Helsinki City Guide travel tourist sightseeing attractions information

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Helsinki sightseeing i Helsinki attractions Helsinki history Helsinki weather Helsinki crime

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Helsinki History Overview

Helsinki was built in 1550 as the Finnish alternative to Tallinn. For over two hundred years its development was constrained by poverty and war until it was occupied by the Russians in 1809. The Russians gave the Finnish State a degree of autonomy and nominated Helsinki as the country’s capital. During the remainder of the 19th century the city grew rapidly aided by the introduction of railways and industrial development. The Russian influence on its architecture was highlighted in the centre of the city which was rebuilt in styles similar to those of St Petersburg.

Though in WW1 Helsinki suffered little damage after the civil war in 1918 around 13,000 defeated pro-soviet sympathisers were imprisoned in the fortress on Suomenlinna Island. In the following twenty years the standard of living in the city improved.

During WW2 the city was attacked in two waves by Russian bombers. In 1944 the second wave during the early summer saw over 15,000 bombs fall on the city from 2,000 bombers. Remarkably this sparsely populated city escaped the widespread destruction experienced in other European cities at the time. After the end of WW2 the city grew three fold but today it is after Brussels the second most sparsely occupied countries in Europe. Though much of the old architecture remains the city has as a result of the booming economy many examples of modern skyscrapers.

Sightseeing & Attractions In Helsinki

Helsinki’s illustrious history dates back to the 1600’s and  there are several sightseeing and attractions on offer for even the most sceptical tourist. The Finnish capital has a population of nearly 600,000 and has close historical ties with neighbouring countries Sweden, Russia and Estonia. There is plenty of cultural  and artistic interest as well as Cathedrals of  huge religious significance. Whether it’s art museums, historical monuments or family friendly activities  such as a day trip to the zoo or an amusement park. We have a run down of some of the City’s leading landmarks and attractions for you to read through and I think you will find this  Scandinavian city has something to keep everyone captivated.
Helsinki’s Suomenlina Fortress, Helsinki Suomenlinna  Helsinki = The Fortress was built in the 18th century on 6 islands. It’s one of the Finnish capital’s most sought after attractions. There are different interesting museums as well as some souvenir shops and a cafe and restaurant there. You can arrive on the island by taking the ferry from the city’s Market Square. The fortress originally  acted as protection from the Soviet’s plans to expand Russia back in the mid 18th century.   The Fortress has been awarded the prestigious status of a Finland UNESCO World Heritage site. In modern day Finland Tourists and locals use Suomelinna as an ideally picturesque setting for picnic’s and relaxing excursions. website

Temppelaukio Church 3 Lutherinkatu  Helsinki Toolo – This stunning, modern church was built by architect brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen in 1969.  The church practises Lutheranism, a western form of Christianity. An estimated half a million people visit the church every year. The church was supposed to be built much earlier but the plans were interrupted by the Second World War. The Church is frequently used to host concerts as it  possesses excellent acoustic sound. There are no actual bells at the church and so a recording is played  by loud speaker via the outside wall.  website

Linnanmaki Amusement Park Helsinki Tivolikuja 1 This amusement park is a big favourite amongst families with young children.  One of the highlights is their” Carnival of Lights” which is held annually in October to signal the end of the summer season. There are special winter events every February and lots of other activities to keep both yourself and your children amused. they have a fairground with rollercoaster’s and  a big ferris wheel along with a fun playground. Open 4 till 9 pm May till October. Admission to the park is free and cost of rides depends on the height of the individual, check their website for further details. website

Helsinki Zoo, Helsinki Korkesaari  Mustikkamanpolku 12 00570 Helsinki Zoo first opened its door back in 1889 and is 54 hectares in land area.  It’s the biggest zoo in the country and has an extensive collection of big cats [including snow leopards], reptiles and birds. They have some gorgeous looking Siberian tigers and a Brown Bear who is one of the zoo’s favourite characters.  They have roughly 200 different species of animal separated in to three geographic categories of Amazonia, Borealia and Africasia. Opening times are Oct-Feb 10 am till 4 pm and May-September 10 am to 8 pm. Entry fee  is £10  for adults and about 6 pounds  for kids. website

Sibelius Monument, Helsinki Sibelius Park Helsinki Toolo – Sibelius is a rather striking monument dedicated to the late Finnish composer  Jean Sibelius. The monument’s design was the brainchild of Finnish sculptor Eila Hiltunen  and was unveiled for the first time in 1967. Sibelius played a pivotal role in the formation of Finnish national identity and died at the ripe old age of 92 in 1957. The monument weighs an astonishing 24 tonnes and there is a smaller version of the monument in Paris. The structure is an abstract piece which includes an iconic bust of the famous composer’s face. Open daily from Dawn till Dusk, no admission fee. website
Hartwall Arena, Helsinki Areenankuja 1 – The Hartwall Arena is a large multifunctional arena based in the heart of the Finnish capital.  It’s a sports arena which was erected in 1997  and has hosted hundreds of hockey games and globally renowned Musical acts. The Backstreet Boys, The Beach Boys, The Who and Elton John are just a few of the famous names to have played this venue. The arena is home to the Jokerit Hockey team.  The arena was also utilized for the 2007 Eurovision song contest. The initial idea for the Arena came from Finnish entrepreneur  Harry Harkimo back in
Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki Kaivokatu 2C – The gallery is the largest Museum institution in the country and  two art museums and Art archives. The Ateneum Art Museum boasts the biggest art collection in Finland. It also houses a Contemporary Art museum  called Kiasma which was opened in 1998  and it’s main objective is to  create more awareness of modern art and enhance its reputation in society. The art archives was  instigated to  further research and knowledge of the Arts. Ateneum Museum is open 10 am till 6 pm Tues and Sat and 10 am till 8 pm Weds and Thurs and  11 am to 5 pm on weekends. Admission fee is cheap at about 4-5 Euro’s. website
Helsinki Cathedral Helsinki Unioninkatu 29 00170 – The Cathedral is an Evangelical Lutheran Church conveniently situate din the city centre. it was erected in 1852 after 22 years of construction.  It was built in a Neo-classical style by  German architect Carl Ludvig Engel. The Cathedral was originally called St. Nicholas church until the country gained its independence in 1917. Over 350,000 people visit the church every year making it one of Finland’s most popular landmarks. The picturesque cathedral has a statue of  Emperor Alexander II of Russia  at its front. Opening hours are Sep-May  10 am-4 pm Mon-Fri 10 am till 6 pm , Noon- 4 pm Sun, Jun-Aug 9 pm till 6 am Mon-Sat and Midday till 6 pm on Sunday. website

The Uspenski Orthodox Church iKanavakatu 1 Helsinki 0 This xhurch is in most visitors view a cathedral. Situated on a stony hill about 300m meters east of the Market Square it is a curious mixture of Russian-Byzantian and western style architecture. It was built in red brick in 1868 and is t largest orthodox cathedral in western and northern Europe. It boasts 13 domes and a three storey bell tower. Its internal decor is magnificent. Open daily from 09.30 – 16.00 and Sundays between its Finnish services – midday – 15.00.

The National Museum (Check address on website as they are moving in 2013) next to the Parliament Building, offers permanent and temporary exhibitions. The former consist of The Prehistory of Finland (the Ice Age), The Realm, A Land and It’s People, The Treasure Troves and The Past Century. The number of archaeological artifacts, and suits of armour is amazing and the clothes jewelry along with the sculptures, mean you can spend a long time here. Closed on Mondays and opens from 11am to 8pm Tuesday & Wednesdays – and from 11am till 6pm Thursday to Sunday – Website.

Sofiankatu Museum Street  runs between the Market and Senate Squares. This enchanting cobblestone street with its antique street furniture it is a trip back to the 19th century literally. Sadly it has one or two out of place tourist cafes.**

Shop To You Drop

Kauppatori – Market Square & Market Hall: For those who enjoy open air markets this is one of those gems – fresh salmon and fish (straight from the trawlers) stalls mixed with flower and souvenir stalls!

Esplanadi Boulevard in the centre of Helsinki is the city’s park with three streets crossing its grounds. Here you shop in the famous Stockmann Department Store, shop to you drop on can join the Pohjois-Esplanadi and then recover in one of the the Las Ramblas style cafes

Russian Coffee House There are several places in Sofiankatu Museum Street (between the Market & Senate Squares that you can stop for coffee the best is probably the Russian Coffee House which seems to have more locals than most.

Festivals In Helsinki  In the summer Helsinki stages several outdoor festivals including the May Day Carnival, the annual Samba carnival and the Midsummer Festival and the October Herring Festival not forgetting , the Helsinki City Marathon. See the tourist board links above for more info on these and other festivals which include ballet and opera.

Clubbing & Nightlife In Helsinki

For our detailed clubbing guide for Helsinki with club reviews please follow this link

Restaurants In Helsinki

Havis (Etelärantatie 16), near Market Square, is one of the city’s great adventures. It offers traditional Finnish Fish Fare coupled with some memorable vegetarian dishes. Most notable of the former are the blue mussel soup and the lavaret – whitefish – very slowly fried! The veggie menu always includes a ‘special of the day’ but having said that the mushroom crepes with glazed vegetables are of very trustworthy. For after’s the coffee pudding with doughnuts is guaranteed to ensure you don’t leave in a hurry. Note the restaurant is open Monday – Saturday and closed between September & April Tele: 09 – 869-5660.

Nokka Kanavaranta 7, on Katanajanokka quay and beneath the Helsinki Culinary Institute, has built up a good reputation for preparing fresh food and seasonal dishes. Its snow grouse has been mentioned by many discerning guests. Closed Sun and some lunchtimes for further details: Tele 09 – 687-7330.

Palace Gourmet (Palace Hotel), Eteläranta 10. Prices here are are not for the meek but the rewards for being brave are worth the suffering. The menu is a mixture of Finnish and French cuisine and includes an option of a seven course meal – which differs from day to day. The fillet of lamb and accompanying side dishes – especially the garlic sauce is ‘bliss.’ The food by anyone’s standards is exceptional and the service is of a high standard as well. Tele: 09 – 1345-6715. Advance booking advisable.

Sipuli Kanavaranta 3, (in front Uspenski Church) which caters for those who like both French and Finnish cuisine. The roasted veal fillet is exceptional as is the smoked fillet with Salmon mouse. When available the Fennel soup with mushrooms is also to be enjoyed. Relaxing wooden decor. Its opening hours at weekends are variable so its best to ring first. Telephone : 09 – 622-9280.

Troikka Caloniuksenk. 3. This very pleasing establishment is another journey back in time. The menu is predominantly Russian and the food can only be described as exceptional. The herring is both fresh from the Baltic sea and out of this world. One of Helsinki’s best all round fares with several home made compliments. Open Monday – Saturday. Closed lunchtimes in July. Telephone 09 – 445-229.

Zetor, Kaivopiha, Mannerheimintie 3-5, , This is the place for a hearty meal though those on a diet might think twice. Karelian stew, sausage and meatballs are just part of the fare. It opens late and when most restaurant staff in Helsinki are on their way home this establishment turns into a night bar come rock club. Good food and reasonably priced. Tele 09 – 666-966.

Bellevue Rahapajank. 3. At 80 years old this is one of Helsinki’s oldest restaurants and is popular with locals. The menu is part Finnish and part Russian and you will find the many of them choose the ox fillet. The decor is somewhat salubrious and the service very friendly. Intimate. No open at lunchtimes at the weekend and sometimes closed at weekends during the summer. Telephone 09 – 179-560.

Namaskaar & Wok It Sanomatalo, Postikuja 2, offers plentiful Japanese, Thai and Indian dishes at very decent prices in a very ‘tee’ environment. Good service as well. Telephone 09 – 6812-1450. Sundmands Eteläranta 16; often credited with setting the standard in Helsinki for fine dining this five room establishment is within a 19th century mansion house. The classical decor is home to fine Finnish cuisine which is supported by an extensive wine list. Telephone 09 – 622 6410. Open mon -sat with a lunchtime menu weekdays.

Papa Giovanni World Trade Centre, Keskuskatu 7, this easy to find Italian restaurant has a good reputation for its fish (including fresh lobster) and meat dishes rather than pizzas. Classy but not overpriced Tel: 09 622 6010

Helsinki Finland Weather Details:

Helsinki Finland Weather Forecast

monthly average and extreme temperatures Helsinki Finland:

sun hours per day

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Official Helsinki Tourist Board Information :



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