SECTIONS OF THE CENTRAL PARK
Töölönlahti and surroundings
The southernmost part of Central Park is transforming into a novel,
versatile meeting place for city residents surrounded by cultural
buildings. The southern end of the park has a constructed look that
becomes more natural when moving towards the north.
– Finlandia park
There are peaceful spots for relaxing around Töölönlahti Bay. One important part of the southern section of the park is the City Gardens, where flowers for the city's beautification have been grown since 1907.
From Töölönlahti, the Central Park continues to the Olympic Stadium, the heart of Finnish sports.
The surroundings of the Stadium offer many opportunities for different types of sports. A new football arena,
the Sonera Stadium, has been built behind the old ice hockey arena, and the renovated Swimming Stadium is a great place to swim in the summer. Records are still being broken at the old Eläintarha sports field. Reaching a height of 72 metres, the Olympic Stadium’s tower offers superb vistas over the Central Park towards the north. The Stadium’s buildings are part of Helsinki’s cultural history.
In a narrow wooded stretch of the Central Park is the Ruskeasuo riding centre and fitness park. The centre has facilities for ball games and fitness training, and both indoor and outdoor horseback riding fields. There is also an archery range at Ruskeasuo.
The Laakso sports field is the starting point for a network of lighted and marked hiking trails that run via the Maunula hiking lodge, Pirkkola sports park, and Paloheinä hiking lodge to the cabin at Pitkäkoski, continuing along the "Seven Brothers Trail" all the way to Hyvinkää.
At Laakso, you will find a children's traffic park and the Tullinpuomi playground, a playground at the edge of Länsi-Pasila (West Pasila) and a nearby dog park. There are also allotment gardens west of Ilmala and east of Kivihaka. The impressive Micropolis skateboarding park has been opened in connection with the Eläintarha sports field.
The area’s tree growth ranges from lush, dark stands of spruce to more rugged woods growing on rocky outcrops. The trees are tended regularly to keep the forest vigorous and healthy despite heavy wear and tear. Bushes growing in the shadow of the trees provide shelter for small animals.
A centre of outdoor activity since the 1960s, the Maunula hiking lodge offers a place to rest, sit in a café, and study the various outdoor activities available in the area. After working up a sweat on the sawdust jogging track or a forest trail, you can take a refreshing sauna. In winter you can rent skis at the lodge, in summer volleyball is played in the area.
Helsinki’s residents intensively cultivate the allotment gardens established on the former fields of Maunulanpuisto. There is also an urn cemetery in Maunula, as well as a pet cemetery.
Maunula’s forests include stands of robust spruce, red-trunked pines and groves of white birch. Special features in the area include a hazel grove, a small copse of ash trees, and round crack willows from Terijoki. Planted larches, limes, and maples flourish south of Pirkkolantie, shielding the area from the Nurmijärventie motorway’s traffic noise and binding the dust. Fox tracks under the willows are not an uncommon sight.
The Pirkkola Sports Park is a sports and recreation centre in a natural setting; the facilities include an indoor swimming pool, the small Plotti open-air swimming pool, an ice rink, and large sports halls. At Pirkkola you can also have a sauna or pop into the cafe. Marked hiking trails and jogging tracks – linking Pirkkola with Laakso, Paloheinä and Pitkäkoski – protect the natural surroundings from wear and tear.
The younger mixed forests in Pirkkola have grown on land clear cut for firewood after the war. In the forest, you can see ground beetles and butterflies as well as black woodpeckers, jays, and goldcrests.
Paloheinä is a place where habitation, the culturally historic landscape, and the forest converge. It is also the Central Park’s main centre for outdoor activities. Showers and a café are available whenever the hiking lodge is open. The sauna is heated three days a week and there are many alternative hiking trails.
Paloheinä is also a popular competition venue; over 200 contest events are held there each year in cross-country running, orienteering, and skiing. In the winter, Paloheinä has a ski slope and the city’s best sledding hill. The fell-like slope is 120 m long and 38 m high.
In the summer, guided nature excursions are organised from the Paloheinä lodge. There are allotment gardens in the area between Pirkkola and Paloheinä.
The Central Park is at its widest in Haltiala; some of the magnificent trees there are more than 30 metres high. The vegetation is luxuriant and untouched, providing a suitable habitat for many true forest species, including birds and insects. Covering some 300 hectares, the wooded area is the largest unbroken forest in Helsinki. Birds inhabiting the forest in Haltiala include the hazel grouse, black woodpecker, crested tit, and northern goshawk.
The oldest cultivated fields in Helsinki can also be found in Haltiala; the agricultural landscape extends all the way to the banks of the River Vantaa. The Kuninkaantammentie and Laamannintie roads running along the River Vantaa date back to the 1500s and 1600s.
The natural protection areas in Haltiala contain the most valuable natural features in the area; the Haltiala primeval forest has been growing untouched by human hand for over half a century. Siberian firs, snake branch spruces, and many other rare tree species planted by Jakob Kavaleff in the early 1900s can be found at the Niskala Arboretum.
Pitkäkoski is a wilderness landscape in the city. The deciduous forest along the banks of the rapids is a natural protection area. Ruutinkoski’s natural surroundings include river meadows, deciduous forest, overgrown park plantings, and a stand of white elms.
At the Haltiala Farm you can see domestic animals, dine at the café-restaurant, fry sausages and otherwise get acquinted with farm life.
The extensive Helsinkipuisto (Helsinki Park) following the banks of the River Vantaa and the Central Park converge in the Haltiala area. Helsinkipuisto is a vast recreational area emphasising the city’s distinctive maritime character, proximity to nature and lushness of its green areas.