photo © Visit Finland
Tourism Espoo – Espoo Guide
Along with Helsinki, Vantaa, and Kauniainen, Espoo makes up the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, and is the second most heavily populated city in Finland, with around 250,000 people living there. A bustling metropolis with 5 centres, Espoo is a city rich in culture yet still firmly rooted in nature, nestled between Nuuksio National Park and the Baltic Sea.
Espoo has much to offer visitors who enjoy the sea – there is 58 kilometres of shoreline in the municipality, and some 165 islands in the archipelago to explore surrounded by waters that are perfect for fishing and boating, whether in a kayak or canoe or a larger craft. Now, thanks to the new Helsinki metro extension that runs all the way to Matinkylä, the little known charms of Espoo’s coast and archipelago are more accessible than ever before.
Espoo, often overlooked by the majority of visitors to the capital, has a wealth of natural attractions worth exploring. In the north of Espoo lies Nuuksion National Park, a region of untouched wilderness of forests and lakes, while to the south Espoo’s long coastline and an idyllic archipelago that boasts more islands than Hawaii!
The famous King’s Road that leads from Stockholm to Viipuri, dating back to the 13th century, passes through Espoo. The oldest preserved building in the city is Espoo Cathedral, dating back to the 1480s. Today, Espoo is a thriving city, unlike any other in Finland because instead of having a traditional city centre it has five separate local centres, the best known of which is Tapiola Garden City.
Tapiola has become the cultural centre of Espoo, housing the Espoo Cultural Centre, Exhibition Centre WeeGee, and the Espoo City Theatre. The Tapiola Sinfonietta has gained international acclaim is based in the Espoo Cultural Centre. Alongside the Sinfonietta, the centre also hosts international festivals like April Jazz and Espoo Ciné, as well as biennial events such as Espoo Piano Week and Choir Espoo. The building itself, called ‘The Moon Bridge’, is worth seeing, designed by Arto Sipinen in the tradition of Alvar Aalto’s monumental buildings.
The WeeGee Exhibition Centre is an impressive cornucopia of museums, exhibitions and events, includes five museums, a modern art gallery, a media-art centre, a café, a museum shop and an art school. Chief among its attractions is EMMA, the Espoo Museum of Modern Art, and the biggest art museum in Finland. The same building also houses Finland’s only Museum of Horology (Kellomuseo) and Leikkilinna, a toy museum, as well as KAMU (The Espoo City Museum), the Helinä Rautavaara Museum, Gallery AARNI, CARTES (the Computer Arts Centre), and Espoo School of Art.
Other cultural treats for the visitor to enjoy include the Espoo Car Museum and the Mineralogical Museum, as well as several fine manors in Espoo: Espoon Kartano, which was first mentioned in 1495, Pakankylän Kartano on the northern shore of Lake Bodom, and Kaisankoti Manor, located in Pakankylä in Northern Espoo. Other places of interest include Villa Rulludd, the Villa Museum of the Espoo City Museum, situated by the sea on a peninsula, and a rare example of early villa architecture. The Gallen-Kallela Museum was built between 1911 and 1913 in the Art Nouveau style, and has 2-3 exhibitions a year displaying works by the artist and his contemporaries, as well as modern art and photography.
Escaping city life is easy in Espoo. Located in the northern section of Laajalahti Nature Reserve is the Villa Elfvik Nature House, designed by Mauritz Gripenberg in 1904 for baroness Elvira Standerstkskjöld in an English-influenced Jugend style. Espoo also has the Nuuksio National Park, filled with marked trails, cooking shelters and camping sites, and perfect for short hiking trips of one or two days. Meanwhile at the Marketan Puisto gardeners can wander the grounds which are an exhibition park for garden and park building, with over 110 exhibitors on permanent display.
Families with children will find plenty to keep everyone happy and involved. The Serena Water Amusement Park is the largest constant warm water park in the Nordic countries, Unga Teatern is the oldest children’s theatre in Finland, Theatre Hevosenkenkä puts on around 300 performances every year and is renowned for its puppet shows and finally the Family Entertainment Centre HUIMALA includes a sport arena, a softplay area, an area specifically designed for under 5s, and healthy homemade food in its restaurants and cafes.