Finland’s second-oldest town is an ever-popular day trip from Helsinki, but is also becoming a popular weekender. Porvoo (Swedish: Borgå) officially became a town in 1346, but even before that Porvoo was an important trading post.
The town is best known for the achingly beautiful brick-red former warehouses along the river that once stored goods bound for destinations across Europe. Today they’re tipped to become a Unesco World Heritage Site and even the newer developments across the river are in reds and yellows to suit the town’s aesthetic.
Three distinct districts make up the city: the Old Town, the new town and the 19th-century Empire quarter, which was built under the rule of Tsar Nicholas I. The Old Town, with its tightly clustered wooden houses, cobbled streets and riverfront setting, is the most popular, but the Empire quarter has its charms, including the home of Finland’s national poet, JL Runeberg. During the day, Old Town craft shops are bustling with visitors, but staying on a weeknight will mean you could have the place more or less to yourself. The old painted buildings are spectacular in the setting sun.
Try not to visit Porvoo on a Monday, when all the museums are closed.