Helsinki is the capital of Finland, founded in 1550, the “Daughter of the Baltic” has been the Finnish capital since 1812, when it was rebuilt by the tsars of Russia along the lines of a miniature St. Petersburg.
Tervetuloa (welcome) to Helsinki, the world's?northernmost urban area, and the northernmost capital of a?EU member state. It is Finland's major political, educational, financial, cultural and research centre as well as one of northern Europe's major cities.
Expensive Helsinki, as I have come to know it. Drinking and eating out is difficult if your on a tight budget, and locals tend to stay in and socialise as opposed to going out to do it. I learned that Finland has no national dish to call their own, though I did have reindeer included in some menus.
Helsinki is not a large capital, so exploring on foot is easy and accesible. Two days is all one would need to see the main sights, at a slow pace. Visit the Helsinki Cathedral and walk to Market Square to catch a short ferry ride to the nearby seafortress of Suomenlinna. On your second day take the Olmypic route to visit the Olympic Stadium and then the strange pipe work of Sibelius Monument at Sibelius Park.
Have a drink at the bar of Hotel Torni on the 14th floor, it has nice views of the city, though you'll have to walk up to the final floor by access of tiny spiral stairs.
The best time to visit is in summer when the sun never (it feels like it doesn't) set, when Finns peel off their overcoats and flock to outdoor bars and cafes to enjoy the sunshine.
Video of Helsinki Finland 2012 © Joe Mendonca
The sea fortress of Suomenlinna was included in UNESCO's?World Heritage list?in 1991 as a unique monument to European military architecture. Known as the “Gibraltar of the North”, it was once the greatest sea fortress in the Baltic, built by the Swedish in the mid-1700s at great expense to protect their eastern flank. But when the Russians invaded in February 1808, the bulk of the unprepared and bankrupt Swedish army hastily withdrew, allowing the Russians to conquer Helsinki without a fight and besiege the fortress and Finland was ceded to the Russians.
With only old buildings, few cars, fewer than a thousand inhabitants and lots of old fortifications, catacombs and cast iron cannons. It is a complex of houses restaurants, cafes, theaters and museums, and popular place for a picnic on a summer day, watching the passenger ferries drift by on their way to Estonia and St Petersburg.
Entry to the island itself is free, but you need to pay for the ferry ride. The ferry from Market Square is the most convenient way of getting there. The ferry is a part of the Helsinki local traffic, so if you have an HSL Day Ticket it includes ferry travel. The ferry runs approximately every half hour.
Helsinki is an Olympic city, the host of the 1952 Olympic Games. Olympic Stadium, originally built for the Olympics and renovated for the 2005 World Athletic Championships. Next to the stadium are soccer fields. There is Museum of Sport in the stadium building. Another stadium called Sonera stadium is not far from the Olympic site. The most popular building in the complex, though, is the?Uimastadion, Helsinki's largest outdoor pool, whose three pools and water slides draw around 5,000 visitors a day in the summer. After the war, the pool was used to store herring and potatoes!
Olympic Tower. The stadium features 72m high tower (14 storeys) that offers a view over the city.
Sibelius Monument, Sibelius Park. The world-famous composer Jean Sibelius' monument was designed by sculptress Eila Hiltunen and unveiled in 1967. It is one of the most well-known tourist attractions in Helsinki as nearly every guided tourist tour is brought to Sibelius Park to marvel at this unique work of art resembling organ pipes, welded together from 600 pipes and weighing over 24 metric tons.
Helsinki Cathedral, topped by green domes, the white Lutheran Helsinki Cathedral (Tuomoikirkko) in the city centre is visible acress teh city. Completed in 1852 after two decades and, like the Senate Square it overlooks, was designed by Carl Ludvig Engel.
Parliament House?(Eduskunta). The House of the 200-seat Parliament of Finland was designed by J.S. Sirén in the classic style of the 1920s and officially inaugurated in 1931. The interior is classical with a touch of functionalism and art deco.
Finlandia Hall, designed by Finland's best known architect Alvar Aalto and located across the street from the National Museum, the marble Finlandia Hall is a popular congress and concert venue in Helsinki.
Helsinki was founded in A.D. 1550 by King Gustav Vasa of Sweden as a trading post to compete with?Tallinn?to the south in Estonia, which was Danish at that time. The growth of the city was slow until the establishment of Sveaborg (nowadays Suomenlinna) Maritime Fortress in the front of Helsinki in the middle of 18th century. In 1809, Finland was annexed by Russia during a war of that period and the capital of Finland moved from?Turku?to Helsinki in 1812. The Czar felt the Grand Duchy of Finland needed a capital of grand proportions. The architects Johan Albrecht Ehrenström, a native Finn, and Carl Ludwig Engel, from Germany, were given the task of rebuilding the city in the Empire style. This can be seen today around the Lutheran Cathedral, which was completed in 1852. The same style, and even architects, is also a part of?Saint Petersburg's history. Though thoroughly a Nordic capital, Helsinki today reflects the influences gained from the Western and Eastern cultures.
Despite the tumultuousness of Finnish history during the first half of the 20th century, Helsinki continued its steady development. A landmark event was the XV Olympiad (1952 Olympic Games) held in Helsinki.
Finland's rapid urbanization in the 1970s, occurring late relative to the rest of Europe, tripled the population in the metropolitan area, and the?Helsinki Metro?subway system was built. The relatively sparse population density of Helsinki and its peculiar structure have often been attributed to the lateness of its growth.