• Places to go
  • Things to do
  • Practical tips
  • Hitta lyckan på nära håll
Visiting the wooden towns of Finland
4 minute read
a woman looking over a river at old red ochre painted wooden buildings

Credits:: Julia Kivelä

Finland is a country of many forests, and until the last century, most of its homes and buildings were built of wood

Even today, there are many well-preserved wooden towns – mostly in the coastal and archipelago region – that make visitors feel like time has stood still. Visit them yourself for a trip into Finland’s past.

old car in front of a pink wooden house
Credits: Jussi Hellstén

Old Porvoo

Walking through the old town of Porvoo – with its historic wooden houses, mosaic of cobblestone streets and irregularly sized plots dating back to the middle ages – is like stepping back in time. Just 50 kilometres from Helsinki, Porvoo is an easy and idyllic place to combine shopping and dining with an enchanting walk through history.

old colorful wooden outbuildings in the garden
Credits: Julia Kivelä

Neristan, Kokkola

Located on the west coast and part of the town of Kokkola, Old Town Neristan is a maze of historic wooden houses from the 18th and 19th century. It offers boutique-style shops, cafes, restaurants and inns and is home to the fascinating K.H. Renlund Museum, an old home from the early 1800s where the same family lived for generations.

a traditional sign hangs from a wall
Credits: : Juho Kuva
Colourful wooden buildings
Credits:: Juho Kuva

Naantali

The picturesque old town of Naantali is famous for its colourful wooden houses. Its history dates back to the 15th century, when Naantali was the home of the Catholic Convent of St. Bridget. Today, Naantali’s old town is a charming destination full of boutiques, art galleries, hotels, restaurants, summertime entertainment and live music. Naantali is conveniently located next to the historic city of Turku, and its glittering harbour makes the area a wonderful place to enjoy the sunset over Finland’s southwest archipelago.

Marina area in the Finnish coast with terraces full of people
Credits: Kultaranta Resort

Old Rauma

This charming harbour town sits on the southwestern coast of Finland about 255 kilometres from Helsinki. Its medieval layout features meandering cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways dotted with classic 18th- and 19th-century Nordic wooden houses. One of the few UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Finland, a stroll through Old Rauma is the perfect activity for any history-lover.

UNESCO World Heritage Site of wooden colourful buildings in the Finnish coast
Credits: Visit Rauma

Reposaari, Pori

The marvellous little island village of Reposaari, with its scattering of wooden houses, sits at the entrance to the important west coast harbour town of Pori. Heavily trafficked since medieval times, it’s now a popular destination for those who come to see the WWII defensive fortress or the island’s extraordinary flora, which once arrived on ships from as far away as South America.

Portsa, Turku

Finland’s oldest city, Turku, boasts one of the most beautiful wooden neighbourhoods in the country. Located in the Portsa district just west of the Aura River, its charming and historic wooden houses are set on narrow cobblestone streets that run through the heart of the city. Because Turku is a hub on the route to and from Stolkholm, its a popular destination – especially for those in search of history.

old wooden house facade and laundry drying
Credits: Krista Keltanen

Pikisaari, Oulu

Pikisaari island's idyllic wooden town and old industrial area warmly greet visitors crossing the river at Market Square. In the 17th century, this island was a home base for boat-building, and it boasts Oulu’s oldest wooden building, which is now a museum. Pikisaari’s residents include an active community of artists and craftsmen, making it an intriguing stop for many.

Historical houses of Loviisa

Loviisa is one of Finland’s most attractive coastal towns, and it’s just an hour’s drive from Helsinki. Every year, on the last weekend of August, many of the town’s cluster of 19th-century wooden houses open their gardens and interiors to the general public. This event is called Historical Houses of Loviisa, and it includes two days of enormous antique and flea markets and great pop up cafes and restaurants, as well as arts, crafts, music and children’s entertainment. You can even stay the night in some of the houses – just book early!

Yellow wooden houses in the coastal Finland
Credits: Johanna Holvikallio

Tammisaari, Raasepori

The villagers of Tammisaari once earned a living through fishing and crafts, and it was known as a safe haven for seafarers. Today, it remains popular among boaters, especially during the summer season, and over 80 percent of its population speaks Swedish. While many of the buildings in Old Tammisaari have been rebuilt over the years, care has been taken to preserve the winding alleys and lanes. Street names such as Hatuntekijänkatu (Hatter’s Lane) and Nahkurinkatu (Tanner’s Lane) offer a delightful glimpse into a bygone era.

an old church surrounded by colourful wooden buildings
Credits: Jussi Hellstén

Old Town Raahe

Old Town Raahe is a peaceful, undisturbed place. Situated on the west coast of Finland, just a stone’s throw away from the Arctic archipelago, this is one of the best-preserved 19th-century wooden towns in the country. Visitors can see the large plots of Raahe’s bourgeoisie, which were mainly located close to Pekkatori Square, as well as the homes of the craftsmen, peasants and seamen, which were constructed on the edges of the old town. You’ll also have a chance to see Myhrberg Park, one of Finland’s three remaining 17th-century squares.

The best way to experience Raahe Old Town, though, is by taking a stroll through the narrow streets and enjoying coffee and pastries near historic Pekkatori Square. While you’re walking, be sure to take a peek into the town’s large courtyards and beautiful gardens, which still evoke the spirit of its seafaring days.

Skata, Pietarsaari

Pietarsaari’s (or Jakobstad in Swedish) historical neighborhood, which is known as both Skata and Norrmalm, is one of the largest contiguous wooden house neighborhoods in Finland. It’s a culturally and historically valuable place, on both the local and national level. The first houses in Skata were built in the early 1700s, and until the latter part of the 18th century, most of Skata’s inhabitants were seamen and their families. But the district rapidly became more working-class once the Strengberg Tobaccofactory expanded in the 1890s and became the biggest employer in the town.

To explore Skata, go on foot. Enjoy observing its colourful wooden houses and idyllic streets, which provide an interesting background to every season. For a piece of history, visit the Strengberg Tobacco Museum, then head to an antique shop. In the summertime, there’s also a cosy summer café.

An old building located in the Finnish coast
Credits: : Mariia Kauppi
Streets of an old wooden town in the Finnish coast
Credits:: Nicklas Storbjörk

Wooden houses of Kristiinankaupunki

Kristiinankaupunki – Kristinestad in Swedish – is located on the western coast of Finland and has a historical wooden town from the era when Finland was part of Sweden. The town was founded by Count Per Brahe in 1649 and has unique customs buildings that date back to 1680 and 1720, offering a reminder of a time when there used to be a customs duty charged to those arriving in the city during the Swedish reign.

The straight lines adored during the Renaissance still play a crucial role in the street plan of  Kristinestad’s city centre, and the developments of the last few hundred years are evident in the various styles of wooden houses that line the narrow streets and lanes. The crown jewels are the Empire-style merchants’ trade buildings. These seaside blocks previously housed ship owners and other members of the bourgeoisie. The further away from the seaside area you stroll, the smaller the houses become.

Helsinki’s Wooden Neighbourhoods

The most easily accesible wooden districts of Helsinki are Wooden Käpylä, Wooden Vallila and Wooden Kumpula. They’re all within walking distance from one another and quite near the city centre, and are reachable by tram, bus or train.

Designed after the “garden city movement from England with private garden plots for all tenants, these areas were built in the early 1900s with the goal of improving the lives of the city’s industrial workers. Today, they are highly desirable residential areas for bohemian types, as well as artists, actors, writers, and musicians.

A stroll along the main street of Wooden Käpylä, for example, is like walking through a movie set. You just might see a film crew rolling down the sidewalks – or at least a bus full of tourists snapping photos – of this unique, timeless neighbourhood.

Learn more about what to see and do in Helsinki at My Helsinki site.

Old wooden house in the old wooden house district of Vallila in the city of Helsinki
Credits: Aku Pöllänen