“What is Finland all about? Pure nature or pure fun? Besides thousands of lakes, you’ll find quirky festivals and curious habits.”
Helsinki has its roots deep in the sea. Originally, the city was founded as a trade post on the northern shore of the Gulf of Finland in 1550. Since then, the sea has played a dominating role in the development of the city and its identity. The Suomenlinna Fortress Island outside Helsinki was one of the biggest construction projects in 18th century Europe and is today a UNESCO World Heritage site. The ferry from the Market Square takes you there in just 15 minutes and the best place to discover why Helsinki is known as the “daughter of the Baltic”.
Helsinki is also a city for all friends of good food. The concept turns every kitchen into a potential restaurant originates from this city.
The Great Wall of China, the Acropolis in Athens, the Grand Canyon, and Suomenlinna. UNESCO’s World Heritage List brings Suomenlinna together with a long list of cultural and natural sites that are considered common property of all of humanity.
The fortress of Suomenlinna is one of Finland’s most popular sights. It is only a very short ferry crossing away from Helsinki.
This base for the archipelago fleet was originally built midway through the 18th century, when Finland was part of the Swedish kingdom. In 1991, Suomenlinna was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The different parts of the six islands offer a variety of atmospheres; whether you are looking for a cheerful weekend with friends, a tranquil evening stroll or perhaps a jog – it is all made possible by the diverse routes and locations across the islands. During the summer when the nights are warm, it is possible to stay on Suomenlinna until rather late at night. The last ferry of the day departs from Suomenlinna at two o’clock in the morning.
Located in Helsinki’s Kanalgatan neighbourhood, Uspenski Cathedral has been at the head of the Finnish Orthodox Church for 150 years.
Symbol of Russian Domination on Finland..!!
With red walls and green-and-gold spires, the design of the cathedral has a distinctly Russian feel, and was created by architect Alexey Gornostaev before his death in 1862. Another eye-catching aspect of Uspenski Cathedral is its size, as it is the largest Orthodox church in Western Europe.
Inside the cathedral, you can marvel at the ornate decorations that line the walls and ceilings, plus its one-of-a-kind iconostasis, a collection of icons that sits behind the church pulpit.
The exterior of Uspenski Cathedral is not elaborately decorated, but is nevertheless striking with its deep-red brick walls and green-and-gold onion domes. There are 13 onion domes in all, representing Christ and the twelve apostles.
The imposing Lutheran Cathedral (Helsingin tuomiokirkko) is a distinct landmark in the scenery of central Helsinki. The building was designed by Carl Ludvig Engel and built between 1830–1852.
Later, Ernst Lohrmann added the four small domes that make the architectural connection to the cathedral’s model, Saint Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Today the Lutheran Cathedral (Helsingin tuomiokirkko) is one of the most photographed attractions in Helsinki. More than 350,000 people visit the church each year, most of them tourists.
What to see at Lutheran Cathedral
Both the Lutheran Cathedral and Senate Square are a rather severe interpretation of the neoclassical style, which is intended to reflect the glory of ancient Greece and Rome. Lining the roof are statues of the apostles made of zinc; they are copies of the sculptures on Vor Frue Kirke in Copenhagen.
Compared with the neoclassical flourishes of the exterior, the interior seems rather spartan but is nevertheless attractive. It seats 1300 worshippers and has an altarpiece painted in the 1880s. The statues of angels that flank the altarpiece and the pulpit were designed by Engel.
Hietaniemi beach (Hietsu) is quite close to city centre, therefore, many Finns like to come here to sunbathe and relax during summer months. Although popular, the beach is never really crowded: plenty of room to play beach sports (like volley) and more. It is located in the Töölö district, next to the Hietaniemi Cemetery.
Why you should visit it
The Copacabana of Helsinki. Go hang with the beautiful people at ‘Hietsu’ if you want to experience some sand, some sun, and the tropical charms of the Baltic. Swim out to the small island not far off the coast and explore the seabirds’ favorite hangout.
If you don’t see the locals swimming then check the info boards or ask someone if there’s a lot of “sinilevä” – blue-green algae afloat.
Temppeliaukio (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 sunlight 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.
The underground Rock Church is built inside of a massive block of natural granite in the middle of an ordinary residential square. From ground level, the shape resembles the ancient tomb at Newgrange, Ireland. But the structure is barely visible from outside, with only the copper dome poking out of the rock. Try to see it from above – it looks like a flying saucer has lodged itself in the ground.
In the Sibelius park is the world famous composer Jean Sibelius’ (1865-1957) monument by Eila Hiltunen. It was unveiled 7 September 1967. The Sibelius Monument, resembling organ pipes, is made of welded steel with the bust of the composer on one side. The monument is one of Helsinki’s most popular statues and one of the most well-known tourist attractions.
This monument was the result of a public fundraising campaign and a two-stage competition in 1961-62. At all stages, the project stirred an unprecedented public debate, as the entire Finnish population seemed to be divided into two camps, the conformists urging for a figurative solution, and the modernists accepting an abstraction as well. Finland’s first abstract public monument, Eila Hiltunen’s copper fountain outside the Bank of Finland, had been unveiled in 1961.
Peeing Bad Bad Boy
Peeing in public is not nice. But when a 8.5-metre-tall baby boy does it, there is something sympathetic about it.
One night at the beginning of August, this amazed and a bit embarrassed giant boy appeared next to the Finnair Sky Wheel by the Market Square. It is Tommi Toija’s sculpture called Bad Bad Boy, and a part of the sculptor’s exhibition called Mutatis Mutandis at Amos Anderson Art Museum that lasts until 27th of October 2014.
The sculpture reminds me of the Manneken Pis in Brussels, but this “little one” has a lovely expression on his face: he looks somehow uncomfortable and not at all boastful like Manneken Pis does. I feel for him.
The open-air museum of Seurasaari is located on a beautiful green island just a few kilometres from the heart of Helsinki. The island is a tranquil oasis in the midst of the city and at the museum the traditional Finnish way of life is displayed in the cottages, farmsteads and manors of the past four centuries that have been relocated from all around Finland.
Prices and hours refer to entering the buildings themselves, where guides in traditional costume demonstrate folk dancing and crafts. Otherwise, you’re free to roam the picturesque wooded island, where there are several cafes.
There are guided tours in English at 3pm in summer. The island is also the venue for Helsinki’s biggest Midsummer bonfires and a popular area for picnicking. From central Helsinki, take bus 24.
Kauppatori (Market Square & Market Hall)
Located in the South Harbour at the very beginning of the Esplanade Park, the Market Square is Helsinki’s most international and famous market. The booths here sell traditional market foods and treats, as well as handicrafts and souvenirs. There is also a heated café tent where you can comfortably sip steaming hot coffee even on the coldest days in winter.
Every year on Vappu, Manta serves as a centrepiece for the celebrations. Students of the local universities put a cap on the statue in an elaborate ceremony. For many it is a “must see” event.
There is also an urban legend that Havis Amanda patronizes men’s sexual potency. Some men believe that washing one’s face with water from one of Havis Amanda’s fountains and shouting thrice “Rakastaa!” (Finnish verb for loving someone) increases men’s sexual ability.
Fancy a colorful stroll in the heart of Helsinki? Esplanadi Park is the place for just that. It is not big as Central Park but it is beautiful indeed offering great views to the 19th century built Helsinki with easy access to the best shopping facilities.
Restaurant Day was held on Sunday 16th August for the fifteenth time in the Espalandi Park —originating in Helsinki, the concept has become something of a global event. The heart of Helsinki witnessed a numerous population tasting flavours originating from different corners of the world. Especially the Old Church Park and the Esplanadi were packed full with pop-up restaurants representing a diverse variety of cuisines around the world.
Finland’s 200-seat parliament gathers in this impressive building representing 1920s Classicism. The facade of the building is made of red granite from Kalvola. The main facade includes 14 Corinthian columns.
Tasavallan Presidentin Kanslia (President’ Palace)