Best things to do in Porvoo
Find out more about those top places in Porvoo
50 kilometers east of the Finnish capital, Porvoo is amongst Finland’s oldest and most captivating towns. Predating the grand classical architecture of Helsinki, Porvoo is traditional Finland at its best: brightly colored clapboard house line the waterfront; cobbled streets crisscross the old town; and the half-timbered cathedral dominates the skyline. Although the city was founded in 1380, the town reached its cultural and historical apogee in 1852, when it was home to the renowned poet Johan Runeberg who penned the Finnish national anthem. Today, the town’s burgeoning food and drink scene and arts movement complements the picture-perfect streetscape.
As one of Finland’s oldest towns, Porvoo has a captivating old town waiting to be explored. The narrow cobbled streets are lined with port side markets, colorful clapperboard houses and rust-red medieval warehouses, which are the town’s de facto emblem. For the best experience, tour this historic gem in the company of a knowledgeable local guide.
Perched on a hill above the old town, the 13th century Porvoo Cathedral, known in Finnish as Tuomiokirkko, is one of Finland’s most historic locations. Having been destroyed during wars with the Danes and Russians in the 16th and 18th centuries, the cathedral saw its worst damage in 2006 after a local arsonist set fire to the structure’s timber roof. Fortunately, painstaking reconstruction has returned it to its former glory. If visiting Porvoo in summer, make sure to catch a fascinating guided tour of the cathedral.
Now immortalized as the city’s de facto emblem, the red warehouses that line the banks of the Porvoo River are an enchanting sight. Best seen from across the water or from any of the bridges that span the river, the delightfully rust-red clapperboard buildings were painted in the late-18th century to celebrate the arrival of the Swedish king Gustav III in town.
The former home of Finland’s national poet, Johan Runeberg, has been transformed into an insightful museum with displays on key moments in the bard’s life. Tours of the museum also include entry to the Walter Runeberg Sculpture Collection, which showcases the artistic creations of the poet’s son.
Located in the heart of the old town, Porvoo Museum details the town’s fascinating history from the Middle Ages to its emergence as one of modern Finland’s most important economic and cultural centers. Make sure to watch out for the striking sculptures by local artist Ville Vallgren.
For a unique look at Finnish culture through the ages, head for Porvoon Nukke – ja Lelamuseo – the country’s largest collection of childhood toys.