About 50km east of Helsinki, Porvoo is one of the oldest towns on the south coast and among Finland’s most charming places. Its narrow cobbled streets, flanked by brightly hued wooden buildings, give a sense of Finnish life before Helsinki’s bold Neoclassical geometry came along. The Porvoo Museum (May–Aug Mon–Sat 10am–4pm, Sun 11am–4pm; Sept–April Wed–Sun noon–4pm; €8) includes the Johan Ludwig Runeberg House at Aleksanterinkatu 3 near the station where the famed Finnish poet lived from 1852; one of his poems provided the lyrics for the Finnish national anthem.

The old town is built around the hill on the other side of Mannerheimkatu, crowned by the fifteenth-century Tuomiokirkko (May–Sept Mon–Fri 10am–6pm, Sat 10am–2pm, Sun 2–5pm; Oct–April Tues–Sat 10am–2pm, Sun 2–4pm), where Alexander I proclaimed Finland a Russian Grand Duchy. The cathedral survived a serious arson attack in 2006 and reopened two years later.

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