While nothing beats cycling around a city to experience its neighborhoods coming in a close second is seeing coastal cities from the water and Helsinki is one such city that should be seen from a different perspective to appreciate its natural beauty.
Some 330 islands make up the Helsinki archipelago and while some of the most popular recreational islands such as Pihlajasaari have limited Summer ferry service year round service operates from a pier at Market Square to the fortress of Suomenlinna.
While the weather wasn’t ideal with a light mist and whipping winds I couldn’t bring myself to hunker down in the enclosed cabin and braved the elements out on deck with a few hardly locals. Note that as the Suomenlinna ferry is operated by Helsinki regional transport it’s integrated with bus, metro and tram lines so the Helsinki Card or transit pass will work on this ferry route.
One of the perks of the Helsinki card is the complimentary Beautiful Canal Route, a 1.5 hour harbour tour operating between May 1 and 30 September with running multilingual commentary of the sights gliding past such as Suomenlinna, the Helsinki Zoo, and the leafy green Degerö Canal that gives the tour its name.
This was another occasion I couldn’t confine myself to the limited vantage point of an interior cabin and stayed topside alone for far more amazing views. The rain had coated the outdoor plastic seats but travel as with most things rewards the resourceful so pulled out my plastic bag I kept handy for stops at the supermarket (you pay for plastic bags so either use an environmentally cloth shopping bag or reuse a plastic one) and placed it on the seat.
A number of the islands have been preserved for recreation and are dotted with quaint cottages Helsinki residents escape to in summer. I liked the colours and variety of the cute little seaside saunas with requisite ladders to haul yourself out of the water after having run from the sauna and jumped in the chilly water.
Slow down to transit the Degerö Canal brought us out of the wind and to a more leisurely pace to wave to folks on shore.
After exiting the canal we headed back toward Market Square but not before passing idle icebreakers and a picturesque little island with a small house and big tug boat at anchor.
While the weather could’ve been worse and was thankful for that reflected on how nice it would be to return for a harbour cruise in the middle of summer with longer days and sunnier skies. I`d highly recommend this tour operated by Helsinki Sightseeing as it leaves right from Market Square and offers a really interesting look at greater Helsinki from a different perspective than travellers might glimpse on their own.