Helsinki – A Diverse and Vibrant Capital
Located on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, Helsinki is the capital and the largest city of Finland. Always ranking high in most livable cities polls, this is a place that makes you want to return again and again. It is Finland’s major center of politics and finance, but also its culture, education and research hub. An excellent tourist attraction, Helsinki awaits its visitors all year round.
The city has most of its major sights close to its center, so even if you don’t really have much time for sightseeing, you still get to see most of the landmarks in one day. For a short visit we recommend you go to the Senate Square, which holds four of the city’s main attractions, majestically designed by Carl Ludvig Engel. Here, in the oldest part of central Helsinki, tourists will find the Government Palace, the stately University of Helsinki, the National Library of Finland, and what may be the capital’s most distinctive landmark: the Helsinki Cathedral. Also here you will get the chance to see the oldest stone building in the city, the Sederholm House.
If time is on your side, then we suggest you expand your tour and include the Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral in your itinerary. This is the largest orthodox church in western Europe, and a strong proof of how big an impact Russia has had on this country. Built in 1868 with a beautiful redbrick façade and high golden cupolas, the cathedral overlooks the city from a hill in Katajanokka, one of the most distinguished neighborhoods of the capital.
Another remarkable landmark that you shouldn’t miss is the Sibelius Park and its amazing monument. The grand work of art was created in 1967 by Eila Hiltunen in memory of the country’s most famous composer, Jean Sibelius. Standing almost 28 feet tall and weighing 24 tons, the sculpture is unsurprisingly one of the most famous tourist attractions in the city. It was designed to resemble organ pipes (even though some say that it evokes the forest), boasting over 600 hollow steel cylinders. On a windy day, the pipes ‘sing’ in tribute to the famous composer, whose bust is also present on one side of the monument.
For a little fun time, especially if you’ve come here with your kids, head towards the Helsinki Zoo, which is among the oldest ones in the world. It was founded in 1889 and it now hosts over 200 different species of animals, as well as approximately 1,000 plant species. You can then take the fun to the next level at the Linnanmäki Amusement Park, which has been around since 1950 and which can offer you every kind of experiences, from mild ones to adrenalin rush rides. Probably the most popular attraction of the park is the 60+ years old wooden rollercoaster.
Shopaholics should not miss the chance to engage in their favorite activity in the largest shopping mall in the Nordic countries, called Itis (formerly Itäkeskus). Here you will find hundreds of shops, boutiques, restaurants and cafés, all inviting you to linger and enjoy many hours in a wonderful ambiance. Fascinating design stores will make you see why Helsinki was designated World Design Capital in 2012. And finally, before you leave, take some time to unwind and get pampered in one of the day spas and wellness centers at Itis. The experience will be memorable.
- If you come here in June, you won’t see the sun set at all. Summer is an excellent time to visit Helsinki, because the weather is excellent, often with temperatures of 82°F and higher.
- Great souvenirs include traditional wooden tools for the kitchen, reindeer fur, Nordic wool, and spectrolite jewelry, because spectrolite is the national gemstone in Finland.
- Tipping is not habitual in Helsinki, but no one will mind if you leave a little something to a really nice waiter.
- Plush hotels we recommend: Hotel Haven and Hotel Kamp.