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Six themed shots from the archives at www.timbirdphotography.com

The River Vantaa is one of the Finnish capital’s treasures, and one that visitors often don’t get to find out about. Leading upstream from the rapids at Vanhakaupunki – literally, old town – where Helsinki was founded in 1550 and arcing around the eastern side of the city to the northern edge of the forested Keskuspuisto (Central Park), the river takes its name from the city’s northern neighbour, Vantaa.

For me, the river, flowing a few hundred metres from our house, makes summer visits to the city centre a special pleasure, with cycle tracks leading through woods and meadows, past bathing beaches and rapids, as well as the occasional outdoor summer restaurant terrace. Canoe rental is an option near the bridge leading up to the old manor restaurant and stables and riding school at Tuomarinkylän kartano, fishing is popular near the rapids where the river cascades into the sea, and the beach at Pikkukoski (“Little Rapids”) is packed with bathers and partying kids once the holidays get under way. Haltiala farm to the north is popular with families, especially during the lambing season in spring, and anybody can join in with the traditional hay-making at Tuomarinkylän kartano. Sunflowers, flax and peas are grown in some of the fields adjacent to the river towards the Central Park and anybody can go and pick them.

Here are six shots of one of Helsinki’s best summer assets.

ImageHiking and cycle tracks run along both sides of the river, a fabulous scenic ride.

ImageThe rapids at Vanhakaupunki where the river meets the sea and where Helsinki was founded in 1550. The buildings on the left contain a small hydropower plant.

ImageFishing on the river, home to perch, pike, grayling, salmon, trout, and rainbow trout.

ImageModern developments creep closer to the river banks every year.


Sunflowers are grown in some fields and once they’re in bloom anyone can pick and take them home.


Dramatic sunsets are common on the river, but you have to wait until nearly midnight to see them on long light summer evenings.

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