A port town with water on three sides, Hanko (80 mi/130 km southwest of Helsinki) is renowned for its 100-year-old villas, some of which have been converted into guesthouses. They were once used by members of the Russian nobility as weekend retreats from the hustle and bustle of St. Petersburg. The water is a bit cool for swimming (except in July and August), but there are nice, sandy beaches to walk or lie on. Other attractions include harbor structures from the 15th century, a water tower and an 18th-century fortress.

An interesting excursion from Hanko is a day trip by boat to the small (36,000 sq ft/10,970 sq m) island of Bengtskar. The southernmost island in Finland, it is home of the tallest lighthouse in the Baltic and was the scene of a famous World War II battle. The lighthouse has limited accommodations for overnight visitors and is ideal for a quiet weekend.

If you're driving to Hanko from Helsinki, stop first in Raasepori at the center of which is Tammisaari, a charming seaside town of narrow lanes and wooden houses. The remains of the 14th-century Raasepori (Raseborg in Swedish) castle are a 20 minute drive away, and for a longer detour back to the capital, take the winding museum road through the charming wooden village of Fagervik and its 18th-century church.

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