Old Town Raahe
Old Town Raahe
Old Town Raahe is one of the best-preserved 19th-century wooden towns in Finland. Not a museum area but a living town district, Old Raahe tells the tale of the construction of a town and life in it from centuries ago to the modern day.
Take a journey through time!
Built on a former Lapp hut site, the town was originally quite modest. According to a town plan map drawn in 1659, the oldest picture of Raahe, the then 10-year-old town only comprised less than a dozen blocks, many of them nothing more than small strips. There were only two longitudinal streets and three cross streets. The drawing shows that the town was surrounded by a customs wall with two customs points: the eastern one outside the crossing of today’s Brahenkatu and Reiponkatu streets, and the southern one at the end of Pitkäkatu (now Kauppakatu) street, approximately at the location of today’s Koulukatu street. Even back then, the town had a busy port, located at the packhouse, which is now the Packhouse Museum. There was no shortage of wood for construction, and stones were procured from the islets in the archipelago, for instance. Founded by Count, Governor-General Per Brahe the Younger by order of Queen Christina, the town materialised “as if by magic”.
Picture of Rantakatu street from the map in 1659.
The town was constructed according to Renaissance regularity, following a strictly regular town plan. Residential buildings were constructed longitudinally to the street, whereas annexes and outbuildings, such as merchants’ storage facilities, bakery, sauna, cowshed, stable, privy, refuse heap, woodsheds and other sheds, were built near the edges of the plot. Gradually, these separate buildings turned into sort of fortification walls around the plots. The large plots of the Raahe bourgeoisie were mainly located close to Pekkatori Square and along the main streets. Retail trade was conducted “on the plot”, and shops opening into the street became more common in the 19th century. Join the Pekka statue and take a moment to look at life in the town, followed by coffee and pastries at the delightful café of the Trade House of Lang.
The history of forbidden and unhappy love comes to life at the Sovelius House
The town’s oldest preserved residential building, the Sovelius House dates back to the 1780s. Converted into a shipowner and merchant museum, the house charms visitors with its atmosphere even today. In the courtyard area, the Renkitupa holiday home offers accommodation with the smell of the sea and soul of the old town. The story of unhappy love features members of two of the town’s famous families. Be sure to ask to hear the story when you visit.
Picture of the downtown houses in Raahe from the map in 1659.
The history of Raahe is full of personalities, powerful men, strong and influential women, sailors and captains soaked in the salty waters of the oceans around the world, ladies and mademoiselles in lace and velvet dresses, tailors, coppersmiths and sailmakers. Craftsmanship was held in high regard in this town made wealthy by maritime transport and trade, and this also shows in the street names. For example, Reiponkatu was named after a ropemaker. The street is long and straight, which was important when making long and thick ropes for large ships. Today, ropemaker Vestberg’s house is known as Sofian Talo (Sofia’s House). Up until the 1980s, it housed a school for girls of limited means, established in 1843 by an influential local lady, Sofia Lybecker, with her mother’s inheritance. The house now hosts artist Vuori’s studio gallery. The Lybecker Institute is still training professionals for the creative industries, albeit at a different address.
Secret gardens hidden from sight
Undeniably the most impressive roof in the old town belongs to Keskuskoulu, the central school, located at the inland end of Koulukatu street. On the same street, you can find Raahe Theatre with an intimate summer theatre in its courtyard. According to a story, the house that stood on the plot before the theatre and its predecessor, the Salvation Army, was surrounded by a typically high, annoyingly tight and fully opaque plank fence that prevented curious eyes from peeking into a most beautiful garden with wonderful southern fruit. Later, the harvest of this legendary garden proved, somewhat modestly, to consist of cherries and strawberries.
Picture of Northern customs in Raahe from the map in 1659.
Even though driving is allowed in Old Raahe, the best way to experience it is by taking an unhurried walk on the narrow streets. When you walk in the old town in the summer, you can look through the gates and still see the large courtyards and their gardens, emanating the spirit of old times.
Enhance your experience – book a guide!
One of the most popular services in the summer is guided theme tours organised by the Raahe Guides Association. Enjoy the guides’ stories about the people of yore, visits by kings and emperors, the life of sea captains and merchants who had seen the world, daily life, habits and people in the past and today.
Picture of Raahe Town Hall in 1659 in the town map.
Each year, the excitement of approaching Christmas is eased with the Old Raahe Advent Calendar. This involves residents and companies of the old town dressing up their windows in Christmas decor. The windows are unveiled one at a time, from 1 December all the way until 24 December. You can also follow the Advent Calendar on Visit Raahe’s social media accounts and with the Glopas audio guide.
In addition, you can use the Glopas audio guide while touring Old Raahe in the summer. Glopas can be downloaded for iOS and Android devices from app stores.
An archipelago right in front of the town
Just a stone’s throw away from the heart of the old town, from the pier of Packhouse Museum, the former sailors’ house, you can start a cruise in the award-winning Raahe archipelago. Buy some ice cream and sit down on the pier, just breathe in the fresh sea air, listen to the lilt of the happy town, or enjoy refreshments on the sunny terrace of Ruiskuhuone Café, located in a building formerly used by the fire brigade.
Picture of Kirkkokatu street in Raahe at the 1870s. Photo: Kirjastovirma.
Treasuring the treasure
Old town Raahe foundation, Wanha Raahe säätiö in Finnish, was formed to aid in the renovation and maintenance of the historic buildings in the old district. The foundation awards renovation grants for the nationally valuable historic buildings. The foundation also organizes training and other events to promote the historic preservation of the old district. As a friend of Old Town Raahe you can contribute to the preservation by donating to the foundation as an individual, a company, or a bequest. More info in Finnish on foundation website.
More information about the history of Raahe (only in Finnish)
Samuli Paulaharju: Wanha Raahe
Hilkka Aaltonen, Eija Turunen: Vanha Raahe
Liisa Männistö: Jugend-talon kaksi elämää
Pekka Kärki: Suomalainen historiallinen kaupunki
Category: Whole family, We recommend, Attractions