Type: City Break
Best Date to Visit: ?
Things to Do: Shopping, Dine, Cultural
Points of Interest: Senate square, market square, Temppeliaukio Church, Suomenlinna, Helsinki central station, Uspenski cathedral, Kamppi Chapel, Sibelius Monument.
The Good: Friendly warm atmosphere, Artistic city
The Bad: Not too Much to do
Helsinki is the capital city of Finland and the country’s largest with around 600,00 in population. According to various sources Helsinki is one of the best places to live and has the better standard of living around the world. Although Helsinki’s population grows every year it is still considered one of the smallest.
My Helsinki Experience
Helsinki was the central point for me on my travels to Finland and Estonia. I stayed in the capital first then branched back and forth to Rovaniemi and Tallinn eventually ending and flying back home from the city.
Before the trip my research into the city showed that there was not plenty of attractions or points of interest within the city, it also doesn’t have a monument or building with the magnitude comparing to the Eiffel tower or statue of liberty. However my first impressions of the city was that it was very artistic or art conscious with plenty of the streets having its own decorative designs, even as simple as a street light had a modern imaginative design. As you start to roam the city in depth you will start to realise why the city is one of the best cities to live in (according to metropolis 2016), and not such a bad place to visit as a tourist.
Firstly a must visit for tourists is the Helsinki cathedral which is situated in the Senate square. Built around 1852 this Finnish Evangelical Lutheran cathedral which is operational and performs mass services proves to be the main stage for tourism in the capital. The cathedral which has huge historical significance to the city proves to be an area where tourists flock to take pictures. Senate square marks the centre of old Helsinki and is a good example of neoclassical architecture, the square is surrounded by the government palace and the main building of Helsinki University and the Library of Finland all equally as picturesque within the square. Furthermore the city’s main Christmas market is placed here at the start of December each year. In my opinion the market was the cleanest and neatest of all Christmas markets ive been to its relaxing ambience and sauna was something new, but it was too quiet for my liking. Nonetheless their products were much better quality than that of other markets and food were outstanding. The Christmas market is worth a visit if your around the city at that time but I wouldn’t set up a trip solely for this market.
Other churches that are worth a visit are Temppeliaukio church, Uspenski cathedral and Kamppi Chapel. Firstly the Uspenski orthodox cathedral which was built around 1868 is advertised as one of the city’s main place to visit, with its red bricks and golden cupolas the building is and interesting place to visit. Although a great piece of architecture with a nice of history for me it wasn’t something spectacular and I see plenty places of worship on par with this one. A more modern religious structure which was only completed on 2012 is the Kamppi Chapel. Built with local Finnish wood in the centre of one of the city’s busiest street the chapel also takes the name of “Chapel of silence” as it is meant to be a place of calm a serenity within the city. Lastly in my opinion one of the most fascinating place to visit in Helsinki is the Temppeliaukio church which is unlike no other church I have ever seen from all my visits. The architecture is different in that the building is excavated straight under solid rock, its roof is a large copper dome like plate supported into the rock by beams and when the sun shines proves to be a spectacular sight to see. The church built by architect Tuomo Suomalainen on 1969 is the best spot I visited in the city and I highly recommend this place.
The Sibelius monument built in dedication for the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius located in Sibelius park is in my opinion the best piece of art work within the city. Built with 600 hollow steel organ pipes built in a wave to portray sound waves with the composers face protruding in front of the monument is a nice sight to see whilst walking around a admirable park.
Another popular place for tourists is a visit to Suomenlinna island . I did not particularly have time to visit this place as I ran out of time but am told this is another must go area to visit. Reached by boat included in the day passes or tickets in the ordinary machines around the city the island has enough to consume a full day. The UNESCO world heritage site use to be a fortress for the Fins, Swedes and Russians. The island has beautiful sights, museums , restaurants and cafes.
Helsinki central station is another place to see. You wouldn’t need to go out of your way to come across the central station as it will probably connect your hotel and any points of interests you visit. The station was voted the worlds most beautiful station in the world in 2013 (BBC) and has consistently been within the top batch each year in various lists. The station initially opened on 1862 but grew after a competition on 1904 where it was then designed by Finnish Eliel Saarinen and reopened 1919. The station has 4 large sentry statues which hold spherical globes illuminated oversee the masses of people go in and out of the station, this is the sight to see.
Other places to see is Market square and the city’s various shopping districts. The Market square which is in the eastern most part of the city nearby the senate square and adjacent to the presidential palace is another of the most recommended areas to visit by various tourism media. Why? I am not too sure why. I visited the area in three occasions all in different times and during my visits I didnt see the charm.
I don’t usually recommend particular restaurants or bars but the ‘Oluthuone Kaisla’ 10minutes from the Central station is one of the best craft beer in town, It was a brilliant atmosphere whilst visiting two friends that I met in a backpacking trip in Peru. There were a huge choice of beverages including Finnish and Estonian Beers. It was fairly relaxed and quiet when I went there but am told weekends is busy. One of the highlights of my visit.
Helsinki does not have any attractions that would compare with the magnitude of Paris’s Eiffel tower, New York’s time square or London’s Big Ben however the city’s beauty is with its lifestyle, arts and atmosphere. Within the city and from the airport Helsinki had one of the easiest public transport system from all the places I have been which is always a big plus for me and would be for tourist in general. Nonetheless once within the city all attractions are a walkable distance. However the city was expensive which wouldn’t be very attractive for the common traveller. Overall all I can say is Helsinki is a beautiful place to unwind get to know new cultures, try new beers and appreciate some history, you have to be open minded as the city isn’t as extravagant as other European capitals but it does have brilliant characteristics. A two to three day stint in the city is enough time to roam the city and enjoy its prestige.
Travelling around Helsinki
Reference: https://www.travelonspot.com/en_GL/article/travel-journal/holiday-corner/top-7-interesting-facts-about-helsinki https://www.stat.fi/tup/satavuotias-suomi/suomi-maailman-karjessa_en.html https://www.myhelsinki.fi/en/see-and-do/sights/senate-square https://www.hel.fi/helsinki/en/socia-health/income/resident/chapel/