The Old World Charm of Finland’s Capital: Helsinki

The Old World Charm of Finland’s Capital: Helsinki

Helsinki, the capital of Finland since 19th century, was founded in the year 1550. This modern and urbanized city still manages to hold on to an old world charm, that makes it very popular among tourists. Helsinki offers many architectural, cultural and natural avenues for the visitors to explore.

View of city of Helsinki

Helsinki is easily accessible through air, rail and road services. One can even reach the city from Stockholm or Tallinn through ferry rides, the added benefit of this means of travel is that it provides some spectacular views of the city of Helsinki from across the waters. The best time to experience Helsinki’s many sights is during the summer, from around May to August. The Helsinki Cathedral, Sibelius Park, and Suomenlinna Fortress constitute some of the renowned tourist attractions of this city.

Suomenlinna Sea fortress

The many islands of Helsinki provide innumerable activities for tourists. Constructed in 1700s by the Swedish, the Suomenlinna Fortress is one of the greatest sea fortress ever built worldwide. A short ferry ride from the Market Square, stepping into Suomenlinna is like stepping into a different era. The fortress is also included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List as a “unique monument to European military architecture”. Besides its architectural value, the ancient buildings, old structures, relatively lesser vehicular movement make it a testament of the rich and varied Finnish history. The cafes and theaters situated within the fortress’s larger complex and beautiful surroundings provide ideal opportunities for picnics, making Suomenlinna popular among tourists.

Korkessari Zoo

There are several other islands, minutes ride from the market Square, each with their own unique offerings. The Pihlajasaari and Uunisaari for instance are known for their pristine beaches. The white sands, turquoise waters are perfectly apt for swimming, or simply sunbathing. These beaches are not overly crowded making them serene and meditative in addition to their beauty. The large island of Korkesaari is best known for the Helsinki Zoo, which boasts of some 200 animal species and 1000 different species of plants. Established as far back as 1889, this also happens to be world’s oldest zoo. Many tourist agencies also organize sightseeing cruises along these islands, providing some stunning landscapes, and equally rich historical sites too.


Seurasaari is known for its mesmerizing open air museum. This island houses traditional Finnish houses and outbuildings dating back to many centuries, and which have been collected from across the country. To walk among the woods and the wilderness of this island, which is periodically interrupted by these historic houses, to encounter guides dressed in traditional costumes of Finland and elaborating about the country’s past and rich cultural heritage, all these leave the visitors with a sense of having gone back in time.

Sibelius Park

Yet another different site that never fails to fascinate the visitors is the Sibelius Park. The Sibelius Park was finished in the year 1967, and is dedicated to famous Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. This monument in steel is one of the most well known attractions of Helsinki. The steel pipes are clustered together in such a way that they resemble an organ. This contemporary sculpture is included in all sightseeing tours that are made available for the tourists.

Senate Square

Helsinki, the capital city of Finland, is an architectural delight. The diverse historical monuments of neoclassical style all add a different appeal to the landscape. The Senate Square which has four prominent and eye catching buildings was constructed mostly during the years 1822 to 1852. Government Palace, National Library of Finland, building of University of Finland, and Helsinki Cathedral, all are perfect specimens of architectural landmarks. The Helsinki Cathedral specially functions as a sort of city symbol, being among the most renowned sites in the city.

Helsinki Cathedral

The Helsinki Cathedral dates back to the 1850s and its construction began some twenty years prior to that. This popular tourist attraction is situated in the capital’s centre. The Lutheran Cathedral has as an arresting visual impact owing to the white façade, green domes, and the twelve apostles on the roof, and the whole neoclassical influence visible in its architecture. It is one of the most prominent landmarks of Helsinki. There are numerous churches and religious structures interspersed in the city, each with their own fascinating histories and stories in addition to architectural significance. Near the Market Square of Helsinki is located the Uspenski Cathedral, a Russian Church. The 22 carat gold topping the church’s five domes, along with the fascinating myths and miracles regarding the icons of this church make it worth a visit.

Church in the Rock

The Church in the Rock is another worthwhile attraction. The name derives courtesy the fact that this was actually dug out of solid rock. Built in 1969, the roof of the church consists of 22km of copper strips.  Many concerts are organized here, making it popular among tourists.

Sofiankatu Street

There are many museums around Helsinki providing a glimpse into the city and Finland’s rich historical and cultural trajectories. Ateneum Art Museum built in 1887, boasts of the largest collection of paintings and sculptures in Finland which span over 1750s to 1950s. Museum of Cultures and Design Museum are some other worthwhile sites. Helsinki City Museum provides a fascinating experience; as in addition to the ancient buildings of the museum, it has also restored the Sofiankatu Street as it was during the 1930s.

Central Park

The many parks scattered around Helsinki provide a sense of leaving the city life behind. The lush greenery, seascape, observing the ferries go by, lazing around in the charming cafes, quaint walkways in the woods, the parks of Helsinki like the Central Park, Esplanadi Park etc have these and much more to offer.

Tram Ride

There is also a Vintage Tram Ride that is organized during the summer times, peak time for visitors. Starting from the Market Square, this 20 minutes ride in a tram dating back to 1909 is truly unique. Helsinki, its natural surroundings and many cultural and architectural offerings wrap this modern city in an old world charm, providing tourists with a memorable experience.

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