Laajalahti Bay is one of the best areas for bird-watching in the capital area. Several nature paths surround the bay, and at their centre is a specialised nature house, Villa Elfvik. This nature reserve is a great hiking destination all year around, and it is popular among locals.
Nature paths entice kids and adults to explore
There are seven different nature paths along Laajalahti Bay. Because the area is a nature reserve, it is important to stay on the marked paths. Otherwise, you may end up disturbing nesting birds and the valuable bay area habitat. However, if you feel adventurous in the winter when the bay is frozen solid, you can even explore the views from the middle of the bay! You can, of course, also just follow the waterfront walkway (rantaraitti) or the waterfront footpath (rantapolku) if you just want to enjoy the scenery.
Nature paths especially for children and teenagers
- The first entirely accessible nature path called Nature Sanctuary trail (Luonnon helmassa-polku) is 700m long. It departs from Villa Elfvik towards the boat house by the shore and returns. Seven information boards dot along the trail with questions suitable for kids aged 5-8 and 9-12 years (you can borrow materials from Villa Elfvik).
- The second entirely accessible path showcases different species of trees around Villa Elfvik. The Tree Species Trail (Puulajipolku) is also 700m long and presents 19 different shrubs and trees growing in the area. You will probably notice large amounts of deadwood in the area: they are vital to the surrounding ecosystem, so they are not removed. English and Latin names are marked on plaques along the trail, but you can make it into a guessing game!
- Väinö the Crow trail (Väinö Variksen polku) is suitable for kids under 8 years with adult supervision. It goes around Villa Elfvik and introduces the life of a crow called Väinö. Kids can explore nature through stories, sensory activities, and games along the accessible 800m trail. You can borrow a guidebook and a basket full of accessories from the nature centre at Villa Elfvik (make a reservation for the book in advance).
- A special winter trail is the Tracing the Hare trail (Jäniksen jäljillä–luontopolku). This 700m trail is also suitable for kids under 8 years with adult supervision. The circular trail departs from Villa Elfvik, where you can borrow a basket full of accessories. You can find the guidebook and the map here.
Other nature paths
- The Laajalahti Bay area has a long history which can be explored on the Village Scenery Trail (Kylämaiseman historia -luontopolku). It takes you back 700 years to the Middle Ages and the village that stood at Laajalahti. In addition, you will also find out how the area went from a potato farm in the 19th century to housing a nobleman’s villa in the early 20th century. The partially accessible trail is about 1,3km long, and some of the sights are marked with number plaques. You can borrow the guidebook at Villa Elfvik. The Finnish version is here.
- The History Herbarium Trail (Historiakasvio-luontopolku) is an addition to the Village Scenery Trail. It showcases ten different plant species you can see along the trails at Laajalahti Bay. The trail is about 1km long. Make sure you borrow a guidebook at Villa Elfvik.
- If you fancy a longer trek, you can walk from Villa Elfvik to Otaniemi. The 3km one way route follows the edge of the bay sometimes on duckboards, sometimes on a proper trail.
Check out our solar system
Near Villa Elfvik is a very special gazebo with a model solar system and the planet Uranus, placed there by the Ursa Astronomical Association. In 1992, Ursa built this solar system model at 1:1 billion scale. That means that 1m in nature equals 1 million kilometres in space! The centre of our solar system, the Sun, is located at Patterimäki hill at Pajamäki. The four first planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, are all within 200m of the Sun model.
The Laajalahti Bay area is excellent for bird-watching, no matter the season. There are several paths and watch towers overlooking the open water. The widespread reed and grassy patches are important to the wide variety of birds nesting in the area. April-May and August-September are the best times to grab your binoculars and head out to count how many species you can spot. The bay area has been made a protected area especially to conserve the shallow bay and its wildlife. In order to maintain the grassy areas naturally, cows and other herbivores graze along the bay.
Archaeological treasure trove of Ruukinranta
Ruukinranta is one section of Laajalahti Bay, and it gets its name from a factory area that stood there in the 18th century. The history of Ruukinranta is closely tied with the nearby Alberga mansion at Leppävaara because in 1749, lieutanent commander Carl Tersmeden bought the mansion. He then proceeded to build a brick factory on the seashore, along Laajalahti Bay. The brick and faience factory operated at the site from 1755 to the 1860s. In fact, Ruukinranta is named after this factory since ruukki is the Finnish word for an early industrial ironworks site (etymologically from the Swedish work ‘bruk‘ for factory).
After its factory beginnings, Laajalahti and Ruukinranta became well-known for attracting artists. If you had been there in the late 19th or early 20th centuries, you would have met some of Finland’s most famous artists, even nobility. Laajalahti was famous for its villas at the time, but unfortunately, very few survive until today. Painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865-1931) designed his atelier-castle Tarvaspää at Ruukinranta, and it now serves as a museum. Similarly, famous sculptor Ville Vallgren (1855-1940) and his wife, fellow sculptor Viivi Paarmio-Vallgren (1867-1952) also lived at a villa at Ruukinranta.
Baroness Elvira Standertskjöld (1868-1955) commissioned Villa Elfvik for herself. The villa was finished in 1904. Her daughters, sculptor Thelma (1897-1957) and actor-artist Lise (1893-1974) lived at Elfvik their entire lives.
Directions to Laajalahti Bay and Villa Elfvik
Address: Villa Elfvik is at Elfvikintie 4, Espoo.
- Car: There is limited parking about 250m before Villa Elfvik on Elfvikintie.
- Bicycle: You should definitely try out the great cycling trails in the area, especially along the shoreline.
- Public transport: The best way to get to the Laajalahti Bay area is by public transport. There are several buses that drive about 1km away from Villa Elfvik. Check out timetables from the Route planner.
Accessibility: There are a lot of accessible routes around Laajalahti Bay.
When to go: Laajalahti and its surroundings can be visited at all times of the year.
Facilities: Toilets and water fountains are available only when Villa Elfvik and its nature house are open (check times here). A café is usually open during the weekends.