Travel Tip: What about Espoo and Vantaa?

When you commute to Helsinki on a daily basis, areas outside of it seem of little interest. Sure, there is the charming old town of Porvoo, and there's always Turku if you have a full day to spare. But how about something that's a bit closer? How about Espoo and Vantaa? Oh, right… those places, you might say if your own address is in Helsinki. But when you’ve seen all the places worth seeing in Helsinki, isn’t it time to explore the other parts of the metropolitan area? Using a journey planner such as Reittiopas, schedule a day for going somewhere a bit different. Take your friends along and go out with an open mind and pretend you’re tourists even if you’re only half an hour away from home.

Espoo: WeeGee Exhibition centre & Helinä Rautavaara museum

If you’ve already seen the museums in Helsinki but still want more, you should visit WeeGee in Espoo. The good thing is, WeeGee actually consists of several museums: EMMA the Espoo Museum of Modern Art, The Espoo City Museum, The Toy Museum and the Finnish Museum of Horology (i.e. clocks and other time measuring tools). Thus, you could technically only go to the one you’re most interested in. However, as the ticket (10€ with a student card) gives access to all four exhibits, it’s worth taking the time to see them all. EMMA's exhibits change every few months, so it may be worth going a second time. WeeGee’s most iconic showcase is probably the Futuro house. Given how the bright yellow building was designed in the late 1960’s, the “future” is actually more retro, which is charming in its own way.

Next to WeeGee is the Helinä Rautavaara museum, a museum of anthropology featuring artefacts from Africa, Asia and Latin America collected by Helinä Rautavaara, a Finnish anthropologist who documented life in different cultures from the 1950's to the 1990's. As the admission is free of charge, there's really no excuse not to give it a look, especially if you have any interest in world cultures.

Located in Tapiola, eastern Espoo, WeeGee and the Helinä Rautavaara museum can be reached from central Helsinki easily in just over half an hour. The are many bus lines to choose from, too. Perhaps when the new western metroline finally opens, getting there will be even easier! Tapiola overall is an Espoo hub with cafes and shops, so don't worry about getting home for dinner.

Espoo: The Rantaraitti

Like walking or biking outdoors? The number one nature spot in Espoo is of course Nuuksio National Park (which should definitely be on your to do-list). But much closer to the city is the Rantaraitti, “the Waterfront Walkway”. It’s not just about beaches, though. Rantaraitti is a pathway that goes along the coast all the way from Otaniemi in the east to Saunalahti in the west: that’s 40km in total. If you do have a bike at hand, a longer trip is recommended to get a full view, but casual bikers or dog walkers may want to explore only a certain section of the path, or make use of public transport part of the way. That works fine, too, as there are plenty of buses leaving from Kamppi. Again, once the west metro opens, getting there will be fast.

While much of the path goes between lush vegetation, the sea and suburban settlement, different parts of Rantaraitti do have their particularities: in Westend the road goes a bit further away from the water, whereas in Haukilahti there are a few cafes and a beach (pack your swimsuits!). Yours truly tried out the section at Finnoo, which ornitology enthusiasts will know for the cove by the old power station. The power station provides a bleak backdrop, but the cove, surrounded by reeds, is a haven for seabirds of all kinds – very peaceful, if you don’t mind the sound of gulls! A muskrat was also spotted!

Vantaa: Heureka

The central hub of eastern Vantaa, Tikkurila, is easy to reach by train and easy to see by foot in an hour. The main attraction in Tikkurila has to be the Heureka science museum. Exhibitions are family friendly and fun whether you are a science major or have little previous knowledge. Themes of the exhibitions vary, so be sure to check the official website. Be also sure to check the Science park outside of Heureka for both an outdoors geology display and a stroll along the bank. A student price day ticket for Heureka is 15€, but the park is free of charge! However, if you have more time to spend, why not have a wander about Tikkurila in general. Although time can be spent in the shopping centre right by the station, small shops also line the way past Vantaa City Hall on towards Tikkuraitti, a pedestrian road also portrayed in the thumbnail of this article. Tikkuraitti and the rest of the centre do not really offer anything you couldn't find in any other Finnish town centre, let alone in Helsinki, but it is compact and can be nice on a sunny day, as the road is decorated with plantations, canopies and a small statue. The city museum by the station may be worth a look - admission is free of charge!

Vantaa: Helsinge Parish

Something smaller, but worth mentioning is the Helsinge Parish: despite the name, it’s in central Vantaa. It is in fact Helsinki city that takes its name from this historical setting. The highlight is the beautiful 15th century Church of St. Lawrence, Pyhän Laurin kirkko. The church and its graveyard is surrounded by fields and the parish village, which consists of old red painted wooden houses from the early 19th century. One of the buildings even hosts a cafe, Kahvitupa Laurentius just by the church (do plan your visit, as the cafe is closed on Mondays and reserved for private events on Saturdays).

Finland's National Board of Antiquities has chosen the parish as a nationally significant built cultural environment, and it’s no surprise. The area is quite small, but on a sunny summer’s day the parish is the perfect half-day-trip for those who want to wander in a more rural and historical setting, but don’t want to travel very far. From the Helsinki Central Railway Station, the quickest way is by bus 633, which will get you to the parish in only 35 minutes.