In Finland’s capital Helsinki, unspoiled nature meets big-city feeling, classicism meets expressionism, and traditionalists meet hip trendsetters. The Finnish Baltic Sea metropolis is full of contrasts and is one of the most exciting and beautiful places in all of Scandinavia. The city has been one of the most livable cities in the world for years and is the perfect mix of sights and beautiful restaurants, cafes and squares to linger in. On top of that, the metropolis is considered particularly sustainable and offers you numerous opportunities to move through the city in an environmentally conscious way.
Tip 1: Helsinki Cathedral
During a visit to the white city of the north, a detour to Helsinki Cathedral should not be missed. The main building of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland can inspire with its enchanting architecture, but also the interior of the church is impressive. Helsinki Cathedral bears witness to the country’s turbulent history, with the cathedral being an architectural witness to the time when Finland was still part of Russia.
At the beginning of the 19th century, much of what was then a small town had fallen victim to a fire and was rebuilt over the next few decades. Thus, Helsinki owes its landmark to the creative work of architect Carl Ludwig Engel, who wanted to build the cathedral in the style of the time. What began as early as 1819 with the first plans of the famous architect was finally realized in 1852 with the start of construction. But it was not until 1852 that the cathedral was opened on the north side of Senate Square. In the meantime, other buildings had already been built around Senate Square, including some of the most beautiful buildings in all of Helsinki. Helsinki Cathedral, by the way, was not known by its current name at the time; instead, the sacred building was familiar to the people of its time as St. Nicholas Church.
Tip 2: Temppeliaukio Church
The Helsinki Rock Church is a building that is unique in this form. Carved deep into granite rock, this house of worship is absolutely stunning in many ways and is an architectural masterpiece. The unhewn rock walls in the interior, the organ and the copper roof framed by 180 glass windows form a harmonious ensemble. An absolute highlight is the acoustics in the rock church, which is why concerts are often held here in addition to church services. When you visit the church, don’t just explore the lower area, but also climb up the stairs to the gallery to get a great overview.
The two brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen are responsible for the architecture of the Helsinki Rock Church. They won an architectural competition in 1961. In 1968 the construction work started and already one year later the church was finished. In 1975 the organ was installed, which was designed by Veikko Virtanen. The walls of the church are five to eight meters high, and the height to the top of the dome is 13 meters. About half a million people visit the Helsinki Rock Church year after year. Up to 750 visitors can find a seat in the pews.
Tip 3: Old Market Hall
Built in 1888 according to the plans of architect Gustav Nytröm and opened a year later, Vanha kauppahalli is Helsinki’s first and largest market hall. Before that, food and other goods were sold at outdoor markets. The market halls were expected to provide better hygienic conditions and order. When it opened, there were 120 stalls.
The market hall has undergone many changes during its history and the history of Finland. Today you can find fish, cheese and vegetable vendors, butchers, confectioners, bakers, tea and spice vendors, as well as various cafes, small restaurants and bistros with cold and hot food. Especially among tourists, a visit to Vanha kauppahalli is very popular, as you can taste original Finnish specialties (salmon bread, reindeer ham) as well as international delicacies.
Tip 4: Ateneum
The Ateneum Art Museum belongs to the Finnish National Gallery and the building was designed by Theodor Höijer in 1887. The museum was built in the neo-Renaissance style. The collections date back to the Finnish art association Suomen Taideyhdistys. The collection was first publicly exhibited in 1863.
The largest art museum in Finland presents many different paintings and sculptures. There are over 4000 different old paintings and over 700 unique sculptures on display. The main part of the collection consists of the works of famous Finnish painters (Albert Edelfelt, Eero Järnefelt, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Hugo Simberg and Pekka Halonen) from the 17th century to 1960. The international collection consists of about 650 unique works and includes artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Francisco de Goya, Marc Chagall, Ilya Repin and Amedeo Modigliani. The building itself is decorated with beautiful sculptures designed as well as created by Carl Sjöstrand. The sculptures symbolically represent the arts. In addition, one can find numerous other beautiful details on the building that stand out in particular. In summary, you can find about 18,000 exhibits in this museum, which consist of unique paintings, stunning graphics and beautiful sculptures.
Tip 5: Seurasaari
Open-air museums exist in many European capitals and so also in Helsinki. The museums document in a very vivid way the cultural development and the emergence of the national way of life.
Seurasaari Museum Island in the northwest of the city is Helsinki’s equivalent of the world’s open-air museums. The island is accessible both on foot and by bus.
The Seurasaari Open Air Museum has its roots in 1909, when painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela and architect Yrjö Blomstedt saved the historic Niemelä croft from demolition by moving it to Seurasaari.
Other buildings were quickly added and the Seurasaari Museum was created, modeled on the renowned Swedish Skansen open-air museum.
In addition to Kate Niemelä, 86 other historic houses are part of the Seurasaari collection. The individual buildings were removed from various locations and faithfully rebuilt on the island. Thus, the buildings on the museum island each represent a particular era of Finnish history.
One of the main attractions of the open-air museum is Antti’s four-sided farm. The historic farm dates back to the Middle Ages and illustrates the way of life at that time. Visitors will discover dwellings, storehouses, dining cellars, a cooking hut and even a sauna. Of course, there are also cattle sheds on the large property of the farm.
In addition to these museum houses, the island of Seurasaari attracts visitors mainly with its beautiful beaches, lush nature and the fantastic view of the Baltic Sea.