Nature and the sea are within reach for everybody in Helsinki. The urban beat of the city blends with the calm of nature as close to the city centre as the Töölönlahti area, less than one kilometre from the Central Railway Station. Physical activity and spending time in nature are some of the favourite recreational activities of the people of Helsinki.
Helsinki is one of the world’s greenest metropolises.
- 40 percent of the city’s land area is green and recreational areas.
- Helsinki has 216 kilometres of trails and sports tracks and 1,200 kilometres of cycling routes.
- The city’s shoreline is more than 130 kilometres long.
- There are approximately 300 islands.
Nature is close to everybody, and this strength of Helsinki will be retained – the city is developed and built with a high regard for nature.
Every resident of Helsinki lives less than 10 kilometres from the seashore
The closeness of the sea strongly characterizes the city, and it is one of the great attractions of Helsinki.
Helsinki has drawn up a maritime strategy to develop the city’s maritime recreational opportunities and tourist services, with due respect to the interests of residents, visitors and entrepreneurs as well as to the responsible and sustainable use of maritime nature. The strategy seeks to improve the ease of access to Helsinki’s seaside destinations, to improve services on islands and to develop sea-themed events.
The Helsinki archipelago has a long list of highly popular recreational destinations. The best-known and most popular of them is Suomenlinna, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Helsinki has opened up new islands for recreational use, including Vasikkasaari ja Vartiosaari as well as Vallisaari and Isosaari, which were previously in the use of the Finnish Defence Forces.
Easy access to the islands
The Journey Planner of Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) plays an important role in the access to islands: the Journey Planner integrates the 26 islands that can be reached by regular ferry services.
A common ticket service is also being developped. In the Ahti project, the accessibility of maritime services is being improved and boat berth subletting is being piloted. Tendering for waterborne transport will take the form of an innovative market dialogue to enable ever greener waterborne transport. In the summer of 2020, Vartiosaari was served by Helsinki's first electric connecting vessel. In addition, opportunities for water sports, which are growing in popularity, have been improved and the service offering has, among other things, been supplemented with Skipper's urban rowing boats.
New services will further improve access to islands. A new water transport app named BOUT, hailed as “the Uber of boats”, was launched in the autumn of 2018. Skipperi city row boats arrived for the 2019 season.
In the future, the main island destinations of Helsinki will have better water supply and maintenance services. Vallisaari will be integrated with the Helsinki municipal infrastructure network to support responsible development of the island. Opportunities for popular water sports will improve.
Helsinki Biennial brings international art to maritime Helsinki
One important milestone of the maritime strategy will be Helsinki Biennial to be held in Vallisaari in summer 2021. The first edition of this international contemporary art event is expected to attract 300,000 domestic and international visitors. In order to develop Vallisaari sustainably, a plan for the island was approved and plumbing was built.
The implementation of Helsinki’s maritime strategy proceeds with careful attention paid to the fragile environment of the archipelago, to Baltic Sea protection and to the local cultural heritage. Responsible recreational use of the islands is ensured through the Urban Eco Islands project. The state of the marine environment is monitored regularly, and Helsinki participates actively in Baltic Sea protection. Environmental awareness offers also opportunities for creating new types of business and product innovations.
Popular islands to visit only a short ferry ride away from the city center