Porvoo (Swedish: Borgå) is a scenic small town 50 kilometers east of Helsinki, Finland. One of the most popular day trips from Helsinki, its picturesque city center of wooden houses is a proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Finland's second oldest city (after Turku), Porvoo has been around since the 13th century, although most of the present buildings date to the 19th century. In 1809, Finland's nobles assembled at the Diet of Porvoo to affirm the country's conquest by Russia.
Today, tourists flock to pad about the cobbled narrow lanes of Old Porvoo (Vanha Porvoo), which has survived the sprawl of the modern city around it remarkably intact. The place is particularly popular in summer.
Hirvivaara - Sepänmäki Craft Museum
At Mäntsälä, Road 55 joins the Helsinki-Lahti highway (E 75). 2km/1.25mi southwest, at Hirvivaara, is the Sepänmäki Craft Museum, an old craftsmen's quarter with buildings and workshops preserved in their original state.
The buildings include a blacksmith, tailor, weaver, carpenter, smithy, café, shoemaker and blood-letter as well as a threshing shed, windmill, smoke sauna, and storehouses.
Korttia - Glacial Potholes
At Korttia, 26km/16mi from Porvoo on the Lahti road (No. 55), can be found a group of some 20 potholes up to 10m/33ft deep, scoured out of the granite by the grinding action of pebbles swirled round by melt-water during the retreat of the glaciers in the last ice age, some 10,000 years ago.
5km/3mi east of Pernaja is the little town of Loviisa (Swedish Lovisa; pop. 9,000), picturesquely situated at the north end of the Lovisavik, a long inlet opening off the Gulf of Finland. The town, still mainly Swedish-speaking, was founded in 1745. It was originally called Degerby, but was renamed in 1752 in honor of Queen Luise Ulrike of Sweden , sister of Frederick the Great. In the center of the town, now a well-known health resort, are a large neo-Gothic church (1865) and the Town Hall (1856).
North of the town center is a trotting course, near which is the Municipal Museum. On the outskirts of the town are the remains of old fortifications.
To the south of Porvoo is a charming scatter of skerries. Some 6km/4mi southeast of Porvoo is the old manor house of Haikko (main building converted into a hotel), with the studio of the 19th century painter Albert Edelfelt, now a museum. 10km/6mi northeast is another old manorhouse, Sannäs (1836-37; national monument), now a conference center.
Porvoo - Municipal Museum
In a square below Porvoo's Cathedral is the Municipal Museum, housed in the old Town Hall (1764). Of particular interest is the material relating to the Iris factory, which produced Art Nouveau furniture and ceramics around the turn of the century. The corner house opposite the Museum, to the east, contains a collection of sculpture by Ville Vallgren (1855-1940) and pictures by Albert Edelfelt (1854-1905).
On the banks of the river are a series of picturesque red-painted 18th century boat-houses. Here too, at Jokikatu 14, is the Doll Museum.
Porvoo's Old Cemetery
In Porvoo's Old Cemetery on the west bank of the Porvoonjoki, on the Helsinki road, are the graves of J. L. Runeberg and of Eugen Schauman, who shot the Russian General Bobrikov in Helsinki in 1904 and then took his own life.
(Local Name: Pernå) 30km/19mi east of Porvoo, just off Road 7, is Pernaja (Swedish Pernå), birthplace of the Finnish Reformer Mikael Agricola (1509-57). St Michael's Church (14th C.) has a 16th century altar from Lübeck. 5km/3mi beyond this stands the imposing manor house of Sarvilahti (17th and 18th C.), in a beautiful park.
The old town of Porvoo, with its narrow winding streets and many wooden houses, is built on a hill which rises above the river at the north end of Porvoo. Here too stands the Gothic Cathedral (1414-18; renovated 1978), its white gable with red brick ornament facing the river. In the beautiful Roccoco interior is a bronze statue of Tsar Alexander I by Walter Runeberg (1909), commemorating the Diet of Porvoo in 1809 at which Alexander received the homage of the Estates and guaranteed the inviolability of the Finnish constitution and religion.
Southeast of the Cathedral are the belfry and a small wooden church (1740).
Porvoo Summer Sounds
Porvoo Summer Sounds takes place in late June or early July.
This annual weekend festival includes a number of musical concerts. The repertoires range from baroque to contemporary.
Runeberg House & Sculpture Collection
Some 500m/550yd south of the Doll Museum in Porvoo, in Runeberginkatu, can be seen a bronze statue of J. L. Runeberg, a smaller copy of the statue in Helsinki. Farther south, at the corner of Runeberginkatu and Aleksanterinkatu, is the Runeberg House, home of the poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804-77), who taught in the grammar school from 1837 to 1857. In the adjoining house is the sculpture collection of Walter Runeberg, the poet's son.
Yrjö A. Jäntti Art Gallery
A short distance away from Porvoo's history museum and art gallery, in Papinkatu, is the Yrjö A. Jäntti Art Gallery, with Yrjö A. Jäntti's collection of Finnish painting, together with graphic art, drawings and woodcarving.
Kayaking and canoeing on the Porvoo River
Kayaking and canoeing on the Porvoo River and in the nearby island is a popular summer pastime. It's even possible to make your way down all the way from Lahti, 90 km away. The stream is gentle and it's quite suitable for beginners, but don't venture out into the ocean unless you know what you're doing. Contact Kanotklubben Wiking  for more information.
Porvoo is best explored on foot: the pedestrianized Old Town is compact and all main attractions can be easily reached from the bus, ferry or train stations. Parents will, however, probably want to leave the baby carriage at home: the Old Town's streets are cobblestone and often hilly.
There used to be horse and carriage service, but it was shut down in 2010 due to financial problems. The Museum Railways also operate occasional steam train excursions.
There is no regular passenger train service to Porvoo, but the Porvoo Museum Railways run a vintage 1955 Lättähattu ("Flat Hat") Dm7 from Kerava to Porvoo and back on Saturdays in July/August only. The trip takes 1.5 hours and costs €15/25 one-way return for adults, half price for children, no reservations, cash only. As of 2009, the train leaves Kerava at 12:10 and sets off back from Porvoo at 4:00 PM. Kerava, in turn, can be reached in 20 min by regular commuter train from Helsinki's Central Railway Station.
M/s Runeberg cruises from Helsinki to Porvoo between May and September three to five times a week, departing at 10 AM and returning at 4 PM. The trip takes 3.5 hours one way and costs €25.00/36.00 one-way/return, half price for children. On Saturday, you can also opt to take the boat one way and the train back. The boat leaves from Linnalaituri on Helsinki's Market Square, opposite the President's palace.
Porvoo is easily accessed via the E18 expressway east from Helsinki towards Kotka and the Russian border. The other option is the old Porvoo road, Highway 170, but it's considerably slower and not particularly scenic.
Bike fans may want to consider pedalling the 78 km along the scenic King's Road from Helsinki to Porvoo, or 50 km along the more direct Highway 170.