About 50km east of Helsinki, Porvoo is one of the oldest towns on the south coast and one of Finland’s most charming. Its narrow cobbled streets, lined by small colourful wooden buildings, give a sense of Finnish life before the capital’s bold squares and Neoclassical geometry. Close to the station, the Johan Ludwig Runeberg House is where the famed Finnish poet lived from 1852; one of his poems provided the lyrics for the Finnish national anthem.
The old town is built around the hill on the other side of Mannerheimkatu, crowned by the fifteenth-century Tuomiokirkko, where Alexander I proclaimed Finland a Russian Grand Duchy and convened the first Finnish Diet. The cathedral survived a serious arson attack in 2006 and reopened two years later. The town’s past can be explored in the Porvoo Museum at the foot of the hill in the main square.