Helsinki – The Smallest European Capital City
Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is a vibrant seaside city of beautiful islands and great green parks. The city’s rhythm is laid back yet at the same time refreshingly active in terms of both the number and quality of restaurants and nightclubs.
The capital of Finland is a compact city easily explored on foot. Design, architecture, culture and shopping are all great exploration angles and large park areas, forests, lakes, and the coastline with numerous islands sprinkled off it make certain there’s no shortage of natural presence. Needless to say, there’s something going on in Helsinki every day of the year. 😉
Sightseeing & Popular Landmarks
Influenced by Classicism and modernized by Functionalism, Helsinki is possibly best known for its Art Nouveau architecture.
Helsinki’s strikingly original Art Nouveau railway station (as known as the main train station) was designed by Eliel Saarinen and is especially notable for American tourists because its 48-meter-high clock tower was the first of several designs that finally resulted in Saarinen’s 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower – America’s first skyscraper.
Some connoisseurs have even suggested that certain features of Batman’s Gotham City were influenced by Helsinki’s majestical Central Railway Station. Go look for yourself and see if you agree!
Marshal of Finland Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim (1867-1951) is a very significant person in Finnish history. He was a Finnish military leader and the 6th President of Finland.
A bronze equestrian statue was made for him and unveiled in 1960. The statue is made by Aimo Tukiainen and it stands on Mannerheiminaukio Square.
The statue is on a 6.3 m tall granite podium. Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art is located next to the statue.
The fine architecture makes for a most impressive building, on its slightly elevated point. With an imposing facade consisting of fourteen Corinthian columns it befits the importance of the National Parliament. It was opened in 1931.
In the grounds are fine statues of three Presidents. Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg, the first President from 1919-1925. P E Svinhufvud who was the third President from 1931 to 1937 and the seated K Kallio being the fourth from 1937 to 1940.
Finnish National Theater (Suomen Kansallisteatteri) has an exquisitely beautiful and captivating facade. Opened in the early 1900s it is in the style of National Romanticism (still operating up to date). Located prominently in the central city adjacent to the main station and across from the Ateneum, Finnish granite is the main material of the exterior.
The Finnish National Theatre is the oldest Finnish speaking professional theatre in Finland. It was known as the Finnish Theatre until 1902, when it was renamed the Finnish National Theatre.
The Aleksis Kivi (1834-1872 Finland National Author) Monument can be found right in front of the National Theater. The memorial shows a melancholic and contemplative, even introverted Aleksis Kivi. It represents a composed, realistic Classicism, the established trend in Finnish art in the 1920s and 1930s.
The author is sitting in a chair under which there are three reliefs inspired by Kivi’s literary works “Sydämeni laulu”, “Keinu” and “Seitsemän veljestä pakenee Impivaarasta” (“My Heart Sings”, “Swing” and “The Seven Brothers flee Impivaara”).
Undoubtedly the most famous building in the entire country, the blindingly-white Helsinki Cathedral is perched over expansive Senate Square, making for the perfect photo-op. Consecrated in 1852, the Lutheran church’s onion domes draw inspiration from neighbouring Russia, while statues of the twelve apostles adorn the rooftop which soars more than 80 metres high.
Senate Square is framed not only by Helsinki Cathedral but also the Government Palace, University of Helsinki and the National Library of Finland, which are all examples of Neoclassical architecture. It can also be a hub of activity—particularly in the afternoon—as many of the city sightseeing buses begin and end their tours here.
Notice the ratio difference between the building vs people sitting at the Cathedral stair? You may have a clear picture by now how grand this architecture would be! 😉
Those wondering about Russia’s influence on Finland need not look further than the Uspenski Cathedral, a gorgeous orthodox church with gleaming golden cupolas. The largest Orthodox church in western Europe, it has 13 onion domes meant to represent Jesus Christ and the twelve apostles.
Located in the Katajanokka district, the public is welcome inside with an entrance fee charges, but it would be definitely worth it if you wanted to have a glimpse of Cathedral inner architecture and “The Pipe Organ” (a type of classic musical instruments).
Shopping & Food Paradise
Founded in 1862, Stockmann is the largest department store in Scandinavia. Here you can find everything you need, for example delicious food, latest fashion, design and souvenirs. The flagship of the department store chain, located in the heart of Helsinki, offers more than 50,000 square meters of shopping space across ten floors. Stockmann is famous for its wide selection of products and excellent customer service.
Still not having enough kick for the day? You may continue the shopping spree along the alleyway (which we called it the road to heaven in shopaholic term) where tons of branded stores are neatly packed in just a few road junctions nearby! 😉
The Louis Vuitton branch in Helsinki is rumoured to be the second cheapest outlet (right after the main branch in Paris) for selling genuine LV products.
For LV fans out there be sure not to miss this outlet whenever you have the chance to visit Helsinki!
The food scene in Helsinki today is cutting edge and ever-changing. Various Pop-up restaurants and the worldwide spread phenomenon Restaurant Day are both brainchildren of Helsinki-based food enthusiasts and a whole new generation of chefs.
While Finnish food itself is all about local, seasonal, wild and fresh- with game, fish, mushrooms and berries at the core of it all – these innovative food events embrace all culinary cultures and tastes of the globe.
A Taste of Tuscany – Toscanini, an authentic Italian Cuisine Restaurant which is worth a try.
Proper Finnish Cuisine – Sea Horse, serves good, unpretentious traditional Finnish food.
Italian Fine Dining – Leonardo Bar & Ristorante serves fine Italian cooking with a very relaxing ambience.
Best Steaks in Town – BBQ House offers first class meat and other mouth-watering treats.
Japanese Korean Fusion – Gaijin, A Modern Asian cuisines which combine Japanese and Korean culinary skills into a unique taste!
Finns might seem a bit quiet and reserved at first, but meet them in a bar and you’ll discover a whole new dimension to the people. Finns love to party, and weekend nights in central Helsinki is where it’s most evident. From sweaty rock shows to classy cocktail lounges, there’s enough supply in night-time Helsinki to cater for all preferences.
So don’t be shy while hiding in the hotel room and go make some friends right after your dinner session, and lastly Kippis (cheers)! 😉
*Now you might be curious and feel awkward why Finnish people start to party during the hot sunny days, fret not it was actually 6.30pm already and the sun only starts to set around 8.30pm during the winter season!
Lifestyle & Culture
There are tons of bicycle for rent/parking lot can be seen anywhere in the city area where you can even bring your bike along to the train station!
Riding a bicycle to work (no matter how far the distances) is no longer a dream in Helsinki nowadays.
Finnish loves to do their sunbathing session during the evening especially at the cafe or public park. Be sure to get there early if you would like to join their “Lepak” parade!
The casino is just like your neighbourhood convenience store (available anytime anywhere) like a dream come true!
A proper swimming lesson during cold winter days? Those Finnish youngsters just show the world what they are actually capable of!
Street Orchestra Performance can be seen anywhere in the Helsinki, be sure to support them (by giving off some pennies) if you think they are awesome! 😉
Who needs Starbucks or Coffee Bean when you have #bikecafeglobal right at the corner? 😉
Fun Facts About Helsinki:
This is what you need to know while travelling in Helsinki
- Helsinki is unusual in that this capital city is not only on the mainland, but it also includes some remote islands.
- Helsinki‘s population increases by 5-8 thousand people every year! Despite that, it is still one of the smallest European capitals.
- The city of Helsinki is very easy to navigate due to its grid-based design. The straight streets are thus easy to navigate which is fantastic news for tourists!
- Featuring buildings created by several designers throughout the ages, as well as an Olympic stadium, 80 museums and art galleries plus a large central park, Helsinki was named as the 8th best city to live in 2012.
- Music is an integral part of Helsinki life and is somewhat of a hidden treasure, being relatively unknown.
- Helsinki is the world’s coldest capital, with a yearly average temperature not exceeding 0 °C, and 51 days per year no sun can be seen in the sky.
- Tap water comes straight from mountain springs via Päijännetunneli, the longest water tunnel in the world. The quality of water in Helsinki is so high that it is exported to other countries.
- In winter, there is absolutely no snow on the sidewalks and boulevards of central Helsinki. The city government heats the granite slabs from underground, so the snow and ice immediately melt.