About 130km east of Helsinki, Kotka is Finland's only city set on an island. In Kotka's early days, the Kymijoki provided a critical transport route for logging and rich waters for fishing, so the city developed as a port – vital for shipping out those valuable exports. Nowadays it's one of Finland's most important industrial ports.
Celebrating these seafaring roots, Kotka boasts several superb sea-focused attractions, most notably the Merikeskus Vellamo. The islands of the nearby archipelago, with their quaint villages and salty breezes, make for an appealing day trip. On dry land, Kotka has spruced up its city centre with parks and public art to make itself more of a holiday destination. But this hard-working port can't shake its inherent grittiness – which lends it an appealing authenticity.