Helsinki is the capital city of Finland, situated on a peninsula on the southern coast, overlooking the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea. It is a predominantly modern city with a population of half a million inhabitants. Little remains of the original old town, this is largely due to the fact that the first buildings were made of wood, the domestic raw material, and over time fire and the ravages of war destroyed the wooden structures. Today Helsinki is a well planned and spacious city, with many open parks and gardens, and some fine neo-classical buildings in the Senate Square, dating from around 1840.
Helsinki Finland Overview
Helsinki, known as a city of the sea is the capital of Finland. The city was founded by King Gustav Vasa of Sweden while the country was under Swedish rule.
Overlooking the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea, Helsinki is located on a peninsula with a fringe of small islands. The entrance to Helsinki harbor in a time past was protected by the fortifications of Suomenlinna (Finland’s Castle), which also was the main protection for seven of the islands.
The city is surrounded on three sides by water and therefore is a natural seaport. Helsinki harbor presently handles most of Finland’s maritime trade, including exports of paper, textiles, liquors, china, chemicals and metal goods. They also produce agricultural and dairy products, along with lumber and wood.
The city’s spacious streets are interspersed with gardens and parks. Most notable for a modern city is the absence of high-rise buildings, thus Helsinki is able to retain a small town atmosphere.
The Kauppatori (Market Square) is still surrounded by architecture from the 19th century. Kauppatori is still one of the most colorful introductions to Helsinki, located near the harbor, it is distinctive because of its surroundings. During the summer months, the market is alive with activity and color. Fresh fruits, flowers, fresh fish and vegetables are the main-stays of the market.
Places of interest include the Senaatintori (Senate Square), which is the heart of neoclassical Helsinki. The square features many examples of the purest styles of European architecture and is dominated by the domed Tuomiokirkko (Lutheran Cathedral). Other buildings surrounding the square include the Government Palace, City Hall, Library and university buildings. The Lutheran Cathedral was build between 1830 and 1852. Though it is a parish church, major events are still held there.
Kaivopuisto (Well Park) was the favored meeting place of the Russian high society during the 19th century. It is still a favored residential area of diplomats and a place where the locals go walking.
The main cathedral of the Russian Orthodoxy is Uspenskin Katedraali (Uspenski Cathedral). The red brick edifice was decorated by 19th century Russian artists and the onion dome is in brilliant gold.
On the list of what one “must see” is Seeurasaaren Ulkomuseo (Seaurasaari Island Outdoor Museum). Rural Finish architecture is dominate here with farmhouses and barns from all over the country on display. Some of the buildings date back to the 17th century.
Two of the city’s best museums are the National Museum and the Mannerheim Museum. The National Museum features archaeological and historical exhibits, along with the history of Finland and its people.
The Mannerheim Museum is located in the home of General Mannerheim, post Civil War leader of the country. The Museum is home to the general’s art treasures and collections.
Helsinki Finland What to See
Helsinki is the center of cultural, financial and economic activity. Its green parks and water-ways, fresh sea winds with seagulls flying over, busy market square and many open air cafes, makes Helsinki a pleasant place to visit. The city remains a small-town feel. There are no high-rise buildings and the Market Square is still surrounded by 19th century architecture.
Helsinki has wide boulevards and a beautiful blue harbor. The city is built on a windblown peninsula and many of the sights are within walking distance of each other. In the historic center around Senate Square, you will see delightful neoclassic architecture in a cathedral and the government buildings. A stop by the Havis Amanda Fountain, rising out of the waves is an interesting sight; Helsinki residents regard it as their symbol.
Helsinki has several great museums centrally located in the city. The Art Museum of the Ateneum is the principal gallery and covers Finnish and International art from the 19th century. The National Museum has extensive collections of Sami and Finno-Ugric ethnological artifacts.
The Raitioliikennemuseo, with a dozen old rattlers, is a delightful tram museum and is located in an old depot. It depicts Finnish street life in decades past. The Rock Church, hacked out of solid stone, attracts many visitors seeking a few bars of gospel. There are concerts there as well as a service.
In the harbor area, you can linger at the Kauppatori market square on the wharf, where bargaining is welcomed. Located on the hill above the market is the Russian Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral. Both of these offer great views over the harbor and the city, as well as several hotels and rooftop bars.
North of downtown is Finlandia Park with Finlandia Hall at one end and the new Opera House at the other. Next to the park is the National Museum with exhibits covering prehistoric to present times. West of the city center, in the dormitory town of Espoo, is the magnificent studio of Gallen-Kallela, the notable Finnish Painter.
Temppeliaukio Rock Church, Helsinki, Finland
Temppeliaukio Rock Church, Helsinki, Finland
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