There they are: red riverside warehouses. That row of small red cottages by the river is Porvoo’s trademark. They appear on postcards and school textbooks and welcome visitors to the town, just like they did already hundreds of years ago.
Painted houses and boutique shops
Porvoo is an old city located on the southern coast of Finland. Its history dates back to Middle Age and the old town attracts tourists with its narrow streets, wooden houses and old-fashioned atmosphere. Pebble streets lead to the medieval church or climb up steep hills turning to the doorsteps of some friendly house with red door and linen curtains on windows. Painted houses lean to each others creating colourful wooden walls which hide inner courtyards with apple trees and garden swings from the passers-by.
It is a windy day. The end of summer is near but Porvoo is still busy with tourists. The town is a summer town and visitors from elsewhere in Finland as well as foreigners come to check out its sunny streets. It is time to take summer dresses for a stroll! Little boutiques and shops line the main streets. Open doors invite to finger handicrafts on offer and multiple antique shops are bursting with cups and bowls and all sorts of treasures. An absolute gem for every vintage fan is a vintage shop Doris & Duke. Fifties dresses, high heels, suede jackets, tin cans…
Coffee, lunch and chocolate
Among the shops, there are countless cafes and restaurants in the old town. Every one of them looks worth stepping in, but a normal person only needs a cup or two of coffee a day. So it is impossible to sample each of them. A cashier of Teetee shop (where one might leave with a ball or two with bright yarn and an inspiration for new wool socks) recommends a cafe just outside the old town. Cafe Gabriole stands by the marketplace. It offers a lunch buffet and cakes and coffees. Dark wooden furniture, large windows and high ceilings added together with live piano music create an almost royal environment. Quite a classy lunch.
Because of the abundance of cafes in town it is better to have lunch in one place and coffee in another. Say, for example, in Lilla Chocoladfabriken which is a cafe of a tiny chocolate factory. Handmade cakes and chocolates. Even chocolate coffee! Of course, Porvoo is also a home for an another chocolate factory: Brunberg. It has a factory outlet in the old town as well where they sell their products with a little lower price. Brunberg’s Suukot/Kisses are what childhood tastes like. Also their rice chocolate is a safe choice.
Like it’s from a picture book
There are definitely enough places to eat and drink and shops to roam around in Porvoo old town. However, perhaps the best thing is the atmosphere. The town looks old. The town feels old. Walking around the streets without any direction is nice on its own accord.
Walk by the river on the other side of the town and you will get the view of the warehouses. Drop by the church which represents the willingness to preserve the town and the history: the church has been burned several times, last time in 2006, but it has always been built again. Wonder around the blocks and imagine living here. You can admire the low wooden houses and beautiful gardens that the locals take good care of.
Two children disappear around the corner with their bikes. What is it like to grow up here? The whole place reminds me of Mauri Kunnas’ Koiramäki picture books (especially the one where the children go to town) which tell stories of the life in 1800s. Porvoo has maintained its old face while it has kept up with the modern life.