The unhurried pace of life, integrated age old cultural practices, traditional lifestyle and laid back attitude of any town or city lures me more than a concrete jungle of any place in the world. I am fascinated by the old-world charm of those towns that have a string of folklore and enriching history. Seeing the second oldest town of Finland called Porvoo was overwhelming. It had everything that I was conspiring to discover. I was arrested at the very first glance through my hazy bus window.
Located 50 km away from Helsinki, Porvoo is more of a summer town. The contrasting view of Porvoo in winter is rather magical. Blanketed with snow, old Porvoo looked like a colorful page of a fairy tale book. The doll-house-like wooden houses on the cobbled streets, the popping red-shore houses on the bank of the frozen river Porvoo and white stone Church on top of the hill will take your undivided attention.
Historically, Porvoo has been an important center of trade for centuries. Situated on the bank of Porvoo River, the red shore houses are the prominent landmarks of this small town. If you turn the pages of history, you will find that the houses were painted red in honor of the arrival of the king of Sweden called Gustav III. Though these red houses were earlier used to store goods, they have now become the residences of local Finnish people.
A bit of History
Porvoo lays a significant role in shaping Finnish history. In the 13th century, Porvoo had its first inhabitants with the arrival of Swedish settlers. In 1380, Porvoo was officially declared as a city along with five others in Finland. During the 25-year Russo-Swedish war in the 16th century, Russia burnt this city not just once, but twice. The citizens of this picturesque city had to go through a lot of fires and damages due to wars for several decades. After the Finnish War 1808-1809, Finland was annexed to Russia as an autonomous Grand Duchy. Later the Diet of Porvoo took place in March 1809, which was one of the prominent moves in the history of Finland, starting the progress towards independence. As a result of the Porvoo Diet, Finland was allowed to keep its region along with its constitution dating from the Swedish era. In 1840, the construction project of a new neighborhood, the Empire-style district, began under the Russian rule as they wanted to get rid of the flammable old town built under Swedish rule. Luckily, the old Porvoo was not touched and hence the charm of the old town is still seen on the bank of the Porvoo River that shouts a lot about its past history. In 1997, the city of Porvoo and the surrounding municipality of Porvoo maalaiskunta were merged and the new municipality was named City of Porvoo.
Feel the Old Town
The Town has an incredible array of restaurants, cafes, shops and museums.The best way to explore this old town is by taking a leisurely walk around it. Walking aimlessly, discovering the little joy of life, sitting in a cafe for hours , reading a book sitting on the bank of the river would be the ideal way to soak into a town like Porvoo.
With only having an hour in hand, I decided to stroll around the town to sink in the feel of an old coastal town of Finland. Otherwise buzzing in summer, the town has a laid back feel to it in winter. As I was strolling around the alleys, what attracted me the most was the pastel colored wooden houses lined beautifully on that street.
The Town Hall
One of the astounding buildings in the old Porvoo is the pink town hall. Located in the heart of the town, this colorful two-story building with a mansard roof and a wooden clock tower served as an administrative court, the council, and the constabulary. The Diet of Porvoo was convened here in 1809 and the building continued to serve as the Town Hall until the end of the 19th century. Later it was turned into a museum, which saved the building from being demolished.
Walk up to the White Cathedral
Porvoo Cathedral is another prominent landmark of the town. Built at the turn of the 14thcentury, it is one of the oldest cathedrals having a remarkable history. The church was burnt not just once, but five times, most recently in an arson attack in 2006.
Following the devastation, the cathedral was re-built, renovated and re-opened for public in 2008. There are specific times for both Swedish and Finnish people for the services. It can accommodate 750 people. Though I could not visit the church due to time constraint, but it is worth a visit.
Stop at a cafe to have a meal
Apart from these colorful houses, Porvoo has the reputation of having numerous cafes and restaurants that serve delicious meals. If you are in Porvoo, don’t forget to have a Finnish Lunch and sample some of the best deserts and chocolates in their cafes. Porvoo also has a sweet and small chocolate factory Pieni Suklaatehdas (Little Chocolate Factory), where guests can also see the chocolate making process in the factory itself.
Porvoo also serves as one of the favorite gastronomic destinations around Helsinki. The Finnish people recommend sampling the local specialty called Runeberg’s cake. These were first made by a Porvoo baker, who named them after the renowned poet J.L. Runeberg.
Shop in the boutiques
As you walk around the town, you will notice abundant small shops and boutiques on the streets. There are a lot of local shops, Art Houses, a shopping center that spoils you with options like local handicrafts, local design, locally produced chocolate, and a great variety of souvenirs, home decor and clothing. The main shopping streets are Jokikatu and Välikatu located in Old Porvoo. One can also shop in City Center, next to Old Porvoo that offers a variety of fashion and design shops. I got some souvenirs for myself from a small local shop in the town.
One day is not enough to discover this historical town. Living in the red shore houses, indulging in some winter activities, Nordic walk on the ice surface and stepping into the green forest are some of the must do activities during the season of winter. I don’t mind living in these wooden houses to blend into the Finnish culture and have a taste of their life on this coastal town for at least a week.
I was invited by Club Mahindra on a press trip to Finland.
You can easily reach Porvoo by bus from many directions. There is frequent bus daily service from Helsinki . It takes about 50 minutes by the motorway from the capital city to Porvoo.
Take a Boat Ride
If you are travelling to Finland in summer, you can opt for a boat ride for more scenic journey from the capital city. Between May and September, the m/s J.L. Runeberg and Royal Line’s m/s RoyalCat offer daily cruises between Helsinki and Porvoo.
For More information, visit http://www.visitporvoo.fi/
- All the used Non Watermarked photos have been provided by Visit Finland & and have been used with permission.
- The Watermarked photographs are owned by the writer and are copyright protected. Reproduction of any of the contents, including the photographs without prior consent/permission of the writer is strictly prohibited and a violation of the same will attract legal action.
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