Most visitors to Finland consider the country's second oldest town to be the most beautiful. Just an hours drive, or a few hours by a relaxing cruise through the archipelago, from Helsinki, Porvoo's unique charms number its delightful waterfront of red ochre sheds, the medieval cobblestoned streets and alleys, and the charm of Old Porvoo where you'll find the beautiful Porvoo Cathedral. Another popular site for visitors is the museum of J.L. Runeberg, national poet of Finland, which reopened in 2004 having being heavily remodeled.
Porvoo continues a centuries old tradition of being a market place, and the autumn and Christmas markets attract large numbers of visitors every year, offering an assortment of local handicrafts and delicacies, where vendors still dress in traditional costumes.
Music lovers flock to the town just after midsummer to see the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, which has organised the Avanti! Summer Sounds Music Festival every year since 1986, and which has become one of Finland's most significant summer festivals.
Having spent time wandering around Old Porvoo, the visitor can also take advantage of the many trips out to the lovely archipelago in the Baltic Sea nearby. Or perhaps take the museum train trip from Kerava on the 'Lättahattu', which runs every Saturday in July and August.
Porvoo is also blessed with an abundance of parks, both within the town and surrounding it, and there are numerous nature trails to follow. The park area along the river begins from the Mannerheiminkatu bridge and follows the river all the way to the sea. At the river estuary, the green area continues as the Ruskis nature reserve, favoured by birds. All along the grassy banks of the river there are charming cafés, where the weary traveler can take in the scenery and rest their legs awhile.
Porvoo is most famous for its delightful cathedral, and for the picturesque Old Town with its numerous sloping cobbled streets and lovely town square dominated by the Old Town Hall. The square and surrounding streets are filled with charming speciality stores selling handicrafts and works by local artisans. Porvoo was the birthplace of Albert Edelfelt, and although he spent most of his career in Paris he would return to Porvoo in the summer and immortalise the surrounding landscapes in his paintings. Today his works are exhibited in the Haikko Manor Hotel and Porvoo Museum.
Porvoo provides a wide range of activities for visitors whether they come in summer or winter. Winter sports enthusiasts can enjoy the slopes of the Kokonniemi Ski Resort, spend time ice skating on the rinks or frozen river, or even go a more adventurous snowmobile safari. There are plenty of nature trails to explore, in winter as cross-country skiing, and in summer and autumn as hiking trails. Porvoo is also something of a golfer's paradise, with 5 different golf courses available in the region.
There is plenty of variety in Porvoo for the discerning diner, from the sumptious luxury of the banquet halls at Kiala Manor, to the delicious seafood specialities of the Glückauf Restaurant Ship, with just about everything in between. In summertime, the riverside restaurants and cafés are popular with tourists and locals alike, and are the perfect location for a moment's respite from the busy day.
Porvoo has a number of well situated hotels, both in the historic Old Town and in the newer areas further up river. Other alternatives within the town include a recently opened apartment hotel, an old fashioned holiday house near the cathedral, a storehouse renovated into accommodation, as well as traditional bed and breakfasts and guesthouses.
As befits Finland's second oldest town, Porvoo has some of the most charming speciality shops, mostly situated in the narrow cobbled streets of the Old Town. The town also has a reputation among antique hunters, with close to a dozen small shops specialising in furniture and household items for times long past. Porvoo also has a busy market square located by the bus station, and another smaller one at Raatihuoneentori in Old Porvoo.
Just an hour from Helsinki, Porvoo has extensive bus services connecting the two, with numerous buses leaving throughout the day and into the late night. The fastest of these, the express buses, make the journey in less than an hour, but the local bus which takes a little longer as it travels along the historic King's Road route is more interesting.