Helsinki might be Finland’s capital, but it was only in fairly recent times that it gained its status as the country’s capital as well as its economic and cultural hub. It is no coincidence that Helsinki is situated directly opposite of Tallinn across the Baltic Sea. The Swedish wanted to build a city capable of rivaling Tallinn’s position as a trading city. Since nobody really wanted to live there, people from Porvoo and a few other places were forced to migrate to Helsinki. Unfortunately, the city’s location was poorly chosen as the waters around it were difficult to navigate. Not the best start for a trade city… Since the Swedish occupated Estonia just a couple of years after, Helsinki was left aside. Turku is the oldest town in Finland and was the old capital until it suffered from a quite unfortunate fate. When Finland became part of Russia, they moved the capital from Turku to Helsinki in 1812 – closer to Moscow. Turku lost its status as the capital, but was still the biggest town, home to Finland’s only university.
But only 15 years later, a fire destroyed almost all of the buildings including the university in Turku, the remaining university was moved to Helsinki. Nowadays, Helsinki claims to have the oldest university in Finland which is true, but they technically “stole” it from Turku. The new university in Turku was installed many years later.
Today, Turku has once again become a thriving university city. The Book Café at the old market square is particularly popular, not only amongst students. It’s run by volunteers and serves vegan coffees, tees and snacks. Students (and non-students) come here to read (it has book in the title…), chat and study. The interior is nice and cozy complete with its own book selection.
Porvoo, potentially worth another day trip from Helsinki, features its famous red house facades along the river. There isn’t really much to do on a Sunday as most restaurants and shops are closed, but you can see some colorful wooden houses in the old town.