemed only natural that we should make a return visit this summer.  On arriving into Helsinki airport late the previous evening, we spent our first day enjoying a walk around the market square which is always a beautiful sight.  The square is the beating heart of the city bustling with activity.  The small orange and white canvas roofed stalls sell fresh berries, flowers, vegetables and gifts and are always crowded with tourists, many from cruise ships looking for the perfect souvenir to remind them of their visit to Helsinki.  The market square is also the starting point for boat trips and a regular ferry to Suomenlinna island, a UNESCO World Heritage site, just a short 12 minute journey away.

Helsinki Market Square

Strolling across the footbridge we were interested to view the Allas Sea Pools which were nearing completion when we visited last summer.  Allas is located in a prime position at the side of the harbour next to the Ferris Wheel, affording stunning views of the harbour and the market square (kauppatori).  Wide, wooden steps lead up to the terrace and these have been cleverly designed to act as seats as well as a staircase with large bean bags to relax on.

Allas Sea Pools, Helsinki

Tickets are not required for access to the terrace areas but are needed to use the pools and saunas.  Allas boasts three pools located on a floating basin on top of the sea.  The Big Pool is filled with heated tap water and is a very comfortable 27 degrees Celsius all year round.  The Sea Pool is filled with sea water pumped from further out to sea where the currents are cleaner and then filtered.  The temperature of this pool is the same as the sea with warm water in summer and ice swimming during the winter months for the brave or should I say foolhardy!  The third pool is primarily for children and their parents and this is also heated to 27 degrees Celsius.

Wooden steps leading to the upper terrace of Allas Sea Pool, Helsinki

The complex also has three luxury saunas taking between 15 and 20 people at one time.  We climbed to the uppermost terrace from where we had splendid views of the pools and the harbour setting.  Here we found a rooftop bar with lots of wooden deck chairs to soak up the sunshine whilst sipping cool drinks.  On the lower level there is also a restaurant and cafe.  The site is spacious and can accommodate up to 2,700 customers, we were very impressed and will definitely be returning again during our stay.

View from the upper terrace of the Allas Sea Pools, Helsinki

Continuing our walk along the waterfront we admired some beautiful buildings from the Art Nouveau / Jugend style and boats moored in the harbour opposite.  Slightly further on, we followed a path along a causeway to Terversaari island.  This causeway was constructed in 1939 when it was used as a storage area for tar awaiting exporting.  After the final industrial units were removed in 1970 the island was opened to the public and in the mid 1990’s it was enlarged by means of land reclamation and transformed in to a park like setting.

Jugend architecture on Helsinki’s waterfront

Hedges of wild roses line the path and were awash with colour as the flowers were in full bloom.  Small boats were bobbing in the water on the causeway moorings and views back to the mainland were stunning.

Carpet Washing Pier, Helsinki

Starting our walk around the island we passed a traditional Finnish carpet washing pier ‘mattolaituri’ where people bring their rugs and carpets and wash them in the sea.  They are then left to dry in the sunshine on the wooden racks to be collected later.  These washing piers are a common sight along the Helsinki and Espoo waterfront.

Icebreakers in Helsinki harbour

From the island there are some good views of the Finnish ice breaking fleet in their summer home of Katajanokka.  These ships work hard at keeping the ports free from ice during the winter months and are now celebrating Finland’s centenary with a large banner.  Further round we could see Korkeasaari island which is home to the Helsinki Zoo.

Korkeasaari Island, Helsinki

We also passed a dog park which even has its own designated swimming beach for dogs, a children’s playground and an outdoor theatre where regular summer performances take place.

Designated dog park and beach, Helsinki

The island also features a traditional Finnish style restaurant ‘Savu’ which is located in the last remaining storehouse.  The restaurant specialises in smoke curing and is located in a beautiful setting.  After completing a circuit of the island we continued to Hakaniemi from where we caught a tram to the Kamppi bus station to return to our accommodation in Espoo.

In this, my second series of blog posts on southern Finland, my plan is to mainly visit places that I have not previously written about.  If you are interested to read about my month long stay last summer you can find a link to it here.


Day 2.  Exploring Senate Square Helsinki

Dominating Senate Square is Helsinki Cathedral, built in the neo-classical style this landmark building was completed in 1852 and its tall green dome can be seen from many parts of the city.  Senate Square was designed by Carl Ludvig Engel in 1852 and the cathedral was his masterpiece, majestically dominating the surrounding buildings.  The large flight of steps leading up to the cathedral act as seating when performances are taking place in the square below.  I’ve visited the cathedral before so if you would like to read about the interior you can do so in my previous post here.

Helsinki Cathedral

To the left of the cathedral stands the University of Helsinki and just beyond it is the National Library of Finland.  Being a lover of books it was only fitting that we should take a look inside this building.

National Library of Finland

The library is both the oldest and largest library in Finland and is responsible for the collection and preservation of Finland’s printed national heritage.  Anyone is welcome to visit the library and it is unnecessary to hold a library card.  Bags and coats must be left for safe keeping in the ornate wooden lockers near the door and there is no charge for this service.

Reading Room at the National Library of Finland

The library is divided into two principal buildings, its large halls all being connected to each other.  Leaving the foyer we stepped into the splendid Cuppola Hall, connected to two ornate side rooms, the North Hall and the South Hall which are both now used as reading rooms.  The columns are coated with stucco marble and each hall has its own colour scheme.  I just loved the exquisite painted ceilings which are from 1881.  The three halls form a unique suite of rooms in Finnish architectural history, an academic temple devoted to research and science.

The upper level of the National Library of Finland’s Reading Room

Connected to these rooms is the annex called the Rotunda which was built between 1902 and 1906 and designed by architect Gustaf Nyström.  The Rotunda has six floors and its semi circular extension is surrounded by curved bookcases.  Creating natural light, the glass roof is made of iron and its pillars are ornately decorated with reliefs.

View of the Rotunda and its curved book shelves in the National Library of Finland

From the top (6th) floor of the Rotunda we could see all the way down to the ground floor level.  The bookcases have intricately engraved numbering on the ends to enable readers to find their required books and the hall is furnished with some delightful antique chairs.

Interior of the Rotunda building of the National Library of Finland

Interestingly, the bulk of the collection is stored in an underground bunker drilled into solid rock below the library.  The library collections, the largest in Finland include a total of some three million books and periodicals.  We very much enjoyed our visit here, so if you might be in Helsinki and have an opportunity to visit, do take a look for yourselves, the library’s website can be found here.

The Bank of Finland Museum

Strolling across Senate Square we turned left onto Snellmaninkatu to visit the museum of the Bank of Finland.  This museum is open daily except Monday and has free admittance, more details can be found on its website here.  Being interested in economics we found the galleries very informative.

Old and new Finnish banknotes on display in the Bank of Finland Museum

The museum is divided into three sections.  The main theme focuses on the operation of the Bank of Finland and the European system of central banks and their monetary policy.  The history section details the history of cash and monetary developments in Finnish society.  The third gallery focuses on banknotes and displays the developments in banknote design since the early 19th century.

The House of the Estates, Helsinki

On the opposite side of the road to the Museum of the Bank of Finland lies the majestic House of the Estates.  This building was constructed in 1891 and is currently used for occasional government meetings as well as being the location for official coalition talks after general elections.  From there we walked the short distance to the market square passing Helsinki City Museum on the far corner of Senate Square.  This museum depicts city life through the years and offers a fascinating insight into how the capital has evolved.  We then took a tram back to the Kamppi district to return to our accommodation after an interesting tour of Senate Square.

Day 3.  A Day in Tallinn

We often visit Estonia’s capital Tallinn whilst we are staying in Helsinki as it makes for a pleasant day out or overnight stay.  Several ferry companies ply the route taking between 90 minutes on the fast ferry to two and a half hours on the larger, more comfortable car ferries.

Enjoying the entertainment on board the ferry in Tallinn

This summer we spotted an offer on Viking XPRS leaving Helsinki at 8.00 p.m. including an overnight stay on board and then returning the next evening allowing a full day to explore Tallinn for little more than the price of a standard return ticket.  The outbound boat was full of Estonian under 11 football teams returning from a day of matches in Helsinki but they were very well behaved and seemed to have more interest buying chocolate and crisps in the shop rather than watching the evening entertainment.  We settled down near the stage and listened to the house band ‘No Mercy’ who were of a good standard and watched people enjoying a whirl around the dance floor.  Surprisingly, when the boat docked in Tallinn at 10.30 p.m. almost everyone disembarked but the band kept playing for another hour and we had the lounge almost to ourselves, there appeared to be as many crew around as overnight passengers.

The view from on deck at 11.30 pm in Tallinn harbour

We found our cabin which we knew would be small but was even tinier than we had expected, in fact the bathroom was almost as large as the sleeping area.  However, it wasn’t a problem, our beds were narrow but comfortable and we had a good night’s sleep as the boat was in its moorings.  We were slightly later leaving than the designated 6.45 a.m. time for vacating our cabin and had to rush as the chambermaid was knocking on our door.  Breakfast was available on board until 7.30 a.m. but at the excessive cost of €10 for dubious quality we decided to go ashore where we found a pleasant cafe for early morning warm croissants and cappuccinos which brought us back to life.

Kadriorg Palace, Tallinn

It was a dull morning with occasional spots of rain but we continued with our original plan to visit areas of Tallinn beyond the historic old town.  The first place on our list was Kadriorg Palace and park just outside the city centre.  We started off to walk but as the route appeared to be along a boring main road we changed our minds and bought two travel cards at a cost of €2 each and loaded day tickets on to them costing an additional €3 each.  This enabled us to catch a No.3 tram to Kadriorg allowing us to rest a short time before exploring the park and its buildings.

The gardens of Kadriorg Palace, Tallinn

Kadriorg Palace was constructed in 1725 for Catherine I of Russia by Peter the Great.  The palace now forms part of the Estonian Art Museum displaying overseas art from the 16th to 20th centuries.  The museum is closed each Monday (the day of our visit) so we were unable to take a look inside.

Guards on duty outside the Estonian Presidential Palace in Tallinn

Located just behind Kadriorg Palace lies the Presidential Palace constructed in 1938.  During Estonia’s first period of independence between 1918 and 1940 the Head of State was based at Kadriorg Palace but it was felt that a purpose built palace was needed.  The Presidential Palace is closed to visitors but it’s interesting to take a walk in the grounds and watch the Changing of the Guard.

Signposts for the Cultural Kilometre in Tallinn

Leaving the palace we boarded a tram back into the city centre where we stopped off for our mid morning cups of coffee before taking a bus to the Cultural Kilometre.  Starting from just north of the old town this footpath passes through a stretch of post-Soviet post-industrial Tallinn.

Patarei Prison, Tallinn

Our walk started at a former power station known as the Creative Hub which is now an arts venue.  The building has retained its distinctive large chimney and is usually open to the public but was closed when we visited as an event was taking place related to the start of Estonia’s rotating presidency of the EU.  The path then starts off along the water’s edge but veers inland after a short distance.  We thought the signposting was vague and at times we were unsure which way to go but I think we were still able to locate most points of interest.

The Patarei prison viewed from the Seaplane Harbour

The route passed the former Patarei prison, a nineteenth century fortress that became a prison in 1920 and after being abandoned in 2004 opened as a museum.  We had hoped to take a look inside but the entire site was cordoned off which was a disappointment.  Continuing, we passed more abandoned buildings from the Soviet era that had been left to ruin.

Estonian Maritime Museum, Tallinn

Moving on further around the bay we came to the Estonian Maritime Museum at the Seaplane harbour.  This museum is open daily and is located inside the historical Seaplane hangar which at one time held 21 seaplanes.  Now it is home to over 200 exhibits including the Lembit submarine built in 1937.  Numerous boats are on display outdoors including Europe’s oldest steam powered icebreaker Suur Töll which was built in Germany in 1914.  Further details can be found on the museum’s website here.

Suur Töll icebreaker at the Estonian Maritime Museum

After an enjoyable time spent viewing the historic ships we rejoined the Cultural Kilometre route to view the delightful old wooden houses in the Kalamaja district.  This used to be Tallinn’s main fishing harbour and the surrounding neighbourhood of pastel painted homes remains.  It was very tranquil strolling along these tree lined streets admiring the collection of well preserved houses of various shapes and sizes.

Old wooden homes in the Kalamaja district of Tallinn

Our stroll along the Cultural Kilometre ended at Tööstuse Street but we still had more places to explore.  Walking back towards the centre we arrived at Telliskivi Creative City, a hipster hub that sprang up in several old industrial buildings close to the railway station.  It’s home to locally made crafts, small boutiques, pop up shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.

Depoo Locomotive cafe in Telliskivi district of Tallinn

Old locomotives and shipping containers have been transformed into cafes and bars helping to make the creative city a vibrant part of town.  It was certainly buzzing with activity on our visit and we were unable to get a table at one of the restaurants and had to go elsewhere.

Old railway carriages now transformed into a cafe in Telliskivi

Before returning to the old town we found time to take a look inside the new market hall located just behind Balti Jaam railway station.  Known as Turg, it’s built in a contemporary style with lots of natural light and seems to sell everything from fruit and vegetables to antiques, gifts and clothes.

Tallinn’s new market at Balti Jaam

Before returning to Helsinki on the early evening crossing we walked through the cobbled squares of the quaint old town reminding ourselves of how beautiful it really is.  We were pleased though to have spent the day beyond the old city walls exploring some parts of Tallinn that were new to us.  Back at the ferry terminal we returned our travel cards and obtained a refund of €2 on each card making our day’s travelling good value.  The return ferry had similar entertainment to the previous evening and was of a reasonable standard but overall we preferred the Eckerö Line ferry company that we had travelled on previously for comfort and service.

On previous visits to Tallinn we have explored the historic centre and for more details on the old town you can read my previous post here.

Day 4.  Exploring the Arabia district of Helsinki

Just north of the centre of Helsinki and at the terminus of the No. 6 and 8 trams lies the Arabia district where we found much of interest to occupy us for several hours.  Starting off by the tram terminus is the Iittala and Arabia design centre and outlet store where we were able to browse the latest ranges from these iconic Finnish glass and ceramic manufacturers in room layouts and on table settings.  The Arabia factory was founded in 1873 and at one time was the largest porcelain factory in Europe.

Inside the Iittala & Arabia Design Centre, Helsinki

The store has had a complete makeover since our last visit and its new, minimalist style is easy on the eye.  My all time favourite is the Alvar Aalto vase and, of course, who could resist the delightful Moomin cartoon range of tableware.  At the far corner there is a sleek kitchen layout where we were even able to help ourselves to complimentary cups of coffee, served in designer mugs.

Iittala & Arabia Design Centre, Helsinki

Leaving the outlet store we took the lift to the 9th floor to take a look inside the Design Museum.  This museum displays the products of the Arabia ceramics factory and Iittala glassworks from 1873 to the present day.  Products are displayed in a timeline indicating the years when specific items were manufactured and it was interesting to view how designs have evolved over time.  Entrance to the museum is free and further details can be found here.

Design Museum Arabia

The group is now owned by Fiskars, manufacturers of household and garden products and probably most recognised for their orange handled scissors which have been produced since 1967 and are most likely to be present in nearly everyone’s kitchen drawers.

A display of scissors in the Fiskars pavilion

Just along the corridor from the outlet store you will find a cafe to the left and slightly further on next to the attractive Pentik store is the Fiskars pavilion which is open to the public during working hours.

A display of 49 Fiskars axes

On display here are some of the company’s iconic home and garden products that have been fashioned into art installations.  It was fascinating to view mundane household items such as scissors, axes and plates in such inspirational ways.

Arabia plates and Iittala candle holders on display in the Fiskars Pavilion

Leaving the building, a flight of steps leads down towards the sea where we enjoyed a stroll along the tranquil waterfront towards the old town rapids.  Modern, tastefully designed apartments with huge glass balconies overlook the waterside park and bay enabling residents to live in a calm, natural environment yet only a short tram ride away from the city centre.

The tranquil beauty of the Arabia waterfront

Reaching the old town rapids on the Vantaa river we crossed the bridge to the Museum of Technology which occupies the site of the old waterworks and is spread over several buildings.  The museum documents the history of technology and industry in Finland from the late 19th century to the present day.  We began our tour in the main building, the History of Innovation section which shows the history of metals, building materials, communications and computer technology.  Here we found telephone devices from more than 100 years ago, the first generation of computers and domestic appliances through the ages.

Old town rapids, Vantaa River, Helsinki

Over in the Hydro Power Plant building we were able to learn how electricity was generated by hydro power a hundred years ago and discovered that it is still  produced here today.  The Steam Plant, located next door was built in 1931 and was used as a reserve power plant, producing electricity for the use of the water treatment plant if the hydropower plant could not operate due to low water levels in the river.

Inside the Power Plant Building, Museum of Technology

If you are interested in visiting this museum further details can be found on its website here.  The museum offers free admission each Thursday but the Power Plant is only open during the summer months and closes earlier at 5.00 p.m.

Koskenranta Restaurant, Arabia

It was then time for some lunch so we called into the Koskenranta restaurant which occupies an idyllic spot on the banks of the old town rapids very close to the Museum of Technology.  On a sunny day it’s a lovely place to sit out on the terrace enjoying their buffet lunch and at under €10 it’s very good value.  We tucked into creamy salmon soup with rye bread followed by lamb meat balls, salad, coffee and biscuits.

The recently replaced boardwalk along the nature trail

Needing to walk off the excesses of our lunch we decided to take the Pornaistenniemi nature trail which is located just across the bridge from the cafe.  A wooden sign indicates the start of the trail which begins along a gravel path then just after crossing a small wooden bridge continues onto a newly laid boardwalk of a good width.  This has replaced the very narrow two plank wide one which was starting to disintegrate.

The jetty on Lammasaari island

Arriving on Lammasaari island we could see small summer cottages tucked away in the trees and at the far side of the island a small jetty with views towards Herttoniemi.  A narrow, winding gravel path leads to the Lammasaari birdwatching tower and from the top there are far reaching views across the reed beds to Vikki.  We then slowly returned to ground level and retraced our steps back along the boardwalk towards the tram stop to take us back into Helsinki after a fun filled day in the Arabia district of the city.

Day 5.  A cooking competition followed by a walk by the sea 

A MasterChef type outdoor cooking competition was taking place in Narinkkatori square just outside Helsinki’s Kamppi shopping centre so we decided to join lots of other inquisitive people and take a look at what was happening.  The event was hosted by Lidl and was the national finals of their Grillimaisteri barbecue competition.

Competitors cooking on the barbecues

It was interesting watching the competitors preparing mouthwatering dishes against the clock.  Then, one by one, they carried them up to the stage to be tasted and reviewed by the judging panel.  In between cooking heats we were entertained by live music and amongst the acts performing, a children’s heavy metal band called Hevisaurus proved very popular.

Live music at the cooking competition

In addition to live music and cookery competitions, queues formed for complimentary freshly cooked sausages and fruit juice which were very tasty.  The warm, sunny weather was perfect for the event and after spending some time there we decided to take a walk over in the eastern part of the city.

Hevisaurus, children’s heavy metal band

We stayed near the sea in Herttoniemi one summer and often enjoyed strolling along the shoreline, so to walk off our sausages we decided to go there.

Theatre boat moored at Herttoniemi, Helsinki

Getting there was very simple, we took the metro to Herttoniemi and after crossing the main road we headed straight down towards the waterfront (approximately 20 minutes walk).  Our stroll took us past modern apartments with huge glass balconies, perfect for soaking up the idyllic views across the narrow sea channel.  A little further we passed some moorings along an inlet and there we found a Swedish theatre boat before reaching the sea.

A motor boat passing through the channel at Herttoniemi

Many homes lie secluded in the trees and several have their own moorings.  How lovely it must be to go out on your boat to collect your grocery shopping instead of using the bus or car.

Herttoniemi Beach

A bend in the path and a few more minutes walking led us to the beach which was crowded on such a warm, sunny day.  I dipped my toes in the sea and it felt lovely and warm.  The beach is equipped with changing rooms and showers and there’s also an ice cream kiosk and beach cafe nearby.  In the distance there is a swimming platform and beyond, the sea narrows into a channel between the mainland and adjacent islands.

Swimming Platform, Herttoniemi

Our stroll continued to Herttoniemi Manor which was built in 1803.  The gardens surrounding the manor are designed in a French / English style with linear tree lined avenues.  In the grounds you will also find a farmstead museum which comprises a collection of buildings brought there from the surrounding region.  Unfortunately the museum was closed on our visit as it is only open on Sundays in summertime and once a month in winter.

The Herttoniemi beach, Helsinki

We continued our walk along the shoreline before heading inland slightly to Itäkeskus from where we returned to the city centre by metro.  This is a very pleasant walk with several wooden benches along the way to sit and relax and soak up the lovely Finnish scenery.

Day 6.  Viewing the Tall Ships in Kotka 

Having previously enjoyed seeing the Tall Ships in Helsinki in 2013 we were keen to catch up with them again, this time in Kotka.  Located on the south coast of Finland, Kotka’s city centre is situated on Kotkansaari island.  Getting from Helsinki was very easy, we booked with Onnibus who have regular daily services between the cities,  are inexpensive and have comfortable coaches with pre-bookable seats.  The journey took approximately 90 minutes and it was then only a short walk to the port area to view the Tall Ships.

Tall Ships in Kotka, Finland

The Tall Ships Races are part of the international youth sailing event attracting approximately 3,000 sailors in 73 boats from 20 countries.  The boats had all arrived in port the previous day and were an impressive sight lined up along the quay with their brightly coloured flags fluttering in the gentle breeze.

View along the Kotka quayside at the Tall Ships Festival

It was possible to board many of the larger ships and to get a feel of what life on board is like.  The Royal Navy of Oman’s ship, Shabab Oman II was particularly impressive.  This boat had only been in service for three years and is a blend of traditional and modern with luxurious interiors coupled with authentic tall ship wooden decking, sails and rigging.  On boarding a Polish boat we were offered mugs of home made soup which was both welcome and delicious.

The sloping roof of the Kotka Maritime Museum

Standing at one end of the port is the Maritime Museum of Finland which has a 300 metre long sloping roof accessed from ground level with good views of the boats.  As part of the Tall Ships festival the museum was offering free admittance to the Tarmo icebreaker which has permanent moorings alongside the quay.  Being interested, we clambered on board the ship which was built in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England.  Our self guided tour proved extremely interesting and was an unexpected bonus to our visit to the Tall Ships.

The Tarmo steam powered icebreaker, Kotka Maritime Museum

After several hours spent admiring the boats we decided to take a look around Kotka as we hadn’t visited previously.  The market square had a collection of fruit and vegetable stalls, outdoor cafes plus a temporary stage for the festival.  Not far from there we wandered through Isopuisto Park which had been constructed around the Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas built in 1801.  The park has been designed to resemble an English style landscape garden reminding us of home.

Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas, Kotka

Near the small boat harbour we joined crowds lining the streets to watch the crew parade which takes place in each port.  Crews from the 73 international boats taking part made their way slowly along to enthusiastic cheers.  Some crews wore fancy dress whilst others wore full naval uniform often pausing to sing and dance in styles reflecting their homeland.  Prizes were awarded in several categories for crews participating in the parade.

Russian sailors taking part in the Crew Parade, Tall Ships Race, Kotka
Brazilian crew entertaining the crowds at the Crew Parade

Feeling happy that we had been able to watch the crew parade, there was just enough time to explore the Sapokka water garden and the small boat harbour on the southern shores of Kotkansaari.  It was more attractive along here than in the port area and on a future visit I’d like to explore this area in more detail.

Sapokka Water Garden, Kotka

Attractive small cafes overlook the harbour with outdoor terraces taking in the scenery.  Glancing at our watches there was sadly insufficient time to stop for a drink as our bus back to Helsinki was due to depart twenty minutes later.  Unsurprisingly, we were soon fast asleep on the return journey to Helsinki after enjoying a splendid day out in Kotka.  Hopefully we’ll have an opportunity to return one day to explore the waterfront in more detail.

Day 7.  Leppävaara and Glims Farmstead Museum in Espoo

Leppävaara is located in Espoo and is easily accessible by both bus and train from Helsinki.  Adjacent to the rail and bus station is a modern, attractive shopping centre called Sello which has a wide selection of shops and cafes.  As it was such a warm, sunny day we decided to take a stroll over to the Sports Park which is accessed through the rail tunnel.  Our route took us past a small shopping plaza and some modern apartment blocks before taking a left turn to enter the park.

Forest path in Leppävaara Park, Espoo

Outdoor 10 lane swimming pool at Leppävaara

Leppävaara has a large swimming complex including two outdoor pools.  One has water slides which were proving extremely popular on such a warm day whilst the other is for more serious swimmers and has ten lanes.  There is also a cafe and plenty space to sit and sunbathe.

Water slides in Leppävaara Park

Continuing, we noticed an Angry Birds children’s playground, football pitches and a fully equipped athletics stadium which seemed to be such a good resource to have locally.

Leppävaara Athletics Stadium, Espoo

Climbing a hill, we followed a path through the forest which led us to Treetop Adventure Huippu.

Walking the rope ladder at Treetop Adventure Park Huippu

We didn’t know this was here but it was fun to watch both adults and children moving from tree to tree using zip wires, balancing on nets, crossing swaying bridges and walking on tight ropes up to 60 feet high.  I’ve heard of similar activity centres in the U.K. but I hadn’t seen one before.

Having fun at Treetop Adventure Park Huippu

We then retraced our steps back to Leppävaara bus station from where we took a bus the short distance to Jorvi to visit Glims Farmstead Museum.  The museum is located just across the road from Espoo’s largest hospital where the bus terminates.

Booking Hall and Museum Shop at Glims Farmstead Museum

The Glims farmstead situated in the Karvasmäki village dates back to the 16th century.  The current eleven museum buildings date back to the 19th century and are still standing in their original places forming an authentic farm yard.  A tour was about to start when we arrived but as it was going to be in Finnish we decided to explore by ourselves which wasn’t a problem.  There were several varieties of sheep and some native breeds of hen within the farm and children were enjoying looking at them and petting.  One of the buildings was the former dairy which demonstrated how cows were milked by hand and there was a stone vat for keeping the milk cold, so very different from the high tech methods used in farming today.

Glims Farmstead, Jorvi, Espoo

In another building there was a display of old farm machinery, sleighs and carts with large wooden wheels whilst next door a demonstration of hand weaving was taking place.  I really enjoyed my visit, it’s especially nice on a warm summer’s day when you can enjoy being outdoors in the beautiful countryside.

Old farm machinery on display at Glims Farmstead Museum

Before leaving, we enjoyed drinks in the attractive small cafe and chatted with some other visitors who were also there for the first time.  It costs €4 to visit the museum but if you can arrange your visit for a Wednesday then there is no charge.  Walking back to the hospital we just timed it right as a bus was ready for us to board back to Helsinki.   If you would like more information on Glims Farmstead you can find it here.

Day 8.  By waterbus to Pihlajasaari island

It was a sunny morning so we packed up a picnic and decided to take one of the small ferries to the outlying island of Pihlajasaari.  It’s a former villa island and is now a popular outdoor recreation area which is located 3 km offshore from the centre of Helsinki.  There are piers in two parts of the city to take the waterbus from, we travelled from the pier at Ruoholahti but regular ferries also depart during the summer months from Merisatama (behind Cafe Carusel) in Eira.  Both piers are operated by JT Lines and tickets can be bought on board the boats.  Further details are available here.

Ruoholahti, Helsinki

Ruoholahti is located in the south west part of Helsinki with easy connections between the city centre and neighbouring Espoo to the west along the Länsiväylä motorway.  The name Ruoholahti means Grass Bay but nowadays it has many glass fronted office buildings and modern apartment blocks.

Boats run hourly with more frequent services at busier times.  We paid for our tickets as we boarded the boat and enjoyed some good views as we motored across to the island.  Pihlajasaari is actually two smaller islands, a western and eastern island which are connected by a pedestrian bridge.

Boat jetty on Pihlajasaari Island

Pihlajasaari consists of rocky outcrops, woodland and wide sandy beaches which are accessed along gravel paths making it ideal for summer picnics, sunbathing and taking a dip in the sea.  There are several places where you can barbecue with covered shelters, wooden tables and benches to enjoy grilled food.  Wood is usually provided at barbecue areas but do remember to bring matches and cooking utensils and after you have finished using the barbecue the fire needs extinguishing unless someone else is waiting to use it.

Barbecue cooking area Pihlajasaari Island

The island has a restaurant, Ravintola Pihlajasaari which is located in a 130 year old wooden villa called Hällebo and it has been operating on the island for over 80 years.  Several other villas are set amongst the woodlands and the beach in secluded spots.  There is also a cafe / kiosk where snacks and drinks can be purchased and a cluster of brightly coloured beach huts adding to the seaside charm.

A perfect spot for our picnic lunch

We settled down for our picnic sitting on some rocks watching the waves gently ripple on to the shore.  It was very tranquil there and we stayed quite sometime before returning to Ruoholahti by boat.

Beach huts on Pihlajasaari Island

Strolling along Ruoholahti’s canal boardwalk we were only a short distance away from the city centre yet life along the canal is very tranquil with only the occasional sound of a motor boat chugging past.  Several cafe bars have outdoor terraces which are perfect for a relaxing drink in the summer sunshine.  Flower boxes hanging from bridges looked gorgeous, adding a vibrant splash of colour as we strolled along.

Outdoor terrace cafes at Ruoholahti

Heading towards the sea we came to the huge Cable Factory, a local landmark close to Lauttasaari bridge.  Cable production ceased in 1987 and since then the building has been transformed into a cultural centre and the home of three museums, the Finnish Museum of Photography, the Theatre Museum and the Hotel and Restaurant Museum.  Alongside these museums there is also a restaurant and coffee shop.

Along the canal at Ruoholahti

We then crossed the Crusell bridge, its steel frame gleaming in the sunshine.  This bridge spans the Ruoholahti canal and connects Ruoholahti with the western shore of Jätkäsaari.  The bridge is one of Finland’s highest, its pylon rising to a height of 49 metres.  It is 173 metres long and has lanes for cyclists, pedestrians, motor vehicles and trams.

Crusell Bridge, Ruoholahti

From here we returned by bus to our accommodation in Espoo after a day relaxing on Pihlajasaari Island.

Day 9.  Visiting Turku and seeing the Tall Ships once more

A second chance to admire the Tall Ships this summer as they sailed from Kotka to Turku in south west Finland.  Getting there was easy, travelling by Onnibus once again and by booking the tickets early it didn’t cost very much.  The journey time from Helsinki to Turku was approximately two hours but with comfortable seats and free wi-fi the time sped by.  Buses now stop in a central position midway between the main square and the river making it convenient to get around.

Tall Ships lining the banks of the Aura River, Turku

It was around 12.00 noon as we joined the crowds along the banks of the Aura river, a perfect setting for the Tall Ships festival.  Boats lined each quayside enabling visitors to admire the boats from the riverbank and climb on board to view the larger ones.  Turku always looks at its best in the summertime with its many riverside cafes and restaurants having outdoor terraces adorned with flowers.  We chose one of these restaurants for lunch and found a table with ease.  After paying for our food we then had to queue ages for the buffet which didn’t make for a relaxed lunch but it’s not every day that the Tall Ships are in town so we didn’t mind too much.

Crowds admiring the Tall Ships in Turku, Finland

After lunch the earlier sunshine was replaced by low cloud and a chilly breeze but we were spared rain whilst we continued our stroll alongside the ships.  There was quite a queue to take the ferry across the river as it only holds 75 passengers.  The small orange ferry (Föri) has taken passengers back and forth across the Aura river since 1904.  The journey takes around two minutes and there is no charge or timetable as it runs non stop throughout the year unless the river is frozen.  It’s located approximately 500m after the last bridge heading towards the mouth of the river.

Föri, the small ferry crossing the Aura river in Turku

A stroll on the opposite bank followed where more of the boats were moored and little stalls tempted us with Finnish specialities of dark rye bread, salmon and cheese.  There was still enough time to look around the centre of Turku before our bus departed so we headed to the market hall which is Finland’s second oldest being constructed in 1896, seven years after the Helsinki one first opened.  Inside, the market hall is like stepping back into bygone days with its dark wood traditional meat and fish counters, delis and cafes.

Turku Market Hall

Just around the corner from the market hall is the market square where we found some outdoor market stalls where locals were stocking up on cartons of freshly picked juicy berries and bunches of summer flowers.  On one side we found a quaint little cafe in an old tram and dominating the square is the large green dome of the Turku Orthodox Church.

Cafe in an old tram in Turku market square

After a refreshing cup of tea we strolled down the road to where we needed to catch our return bus to Helsinki which arrived promptly.  Not long afterwards we were sound asleep, just waking as the driver announced our arrival back into Kamppi bus station.  My previous Turku post details more things to do in the city and this can be found here.

Turku Orthodox Church

Day 10.  Haukilahti and Matinkylä

Haukilahti is a small coastal town in Espoo located between Westend and Matinkylä.  It’s just a 20 minute journey from central Helsinki and is a lovely place to visit on a sunny day.  We decided to take a walk along the waterfront walkway / cycle path which is known as Espoon Rantaraitti and is clearly signposted with its own walkway logo.

Signpost for the Espoo coastal path

Before starting along the footpath we wandered around Haukilahti’s attractive Mellsten marina which is home to 637 yachts and small boats.  Just beyond the boat harbour is a sheltered cove and beach which was voted the best beach in Espoo in 2015.  There were lots of people relaxing in the warm sunshine and the adjacent beach bar restaurant Cafe Mellsten was doing a brisk trade.

The beach at Haukilahti, Espoo

Having spent some time on the beach we resumed our walk on the marked trail towards Matinkylä.  The winding path crosses a wooden bridge over a creek and continues along the water’s edge through the trees.

The scenic views along the coastal path at Haukilahti

It was very tranquil wandering along this path with few people around.  The trail hugs the coast most of the way with just the occasional signposted detour inland to skirt round large seaside homes.  A tapping sound stopped us in our tracks and tucked into the forest behind us we spotted a Greater Spotted Woodpecker searching for insects in a tree trunk.

Greater Spotted Woodpecker

After quietly watching the bird for several minutes we continued on our way towards Matinkylä.  The waterfront walkway meanders along the shore and passes the scenic Matinkylä beach and the adjacent Cafe Merenneito.

Cafe Merenneito, Espoo

This seaside cafe / bar has a sunny terrace and additional seating on its own jetty with stunning views of the bay.  As it was approximately the halfway point of our walk, it was a good place to stop for a drink and relax awhile.

Matinkylä Beach, Espoo

Continuing around the bay our next stop was at the Nokkola boat harbour where boats depart during the summer months around the Espoo archipelago.  As we approached one of the boats was just setting off.  There’s a new cafe restaurant here built on the water’s edge called Majakka with a very attractive rooftop terrace that was busy with people making the most of the warm weather.

Ferry taking passengers around the Espoo archipelago

From the marina we left the marked trail and headed inland to the town of Matinkylä which is one of Espoo’s largest urban centres.  A great deal of construction work has been taking place in Matinkylä in recent years as the town is to be the final stop in the first phase of the Länsimetro underground system connecting Espoo with Helsinki.  Next to the metro station lies a large shopping centre called Iso Omena (Big Apple) which first opened in 2001 with a second phase opening in August 2016 shortly after our last visit.  I was impressed with the newly opened section which is light and airy and blends into the original development without appearing that it has been added later.  The shopping centre now has more than 200 stores, a cinema, health centre and library.

Inside the new phase of the Iso Omena shopping centre Matinkylä

Iso Omena library is very impressive as, in addition to borrowing books, members can learn how to use 3D printers, laser engraving machines, vinyl cutters, sewing machines and much more.  I only wish we had such resources in our local libraries!  Matinkylä is located only 6.5 miles from Helsinki taking only 15 minutes along the Länsiväylä motorway making it easily accessible for a visit from the capital.