Ekenäs Old Town with its wooden houses spreads out to the seashore. The street names tell the story of the life of the townspeople and how they got along hundreds of years ago. Here, the streets have stayed the same since the 16thcentury. Street names such as the Hatter’s Street (Hattmakaregatan), Linen Weaver’s Street (Linvävaregatan), Cloth Weaver’s Street (Handskmakaregatan), Smith’s Street (Smedsgatan) and Tanner’s Street (Garvaregatan) reveal that Barcken’s peninsula in Ekenäs once was populated by skillful craftsmen.
During Christmas season, the stroller can get a glimpse of a Christmas tree, an old tiled stove or mirror doors through the windows. In the summer, you can peep over the fences to the enclosed courtyards. The small signs with names of fish, as given to the blocks in the 19th century, and the cast-iron lamp posts give the face of the Old Town that little extra. The small street mirrors or “gossip mirrors” in the windows, elegantly crafted garden gates and the intricately decorated window frames are all details worth spending time looking at.
From a tiny fishing village to a vibrant small town
Most of the buildings in the Old Town date from the late 18th and the 19th century, but the area grew out of a 16th century fishing village that the Swedish king Gustav Vasa granted a town charter in 1546 – a few years before Helsinki. They were intended to grow into trade centres and compete with Revel, the modern-day Estonian city of Tallinn.
Today, Ekenäs is a vibrant small town where shops, cafés and restaurants still provide personalized service. The best places for shopping can be found on Gustav Wasas gata right by the town square, and on Kungsgatan, the first pedestrian street in Finland. During summer, the terraces in Stallörsparken park and the guest marina swarms with people on holiday who are enjoying the evening sun and the views of the archipelago.
Pack your picnic basket and take a stroll along the seashore
Basatorget, the old market situated near Stallörsparken park, is a good place to start a walk along the west shore, from which a nice view of the town’s bay area is revealed. The old-style “pranger” (a pillory-style punishment pole), which stands in Basatorget, reminds us of the days when many crimes were punished by public beating and humiliation.
At the start of the walk you’ll pass the old sauna, Gamla Bastun, which is a large three story brick building erected in 1903 as a spa for the wealthy Russians who visited the town. Later it became the town’s public sauna until the end of 1960s.
During the walk on the seashore, you can admire the wooden houses in the Old Town, small marinas and lush green parks. Next to Södra viken bay (southern bay) lies a small and beautiful park called Våghusparken, in which you can find the memorials of the two Ekenäs’ Knights of the Mannerheim Cross; Tor Lindblad and the flying ace Hans Wind. From Våghusparken you can also spot canoeists on their way to the sea. A short walk from here is Skepparträdgården park where you can ring the bell that is set in the park in memory of the artist Helene Schjerfbeck.
The sea and the nature are part of everyday life
Ekenäs is a maritime city. There are various marinas, a beach in the middle of the city and rocky beaches in Ramsholmen. The sea freezes during winter, but the ice swimmers continue with their hobby in the outdoor swimming facilities of Stallörsparken. Next door, Ekenäs Nature Centre presents the nature of the archipelago in the old red storehouse.
Ramsholmen nature park area lies less than a mile from the city centre, and is the place where locals go to relax and enjoy the tranquillity of the nature. In the spring, the area turns white when thousands of wood anemones bloom.