Helsinki

Helsinki is not only the capital of Finland, but it is also the country's largest city. Situated on Finland's southern coast, it is almost entirely surrounded by water and offers easy access to some of the islands in the Finnish archipelago.

Founded in 1550 as part of Sweden, Helsinki would linger for centuries as nothing more than a small coastal town. Between 1809 and 1917, the city and the rest of modern-day Finland fell under Russian control, and it was during this period that Helsinki really began to grow, not only in size, but also in importance.

The central hub of Helsinki is around the bustling seafront Kauppatori (Market Square). Here, locals gather to lunch, shop for fresh fish and vegetables and buy produce from the market stalls.
From this point, the architectural heart of Helsinki, Senaatintori (Senate Square), is a five-minute walk away. The best overview of the city is from its tallest building, Hotel Torni, from where it is easy to see Helsinki's most noted landmarks.

These include Alvar Aalto's Finlandia Hall and Steven Holl's Kiasma - the curvaceous contemporary art gallery. A good way for tourists to get orientated and see the sights is to hop on tram 3T, which takes in most of the main attractions.

Today a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fortress of Suomenlinna is spread over seven islands and is a top Helsinki attraction. Work started on the fortress in 1748, making it one of the oldest surviving structures in the city, and for those who fancy picnics, it offers a most ideal setting that is worth taking advantage of.

Among other sights there are neoclassic Helsinki Cathedral that is one of the city's symbols, the Presidential Palace, the Helsinki Opera House, Uspenski Cathedral and the Sibelius Monument, which honors the country's most highly-revered composer.

10 things to see in Helsinki

Senate Square

This is the heart of the city, where many of the parades and processions either commence

or end. Beautiful 18th century buildings surround the square and its elegant bronze statue of

Tsar Alexander II is a popular landmark and tourist attraction.

The Senate Square and surrounding buildings form a unique example of Neo-Classicism. This area is crowned by three buildings designed by C.L. Engel between 1822 and 1852: the Cathedral, the Government Palace and the University. The Cathedral is perhaps Finland's most photographed and recognizable building.

Kauppatori

This is Helsinki's famous Market Square, where for centuries all forms of local produce have

been sold, from fruits and vegetables, dolls, hats, T-shirts and the obligatory fish. In the summer, there are night markets that are a charming sight, especially since the square is surrounded by lovely 18th century buildings. The Market Hall (Kauppahalli) acts as the market in the winter time. The market is open from 6.30 till 18.00 in the summer every day except for Sunday. Fish products, products of local national crafts are on sale there: unusual hats, dolls, souvenirs, knitted and wooden products. Since there aren't that many cheap restaurants in Helsinki, for the budget traveller we would recommend buying your lunch there

Temppeliaukio Church

This "Church in the Rock" is Helsinki's best known attraction. Hewn into solid rock, the church features a stunning 24m-diameter roof covered in 22km of copper stripping. The church is still in use, holding regular concerts and a service in English at 2pm on Sundays. It is a popular site of worship for local Finns.

Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art

The Kiasma Musuem of Modern Arts houses a fascinating collection of Finnish and international modern art from the 1960s to the 1990s. In addition to its impressive collection, the Kiasma regularly presents performance art, dance, music and films. The design of museum, by American architect Steven Holl created an impressive modern building featuring many transparent surfaces, curved, organic features and designed to maximise natural lighting for the interior.

Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna is a small island about 1km off the coast of the city of Helsinki. You can visit the island easily on a day trip on the ferry which takes about 20 minutes to reach the island. It is the greatest fortress of the Swedish empire. Founded in 1748 to protect the eastern part of the empire against Russian attack, Suomenlinna later fell to the Russians and remained under their control until Finland gained independence in 1917. There are also several small museums, and guided walking tours which point out various historic buildings and other places of interest on the island. In the summer it is not unusual for small concerts and other events to be held on the island, and there is an exhibition centre and many craft shops which make excellent places to do your souvenir shopping. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Helsinki Cathedral (Tuomiokirkko)

This distinctive landmark is Finland's most famous and most photographed sight, situated opposite the Senate Square in the city centre. It can be seen from just about anywhere in the city but it is really worth a look up close. The stark white walls and green domes of the roof are typical of the Russian Neoclassical style.

This Evangelical Lutheran cathedral was built in 1830- 1852, designed by Carl Ludwig Engel as a tribute to Nicholas I, the Grand Duke and Tsar of Russia. It was known as St. Nicholas Church until Finland claimed independence in 1917.

Esplanaadi Boulevard

A lovely green park which is a popular place to take a stroll, enjoy a cup of coffee or an ice-cream in the summer months. The streets surrounding the park were constructed in the 1800's and have an interesting historical twist: back in the day just after Finland's independence, those that remained as Swedish speakers in the country would walk down one side and those speaking Finnish would walk down the other. A peaceful protest against the opposing language.

This esplanade is where you will find Helsinki's strip of upmarket hotels, department stores and boutique shops. There are many great restaurants along here, but all are quite pricey.

Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral

Completed in 1868 in the Katajanokka district of Helsinki, the Uspenski Cathedral is the largest orthodox church in Western Europe. With its golden cupolas and redbrick facade, the church is one of the clearest symbols of the Russian impact on Finnish history.

Orthodoxy professes nearby 1 % of the population of the country. The Cathedral was constructed in 1868 of a red brick in the Russian-Byzantian style. The cathedral sits on a rocky outcrop of the Katajanokka Peninsula. The cathedral can The Location: Cathedral be seen and reached from the Market Square, harbour and Esplanade.

Seurasaari Open Air Museum

The Seurasaari open-air Museum allows visitors to step back in time and glimpse the traditional way of life in the Finnish countryside, and all this in the heart of the capital city. The museum, situated on a lovely green island accessed from the mainland via a footbridge, consists of a collection of cottages, farmsteads, parsonages, rural churches, manor houses and other old buildings, all preserved and relocated from their original sites around the provinces of Finland. The 86 buildings currently on the museum site have been arranged to form a complete replica of a country district, reflecting what life was like in various levels of rural society between the 18th and 20th centuries.

Sinebrychoff Art Museum

The Museum specialises in old European art. The Sinebrychoff Art Museum is situated at the end of Boulevardi beside a large park. The building, completed in 1842, was the home and office of the Sinebrychoff family. The second storey contains the Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff home interior complete with the original furnishings and works of art. The Museum specialises in old European art and its collections include valuable works by the Old Masters that are of significance both nationally and internationally. The collections include such artists as Cranach the Elder, Rembrandt, Tiepolo and Jan van Goyen.

Day trip to Helsinki

Return tickets from Tallinn with Viking Line from city centre to city centre starting from 38 EUR per person

Helsinki guided tours in 12 languages, departure daily at 11.00 from Esplanade Park. Price for adults 26 EUR p.p.

Cathedral
Cathedral
Sibelius monument
Sibelius monument
 Suomenlinna sea fortress
Suomenlinna sea fortress
Helsinki
Helsinki
Old Market Hall
Old Market Hall
Senate Square
Senate Square
Kiasma art gallery
Kiasma art gallery
Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral
Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral
Temppeliaukio Church
Temppeliaukio Church
Esplanade
Esplanade
Seurasaari
Seurasaari
Parlament House
Parlament House
Railway station
Railway station
National Museum
National Museum
Katajanokka
Katajanokka


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