Helsinki, A Guide To This Exquisite City

Helsinki is the capital of the Republic of Finland and is located in the south of the country directly on the Baltic Sea coast in the Finnish countryside of Uusimaa. With almost 620,000 inhabitants, Helsinki is the largest city in Finland. Around one million people live in the metropolitan area of ​​the capital today. As in other parts of Finland, some residents of Helsinki speak Swedish. However, this is a minority of around six percent. A city of art, culture and beauty, it is well worth visiting. 

Development of the city

Helsinki Cathedral
Helsinki Cathedral

During the Viking Age, some Norsemen settled on the southern coast of Finland. However, it was only during three crusades between 1155 and 1362 that immigration was planned and Finland became a Swedish province. The Swedish King Gustav Vasa founded the city of Helsinki in 1550 as a counterweight to the economically strong Tallinn on the other side of the Gulf of Finland. In the 17th and 18th centuries the threat from Russia increased and so the Swedish Empire decided in 1748 to build a large sea fortress. After a year-long war in 1808/09, Sweden finally lost the province of Finland to the Russian tsar.

Under Russian rule, Helsinki, which then had only 3,500 inhabitants, was finally declared the capital of Finland in 1812, and the architects CL Engel and JA Ehrenström were commissioned to push ahead with the expansion of the city. Saint Petersburg should serve as a model for this. To this day, the city is considered a stronghold of neoclassicism. After the October Revolution in Russia, Finland became an independent republic in 1917 and Helsinki was made the capital. The Finnish military moved into what is now the fortress island of Suomenlinna.

After the Second World War, in which Finland fought first the Soviet Union and later Germany, the government in Helsinki decided to approve an assistance agreement with the USSR, which gave Finland a neutral role between East and West.

In 1952, the Finnish capital hosted the Summer Olympics. Helsinki was originally intended to host the 1940 Games, but they were canceled due to the war. Seven years after the World War, the city finally got a new face due to the sporting event and the infrastructure flourished. Due to the increased popularity, tourists also increasingly traveled to the city.

In the early 1990s Finland experienced severe economic problems due to the collapse of the East. It was only when Finland joined the European Union in 1995 that Finland began to grow rapidly. The economy eventually became so stable that the country was able to introduce the euro as early as 1999. In 2000 Helsinki was together with eight other metropolises European Capital of Culture. At the same time, the city celebrated its 450th anniversary.

Tourist Attractions

Helsinki is one of the strongholds of neoclassicism. After the city fell to Russia in 1812, the Russian tsar commissioned the two architects CL Engel and JA Ehrenström to expand the city. Saint Petersburg should serve as a model for this.

Among them was the Senate Square , which today is one of the most distinctive squares in the old town. The center of the square is a statue of the Russian Tsar Alexander II. The square is bordered to the east by the government palace, in which the prime minister's office is located. To the west of the square is the university and its library. From the Senate Square, however, the cathedral church, visible from afar and shining in bright white, draws the eye. The cathedral, built between 1832 and 1852, is the symbol of the city of Helsinki and can be reached from Senate Square via a steep staircase.

Uspensik Cathedral
Uspensiki Cathedral

Another landmark of the city is the Russian Orthodox Uspensky Cathedral from 1868 with its golden onion domes, which can be easily reached on foot from Senate Square and is located on the Katajanokka peninsula. It is the largest Russian Orthodoxy church in Northern Europe outside of Russia.

Not far from the Uspenski Cathedral is the market square at the southern harbor. There the visitor can stroll between many colorful stalls. In the middle of the hustle and bustle, the traders offer not only fish and meat, flowers, fruit and vegetables, but also souvenirs and reindeer skins. We also recommend a visit to the neighboring market hall from 1888, which was built from red and white bricks. Numerous fresh delicacies from the Baltic Sea are on offer here.

Out and about in Helsinki

Sightseeing bus
Sightseeing bus at Senantsplatz

Within the old town, the most important sights such as Senate Square and Cathedral, Uspenki Cathedral, market square and esplanades can be easily explored on foot. The tram is an inexpensive means of transport for longer distances . In particular, the 3T and 3B lines pass the most important sights on their journey through the city. It is worth buying a day pass, which is valid for 24 hours throughout the city. You can also consider purchasing the Helsinki Card. In addition to free travel on public transport, including the ferry to Suomenlinna Island and Zoo Island, you get free entry to all museums and numerous other discounts. A 90-minute city tour on a sightseeing bus is also included in the Helsinki Card.

A nice way to get to know Helsinki is also a sightseeing tour by boatThe shipping companies Royal Line and Sun Lines organize excursions through the city and the archipelago. During these trips, the fortress island of Suomenlinna and the zoo island can also be seen from the water.

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