The Finnish name "Temppeliaukion kirkko" gives an indication: a temple open to the heaven awaits the... visitor. A huge amount of light fills the round church interior. Having been built into solid rock, the rough granite walls of the church confer a natural, unassuming spirituality. The picture is completed by a domed roof constructed out of glass, concrete and copper. Designed by architects Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, the Church of the Rock is an impressive example of the architectural expressionism of the late 1960s.
Just to sit here and listen to the organ is a great pleasure, which is amplified by the excellent acoustics. Concerts are held frequently below the point of the dome, with a clear height of 13 m (42.65 ft). The music performed here ranges from choir evenings to hard rock, and attracts not just music fans into the Rock Church. With half a million visitors per year, it is one of the top attractions of the Finnish capital.more
Esplanade Park is a green vein running from the Kauppatori Market on the southern harbour westwards through... the old town of Helsinki to the neo-renaissance Swedish Theatre, the first theatre building in Helsinki to be made of stone. Even in its early days, architect C.L.Engel gave the "Espa" - as the people of Helsinki call their central promenade - a particular elegance which has stood the test of time with real flair and has enabled the park to conserve its charm and character.
There is nowhere where the heart of the Finnish capital beats more clearly and more tangibly than on the Espa. There are people sitting on the benches, bankers in suits lounging on the grass in their lunch break and young people with their mobile phones clutched in their hands. There are always people coming and going, tourists from the fat bellies of the boats, strawberry and ice-cream sellers or young mothers whose babies are dozing to the sounds of a violinist playing on the open air stage.more
The trademark of Helsinki rises up majestically on Senate Square, from a hill above the city. The first... plans for the cathedral, which was built in the classical style between 1830 and 1850, were drawn up by Carl Ludwig Engel. After it was completed, the building, which has a six-column atrium, Corinthian chapels and a high main dome, was named after Russian Tsar Nicholas 1. The four little towers with the smaller domes were added later for static reasons and give the cathedral, with its green patinated copper roofs, a Russian feel. In 1959, what had been known as the "Big Church" since Finnish independence was finally dubbed Helsinki Cathedral.
From the wide granite steps, there is a wonderful view of the unique classical complex of the Senate Square, the Town Council and the university, all designed by C.L.Engel. At its heart is a monument to Russian Tsar Alexander II.more
The functionalist building, designed by architects Yrjö Lindegren and Toivo Jäntti, formed the showcase... for the 1952 Olympic Games. Although the stadium was originally built in 1938, the Second World War prevented the Games planned for 1940 from being held. The white, 72.71 m (238.55 ft) high tower, whose height corresponds exactly to the length of the javelin throw achieved by the Finnish gold medallist, Matti Järvinen, in the 1932 Olympic games, is a landmark. On a clear day one has an excellent view of the Finnish capital city from the tower.
The sporting venue has changed little since its completion, and the long, brown wooden benches still run all the way around the stadium. Having served as the venue for the inaugural World Athletics Championships in 1983, the Olympic Stadium was used again for the 2005 World Championships. When visiting the stadium, a detour to the Sports Museum is not to be missed. The exhibits include the gilded running shoes of the legendary runner, Paavo Nurmi, and the medals won by ski jumper Matti Nykänen. (Sports Museum: http://www.urheilumuseo.org)more
The signing of the final act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) in 1975... heralded a process of upheaval of great historical importance for the Continent. Tough negotiations had been going on for years between East and West, but ultimately they contributed to the reunion of Europe and the reunification of Germany. The Finlandia Hall designed by the famous architect Alvar Aalto and built between 1967 and 1971 will always be associated with this.
Today things have quietened down in the many-faceted concert and congress centre by Töölo Bay, but it is still worth taking a half-hour tour through this centre because in a special way it gives an insight into the architecture of Alvar Aalto. Next to Finlandia House is a monument which was erected in the autumn 2000 to commemorate the former President of many years, Urho K. Kekkonen: a tear-shaped pool above which four gilded hands raised as if to give a blessing are attached to high poles.more
The 13 onion towers of the cathedral with their gilded cupolas are part of the unmistakable image which... transfixes visitors as they approach the Finnish capital city from the sea. This Russian Orthodox cathedral rises up on a rock on the western edge of the Katajanokka peninsula, which is linked by small bridges to the Market Square by the South Harbour. Four massive granite pillars dominate the opulent interior of the majestic red brick edifice and a religious, reverent atmosphere typical of orthodox places of worship prevails. One of the icons on exhibit is said to work miracles.
Consecrated in 1868, Uspenski Cathedral is the main church in the Finnish Orthodox diocese of Helsinki and its name is of Russian origin. In translation, it means the Cathedral of Virgin Mary's Dormition. It is the biggest Orthodox church in Western Europe and was also once a symbol of Russian hegemony over Finland. The building was designed by the architecture Alexey Gornostaev in the Russian Byzantine style. Admission is free.more
Sibelius Park is in the Taka-Töölö district and is located somewhat outside of downtown Helsinki.... It is nevertheless one of the most visited sights in the city. The main attraction is the Sibelius monument for the best-known Finnish composer.
Eila Hiltunen created the abstract steel monument in 1967, though it may not have struck most Finn's fancy. Once a steel representation of the composer's head was added to the vertical organ pipes, acceptance of the work grew. The park is a popular local holiday spot and is equally popular for going on a walk, sunbathing, jogging and inline skating. If you go up to the viewpoint, you will enjoy a beautiful view of the yacht harbor and the ferries as they go in and out.more
At the head of Senate Square is the stately white cathedral, the most important sight in Helsinki. The... expansive steps in front of the cathedral are a popular meeting point and also a wonderful place to take in the view and take a short break from walking.
Since 1894, Walter Runeberg's bronze statue of Czar Alexander II stands in the middle of Senate Square. Facing the square from the cathedral one sees the university (1832) in typical architecture to the right, which, like the cathedral, was built by Carl Ludwig Engel. To the north is the adjoining university library, which was also designed by Engel. On the eastern side of the square, one sees the Government Palace, where the government is based today. In the southeast corner is the relatively unassuming Sederholm House. Erected in 1757, it is the oldest stone building in the city.more
The grey granite building of the National Museum on Mannerheimintie, right next to the Parliament, is... an important element of Finnish culture. The massive building is regarded as one of the prime examples of the national romantic architectural style. Who are the Finns and which peoples, languages and races are they related to in terms of settlement history and ethnology? It is these questions that the varied collection of the museum attempts to answer.
The museum was reopened in 2000 after a long renovation. Over an exhibition area of 3,200 m2 (34.445 sq ft) one can gain many insights into the everyday world of the Finns as well as learning about their settlement history. The exhibits include a classroom dating from the 1970s, the year of Finnish school reform, and lifelike, dressed figures with reconstructed clothes and jewellery. On Tuesday evenings, admission to the museum is free of charge. During the summer months a popular restaurant serves lunches in the interior courtyard of the museum.more
The locals in Helsinki use the park grounds around Töölö Bay primarily for going on walks and jogging.... For visitors the park grounds offer a relaxing place in nature to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, but also to see some worthwhile sights.
At the southern end of the bay is the modern Finlandia Hall, a masterpiece of Finland's most famous architect Alvar Aalto. If you walk clockwise around the bay, you will come to the Finnish National Opera, an imposing structure from the 1990s. A little way past the northern end of the bay stands the Olympic Stadium, which was officially opened in 1952. Not far from that is the Winter Garden with greenhouses and rose beds. Taking a stroll along the northeastern shore is worthwhile as there are still several beautiful old wooden villas.more
The City Museum of Helsinki has been located at Senate Square since the mid-1990s. "The Helsinki Horizons"... permanent exhibition gives a detailed look at the approximately 450-year history of the city. Special attention is given to the Swedish and Russian era as well as the time after Finland's independence. One of the most important collections in the City Museum are the photographs of Signe Brander from the beginning of the 20th century. They document the tumultuous development of the city at the time very vividly. In the adjoining cinema Kino Engel, movies about the history of the city are shown. Most of them are in Finnish and Swedish, in the summertime there are some in English especially for visitors of Helsinki.more
Helsinki is a daughter of the Baltic Sea. However, you do not normally get to see the sheer range of... species in the Baltic waters and Finnish lakes. If you would like to know more, you can explore Sea Life's 40 massive tanks. As in other places in Europe, Helsinki's Sea Life exhibition concentrates on exhibiting local marine wildlife. Many species are threatened with extinction because of pollution and climate change, Sea Life is playing a part in conservation too.
The complex is right next to the Linnanmäki Amusement Park. Set right in the heart of the Finnish capital, it gives visitors a fantastic insight into the world of prawns and seahorses, or piranhas and sharks. You can explore these unknown underwater worlds from within, instead of observing from the outside.more
Linnanmäki has been the the amusement park for the Finns since it was founded in 1950. Although it has... been copied many times over, it is still the biggest in the country. With its traditional speeding carousels, rollercoasters, big wheel and culinary attractions, the park is constantly striving to be the first in the world with the latest attractions. Serious money has been invested in recent years, resulting in the "Watercoaster", the world's first family rollercoaster, then the "E-Motion Coaster" with carriages that move in both longitudinal and lateral planes.
The rollercoaster Kimu with its extremely small footprint and maximum height of 24.5 metres (80 feet) added a new exciting dimension to the park in 2007. You could be anywhere in the world for all of this. But if you stand in front of the huge open air stage on a Sunday afternoon and watch the pairs tango, you know that this could only happen in Helsinki.more
The colourful stalls of the Kauppatori Market are located between the southern harbour and the magnificent... facades of the town hall, the presidential palace and the main guard post. There is always a hustle and bustle around the long fruit and vegetable stalls, especially when passengers debark from cruise ships. You can buy fresh fish on board little cutters and traditional crafts and souvenirs always find homes. You can slurp your coffee in the coffee tent next door or sample the fresh crab; hardly anyone takes any notice of the minister playing a short visit at lunchtime. That's what Helsinki is like.
Around the corner at the harbour, the market hall (Kauppahalli) - which was built in the time of the Tsars - entices customers with its spicy aromas and wide range of goods. A little further along on the edge of the marketplace is the famous sculpture of Havis Amanda and the Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral towers up above the bustling marketplace from the rocks of the Katajanokka peninsula.more
From the outside, it looks like a sail in strong wind. Inside it is full of curves. The Museum of Contemporary... Art was built in 1998 and breaks the rules of a conventional art museum. Its name, which is derived from the Greek word "Khiasma", represents a place which 'crosses the nerves'. The makers of modern Helsinki sing its praises as visionary and experimental, just like their city.
The building, by American architect Steven Holl, was erected immediately behind the statue of the national hero, Marschal C.G. Mannerheim.The result was a new harmonious combination of the horseback figure and the sculptural backdrop of the Kiasma. The museum's collections focus on Scandinavian and Baltic Art since the 1960s. The art experience of the permanent exhibitions is rounded off with special exhibitions, installations, room art and photography.more
Seurasaari (Fölisön in Swedish) is an island only four kilometres (2.49 miles) outside the city centre.... A leisure oasis with untouched shores, it is very popular among the inhabitants of Helsinki and their visitors for bathing and picnicking. The inhabitants of the capital city have been coming to the island for 150 years, and the island has prospered since the bridge was built in the 1880s and the open-air museum was constructed. The wooden museum buildings are from all over the country.
Wooden church boats, smoke saunas and houses with exhibitions of Finnish arts and crafts with woodcarving knives and sledgehammers provide an insight into the rural culture of the country. A midsummer night's party on the island is a unique experience. In the summertime there are daily guided tours of the open-air museum. One can get to the island either by water bus from the South Harbour or by taking a number 24 bus (departure directly in front of the Sokos department store in the city centre).more
Founded in 1889, Helsinki Zoo is one of the oldest in the world. It specialises in animal species from... the Northern tundra as well as species from tropical rainforests. It currently has over 200 species represented over the 23 hectares (57 acres) of Korkeasaari island. The Africasia house is dedicated to maintaining the diversity of nature, and its inhabitants include not only terrarium species such as snakes and lizards but also the agile mongoose and zebra mouse.
The Borelia house covers the pine forest zone and contains a number of Arctic rarities such as the Arctic fox. The zoo has been very successful at breeding the snow leopard, whose habitat is the high mountains of central Asia. Camels from Mongolia and creatures from the Amazon and Africa complete the animal collection. The zoo is open the whole year, and between May and September, in addition to the normal busses, a water bus runs from Kauppatori (Market Square) by the South Harbour and from Hakaniemi.more
City: Helsinki (Suomenlinna C 40)
The five charming defensive and excursion islands of Suomenlinna attract sun-worshippers and culture... vultures in equal measures. The sea fortress, which was built in the 18th century, has been named a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO. It was thought to be impenetrable, but was taken over by the Russians without a fight in 1809. The islands form a small part of the city, with some 200 buildings and around 850 inhabitants, including a large number of artists. The Suomenlinna Museum, which was built in 1998 to mark its 250th year, showcases the fascinating history of the fortress island. Other museums on Suomenlinna include the War and Coastal Artillery Museum, the Ehrensvärd Museum and the Vesikko Submarine.
You should allow at least half a day to do it justice. Cannons which never fired a shot, parks and tunnels, cafés and restaurants - it is a whole world to explore. The fifteen-minute ride on the ferry or water bus directly from the market in the southern harbour is a real maritime experience - boats leave every twenty minutes in summer and every hour in winter.more
The Parliament building on Mannerheimintie with its gigantic, prominent staircase is definitely one of... the most photographed buildings in Helsinki. This massive construction from reddish granite, whose main façade is adorned with 15 Corinthian columns, represents the classicism of the 1920s.
Sadly, it is not always possible to tour the building, and tickets for attending the plenary sessions as an observer are booked up long in advance. But it is possible to gain an impression of Finnish parliamentarianism from the annex to the Parliament building in Arkadiankatu. This modern, functional new building houses not only the MPs' offices and the obligatory sauna but a citizens' information point and a small Internet café as well. It is well worth taking a look into the history of the Finnish parliament, as Finnish women were the first women in the world to win the right to vote.more
City: Vantaa in/near Helsinki Category: Sightseeing
Heureka, the Finnish Science Center, is located approximately 15 km north of Helsinki in Vantaa. The... futuristic-looking complex is made up of multiple halls, which are embedded in an expansive park landscape. Undoubtedly the trademark of the center is the large cube on the front of the building, which at first glance looks two-dimensional, but with closer inspection, it becomes three-dimensional.
The exhibitions are mostly comprised of interactive experiments, through which one can experience and understand nature, technology and history in a playful manner. Because of the diverse experimental possibilities, one should plan on spending an entire day when visiting Heureka. There is also a planetarium and the Galileo Park, which is on extensive outdoor grounds with waterworks, an arboretum, and a rock collection.more
Art nouveau was definitely the heyday of Finnish art. So it is no coincidence that Finland's national... gallery, the Ateneum in Helsinki, is home to the most comprehensive collection of this "golden era of Finnish art". The works, including some by Aleksi Gallen-Kallela, who was inspired by the national epic Kalevala and mature early works by Helene Schjefbeck, are testimonials to the national identity of the Finns.
The Ateneum also has a comprehensive collection of international art. There is everything from Marc Chagall to Edvard Munch. The works from the Düsseldorf School, which greatly influenced Finnish painters in the mid 19th century, are particularly interesting. Helsinki is undoubtedly an art nouveau masterpiece in itself, and you can get a good view by strolling through the city, or take the more comfortable option: a tour on tram number 3T.more
The alternating exhibitions held in the Tennis Palace Museum impress above all by their thematic variety.... The name given to the flat building with its wave-shaped roof, built in 1938 in the functionalist style, is no accident: it used to contain playing areas for the ball sport, but today it houses a variety of works of native and foreign artists on the top floor.
It also contains a modern multiplex cinema with 14 screens and everything which excites cinema fans. Here you can see the latest international films soon after their world release as they are shown in the original language with subtitles rather than being dubbed. The art museum continues this theme, one of its main exhibition areas being dedicated to photography, cinematic experimentation and retrospectives. Finally, the Tennis Palace boasts a number of restaurants and shops.more
Opposite the main railway station are the main post office built in 1937 and the Post Museum. The museum... boasts excellent collections of stamps from Finland and all over the world and was re-opened in autumn 2008 after extensive renovations. The exhibits cover over 360 years of postal history and are not only for philatelists worth a visit. The impressive main station is one of the most well-known buildings of Helsinki. The massive granite building constructed in 1919 is the most important work of Eliel Saarinen and marks the transition from the national romanticism style to functionalism. The two torch-bearing sculptures on either side of the main entrance are the works of the sculptor Emil Wikström.
The station restaurant with its huge mural inspired Bertolt Brecht during his short period of exile in Finland in 1940 to compose his prose text, "Conversations in exile". Brecht's saying of the people "silent in two languages" has long been a familiar quotation about the Finns.more
Helsinki Art Gallery is a neoclassical monument and one of the few buildings to have been built during... the 1930s epoch in northern Europe. The way that the building is reduced to the elementary architectural components is impressive. Although the Art Gallery was founded many decades ago, the art which is shown there is cheeky, young and at the same time unmistakeably Nordic.
As well as works by famous and young Nordic artists, there are also touring exhibitions. This bears testimony to the international orientation of the Taidehalli, which cooperates with numerous art galleries in Germany. Design and architecture feature prominently along with contemporary art in the regular exhibitions. In this way, the museum contributes materially towards disseminating the Finnish style of design and architecture.more
Kaivopuisto Park is directly by the sea in the south-east of the peninsula on which the centre of Helsinki... is situated. It is a beautiful public open space from which there is a splendid view of the skerry coast, the island of Suomenlinna and the open sea. On the highest point of Kaivopuisto is a small observatory built in 1929. The park was laid out almost 200 years ago and for many years served as a spa used by the Russian nobility who came here to be pampered in the days when Finland was still a Russian grand duchy. The spa building was destroyed by Soviet bombs in 1944, but the old restaurant, known as the "Koivohuone", is still open today.
The park is popular, especially in summer. There is nothing quite like the experience on a summer's day of sitting on a rock and watching the cheerful goings-on. On the shore of the park is a large carpet washing facility: for tourists, a sightseeing curiosity and for natives a fixed element of their summer life.more