Day Trip to Porvoo (Borgå)
Porvoo is only an hour away from Helsinki, yet it feels like a million miles.
This pretty town is the second oldest in Finland (just a little younger than Turku) and its Old Town is gorgeously photogenic and packed with cute cafes and quirky shops.
Porvoo was founded in the 1300’s when Finland was part of Sweden: it is called Borgå in Swedish and around thirty percent of the town population speaks Swedish as their first language.
The colourful 18th century Old Town has been well-preserved. The cobbled streets are a joy to wander, even on a bitterly cold December day.
I visited on a day trip, taking the bus from Helsinki which was easy and comfortable. I think in the summer it would be a great place to stay for a while and explore the area in more in-depth; I’d love to have seen the archipelago to the south of Porvoo.
One day was enough time to browse the shops, discover the quiet back streets, thaw out in a cute cafe and walk up to the hill fort.
Many of the shops in Old Porvoo sell gorgeous homewears and there are lots of antique and secondhand shops: the characterful old buildings make shopping here a totally different experience to shopping in the city.
Dotted between the boutiques and shops are lots of cafes and restaurants: Porvoo is famed for being a foodie destination, for its fine delicacies and quality eating places.
I wandered without map or guide, along the neat cobbled streets, stepping down into the cosy shelter of the occasional shop: I found a fabulous secondhand clothes shop. The cafes were calling me but I decided to explore first, feast later.
One of the signposts pointed to a ‘prehistoric hill fort’: now that’s just my cup of tea! I set off in the direction of the arrow and found myself heading out of the town towards, not surprisingly (!) a hill.
A bridge to my left crossed the river so I detoured over it to get a charming view of Old Porvoo, and the red-painted shore houses clinging to the riverbank.
These waterside buildings were painted red back in the late 1700’s in celebration of a visit by King Gustav III of Sweden: they sure (or should that be shore) look jubilant these days.
Back across the bridge, I continued on towards the hill, not exactly sure what I was expecting to find. The ground was icy firm and what looked like a convenient short cut up the hill resulted in a slippery, very unladylike scramble to get back to some firm footing: luckily there was no one around to witness this ungracious, probably hilarious, ascent.
It was wonderful to be out in the countryside after a week in the city, with little birds twittering high up in the trees and squirrels leaping from trunk to trunk.
I’m not entirely sure how old Linnamäki (castle hill) is: a sign at the bottom of the hill mentioned the vikings and Russia holding fort here. Whoever did roam this hill, there is little remaining other than the impressive bank and ditches.
I attempted to cross up to the next level, across one of the wooden bridges, but the frosty white glaze coating the surface was incredibly slippery.
Luckily, one of the crossings is steps rather than a bridge and these were much safer to climb, saving me from another embarrassing tumble.
After all that fresh air, coffee and cake were definitely in order, I strolled back into town and peered into cafe windows to find one that suited.
Cafe Klockan looked inviting and when I peeped in and saw it had William Morris wallpaper, well that sealed the deal!
A steaming cup of coffee and sugar-crusted munkki (doughnut) was exactly what I needed.
The lovely girl working there brought me over an english-language copy of the Porvoo brochure to read and in it I found a recipe for Runeberg cakes.
I asked her about these local delicacies and she pointed to a plate of them, I hadn’t noticed them when I first came in: I’d been so enamoured by Finnish doughnuts since eating them in Tampere, little else had got a look in!
She explained that they are named after Finland’s national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg: the story goes that his wife created the cakes from the ingredients she had in her cupboard including breadcrumbs and jam.
The cakes are made to celebrate Runeberg’s birthday every year on the 5th February but you can find Runeberg cakes throughout the year in Porvoo as the poet lived here most of his life.
I had my free refill of coffee (one of my favourite things about Finland) and devoured one of these Runeberg cakes, it was delicious: moist sponge topped with raspberry jam and a little ring of icing.
I’m definitely going to have a go at making these, so stay posted! << I have!
It was getting dark when I left the cafe, I walked back to the bus station – in the newer part of Porvoo – and caught the bus back to Helsinki, reflecting on a well-spent day in pretty Porvoo.
Pin this post for later!
Similar posts you might be interested in, don’t disappear!
Runeberg Cakes I ate one of these delicious Finnish cakes in Porvoo and couldn’t wait to bake them back home.
Korvapuustit The same goes for these Finnish cinnamon rolls too! Amazing!
Beautiful Frozen Helsinki Returning to Helsinki at -25º, incredible!
Why I’m Learning Finnish I’ve finally fallen in love with a language, I want to learn it!
Tampere: Finnish Sauna, Finnish Food and Finnish Snow my friend introduces me to Finland culture!
Beautiful Suomenlinna in Pictures a crisp December day on this island fortress.
Have you been to Porvoo?