Helsinki is the capital of Finland and home to about one fifth of its 5.5 million people. It is this country’s most important center for politics, education, finance, culture, and research. The name Helsinki may have derived from the Swedish word helsing, an archaic form of the word hals (neck), referring to the narrowest part of a river, the rapids. Official Finnish Government documents and Finnish language newspapers have used the name Helsinki since 1819, when the Senate of Finland moved itself into the city from Turku, the former capital of Finland.
To get to Helsinki one can take a flight there or even more fun a boat ride from St. Petersburg, Estonia and Sweden via the Baltic Sea.
Before I get into its touristic attractions, I wanted to see what Helsinki looked like to their citizens. I found this great video of someone walking there. Ready let’s go for a walk in Helsinki!
And this is a general view of central Helsinki and southern end of Mannerheimintie, seen from Erottaja Fire Station:
Helsinki’s Top Attractions
- Fortress Suomenlinna
I searched various sites for Helsinki’s best sights and many had as its number one a military fortress called Suomenlinna. This fortress was built by Sweden in the second half of the 18th century on various islands located at the entrance of Helsinki’s harbor. It is so beautiful! It is in the Unesco World Heritage list.
Shall we explore it via Google Maps? Yes!
HERE is a good path to start. Sadly a lot of the Google Street views were done under really wet cloudy weather. I think it must look so much more beautiful in sunshine! It is huge!
There are still about 800 people living in these islands and there is a primary school too. There is also a submarine that one can visit!
“The submarine Vesikko, used in the Second World War, is one of the most popular attractions in Suomenlinna. By visiting the restored submarine, you can see the cramped interior environment where the approximately 20-member crew worked dozens of metres below the surface of the sea.
During the Winter War and the Continuation War, Vesikko operated in the Gulf of Finland in convoy, safety and patrol duties. The base for Finnish submarines was in the dock area of Suomenlinna.
As the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947 forbade Finland from having submarines, the Finnish submarines were scrapped, with the exception of Vesikko. Vesikko was restored as a museum and opened to the public in 1973.”
I was curious to see what a submarine looked like inside… so I watched this video:
So cramped… 20 people in there? What? How? I couldn’t do that… and underwater? No way!!!
2. Helsinki Cathedral
In finish this Lutheran Cathedral is known as Helsingin tuomiokirkko. This cathedral was built from 1830-1852 in honor of the Russian Tsar Nicholas I who was also Grand Duke of Finland. It was then known as St. Nichola’s Church. After the Finnish independence in 1917 it is called Helsinki Cathedral.
This cathedral was designed by Carl Ludvig Engel and it stands out in its reflective white color with 5 green domes, laid out in a Greek cross floor plan. It is symmetrical in each of its sides featuring a colonnade and pediment. On it and all around are statues of the 12 apostles.
This is what it looks like inside:
These is the original drawing by Engel:
3. The Esplanadi or “Espa”
This is a long green strip where locals and tourists can enjoy walks and picnics. There is a Cafe called Kappeli and this becomes its stage with music presentations. In the summer there is a Jazz Festival and a Fashion Show by Marimekko. Cr. thecrazytourist.com
4. Seurasaari Island and Open-Air Museum
This island has 87 buildings that will transport you back in time to in time to 18th-20th century Finland. The buildings: cottages, farmsteads, and manors have been relocated here from all around Finland. This island opened in 1909 as an open air museum. You can explore it on your own or take a guided tour.
Here are some photos from the museum’s official site:
This is a great video made by the museum:
The coming videotells a bit of the history of the church you saw in the previous video with the unique candle hand holders… it’s called The Karuna Church. You can hear Finnish in this video too!
To see more museums and castles near Helsinki visit it’s official site HERE. It has a lot of information and photos.
5. The Temppeliaukio Church, the Rock Church
Excavated directly into solid rock, the Temppeliaukio church is situated in the heart of Helsinki, at the end of Fredrikinkatu. Because of its special architecture, the church, completed in 1969, is one of the main attractions in Helsinki. The church hall is covered with a dome, lined with copper and supported on the rock walls by reinforced concrete beams. The interior walls are of rugged rock and rubble wall. Before noon, the light spreads from the row of windows surrounding the roof periphery to the altar wall, where an ice-age crevice serves as the altarpiece. Due to its excellent acoustics the church is a popular venue for concerts. Cr. myhelsinki.com
This church is incredible! Just look:
Look at its aerial view:
These two blog gives a great account of its design:
The Gate with Brian Cohen. So many great photos! and:
And like its writer I will end this post with music in this majestic setting: