The Southern part of Finland is not just a beautifully rugged coastline, but it offers so many things to do and see, that really surprised me. The Kotka-Hamina region is only about 1,5 hours from Helsinki: certainly one of the destination for a day or weekend trip, that I really wholeheartedly want to recommend to everyone!
This is a great itinerary for anyone who
By car: The area is great to explore by car, within short distances you can explore and discover so many different parts and sights of the region. From Helsinki, it’s only about 1,5 hours away.
Sokos Seurahuone Kotka – great Central location in the heart of the town of Kotka. This hotel is a great choice of you want to be active in the town and explore surroundings. They also rent out bikes!
Rönnas: if you feel more like a cottage experience, the seaside resort of Rönnas is just beautiful. The cabins are spacious and a great choice if you travel with friends and family. They are a bit further out in nature, but the drive is beautiful and it’s a great base location to explore the Kotka-Hamina area by car.
Santalahti resort: This 5 star resort is an amazing choice for a luxury getaway by the seaside. Especially the glass villas just look incredible.
This was easily my favourite place we visited in the Kotka-Hamina region: the imperial fishing lodge where Alexander III came to fish and relax, away from his stressful days full of duties. This was during the time when Finland was still part of Russia. The waters were great for (amongst others) salmon fishing. Located by the Langinkoski rapids surrounded by beautiful forests, you can visit the museum lodge, which is just a stunning building. On the premises you also find the fishing hatch and a small chapel. But really you could just sit by the rapids all day.
Café Dagmar offers lovely snacks and drinks with a beautiful view of the lodge.
Another place I highly recommend to visit, is the former ironworks village Strömforssin Ruukki. The dark red buildings from the 17th century that make up the place are a sight of their own, as they lay to picturesque by the river. Besides visiting museums and the former nail workshop, you can visit artisans boutiques, go for a paddle or enjoy a delicious meal, for example at the Bed & Bistro manor or Restaurant Ruukinnmylly at the old mill. The church with its really unusual shape that’s tucked away on a small hill was a highlight, too!
When it Kotka, a visit to Varissaari island should definitely be on your list! Visit the remnants of the former fortress that the island was a part of, enjoy a lovely meal at the summer restaurant Vaakku and extend your island day with the sauna boat Kiulu. There’s something special about floating on the water as you hear the sizzle of the sauna, and of course jumping straight from the sauna into the water of the bay is a great experience. You can also paddle around the whole island with the SUP boards! The boat can be rented by the hour which is a great option for small groups!
The Vellamo maritime centre was another highlight of our stay in Kotka. It’s more than just a museum, it’s a fully interactive experience where you can learn so much about the history of seafaring, the Svensksund naval battles, the largest ever in the Baltic Sea, fought just off the coast of Kotka, and much more. You can easily spend hours in here, the whole museum is huge and there’s so much to discover. Alone the architecture of the building is worth coming by. I loved the icebreaker Tarmo which you can still visit until the end of August 2021.
If you visit the Kotka-Hamina region, put Vellamo at the top of your list!
The Malmgård beers are some of the best brews you can find in Finland, and you can visit their brewery and shop while you are visiting the area of Kotka-Hamina! The shop is not just interested for beer lovers, but their selection of flours and grains, and other local specialities will make any foodies heart beat a little faster. The Malmgård Manor from 1880 is just a few minutes walk away is a stunning sight. You can book visits at both places.
Tip to try: I enjoyed the Malmgård berry sours a lot, and the pizza flour is great if you’re a homebaker!
If there’s one thing to know about me, it’s that I love anything baked – it’s my favourite treat and it’s good for the soul. Possumunkki, as they are called around Helsinki, are donut-like pastries filled with apple jam. I didn’t know up to the point of my visit to Kotka, that they are a local speciality! So of course, I had to get some. The best ones are from Kotkan Leipä Ky Turkia, who also sell the freshly baked “Posso” from this very inconspicuous trailer on the local market square.
Try some Finnish homestyle food at restaurant Keisarin Satama – the very low-key style buffet restaurant has a really affordable lunch offer, and the genuine Finnish food is great for anyone who wants to have a meal like the locals. The location is beautiful: the old Kotkan Höyrypanimo brewery building is right by the water. Great lunch views!
The Kotka-Hamina region is well-known for its many beautiful parks, and the Katariina sea park is one of the most stunning ones. It stretches around the whole southern part of Kotka, which makes it perfect for a bike tour. We got our bikes from our hotel, Sokos Seurahuone. The park gives you beautiful views of the surrounding sea and islands, rocks and wild nature, as well as a Muumin playground, several art installations.
End your bike ride with a visit of the Haukkavuori watch tower! The many stairs are worth it for a spectacular 360° view of the city of Kotka and the archipelago, you can check out a small art exhibition in the tower while you’re at it, and the best: it’s free to visit. The former water tower is 72m high. Get an impression of your surroundings and map out where you want to head next. Wonderful place!
Loviisa is a small, charming seaside town in the Kotka-Hamina region, that was a relevant spot for imported goods back in the 1700s. The Laivasilta area of its old salt warehouse buildings make a really lovely stop to have a wander, enjoy a drink or some food with a view to the water and the small harbour. The small museum only has Finnish and Swedish infos, but is still nice to walk around if you enjoy old ships and maps.
Treat yourself to a lovely dinner at one of the best restaurants of Kotka, Vausti. The seasonal 3-course menu was delicious, the service super friendly and the atmosphere of both the modern touches and the influence of the history of the original building is really special. For a lovely dinner on a visit to the Kotka-Hamina region, I highly recommend to book yourself a table here!