Hometown Secrets: Tammisaari
Our newest intern Mirjam has written the latest entry in our "Hometown Secrets" series. The staff here at the Embassy of Finland in Australia want to show you the secret attractions and activities in the places they call home in Finland.
Tammisaari, also known as Ekenäs in Swedish, is a town not familiar to many foreigners or even Finns. Unless you’re a Finn speaking Swedish as your first language, that is. In the latter case, it is very likely you either have or you definitely know someone who has a summer cottage in this wonderful town in the Southern Archipelago! Trust me, I’m not even kidding.
As you might have guessed, Tammisaari is a Swedish speaking majority town. Swedish is the first language for roughly 80 per cent of the population, from which many are also bilingual. Tammisaari is an important destination for Swedish-Finnish culture. In addition to hearing less Finnish on the streets compared to an average town in Finland, you can see its influence in the local cuisine and lifestyle. According to a recent poll conducted by the National Broadcasting Company, YLE, Swedish-Finns are happier with their life and live longer compared to Finnish-speaking Finns due to their tight-knit social community and a higher level of social capital. There are about 300,000 Swedish-Finns in Finland, and the majority live on the western coastline. So, expect your worries to slowly fade away as you make your way into this scenic coastal town!
As the second most southern town in Finland, Tammisaari holds a long history. The King of Sweden, Gustav Vasa gifted city rights to the town back in 1546 (the capital Helsinki only received the rights in 1550!). Nowadays it is best known for its idyllic old town and the iconic white church in the heart. Originally the church was built from wood, but after a few unfortunate fires, the main building was rebuilt using stone. A visit to the church and a stroll in the old town among the adorable colourful wooden houses is not complete without a coffee break in the garden of Café Gamla Stan, a staple in the area.
There are many more interesting and quirky places in Tammisaari, and thanks to its compact size, you can visit them all in one day. Take Knipan for example, since the restaurant’s building permit application was denied by the city council, the owner decided to build it on the water! Bio Forum is a tiny movie theatre right next to the main square, offering the latest movies in a cozy atmosphere. Opened in 1912, it’s also the oldest continually operating movie theatre in Finland! Nearby you can explore the shops of Kungsgatan, which is Finland’s first pedestrian-only shopping street. The city even hides a residential house designed by world famous Alvar Aalto and the former home of one of the most famous Finnish painters, Helene Schjerfbeck, can be found in the old town.
As I mentioned earlier, Tammisaari is known as a cottage hub thanks to the vast archipelago scattered with numerous cottages, uninhabited islands and historic lighthouses. To experience Tammisaari in full, you cannot pass up a boat ride or a cruise in the Tammisaari National Park! Explore the history of the Jussarö Lighthouse, pack a picnic basket and enjoy the warm summer breeze on the cliffs by the sea. If you’re very daring, rent a boat, set up your tent on Byxholmen and hop into the sauna, which visitors are welcome to heat up and visit for free. Don’t forget Everyman’s Rights!
With its charming old town and picturesque archipelago, Tammisaari is much more than meets the eye. Reached from Helsinki by car or train in an hour and a half, Tammisaari is definitely a must-add to your travel itinerary!
Author Information: Mirjam Ligi is the Political and Commercial Intern at the Embassy of Finland in Australia. Read past entries in the Hometown Secrets series.