Feelin’ Fine in Finland – Sidestep to Porvoo

I’m back! Hopefully you didn’t miss me TOO much yesterday. 🙂 Don’t worry – I wasn’t missing because my cold came back (thankfully!), but there wasn’t much to write about as it was another transit day as we moved from Copenhagen to Helsinki. As with pretty much every European flight, things went smoothly, though I was a little worried about how we would get to the airport from our apartment yesterday because there were no Uber drivers available! I quickly found a local taxi app and had a driver at our place in a matter of minutes, so all was right again very shortly. Of course, we could have schlepped our bags to the train station and then caught a train to the aiport, but in the chilly air and rain, that didn’t sound too appealing. Glad we didn’t have to go down that route!

And now, we find ourselves in Finland! We actually have the most amount of time here because we’re also sneaking in a day trip to Tallinn, Estonia on Wednesday, so we weren’t feeling too rushed to do anything after we reached our apartment around 330p yesterday. Our hosts had a friend of theirs meet us here – she showed us the ropes, finished cleaning, and then went on her way. We did some exploring of the area around our apartment and found it to be a nice neighborhood with a good vibe, though it seemed like there wasn’t a lot of activity and many businesses (even restaurants) were closed. Presumably that was a Sunday thing, but who knows. We found a fun-looking Mexican place for dinner, but it was also closed unfortunately, so we landed at Sea Horse, which was just down the road. We decided to try some Finnish food, so I had Finnish meatballs and Scott had a Scandinavian hash. Both were tasty! Finland is on the Euro, so the conversion to USD is much easier and, while the meal was still expensive, it wasn’t as expensive as Norway and Denmark were (~$50 for dinner last night as opposed to $75 for our last meal in Copenhagen).

Today actually took us out of Helsinki as we decided we’ll be able to see the things we want to here in a day, so we’re going to do that tomorrow (a couple of things were closed today anyway). We decided to catch a bus to Porvoo, a town about 30 miles east of Helsinki. While not big by any means, it’s a medieval town that dates back to at least the 14th century and sounded like it had some interesting things to offer, so we decided to go for it. The round-trip bus ticket was only ~$20 USD each, so it was a small investment and made for a good way to spend an afternoon. After looking up a few ideas on what to do there, here’s what we ended up doing:

  • Lunch – while generally not that notable, today’s lunch destination was pretty damn good! Scott did look up a couple of options, but we weren’t wowed with the menus, so we wandered around the old town a bit and found Zum Beispel and we were so glad we did! It’s the kind of place where you seat yourself and then go to the counter and order your food. I got an arribiata pasta (fresh and homemade) and Scott got Indian dal soup and a ham/pesto/vegetable sandwich. Additionally, the restaurant offers their homemade bread and butter with meals, so we also enjoyed that. Everything was SO delicious! Scott was very impressed with the soup and my pasta was so fresh, tasty, and spicy. The portions for Scott’s food were surprisingly large though! He was expecting a cup of soup and got a pretty large bowl and the sandwich was far larger than expected as well. The prices were reasonable, too – ~$15 USD for mine and ~$20 for Scott’s. If you find yourself in Porvoo, do yourself (and your taste buds) a favor and visit Zum Beispel. Just be sure to bring your appetite!
  • Red shore houses – Porvoo is best-known for its red shore houses, which date back to the late 18th century. Today was a gorgeous sunny day, so it was neat to see them next to the water, but there’s not much else to say about them. You can’t actually go in them, save for two which are used as restaurants. The rest are just used for storage (though some are also private homes).
  • Porvoo Cathedral – while not as huge as some cathedrals, Porvoo’s main church is still a great building to visit! The original walls date back to the early 1400s, though the church has been damaged by fire numerous times, most recently in 2006 when a careless youth accidentally burned the roof pretty completely (thankfully the interior was left undamaged – check out the link at the beginning of this bullet to see a picture of the church without its roof). There was no one else in the church when we were there, so it was very quiet and peaceful. Definitely worth a visit! And, for those of you wondering, it’s free.
  • Iso Linnamäki – at first glance in our research, we thought this was a great old fortress, but it’s actually just the site of an old fortress. Translation – it’s a big, empty space. 🙂 However, there are some nice old bridges, trees, a dried-up moat, and some great views to enjoy! I wouldn’t say it’s a must-visit in Porvoo, but in a town where there isn’t necessarily a ton of stuff to do anyway, it’s still worth a look. Besides, everything is so close together and walkable (though there are definitely a couple of hills to traverse) that you can be there in back in no time!

And now, picture’s up!

The entrance to our Helsinki apartment.

Taken from just inside the front door, facing the living room (on the left) and bathroom (closed door on the right).

The living room is a bit sparse here.

Nice, well-equipped kitchen!

The bathroom is decent, though it continues the trend of “the entire bathroom floor is part of the shower” that we’ve experienced in Scandinavia.

The decently-comfortable bedroom.

A quick shot of part of Porvoo’s old town.

The home of our delicious lunch!

Looking over the water near the red shore houses.

Looking at the town from the other side of the river.

They’re red and they’re on the shore. 🙂

This one really highlights the red-ness!

My first directional sign in Finland.

The side of Porvoo Cathedral.

And the front as well. Not an especially imposing building, but pretty nonetheless.

Big pipes, as always.

The cathedral’s altar.

Looking back on the bridge/steps we took up to Iso Linnamäki.

Yep, Iso Linnamäki is just an empty space!

It does have nice views, though.

And this pretty amazing-looking tree!

And with that, we put a fork in our first day in Finland. We caught the bus back to Helsinki and have been relaxing in our apartment since. I’m looking forward to exploring Helsinki tomorrow and hopefully paying a visit to that Mexican place that was closed yesterday and today. Hey, who doesn’t want to see the Finnish take on Mexican food??

We’re headed back to reality on Saturday, so this trip is starting to wind down, but stick with me this week because we’ve still got some great stuff to see!

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About thejeffelston

Based in St. Paul, MN and love to blog about travel. Comment, follow, and join me on my journey!