Helsinki’s secret is that the city is like the whole of Finland in miniature, compressed at the end of a single peninsula. This city encompasses the wooden houses of Käpylä, the stone houses of Töölö, the glass office buildings of Ruoholahti and the fields of Viikki.
Helsinki is a modern European city where more than 450 years of history and tradition blend seamlessly with contemporary design and trends. Cosy and compact in size, exploring the Finnish capital is free of stress. Compared to major metropolises, the beat of Helsinki is laid-back and relaxed. Most of the city’s tourist attractions and hot spots lie within walking distance from each other. The public transport system is comfortable and reliable, and has been ranked among the best in Europe.
Green Capital A third of Helsinki is covered in green areas. Along with a score of sports grounds, they offer great possibilities for outdoor activities and relaxation. The large Central Park and its forests spread out just outside the city centre. The number of parks and waterside hangouts are ideal for a bit of downshifting in the heart of the city. On the other hand, the score of urban events, restaurants, bars and nightclubs make Helsinki a vibrant capital with cultural offerings ranging from punk rock to classical and modern art.
A Mix of East and West Influences from both the East and the West are present in the everyday of Helsinki; architecture, cuisine, design, customs and even local street slang all bare evidence of a past under Russian and Swedish rule. Situated by the Baltic Sea, Helsinki’s shoreline is about 100 kilometres long and nestles 300 islands off it. It is said the sea gave birth to Helsinki and the harbours raised her.
15 BUILDINGS TO SEE IN HELSINKI 1 - Senate Square The Senate Square and its surroundings form a unique and cohesive example of Neoclassical architecture. The square is dominated by four buildings designed by Carl Ludvig Engel (1778-1840): Helsinki Cathedral, the Government Palace, the main building of the University of Helsinki and the National Library of Finland. A statue of Alexander II (1894) stands in the middle of the Senate Square. Helsinki Cathedral is arguably Finland's most famous and photographed building; it celebrates its 165th anniversary in 2017. The oldest stone building in Helsinki is the Sederholm House located on the southeast corner of the square. Today the building hosts the Helsinki City Museum. The Esplanade park and the Market Square are just a block away. The Senate Square also hosts a sound installation called the Sound of the Senate Square. It is a modern version of the European glockenspiel and can be heard every day at 17:49 as it travels from one building to the next. The composition runs for 5 minutes 18 seconds and is composed by Harri Viitanen and Jyrki Alakuijala.
2 - Lasipalatsi Lasipalatsi ("Glass Palace") is a functionalistic building from 1938 designed by at the time architecture students Viljo Revell, Niilo Kokko and Heimo Riihimäki. Originally it was built only to be a temporary building but became an attraction of its time by representing functionalistic architecture as its best with its restaurant and café, cinema with lobby, wintergarden, shops, big glass surfaces etc. As years passed in 1998 it was decided to renovate the building to its 1930's lustre. Now once again it's being renovated to be a new culture center called Amos Rex. Amos Rex opens in 2018. In the building you'll also find restaurant Lasipalatsi and Café Lasipalatsi.
3 - Kaisa House, Helsinki University The Kaisa House functions as the Main Library of Helsinki University. The house has gathered several architectural awards and is a stunning example of modern library architecture. It has an curvilinear brick facade. Architects AOA (2012). Cafe Gaudeamus Kirja & Kahvi.
4 - Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral Completed in 1868 in the Katajanokka district of Helsinki, the Uspenski Cathedral is the largest orthodox church in Western Europe. With its golden cupolas and redbrick facade, the church is one of the clearest symbols of the Russian impact on Finnish history.
5 - Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Kiasma is a museum of contemporary art under the umbrella of the Finnish National Gallery. The basic functions of the museum are organising changing exhibitions and augmenting its collection, along with research and presentation of the works. The primary focus in the museum collection is on Finnish contemporary art. The collection is also supplemented by commissioning new work. The collection is presented to the public in annually changing thematic exhibitions. Kiasma was designed by the American architect Steven Holl and opened to the public in 1998. At Kiasma there's also a museum shop and café.
6 - Suomenlinna Sea Fortress A Unesco World Heritage Site, Suomenlinna sea fortress is one of the most popular attractions in Finland for a reason. Suomenlinna was shaped by three historic eras when it helped to defend first Sweden, then Russia and ultimately Finland. With its museums, events and restaurants Suomenlinna offers a unique experience for visitors of all ages. The fortress is easily accessed all year by public transport ferry from the Market Square. In summer also by JT-Line ferry. In summer guided walking tours are organized daily in Finnish, Swedish, English and Russian, occasionally also Chinese. During the winter season, tours are available on weekends in English, in spring also in Russian. The tours start from the Suomenlinna Centre and last approx. one hour. Tickets can be bought at the Suomenlinna Centre or online.
7 - Finlandia Hall Finlandia Hall is a unique centre for domestic and international conferences, concerts and other events. It is a popular architectural sight in Helsinki and one of the most beautiful places to visit in the city. Finlandia Hall is one of the most iconic buildings designed by world-renowned Finnish architect, Alvar Aalto, and was planned from the ground up for visitors and a wide range of events. If not attending an event, the building can be visited by attending a guided tour open to public, please see webpages for dates. A café, Café Veranda, is open to public as well as a gallery, both situated on the Töölönlahti bay side.
8 - Temppeliaukio Church (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.
9 - Olympic Stadium The Olympic Stadion, built in 1938, was designed in functionalistic style by the architects Yrjö Lindegren and Toivo Jäntti. The Olympic Games were held in 1952 in Helsinki. Today the Olympic Stadium hosts both national and international sporting events and outdoor concerts. The Stadium Tower is 72 meters (235 feet) high and at the top you can admire the urban landscape and all of central Helsinki. The Finnish Sportsmuseum is also located at the Olympic Stadium as well as a restaurant.
10 - Central Railway Station The Central Railway Station, a pearl among Helsinki's art nouveau buildings, was designed by Eliel Saarinen and opened in 1919. The construction of the Railway station was however started already in 1905. The station is used by approximately 200,000 passengers daily, making it Finland's most-visited building. It is also estimated that over 400 000 persons check the time when passing from the 48,5m high clock tower daily. The station is covered with Finnish granite, and its distinguishing features are its clock tower and the two pairs of statues, the "Lantern carriers" by Emil Wikström, holding the spherical lamps on both sides of the main entrance.
11 - Musiikkitalo Helsinki Music Centre The opening of Musiikkitalo in 2011 gave Helsinki an acoustically first-class concert hall as well as other facilities providing a wide range of musical experiences for people of all ages and a place to study music. The residents of Musiikkitalo are Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Sibelius Academy. Also a café, restaurant and Fuga, a shop specialized in classical music, can be found at Musiikkitalo. There are also guided tours in the building.
12 - National Museum of Finland National Museum illustrates Finnish history from prehistoric times to the 19th century. The museum's unique exhibits tell of life from a period of over 10 000 years. Temporary exhibitions on current themes and an interactive exhibition Vintti, where one can experience history by doing oneself. The National Museum building was designed by the Finnish architects Herman Gesellius, Armas Lindgren and Eliel Saarinen. With its granite façade and steatite decoration, the building is one of Finland's most significant national-romantic works of architecture. The museum was opened to the public in 1916. A café and museum shop are also located in the museum.
13 - Kamppi Chapel of Silence Kamppi Chapel of Silence is located in a corner of the Narinkkatori square in Helsinki, at the entrance of the Kamppi shopping center. The Chapel offers an opportunity to calm down in the middle of perhaps the busiest area in Finland. The curved shape of the small-scale Chapel building allows the space and views to flow in the urban surroundings. At the same time, the soft shape of the inside of the Chapel embraces the visitor in its safety. Exhibitions are being displayed at the entrance area.
14 - Parliament 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. In the Little Parliament (Arkadiankatu 3), an annex on the left side of the actual Parliament building, operates Visitors' Centre where you can find information about the Parliament and about the European Union. Open Mon-Fri 10-16. A café is also located at the Visitors' Centre.
15 - Löyly Public sauna and restaurant complex in Hernesaari district on the southern tip of Helsinki. The complex includes a traditional Finnish smoke sauna, two other wood-heated saunas, a year-round terrace and a restaurant. It is possible to take a swim in the sea, also in winter. There are separate changing rooms and shower facilities for men and women but as the saunas and other public areas are mixed, this means that customers are respectfully asked that swimming costumes are worn at all times.