Northern Lights Holidays to Helsinki
As Finland's capital and largest city, Helsinki is also its political, cultural and social centre and has much to offer visitors, even if just for a quick stopover.
The city sits on the Peninsula arm of the Baltic Sea and, as an archipelago city, includes some 315 islands so the landscape is one of coastal greenery, just a short distance from the main metropolitan region which is home to a population of around 605,000Read more
Helsinki was established in 1550 but didn't establish itself as a substantial city until the early 19th century when it was annexed as part of the Russian empire. The city flourished and saw a growth in development and architecture to reflect the empire style of St Petersburg. Finnish independence was established in 1917 and the later 20th century saw rapid urbanisation and industrialisation. Today Helsinki retains some similarity to major Eastern European cities and presents a quirky mix of art nouveau buildings, empire-style designs and modern cutting edge architecture.
The city is also a thriving and friendly one and there is much for visitors to explore.
Culturally speaking, the city has sought to preserve its own history, particularly from the country's independence as well as its folklore and culture which can be explored in its many museums and galleries. Highlights include the Finnish museum of Natural History, which has thousands of specimens from across the world and the Helsinki Design Museum which showcases Finland's long history of remarkable design. The Ateneum Art Museum is also an excellent attraction and houses over 20,000 pieces of art.
An important part of the city's history is the famed Suomenlinna Sea Fortress which is one of the biggest sea fortresses in the world and is accessible from Helsinki following a 15 minute boat trip. Built in 1748 the fortress now has UNESCO status and a unique monument to European military architecture and makes for an enjoyable day trip.
If touring the city on foot there is of course much to appreciate and enjoy including the Senate Square with its grandeur and neoclassical architecture and Esplanadi Park with its picturesque open areas. The Market Square is also a popular Helsinki attraction, housing a range of stalls, selling everything from food to crafts.
One of the most famous buildings in the city is the Helsinki Cathedral, an Evangelical Lutheran Church which for many is the symbol of the city.
When it comes to food and drink, Helsinki has an evolving and flourishing gourmet scene and is renowned for its international fare alongside its famed Russian and seafood dishes. A recent development is the growth of a street food scene which is a popular way to sample a range of the city's delights. With Finland being, per capita, the second largest coffee consuming nation in the world there are coffee houses everywhere so be sure to find the time to enjoy a cup of coffee along with pulla (a bun) and korvapuusti (cinnamon roll).
Image credits: Visit Finland