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Helsinki is a modern European city whose urban cosmopolitan lifestyle exists in perfect harmony with nature. Surrounded by the sea and its own exotic archipelago, Helsinki offers visitors an endless number of possibilities. Just as Helsinki cannot be described in one word, neither can it be experienced in just one way. Helsinki really does have something for everyone.
Throughout its 450-year history, Helsinki has existed in the crosscurrents of the East and West. The colorful layers of history can be seen everywhere. A walking tour of the city center or of the magnificent Suomenlinna Maritime Fortress will open your eyes to a fascinating past.
Helsinki was founded by King Gustav Vasa of Sweden in 1550 on the mouth of the Vantaa River. In the mid-1600s the center was moved to its current location on the southern peninsula, where the deeper waters allowed Helsinki to compete better for Baltic Sea trade.
In 1748 Sweden built the massive Suomenlinna Maritime Fortress off the coast of Helsinki to counter the growing threat from Russia. Finland eventually became part of Russia in 1809, after which the status of Helsinki was raised to capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland in 1812. A monumental city plan was drawn up to reflect the power of Russia and the Tsar.
Helsinki rapidly grew to become a modern European city in the late 1800s. By the early 20th century, the population of Helsinki exceeded 100,000, helped by its university and growing industry.
In 1917 Helsinki became capital of the independent Republic of Finland.
As the 20th century progressed, Helsinki earned its place among the world's metropolises. The Summer Olympics in 1952, the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe in 1975, and Finland's membership in the European Union as of 1995 are landmarks on the road to internationalization.
Helsinki was one of the nine European Cities of Culture in the year 2000. Today, Helsinki is an archetypal 21st century city, enjoying the comforts of an ultramodern infrastructure and the reassurance of its unspoiedt nature.
Today's Helsinki is also a city of the future. Its modern architecture, cutting-edge design and high-technology have attracted international recognition for the city. Unique lifestyles and urban subcultures are all a part of this international metropolis.
Life in Helsinki is defined by starkly contrasting seasonal changes. In the summer, the warmth and permanent daylight invigorate the city. The locals worship the sun and welcome the heat with open arms.
In the winter, the cozy and mysterious darkness offers its own blanket of warmth, even in the crisp and snowy outdoors. In town, Helsinki's culture explodes into life with a vast range of events, concerts and exhibitions.
The Senate Square and surrounding buildings form a unique and cohesive example of Neo-Classicism. This area is crowned by three buildings designed by C.L. Engel between 1822 and 1852: the Cathedral, the Government Palace and the University. The Cathedral is perhaps Finland's most photographed and recognizable building. It celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2002. Another of Engel's pearls is the University Library on Unioninkatu. The oldest stone building in Helsinki is the Sederholm House located on the southeast corner of the square.The main building of the City Museum can be found on the Sofiankatu museum street.
Open: The Cathedral on the Senate Square is open: Mon-Sun 9-18, during summer 9-24
Location: In the heart of the city, in the corner of Unioninkatu and Aleksanterinkatu streets.
Suomenlinna Maritime Fortress
Suomenlinna, Viapori-Sveaborg fortress is one of the biggest sea fortresses in the world. Founded in 1748 and built by Augustin EhrensvÃ€rd on islands off the coast of Helsinki. Tourist information "Visitor Centre" and Sveaborg Experience multivision show are housed in the former naval stores.
Open: Suomenlinna island is open all year round. Some services are open also during winter. No entrance fee for the island.
Linnanmki Amusement Park
LinnanmÃ€ki has entertained families since 1950. The amusement park has an enormous selection of fun rides, from ultra scary to more easy-going. The special wooden rollercoaster is over 50-years-old and remains the most popular ride. LinnanmÃ€ki also has many arcade halls with the latest games as well as an outdoor stage presenting entertaining performances.
Sea Life Helsinki
Sea Life takes you on a voyage from the tropical oceans to the Arctic Sea, stopping at the Baltic Sea along the way. Discover strange and fascinating underwater worlds, home to crabs and starfish as well as sharks and rays. Visitors can step inside the ocean tank through a transparent tunnel. The exhibitions present many species whose environments are threatened by pollution and other environmental damage caused by humans. Helsinki's Sea Life is part of the pan-European Sea Life network, whose aim is to enlighten visitors about the need for protecting the sea environment and the biggest threats, such as pollution and over fishing.
Korkeasaari Zoo (founded in 1889) is one of the oldest zoos in the world. In Korkeasaari Zoo you'll meet animals from the arctic tundra to the tropical rainforest. Approximately 200 different animal species reside in the Zoo, and there are almost a 1000 different plant species. Protecting endangered species is a heartfelt matter for the zoo. The zoos in Europe form a network which works to preserve a number of species. Zoos are often the last refuge for many endangered species. The rhino sign will take you to the animals that belong to the zoos' shared protection program.
Quarried out of the natural bedrock, Temppeliaukio Church is one of Helsinki's most popular tourist attractions. The interior walls are created naturally by the rock. The church was designed by architects Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and opened in 1969. Due to its excellent acoustics the church is a popular venue for concerts.
The Uspenski Cathedral, built in 1868, is the largest orthodox church in Western Europe. With its golden cupolas and redbrick facade, the church is one of the clearest symbols of the Russian impact on Finnish history.
Ateneum Art Museum
This museum showcases Finnish art from the 18th and foreign art from the 19th century to the 1960s. Here you will find Finland's biggest collection of paintings, sculpture, drawings, watercolours and graphic art. As well as the permanent exhibition, special exhibitions are often available.
National Museum of Finland
The National Museum of Finland illustrates Finnish history from prehistoric times to the present day. The major archaeological finds, the historical, numismatic and ethnological collections have been put together for over 170years. The development of Finnish society and culture from the beginning of the Middle Ages to the present.
Helsinki City Tour
1.5-hour city sightseeing tour of Helsinki
Daily departure hourly from 11:00 am 2:00 pm from Esplanade Park at Fabiankatu. Please ask at your hotel for walking directions
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