Vanhankaupunki or Helsinki Old Town is 5km from where the center of town is now situated. The town was established in 1550 by the Swedish King Gustav Vasa, as Finland was under Swedish rule at the time. By 1570 it is thought that there were around 500 inhabitants. By 1640 the town was moved from this location to its current one, for better harbour conditions in order to boost the city commerce.
Now nothing is left of the Vanhankaupunki but in its place there is a beautiful wooded park. Though, there has been construction in the surrounding area the buildings are still very impressive, old brick buildings and wooden houses, some of which date back to the 19th century but nothing anywhere near as old as 1600 and nature is still a key element here.
There are two entrances to the site of Helsinki Old Town. One on Vanhankaupungintie where, in the over grown bushes, you can find an sign of how the town had looked and what was there now to mark important sites. The other entrance is between two newly built houses and seems more like the access to the rear of one of the houses.
Either way takes you to an excellent rocky lockout and a short walk through the natural surroundings where there are a number of monuments with historical significance.
There are three monuments in the Vanhankaupunki dedicated to the Old Town and its history, the 400th anniversary of the founded of Helsinki erected in 1950, the first church and graveyard, and the memorial to Gustavus II Adolphus.
The most interesting part was the site of the old church, now marked with a replica of a gravestone of a merchant named Hans van Sanden had been found here in 1866. The stone was carved just like the original and placed in the same spot in 1890.
From here it is a short walk up hill to the top of a rocky outcrop where you can view the surrounding area. To your west the city, to your east nature. You can see the water that was once a harbour and its not hard to imagine the ships sailing in many years ago when there was little else here.
© Our Shadows Will Remain
From the site of the Vanhankaupunki It’s a short walk to the red brick Power Station and turbine from 1890. The water levels were high and it rushed over the fall crashing at the bottom and sending a spray through the air. The roaring water was loud but 50m further the sound had gone and was replaced by tranquility as the Vanta River entered Vanhankaupunki bay.
From the Power Station buildings there is a beautiful walk around Vanhankaupunki bay, where great views of the buildings can be found. From here you can also find your way to Lammassaari Nature Reserve or take the bridge across to Verkatehtaan park and back to Arabia.
Don’t forget to sit and enjoy the view with the Catherine of Saxe-Lauenburg statue.