As the sun becomes more generous in this corner of the world, it is time to make the most of it. Here are a few suggestions of pools, beaches, ponds, river banks, and aqua parks in the Helsinki region. The journey planner helps you to find your way to all of these locations, either by public transport or by bike.
There are two places to enjoy warm water in open air regardless of what the weather is like otherwise.
1. Uimastadionin maauimala, at the very centre by the stadium, completely packed on sunny days. Awesome for a sporty beginning of the day. If you go there just to sport, bring a bathrobe or an extra towel to keep you warm while walking from the showers to the pool.
Please also note that in outdoor and indoor pools, i.e. anywhere where the water is constantly purified, you may not be allowed to wear shorts, but rather a snug fitting swimming suit. The reason is that shorts add bacteria to the water, and the lint from, say, cotton shorts can clog the water purifying system. In principle, swimming shorts could be allowed everywhere, but since it is difficult for the staff to monitor whether each pair of shorts is intended for swimming or not, they may be banned altogether.
It may also be good to remember that in Finnish culture people are used to a large personal space. If you do not want to cause discomfort in your Finnish co-sunbathers, leave as much room as possible between them and yourself on the beach. Beaches are one of the few places where Finns will accept proximity with others when clearly everyone wants to enjoy the sun in the same place, but if there is still plenty of space when you arrive, then it is wiser not to set your towel right next to someone else. That goes even if you want to get to know the people already on the beach; eye contact from a slightly longer distance is more likely to get you on friendly terms…
Sauna and outdoor swimming
If you want to combine sauna and outdoor swimming, i.e. the quintessential Finnish summer experience, then Kuusijärvi in Vantaa is one of the best places to do so.
A new centre with a sauna, restaurants etc. has opened in Hernesaari this summer. It is called Löyly, which means the heat you get from throwing water on the stove. The building is really worth seeing, it has been designed by Avanto architects, namely Ville Hara and Anu Puustinen. You can find the opening hours & other relevant info at www.loylyhelsinki.fi.
Another centre-of-the-city outdoor pool with a sauna, the Allas Sea Pool has opened this year at Katajanokka next to the Finnair Skywheel.
Anywhere where you are close to the sea, you’ll find lovely places to swim. To check what is available near you, the ulkoilukartta comes in handy (choose ulkoilukartta from the radio buttons on the left). I imagine that the symbol for a beach is rather self-explanatory, but you can see the legend by clicking on karttamerkinnät. I will leave the joy of discovering hidden gems to you, but here are a few suggestions / descriptions for those who want some background. In most of the bigger beaches you will find a toilet, an outdoor shower (cold water usually) and a cafe or kiosk that will fulfill at least very basic needs, some may offer very good food. The more common option among Finns, at least traditionally, is to stack a picnic bag with fresh fruit and peas from the market.
Hietarannan uimaranta (sometimes called Hietaniemen uimaranta) is one of the biggest sandy beaches in Helsinki and the ”party” beach. Young people looking to make friends with like-minded others are likely to go there, so if you are looking for action, this is a good choice; if you prefer peace and quiet, you might want to look for another spot.
Seurasaari is an island that hosts an open-air museum, a wonderful restaurant in an old villa and much more. Its shores are free game for anyone interested in sunbathing, so explore and find your spot. Seurasaari also offers a restricted area for nudist bathing with separate sections for men and women. NB! On Wednesdays and Sundays the nudist beach is apparently in joined use, and at those times you do need a swimming suit.
Lauttasaari is a beautiful bike trip away from the centre, and has several awesome beaches. The link provided refers to the biggest one, but if you look at the ulkoilukartta, you can find also the other options. If you don’t have a bike, rent a city bike, for more information on that, see Cycling in Helsinki
Haukilahti is a little further to the west in Espoo. It is a gorgeous beach that you are unlikely to go to without a recommendation, hence the tip. Nowadays the beach also has a cafe, and a little further in the marina, you’ll find a very nice restaurant by the sea.
The Uutela recreational area in Vuosaari can also be warmly recommended. The link given belongs to a cafe which is near both the official Aurinkolahti beach, and a place where the Uutela nature trail begins. The Uutela area is not an ”official” beach yet, but you are free to explore the shore and settle on a spot that seems comfortable.
Uunisaari is a tiny island just off Kaivopuisto, also a gorgeous place for sunbathing.
If you get tired of the sea and want to try the river for a change, Pikkukosken uimaranta is a classic. There are dedicated spots for swimming all along the Vantaa river, so check them from the ulkoilukartta. Pitkäkoski is not necessarily a good place to swim, but the surrounding forest is charming, so that may also be a destination for one day.
For the most adventurous souls, I suggest a hiking trip in Nuuksio and a dip into one, or several of its lakes or ponds. Before I was blessed with two very active little ones, who are not yet old enough for hiking, one of the favourite week-end activities for me and my husband was to go pond spotting in Nuuksio.
If you want to combine a boat trip with your beach day, try either Suomenlinna or Pihlajasaari. The wind tends to blow hard on the Suomenlinna beach, so take that into account in your planning. There are also a number of islands around Helsinki, which you can access by your own boat, or a regular boat connection, but I’ll talk more about those in another post.
Please note that once the summer gets properly on its way, cyanobacteria usually starts to appear on the beaches. Cyanobacteria may or may not produce toxins, you never know if a particular instance is toxic or not. In Finland, it is usually ok to swim in the water even if there is some cyanobacteria in it, but you should not swallow any such water, and make sure you shower all remnants off your skin soon after dipping in. It is best to keep small children and pets away from shores with cyanobacteria. The city offers a service with reports on the cyanobacteria situation for the major beaches here. Click on the link that says ”Katso uimarantojen tilanne tästä”. Green goes for no cyanobacteria, red for a lot. Black means the information is not available.
Indoor pools / Aqua parks
Most of the indoor pools close for the summer. However, this year Vuosaari remains open all summer. In addition to several indoor pools that cater to the needs of all age groups, the Vuosaari pool also has a big outdoor sunbathing area. For those wanting some extra excitement, if offers a pretty cool water slide (adults allowed!!!).
The only full-blown aqua park in the Greater Helsinki area is Serena located in Espoo. The aqua park has both an indoor and an outdoor section, so it works even if a sudden shower catches you by surprise.
The Flamingo Spa in Vantaa offers an aqua park experience indoors.
Hence, I hope you will find many different places to enjoy the summer by the water. If you feel you need an introduction to Finnish sauna culture, check Finns do it naked: Or, what to expect in a Finnish sauna.
If you are looking for a place to eat by the sea, check Helsinki seaside restaurants and cafés.