The best attraction of Porvoo is not the cathedral or some of the museums but the Old Town(Vanha Porvoo) itself. We were there on a day with not many tourists around and loved it. We walked through the cobble stone streets admiring the pastel colors of the buildings.
Old Town spreads on a hill that rises above the Porvoo river on north side of the modern part of Porvoo. Old town is also full of narrow winding streets, many of them cobblestone so wear comfortable shoes. In some streets we saw many tiny stores most of them with handcrafts, but most of them were expensive, we preferred to visit the Cathedral (1418) and then the Old Town Hall (1764, now a museum) and the Holm House (not the best museums in the world but general ok small museum) on a square that was full of people because there was a small open market.
There are many café and restaurants so the visitor wont really get bored walking around a dead town or something, although you don’t really feel that you are back in 18th century you can still imagine this town without the cars :) We had an ice cream there and then walked along the Porvoo river.
Cathedral of Porvoo(Porvoon tuomiokirkko ) isn’t attractive but has long history behind and its anyway one of the oldest and largest in Finland with some parts of it dating back to 13th century, a wooden structure. The white stone building we see was built between 1411-1418 with stone walls but destroyed many times by fire, first time in 1508 by Danish army and then in 1571, 1590 and 1708 by Russian army, also a bomb fell through the roof but didn’t explode in 1914!
Although it was fully renovated in 1978 a 18year old black metal musician set fire on the roof of the church in 2006 (probably he was inspired by other black metal musicians that took part in about 50 arsons of Christian churches in Norway between 1992 and 1996) causing the collapse of the outer roof, the church opened again in 2008.
It is dedicated to St. Mary, originally a catholic church, converted into a protestant one, it is now used by the evangelical Lutheran church of Finland and is the seat of the Diocese of Borga (Finland’s Swedish speaking diocese), it’s also a popular church for marriage including some stars like Mika Hakkinen.
Not much to admire on outside but once inside we liked the rococo interior, not much to see as the decoration is simple with a large pipe organ at the back. Pic 4 shows the bronze statue of Tsar Alexander I (1909 by W.Runeberg) commemorating the Diet of Finland when he guaranteed in 1809 the inviolability of the Finnish constitution and Finland was declared an autonomous Grand Duchy.
It’s open May to September 10.00-18.00, Saturday 10.00-14.00, Sunday 14.00-17.00 (also mornings for services)
Pic 5 shows a belfry and a small church opposite the cathedral
Old Town Hall was erected in 1764, it’s one of the oldest building in town and one of oldest town halls in Finland still standing. We took some pictures of this two storey building that has a wooden clock tower on top. There are some benches in front where we stood for a while watching the people on the square.
The building used to house the town’s administrative court, the council and the constabulary but also an infirmary during wars. This was the place where Diet of Porvoo was held back in 1809 when Finland was declared an autonomous Grand Duchy after 650 as part of Kingdom of Sweden (becoming part of Russian Empire when Czar Alexander I signed the Diet on the upper floor of the Town Hall).
In our days it houses Porvoo museum, a small history and art museum focusing on the history and culture of Porvoo with artifacts from peasant life, furniture, paintings, old photographs, textiles, ceramics, glass items etc. The upper floor is dedicated to medieval age. I got a bit boring in general.
It’s open (September-April) Wed-Sun 12-16
(May-August) Mon-Sat 10-16, Sun 11-16
The entrance fee is 6euros, including entrance to Holm House too
Holm House is the corner building opposite the Old Town Hall. It was built in 1763, three years after the Great Fire in summer of 1760. It’s worth a visit if you want to see how a wealthy merchant family lived during 18th century. They were living upstairs while business was taking place downstairs.
What you really see here is some of the rooms of the house, most of them have been refurbished to give you an idea of that old era. The girl at the reception followed me around the house giving me lots of information although my biggest question was “why am I the only visitor?”… she said finish people don’t have lots of sunny days so when it happens they prefer to be out next to the river :)
The truth is that you can easily skip these small museums unless you are interested about a sculpture collection by Ville Vallgran (1855-1940) and paintings by Albert Edelfelt (1854-1905), both of them local artists that became popular outside Finland too.
Both museums are open:
September-April Wed-Sun 12-16
May-August Mon-Sat 10-16, Sun 11-16
The entrance fee is 6euros, including entrance to the Old Town Hall too.
No photos allowed inside
Doll and Toy Museum (Lelumuseo) is a small museum dedicated to toys. Unfortunately we arrived a bit late so we didn’t have the time to check its collection (about 1000 dolls!). It also houses hundreds of toys dating from 1800 to 1990 bringing back memories for those of us with some age on our backs so not really a museum for kids.
It’s open june 1st to august 10th its open daily (closed on Fridays) 11.00-15.30 (Sundays 12-15.30)
The entrance fee is 3euros (2e for children 2-11 years)
Porvoo was established next to Porvoo river (Porvoonjoki ) which make it more appealing, we loved walking along the banks of the river and saw many people relaxing under the sun. I’ve read there are cruises along the river but we didn’t try any, we just checked many of the boats on the banks near the restaurants.
Near the Old Town you can see many wooden red buildings next to the river, these old warehouses are now iconic, kind of landmark of Porvoo with their red ochre color. They date back from late 18th or early 19th century and can take nice pictures of them from the opposite park or the bridges (vehicle and pedestrian) along the river. These old warehouses were places for spices, butter, dried fish etc while now they are turned into restaurants or private apartment blocks
Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804-1877) is the national poet of Finland, he had this statue already during his own lifetime. If you visit Porvoo on February 5 (Runeberg’s birthday) you will be served in cafés the traditional Runeberg Tarts(round gateaux with jam and sugar icing on top).
He lived in Porvoo from 1837 where he was teaching latin literature. He wrote in Swedish language, his most famous work was the epic poem Fänrik Ståls sägner (Tales of Ensign Stal ).
In Porvoo you can visit his home (1838-1852) at the corner of Aleksanterinkatu and Runeberginkatu or/and visit the adjoining building that house the sculpture collection of his son Walter Runeberg. It’s open daily 10-16.00 (winter 12-16.00, closed mon-tue)
Check also his bronze statue at the park near the river (pics 1-2).
The Old Town Hall of Porvoo was inaugurated in 1764. The Rococo building is dominated by a small clock tower and it was used by the city authorities until the late 19th century.
Later it became the Historical Museum where the history and culture of the Porvoo district are presented.
There is a chocolate producer's factory in Porvoo. You are allowed to go to the shop of the factory, buy those delicious sweets and also taste them as much as you like!!!! Delicious!
The actual factory is some 3-5 kilometers from the city centre but there is also a smaller one right in the centre. Both allow you to buy and taste and the prices are the same.
The Cathedral dates back to years 1200-1300 and the Old King's Road from Stockholm to St Petersburg goes by it. It is located on a hill and can be seen from far. Very impressive and a kind of a landmark of Porvoo.
Ex-Formula 1 driver Mika HÄKKINEN was married to Ms Erja HONKANEN (now divorsed) in this church, as well as ex-NHL hockey player Jari KURRI. This is a very popular church to get married in. Few years back there were a couple which came all the way from Japan, just to get married in the very same church that Mika HÄKKINEN was married in.
The shingle roof of the Cathedral of Porvoo burned at night on 28th of May 2006. The fire was lid by someone, so it was no accident. Yet it is not sure if the Cathedral will be open during the summer. They will begin rebuilding the Cathedral as soon as possible but the rebuilding work will last at least the coming two years, they say.
The Cathedral has been rebuild and it is now open to public again.
I read that Porvoo is considered the second oldest town in Finland, being chartered in 1346.
And as you walk through the narrow streets beside the red houses/wooden storages by the riverbank, you can't resist taking prictures! The place is very picturesque and its amazing that this place has retained it's medieval feel despite the cars that pass by on the street beside it.
The red-coloured wooden storage buildings on the riverside are a proposed UNESCO world heritage site.
Albert EDELFELT (1854-1905) was (or still is?) one of the leading Finnish painters. He was born in Porvoo, in fact in Kiiala Manor. He studied in Antwerpen and in Paris, where he also lived for some time.
He has painted a portrait of Louis Pasteur which I am sure we all have heard of.
This modest studio was build in 1883. Here he returned every summer and painted several of his best-known works...
Very modest, red wooden house. Worth a visit if you are around and familiar with his work.
Be aware that the studio is only open at summer time, from May until August? Check out for closer information the official Porvoo tourist pages.
The Shore Houses are located in Old Porvoo along the river. The buildings are all painted red ochre in order to protect the wooden walls from weather conditions and also for making the arrival of King Gustav III from Sweden. They all absolutely gorgeous and well worth an effort to explore. They were originally used to store products such as coffee, spices and tobacco but today they are all privately owned or used as restaurants.
You can get some fabulous photo's of them from the other side of the river.
This cruise takes in the sights of the archipelago's and also offers lunch at Mantysaari Island only during the summer months. There is also a Wednesday evening cruise available. Cruises operate from Porvoo waterfront.
Crusies operate during the summer months departing from Porvoo harbour and the duration is approx 50minutes taking in the beautiful Shore Houses. This cruise is delightful and you see the Old Porvoo from another perspective.
Costs : 6 €-adult, 3 €-child