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Home : Holidays : Europe : Finland : Helsinki - a city of the future

Helsinki - a city of the future

Surrounded by sea and a vast archipelago, Helsinki is at its best in the summer when the dialogue between the city and nature is at its fullest. Classical Helsinki's sights are mostly of the low-key sort and can be divided into an eclectic set of churches and another slew of museums. Suomenlinna fortress, seen from a passing ferry

A beautiful archipelago (saaristo) surrounds the Helsinki city center. In addition to the major islands listed below, there are scheduled services to many smaller islands, and you can also tour them by sightseeing cruise. Most of the cruises depart from the Western corner of the Market Square and last from one to several hours. Note most ferries and cruises operate only in the summer high season.


The greatest sea fortress on the Baltic, which ignominiously surrendered without a fight the one time it was about to see action, resulting the loss of Finland to Russia. Still living in its own time with only old buildings, few cars and loads of old fortifications, catacombs and cast iron cannons, today the sprawling complex houses a few restaurants, theaters and museums and is a very popular place for a picnic on a fine summer day, watching the vast passenger ferries drift by on their way to Sweden. It was included in Unesco??s World Heritage List in 1991 as a unique monument to European military architecture. Accessible by ferry from Market Square (the HKL ferry is the cheapest and most convenient).


A pleasant little island to the north of the center, filled with walking trails and authentic old Finnish houses collected from all over the country. An excellent half-day trip, especially in the summer. Entry to the park free, entry into the museum buildings 5?. Take bus 24 from Erottaja (at the northern end of Esplanadi) to the terminus (20-30 minutes), then walk across the bridge.


A large island in the central Helsinki, connected to dry land. On Korkeasaari lies the Helsinki Zoo with approximately 200 different animal species. A 15-minute ferry connection from Hakaniemi and Market Square; for land access, take the metro to Herttoniemi and then bus 11 from the Herttoniemi metro station to the zoo gate. Entry to the zoo 5?/3?.

Esplanadin puisto

It's really hard to miss this park situated between Kauppatori and the Swedish theatre. In the summer time it is full of young finns sitting on the lawn, meeting their friends and quite often also having a picnic (a must for all budget travellers). In the summer there are often also free concerts given by local artists on the stage close to Kauppatori, facing restaurant Kappeli.


A beautiful park by the sea in the southmost part of the city. Housing surrounding this area is the most expensive in Helsinki. In summer you might want to sit down for a cup of coffee in one of the seaside cafes and enjoy the view of sailboats at the sea and people on the promenade.

Töölö Bay (Töölönlahti)

Located northwest from the central railway station, this is a bay surrounded by a nice park, dotted with attractions such as the Finlandia Concert Hall and the National Opera. Töölönlahti is partly in natural state which is quite rare in other major European cities. Walking and jogging around the bay is a popular outdoor activity.

The altar of the Church in the RockLutheran Cathedral (Tuomiokirkko). Aleksanterinkatu, [8]. The unofficial symbol of the city, this striking white cathedral dominates the central Senate Square. Based on designs by Carl Ludvig Engel and completed in 1852, the cathedral has recently been refurbished and looks better than ever, with the 12 apostles on the roof once again looking down at the world below. Open daily 9-18, free entry.

The Church in the Rock (Temppeliaukion kirkko, literally "Temple Square Church"). Lutherinkatu 3 (tram 3B/T), +358 9-494698. 10AM-5PM every day. An atmospheric if minimalistic church literally dug out of solid rock, resembling a crashed UFO from above. The roof is made of 22 kilometers of copper strips. Completed in 1969, this has become one of Helsinki's most popular attractions. Concerts are often held here thanks to the excellent acoustics. Free.
Uspenski Cathedral. Kanavakatu 1, +358 9-634267, [9]. T-Fr 9:30AM-4PM, Sa 9:30AM-2PM, Su noon-3PM. May-Sep MWeSa 9:30AM-4PM, Tu 9:30AM-6PM, Su noon-3PM. Uspenski Cathedral is the largest orthodox church in Western Europe. Free.

St. John's Church (Johanneksenkirkko). Korkeavuorenkatu 12, +358 9-7092370. Mo-Fr 12-15PM. The largest church in Helsinki and a fine example of gothic revival architecture. Free.

Church of Kallio (Kallion kirkko). On top of the hill at the end of Siltasaarenkatu. The church is built of grey granite (1912) and its massive looks dominate the view from Hakaniemi. It was designed by the famous Finnish architect Lars Sonck. The church has both baroque and French romantic organs and concerts are organized frequently. Open T-Fr 12AM-6PM, Sa-Su 10AM-6PM. Free.

Museums and galleries
Senate Square on a snowy December morningMany of Helsinki's museums are as interesting from the outside as from the inside. Architecture buffs will get a kick out of Helsinki's Neo-Classical center, centered around Senate Square (Senaatintori). Aleksanterinkatu and the Railway Station square also have some beautiful neo-classical buildings ?? look out for the Romantic Kalevala-esque themes on many ?? but unfortunately these areas also have many concrete monstrosities mixed in.

Ateneum Art Museum, Kaivokatu 2, tel. +358 9 173361 (+358 9 17336228 for tickets), [10]. Open Tue and Fri 9am - 6pm, Wed and Thu 9am - 8pm, Sat and Sun 11am - 5pm, Mondays closed. Ateneum has the largest collection of paintings and sculptures in Finland. Particularly notable is the collection of works by major Finnish artists. Entrance fee 5,5/4 ?, or during special exhibitions 7,5/6,5 ?. Free admission for visitors under 18. Wednesdays from 5pm to 8pm free admission.

Design Museum. Korkeavuorenkatu 23, +358 9 622 0540,[11]. Exhibitions of modern commercial and industrial design and modern art. The permanent exhibit in the basement showcases the history of consumer-goods design over the course of the 20th century, with a particular focus on the contributions of Finnish designers. Entrance is 7 ? for adults, 3 ? for students, and free for children. Open Tuesday 11am to 8pm, Wednesday through Sunday 11am to 6pm, and closed Monday.

Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art. Mannerheiminaukio 2, tel. +358 9 1733 6501, [12]. Open from Wed to Sun 10am - 8.30pm, Tue 9am - 5pm, Mondays closed. Located near Ateneum, Kiasma is everything Ateneum isn't. The collections mostly include works by contemporary Finnish artists and artists from nearby countries. In addition to this, there are also periodical exhibitions. The building itself is arguably a work of art. Entrance fee 5,5/4?, groups (with at least 10 people) 4 ? per person. Under 18 year-olds free. Fridays from 5pm to 8.30pm free admission.

National Museum of Finland (Kansallismuseo), Mannerheimintie 34, [13]. Musty old museum recently given a much-needed makeover. For history buffs. Admission 5,50?, open 11 AM to 6 PM daily except Monday. Tuesday from 5.30 PM to 8 PM free admission.

Museum of Cultures (Kulttuurien museo), Tennispalatsi 2nd floor, Eteläinen Rautatiekatu 8, [14]. One of Helsinki's quirkier museums, concentrates on changing exhibitions of cultures outside Finland. Admission 5 ?, open 11 AM to 6 PM daily except Monday. Tuesday from 5.30 PM to 8 PM free admission.
Heureka Science Centre, Tikkurila (near Tikkurila train station), Vantaa, [15]. If you have children, this is a great place for a day trip. There are lots of interesting tests and exhibitions. Also, there's a Verne super-cinema, where films are shown. Ticket(exhibitions and one super-movie) for adult costs 18,50?, ticket for children(6-15) costs 14,50?. There's also a Heureka Shop, where you can buy interesting things.

At their best, cities can constitute a creative and innovative environment where business life blossoms. Pekka Korpinen, Deputy Mayor of Helsinki, presents his own views on this challenge in the EVA report "Helsinki - a city of the future". The journey to the Helsinki of the future envisiged by Korpinen consists of many projects and challenges, some small and some large.

The main reason for the high cost of housing in Helsinki is the scattering of dwellings across too vast of an area with poor public transportation connections. This effect is further exacerbated by Helsinki's semicircle shape, which increases the average distance from the city centre by 40 per cent compared to a circular city of the same population density.

Korpinen maintains that by strengthening area centers, increasing population density near public transportation connections and by extending the Metro-line towards the east, which will also help to fill the vacant space in the city of Sipoo, living costs can be permanently decreased in Helsinki and neighbouring regions.

Korpinen also evaluates the proposals for creation of a top-class university and art university from standpoint of city planning. The location of the University of Art and Design, the Academy of Fine Arts and the Theater Academy on the eastern edge of the Helsinki peninsula has provided a positive counterweight for the higher education sites in western Helsinki and Espoo. When the Metro connection to Otaniemi is completed in a few years, the best solution would be to combine the two projects, i.e. the creation of a top-class university and art university, and situate them on the same Metro-line. Technical sciences would be in Otaniemi, the School of Business in Kamppi and art universities (excluding the Sibelius Academy) near the Kalasatama Metro station.

Forests and the sea are key elements shaping the special character of Helsinki, which should be used to a greater extent in the making of the Helsinki brand. Shores, the sea and the archipelago offer unique competitive advantages for attracting businesses and employees to the leading creative centre of Northern Europe. This competitive advantage has so far not been
utilized successfully enough.

The Helsinki Region is one of the fastest-growing regions in Europe. By 2025 Greater Helsinki is forecasted to have 1.5 million inhabitants and 800,000 jobs, which means that movement to the region will continue to be strong. Helsinki is both big enough and small enough: it provides the services and cultural diversity of a major city, yet it is safe and easy to live in.

Some 24 municipalities make up the region. The three biggest, which form the metropolitan area are Helsinki the capital of Finland (population 560 000), the city of Espoo (230 000) and the city of Vantaa (185 000).

Helsinki Region in a nutshell

  • An extremely well educated multilingual workforce with advanced technical skills.
  • One of the lowest corporate tax in the EU (Year 2005, 26 %)
  • Excellent infrastructure, ideally placed to serve the Russian and Baltic markets
  • The world´s most advanced telecommunications
  • Foreign companies locating Finland enjoy high return on investments.  
    Member of the Eurozone
  • Top competitiveness and creativity