Finland’s fascinating past comes to life in the towns east of Helsinki, with intact ironworks, defensive fortifications, and museums exploring the country’s seafaring history. The island-peppered coastline is enticing for exploration by boat. All of these places are relatively easy day-trip destinations from Helsinki: cruises from the capital to Porvoo and Loviisa are exceedingly pleasant ways to experience this part of the country.
The Russian influence is palpable all along this stretch of coast, as the 1743 Treaty of Åbo made much of this territory part of that eastern empire. Orthodox churches occupy prominent spots in most towns (alongside their Lutheran counterparts); other sites such as Hamina's town hall and Langikoski Fishing Lodge reflect this history of Russian rule. Nowadays the (relatively) open border means that Russians are again a prominent presence – now as tourists and investors rather than occupiers.