Vanhankaupunginlahti means the “old city bay”. Helsinki was originally founded here in 1550 by King Gustav Vasa I, just a 20-minute tram drive away from the current city centre. An equally easy and rewarding way to get here is by cycling.
Nowadays, the mouth of the Vantaa River serves nature lovers, tech freaks and culinary enthusiasts all year long. Here are five reasons why you should visit Vanhankaupungilahti bay area during your stay in the nature capital of the world.
1. Birding and Trekking in the Vanhankaupunginlahti Bay nature reservoir
Imagine the sounds of birds and the whispering wind moving three-meter high grasses along a wooden trail that has been built on top of the old sea floor, as you make your way through Lammassaari island. On the adjacent island of Kuusiluoto, you can gaze at herds of sheep wandering around or try birdwatching from the multiple watchtowers along the trail. You can even sit still in a hide-out that is built next to a bird nesting area, while pikes are securing their next generation on the shallow waters nearby.
The trail to Lammassaari island has been designed to accommodate wheelchairs and strollers. Easy-to-access decks for birdwatching make the kilometre-long journey even more enjoyable, as you can comfortably observe the birds as they execute their splendid aerial dance moves and sing in the most beautiful concert.
It is mind-blowing when you remember that you are practically in the centre of a modern metropolitan area. At the end point of Kuusiluoto island, there is a most beautiful picnic location, from where you can see Helsinki city in all its urban glory, just a short rowing-boat trip away. Feel free to bring snacks and a blanket along, to make your stay even more comfortable and relaxing.
2. The river mouth of Vantaanjoki (Vantaa River).
The heart of the Vanhankaupunginlahti bay area is an island between a river fall and a river rapid. Even on this small area of dry land, you can spend hours exploring architecture and experiencing local activities and the wild forces of nature.
Watch the fishermen catching salmon as they jump on the fish ladder upstream, while at the same time you can see the helmet-headed kayakers guide their vessels on a wild ride down the rapid. As the Vantaa River makes its way to the Gulf of Finland, it passes next to a restaurant where other types of liquids can be enjoyed at a more relaxed pace!
Both the river fall and river rapid can be monitored from a bridge, so it is a good idea to bring your camera gear along. Attached to this bridge are many locks left by loving couples, which highlights the warm and happy vibe of this unique place.
3. Museum of Technology
If you need a break from the outdoors, then why not explore the nearby Museum of Technology, where you can explore the history and development of communication technology in Finland at a very affordable price. The buildings in which the museum is housed were originally the first waterworks in Finland and are over 150 years old.
Seeing and learning about communication methods from the decades gone-by is surprisingly fun! Old style phones, computers and a variety of other displays of industrial technology can be seen in the museum’s permanent and special exhibitions. Even power plants have found their ways to the showing rooms of this neat museum – from spring to autumn you can visit the Power Station museum display.
Certainly, everyone can find something interesting here, and you can even test for yourself how the equipment worked centuries ago. On the other end of the Vanhankaupunginlahti bay is a school for media technology, so it is not wrong to say that here the old and the new ways of society shake hands.
4. Koskenranta restaurant
All this activity will surely work up a big appetite, but not to worry – if your picnic basket is empty, you can relax instead at the riverside Koskenranta restaurant and event centre, which we mentioned earlier. Our favourite piece of food art in the Koskenranta menu is a local creamy fish soup served with rye bread. For the Finns, rye is not just a mediocre crop used as fodder; it is a staple of traditional Finnish cuisine. This healthy ingredient has become quite popular outside of Finland, even as far as New York, and we strongly suggest giving it a try.
If you are visiting for business reasons, it is good to know that this unique venue facilitates business meetings at its premises. Business-wise, we think it’s a great idea to enjoy your lunch at the Koskenranta restaurant – we give five stars for the atmosphere and for the food!
5. Cycling and skiing in the area
There is a huge network of biking trails and skiing routes around the Vantaanjoki river and Vanhankaupunginlahti bay area. In the summertime remember to take your swimsuit with you! Enjoy a break at the Pikkukoski swimming beach or any of the many other beaches located alongside the Vantaanjoki river.
The cyclist that heads towards Viikki can find idyllic agricultural lands that can make you feel like you are in an old black-and-white film. A large part of the area is land that is owned by the University of Helsinki for agricultural studies. For visitors, this means enjoying the peaceful sight of open fields dotted with cows. Don’t forget to take your picnic blanket and, like in the good old days, grab a straw to chew on and enjoy being in the moment! In the wintertime, the routes of the area are maintained for skiing and for the fat bikes that can travel through even thick piles of snow.
Arriving by horseback might seem fitting, but if you’ve come by car then you can leave it inside the Vanhankaupunginlahti nature reservoir area. Here it is quite safe to leave your iron horse unattended! Outside of this area, it is prudent to secure your vehicle, even though Finland is quite safe and you will likely find all your belongings exactly as you left them, even if you have forgotten to secure them. Note that inside of this secured area cycling is prohibited.
So there you have it – Discover Helsinki’s top 5 tips for visiting the Vanhankaupunginlahti bay area. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts about this article or your experiences at Vanhankaupunginlahti!
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Special thanks to our resident nature expert and contributing writer, Pepe Forsberg!