The city of Helsinki is full of charming little corners to discover, but due to time constraints, you may not be able to go to all of them. Therefore, in this article, we are going to show you the 10 essential places to visit in Helsinki.
Senate Square and Helsinki Cathedral
Helsinki Senate Square is located in the heart of the old town and is probably the most important and characteristic tourist spot in the city. On the esplanade, we find several buildings with great historical importance, such as the Helsinki Cathedral, the Central Building of the University of Helsinki and the Palace of the State Council.
Helsinki Cathedral, located in the northern part of the square, was built between 1830 and 1852 as a tribute to Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. Its author is the architect Carl Ludvig Engel who was also in charge of designing the rest of the buildings located in the square that we have mentioned before.
Different events take place in the square throughout the year. Among them, we find a Christmas market, concerts, art exhibitions and contests of different kinds.
The fortified island of Suomenlinna is a 20-minute ferry ride from central Helsinki and you can use the same ticket as for buses and trams. It was built in the mid-18th century to prevent Russia’s access to the Baltic and, since 1991, it has been considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There you will find museums, parks and a church, among others.
The area is open most of the year, but the schedules and access to the ferry can change, so you will have to see the opening hours and the conditions of the moment in which you are going to travel. We share with you an article in which we talk about the Suomenlinna Fortress in greater depth.
The Market Square (Kauppatori) is the main square in central Helsinki and is one of the best-known open-air markets in Northern Europe. It is located by the Baltic Sea and very close to Senate Square. It’s lined with stalls selling Finnish food, tourist souvenirs, and flowers, and fishing boats can sometimes be found docked just off the square selling fresh-caught seafood straight from the boat. In winter, these posts are protected under tents, so it is still possible to visit them. Besides, very close there is a market that is open throughout the year and has more vendors.
Temppeliaukio Church, carved out of a rock
Temppeliaukio Church was designed by architects Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen in the late 1960s. The underground interior of the church was built directly into an ancient rock on the Helsinki peninsula. Its glass dome allows natural light to enter the interior of the church. The church is also used as a concert hall due to its excellent acoustics created by the rough unworked rock surfaces of the interior.
With half a million visits annually, the Temppeliaukio Church is one of the main tourist attractions in the capital. In addition, it is located in the heart of Helsinki, so its visit is almost mandatory.
East of the city centre is the island of Seurasaari. In it, you can visit an interesting open-air museum that has old houses, farms, a manor house, a Kiruna church (1686) and other wooden constructions brought from all over Finland. Here you will learn how the Finns lived before the modern era. Also, very close to there, you can visit an old wooden house that is now occupied by the Friends of Finnish Handicraft, one of the oldest design organizations in the country. They have a display of rugs and other traditional textiles. Visitors can also watch the weavers at work.
The monument to the great Finnish composer, designed by Eila Hiltunen, was inaugurated in 1967 and generated immediate controversy and great criticism. The original monument consisted of a collection of large metal pipes that create music when the breeze blows through them. Later, a statue of Sibelius was added in response to complaints about the original concept. The monument is located inside a beautiful park, one of the many in the Finnish capital.
It is the second of the imposing churches that dominate the skyline over the port of Helsinki. The Russian Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral is a brick building that has multiple towers and spiers that are topped by 13 golden domes. The interior is filled with altars, icons, crosses, and a host of gilded ornaments. It is considered the largest Orthodox church in Western Europe.
Helsinki Central Station
It is the main railway station in Helsinki and stands out for the surprising and original design of the station. The author of this was the architect Eliel Saarinen. Its 48-meter-high clock tower stands out, which was also the first of several designs that ultimately resulted in Saarinen’s own 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower, the first skyscraper in the United States. Step inside to see the monumental arched hallways and carved panels that decorate its walls.
It is a major hub for Helsinki public transport and handles 200,000 daily passengers, making the station the most visited building in Finland. Trains depart from it for local, long-distance and even overseas routes, as is the case with the train to Saint Petersburg.
Ateneum, the Finnish National Gallery
South of Helsinki Station Square is the National Museum of Art, generally known as Ateneum after the impressive neoclassical building it occupies. The same building also houses the famous Finnish Academy of Art. This was designed by Theodor Höijer and completed in 1887. The Ateneum has Finland’s finest art collection of historical works and contemporary art. The Finnish section of the museum includes works by Edelfelt, Järnefelt or Halonen, among others. You can also find works by foreign masters such as Rembrandt or Vincent van Gogh, along with other 650 international works of art.
Entrance to the museum is free during some days of the year, so we recommend that you check its website to see if you can take advantage of this free access.
Esplanadi Park, located in the centre of Helsinki
Esplanadi is an urban park located in the centre of Helsinki between Erottaja Square and Market Square. It is bordered on its north and south sides by the streets Pohjoisesplanadi (Esplanadi Norte) and Eteläesplanadi (Esplanadi Sur), respectively. This is a very popular area for walking, and you can also find street performances.
Like the Market Square, the park was designed by the architect Carl Ludwig Engel and was inaugurated in 1818. In 1827, the Engels Theater, the first theatre building in Helsinki and the second in all, was built in one corner of the park. Finland. In the eastern part of the park is the Kappeli restaurant, which opened its doors in 1867. In front of the restaurant, we find an open-air stage in which numerous musical performances are held. Besides, there are, scattered throughout the park, different statues of Finnish historical personalities and pieces of public art.
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