Porvoo – one of Finland’s six medieval towns and the country’s second oldest town. Wandering around in the enchanting Porvoo Old Town it is easy to get lost back in time and feel the easy-going and historical atmosphere; colourful and unique wooden buildings, medieval red warehouses by the river, quiet narrow lanes, cobbled streets and idyllic parks.
Porvoo is famous for its red warehouses at the riverbank. These houses were initially painted in red ochre in the late 18th century to welcome King Gustav III. In addition the red ochre helped to protect against the damage of wind and sun. Originally the houses were used to store exotic fruits, wines, spices, coffee and tobacco transported by boat up along the river. Today the red riverside houses accommodate private residences as well as restaurants, shops and storage rooms.
On the map the town plan of Old Porvoo looks like a mosaic with a labyrinth of streets and unevenly shaped plots dating back all the way to the Middle Ages. Since then the town has suffered several fires, but the citizens have always rebuilt their houses on the same premises. Today the Old Town is home to approximately 700 citizens with 250 residential houses and 300 outhouses.
The old colourful wooden houses with plenty of interesting details are truly captivating. The incredibly large and quiet inner courtyards make such beautiful, hidden green gardens and great communal playgrounds for children.
One of the must-sees in the Old Town is the white Porvoo Cathedral standing up high on top of the hill. The Old Town Hall in turn is one of Finland’s oldest town halls, today housing Porvoo Museum.
There are plenty of small boutiques and shops selling beautiful locally made products and handicrafts. The antiques and vintage shops of Old Porvoo are very popular so you might want to check them out, too. Charming little cafes and restaurants with outdoor terraces can be found at every street corner.
I also explored two interesting art galleries. The painted deal floors and tile stoves of Gallery Vanha Kappalaisentalo by Raatihuoneentori Square create a truly nostalgic atmosphere for art exhibitions. The inner courtyard with old colourful outhouses and apple trees is a mesmerising place. Colmio Gallery accommodates a design shop and art gallery combining the new with the old.
Porvoo is a popular day trip destination as it is located only 50 km east of Helsinki and is easily accessible by car or bus (1 hour). In the summertime you can even catch the m/s J.L. Runeberg boat to Porvoo from Helsinki. This is something that I have wanted to do for many years already, but for some reason I always end up going by car instead.
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