Visiting Helsinki - What to See and Do
(Helsinki Airport HEL, Finland)
No destination in Europe
can match the ambience of Helsinki
on a warm summer day. The capital of Finland
goes into hibernation during the dead of winter, or so it seems, then awakens from its slumber with the coming of spring. Like a flowering garden, Helsinki blooms during the warmer months, boasting outdoor cafés and a plethora of parks perfect for picnicking.
Helsinki is not particularly renowned for its medieval attractions or historic intrigue. Nevertheless, its most interesting flavours still come from the handful of charming churches, museums and architectural marvels found throughout the capital. The Lutheran Cathedral of Senate Square lords over the surrounding skyline, while the Uspenski Cathedral is also an important highlight for sightseeing.
The Russian tsars rebuilt the capital in the 1800s, but plenty of contemporary refurbishments and developments have led to a relatively modern cityscape blanketing Helsinki. Of course, this only adds to the uniqueness of the capital. Sights abound at every turn and culture is openly embraced. The other important feature is that there is water everywhere you look, on account of the strange coastal geography on which the city was sited.
Ten things you must do in Helsinki
- The jewel of Finnish sightseeing is the Lutheran Cathedral. It is unofficially the city's icon and has stood since Engel completed this structure in 1852. Twelve apostle statues keep an eye over the city from the rooftop. Tourists can visit any day of the week, between the hours of 09:00 and 18:00.
- Even though Helsinki has a small Orthodox community, they are certainly well represented. The Uspenski Cathedral, the only Orthodox church in the city, also happens to be the largest in Western Europe. The roaring red facade and five-domed roof is quite striking. Of note, this church is only a short stroll from Market Square.
- Art enthusiasts will fall in love with the Ateneum Art Museum, which is commonly regarded as the centre of Finnish art culture. Open everyday except Mondays, the museum plays host to permanent exhibitions from renowned Finnish artists including Albert Edelfelt and Pekka Halonen. Patrons can also catch a glimpse of works by Gaugin and Van Gogh, not to mention numerous other 19th- and 20th-century artists.
- Helsinki has a long strong sporting tradition. Visitors can certainly explore this side of the city via the Olympic Stadium. Families can visit the stadium, tour its halls, discover the Museum of Sport or swim in the massive outdoor swimming pool onsite. Great views can also be enjoyed from the top of the Olympic Tower.
- Get out of the downtown area of Helsinki and explore the Porvoo Old Town. Tourists can take a trip through time in this breathtaking district. Stroll through mesmerising lanes that are topped by cobbled stones and lined by traditional wooden houses. Shop in the many antique stores found in the area for an enthralling afternoon.
- Parliament House is a brilliant structure that has been under renovation since 2007 and shows no signs of stopping just yet. However, this hasn't depreciated the significance and beauty of the structure in any way. Tours are available in English during weekdays and visitors are strongly recommended to experience this majestic venue 'in the flesh'. Parliament House has been the centre of Finnish politics since 1931.
- Finland's natural beauty beckons from just outside the capital. The Nuuksio National Park is the perfect place to discover Finland's prime natural attractions. Close to the suburb of Espoo, the park boasts a plethora of wondrous wildlife, including woodpeckers, ospreys and elk. Walking tracks, lakes and pockets of greenery make up the landscape at the Nuuksio National Park.
- Russia has played a significant role in the historic development of Helsinki. No place in the city exemplifies this more than the Senaatintori. This is a square residing right in the heart of the capital, completely modelled after the Russian city of Leningrad, otherwise known as St. Petersburg. Translated as Senate Square, the Senaatintori includes majestic sites like the Alexander II statue and a stunning neoclassical railway station.
- Visitors looking for a place to jog, relax, picnic, stroll or bike should head to Central Park. Yes, the old 'Central Park' cliché is certainly felt here. However, tourists will not find a better place to escape the bustling streets of Helsinki. It is over 10 km / 6 miles in length and contains pathways for walking, running and cycling, not to mention several sporting complexes.
- The Suomenlinna Fortress, upon the island of Suomenlinna, is but one of many historical sites on this special piece of rock. Etched in Finnish history as the gateway for the 1808 Russian invasion, this landmark (along with the rest of the island) is an absolute must-see attraction for all visitors to Finland's capital.