Just a short distance from the epicentre of Finland’s capital Helsinki lies a hidden gem. The Rhododendron Park, or Alppiruusupuisto as it’s called in Finnish, is a must-visit for all flower enthusiasts out there. During early summer thousands and thousands of rhododendrons and azaleas bloom like there’s no tomorrow, forming an astonishing carpet of different nuances of white, yellow, orange, pink and peach. This park is open 24/7 and you can visit it for free. Here’s all you need to know to plan your visit to this magical place!
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A flower oasis in the capital
Photo: The deciduous azaleas shed their leaves for winter.
As we walk towards the Rhododendron Park Helsinki (Alppiruusupuisto in Finnish or Rhodopuisto) the first thing we notice is the sweet perfume in the air. Although most rhododendrons usually have a less prominent smell, some azaleas produce a very strong scent. Suddenly we glimpse bursts of colour through the green vegetation. There’s pink, fuchsia, peach, coral, salmon, magenta, lilac, ivory, yellow – almost any colour imaginable!
In front of us there’s eight impressive acres of colour explosion. This magical flower party occurs once a year, during early summer when the thousands and thousands of rhododendrons and azaleas burst into bloom. The park is open to the public and visiting it is totally free.
An experimental site for plant breeding
Photo: In Finnish the Rhododendron Park is officially called Alppiruusupuisto, but commonly referred to as “Rhodopuisto” or “Rodopuisto”.
The Rhododendron Park in Helsinki was once bog. In 1975 a research garden for the University of Helsinki’s plant breeding program was established here and the first rhododendrons were planted. The area seemed perfect for such a purpose as rhododendrons like the acidic soil found in this type of natural marsh area.
The goal of the experimental plant breeding is to create rhododendrons that are suitable for the harsh Finnish climate. Originally 3000 rhododendrons were planted.
In 1996 the area grew, as around 1500 azaleas were planted in the northern section of the park. As with the other rhododendron types, the aim is to create azaleas that can survive the winter conditions in Finland. In addition to this, the breeding site allows researchers to observe size, manner of growth, bloom and autumn colouring.
What is there to see
Photo: The Rhododendron Park has around 5000 rhododendrons and azaleas. Blooming during the first weeks of June, they form amazing colour carpets in the green surroundings.
A power line divides the park’s eight acres into two sections distinct sections. In the northern section of the park deciduous azaleas and yellow-bloomed rhododendrons grow. These are the ones that produce the strong perfume you can smell here.
Unlike evergreen rhododendrons deciduous azaleas shed their leaves for winter. Flowers are yellow, white, pink and orange. Azaleas need a more sunny location than evergreen rhododendrons do in order to bloom. Otherwise they are less demanding then many rhododendrons when it comes to habitat.
Photo: Rhododendrons and azaleas bloom in all imaginable colours during early summer. These peachy ones were some of my personal favourites.
In the southern parts of the park you can find evergreen rhododendrons. These are absolutely humongous, with the tallest ones towering several metres over the ground!
In the southern section six out of eight rhododendron varieties selected for commercial production can be seen. Among these are for example Haaga and Pekka.
Photo: The southern section has some enormous rhododendrons that look more like trees than bushes!
In addition to the flowers the park is a pleasant green oasis, a perfects spot to enjoy a summer stroll. Pine trees and birch trees tower over the park, casting a cooling shade over the area.
When to visit
Photo: Admiring the beautiful flower spectacle is a must for all flower enthusiasts.
The flowers bloom only for a short period of time once every year. Obviously, this is the time to visit. Usually the blossom is at its most intense during the first weeks of June. The exact time for the best bloom fest depends on the weather. When winter has been long and cold, flowers appear later. If spring is warm and early, the plants burst into flower earlier.
The intensity with which the rhododendrons and azaleas bloom varies from year to year. A year with intense blossom is usually followed by more subdued blooming the next year. However, even when supposedly modest, the blossom is still unbelievably beautiful.
Photo: These azaleas smell incredible! Although the scent is irresistible, there are surprisingly few wasps and bees. We saw only three.
Thousands of flower enthusiasts flock to the park each year to witness this spectacle. It’s also a popular spot for photo shoots, be it graduation pictures, maternity pictures or fashion shoots. This means that the area does get extremely crowded during the peak blooming period.
The park is open 24/7, so if possible make the most out of the generous opening hours and try to avoid the most popular hours. The worst rush hours are during Saturdays and Sundays from around noon until late afternoon. During weekdays the park is less crowded. Early mornings are generally fairly quite.
How to visit
Photo: There are a couple of information boards available with a map of the area to help you know what you’re looking at.
The park is open to the public and you can walk around independently. There are a couple of information boards with some facts about the park and the plants growing there. On two of these you can find a map of the area.
There are paths criss-crossing the area, both wider gravel paths as well as wooden boardwalks. There are also a couple of wooden platforms from which you can admire the flower splendour from above (definitely a must!). All these areas are accessible by wheelchair and with most prams.
Visiting the first time, the area seems a bit like a maze and you might feel unsure which path you should choose in order to see everything. We ended up walking back and forth a lot, but didn’t mind.
Photo: The park is accessible for both wheelchairs and prams alike.
How to get there
Photo: From the bus stop at Thalianaukio it’s just a short walk to the Rhododendron Park.
The Rhododendron park is located in the middle of the residential area of Haaga. It’s nestled in between Eliel Saarisen tie and Laajasuontie.
The park is easily accessible by both car and public transportation.
You can catch the train to Huopalahti train station. From there it’s a 400-metre walk to the park. Buses 40, 41, 43, 43B and 550 also stop fairly close – from the bus station it’s around 350 metres to the park.
If you prefer using the city bikes there’s a station at Thalianaukio. More info about the city bikes here.
Those travelling by car can park by the side of the roads near the park or at Thalianaukio nearby.
Photo: Arriving by car, you’ll find parking by the side of the roads or at Thalianaukio.
Photo: The rhododendrons at the southern section of the park bloom in different nuances of lilac, pink and white.
Here are the most important facts in a nutshell:
- The Rhododendron Park in Helsinki is located at Laajasuontie 40 in the residential area of Haaga. The park is nestled in between Eliel Saarisen tie and Laajasuontie.
- It’s open 24/7 and there’s no entry fee.
- Dogs are allowed.
- Portable potties are available, otherwise no toilets.
- No cafés or kiosques, but sometimes the occasional vendor on site selling juice or other refreshments. Don’t count on it so bring your own snacks and beverages if you need them.
- Reserve at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour to explore the area.
- You can park along the side of the roads nearby.
- Accessible via public transportation.
- For those scared of wasps and bees: we were very surprised to see so few, during the whole length of our visit we spotted just three.