You have probably heard of the old part of Helsinki, The Old Town Bay. The interesting thing is that just after crossing the bridge over the Vantaa river, there is a large outdoor area with hiking trails and even an island that not many people know about. Before crossing the bridge, look for the statue of a young woman resting on a shore: it is Catherine of Saxe, the first wife of Gustav Vasa, the Swedish King who founded Helsinki. Being as cute as it is, the statue is not easily noticeable, but it somehow blends with surroundings, and people might walk by without looking at that art piece.
Catherine of Saxe-Lauenburg statueVerkatehtaan puisto, 00560 Helsinki, Suomi
Lammassaari: a famous birdwatching location
Lammassaari, HelsinkiLammassaari, 00560 Helsinki, Suomi
After crossing the bridge, you should turn right and walk, following the signs to Lammassaari. Soon you will pass a tiny river and make your way to the isle. This place's name translates as "a sheep island." Do not get misled by this, since there are no sheep on the island. It is not even an actual island; it is a peninsula surrounded by Vantaa bay and a small river you have already crossed. Lammassaari is a real gem: it is a gateway to the wild nature right from the middle of the city. To get there, you will walk a causeway built upon a swamp; it is quite wide and accessible. In a few steps, you will find yourself in the middle of a reed bed, where the plants are taller than people, and you will have to rise upon the viewing platform for a beautiful view of the whole area. The view is fantastic: just a carpet of reeds on each side.
If there is no one around, you can hear plants “whispering” as the wind blows and move in waves with each blast. I find this quite relaxing. You can notice houses rising from the field somewhere far. It is amazing how you can take such a short walk from the city and find yourself in a spot of wild nature like Lammassaari. Just a moment ago, I was in the middle of hustle, and now all the bustle seems far away.
Walking your way by the duckboards, you will eventually find a bird-watching tower. Getting up, you will notice some pictures of bird species that are common in this area. You can try to find them looking around. In autumn and spring, this place hosts migrating birds for a while. Even if you are a stranger to birds, I would advise you to climb up this tower just for a beautiful and peaceful view. And we all know swans can make any view even more beautiful, right?
By now, you have probably noticed lonely summer houses on your way. Because there are some private buildings on the isle, walking is allowed only by the main trail. It is nice to observe those houses from aside though; their gardens are styled in an old traditional way but also artsy.
Kuusiluoto: a place to pet sheep in the middle of Helsinki
As causeway changes for a narrow duckboard, when you arrive in Kuusiluoto. Now, this island's name translates as “the spruce islet.” Staying true to the 'illogically-named-places-tradition' around this area, you will find mostly deciduous trees on the isle, and, surprisingly, sheep! Of course, sheep are here only in the summer and September. These adorable creatures are so used to people around, and they do not feel shy, nor scared. You might even pet them if they agree. An important thing to remember, though, is not to feed them any of your food. On Kuusiluoto isle, you can find many places for picnics and a dock, where you can swim. If you are visiting Kuusiluoto in autumn, the water level might rise, and then wellies will be needed to make your way to the islet.
Kuusiluoto isletKuusiluoto, 00560 Helsinki, Suomi
If you are bored with the most famous attractions around Helsinki and feel ready for adventures, you can hop on a bus and get yourself to the Old Town Bay. This is a historical place with a beautiful dam and a Technology Museum. If you are not interested in a city hustle at all, just continue your way over the bridge to the elegant and reserved Lammassaari for a bird-watching tower. Following the same hiking trail, you will end up on Kuusiluoto, where you can greet sheep and have a moment of peace.
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