Although Finland’s capital Helsinki was founded in the 16th century, it was only in the 1800s when the city truly began to take its shape. When the Russians came in to lay out the city of Helsinki, they modeled it after their own city of St. Petersberg, with neoclassical mansions dotted along the broad streets.
Helsinki is a beautiful Scandinavian city with many sights to be seen and places to experience. These are the ones that you absolutely cannot miss.
In the mid-1800s, The Swedes finished building Suomenlinna, which is a massive sea fortress that was meant to keep the very same Russians out. They failed anyway, as the Russians took over Helsinki in the beginning of the 19th century.
However, this impressive fortress has still survived and is one of the most impressive places you can visit in Helsinki today. To get there, you may take a ferry from Kauppatori, which only takes a few minutes total.
One of the most exciting things about visiting Suomenlinna is that it has practically not changed at all since being built. Interestingly, there is still a small baroque settlement that remains that about 1000 people call home to this very day.
The Design District is made up of shops, boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and workshops, all with a distinct minimalistic Finnish design. If you are a lover of Scandinavian decor and design, you’ll sure to be giddy with delight as you walk around the Design District. There you’ll find minimalistic clothing shops, handmade products, and functional architecture.
Helsinki Cathedral boasts a large green dome that towers over the cityscape that can seem like a shining beacon from the water during nighttime. The neoclassical cathedral is a stunning structure that you cannot miss seeing while visiting the city.
The cathedral was built in the mid-19th century, and was originally called St. Nicholas’ Cathedral, as it was named after the Russian Tsar who was the Grand Duke of Finland as well, Nicholas I.
Finland gained independence in 1917, and thus the cathedral was renamed to Helsinki Cathedral.
Finland’s most beloved children’s animated series is called The Moomins, or Mumin in Swedish. It was created by Swedish speaking Finnish illustrator Tove Jansson. The central characters of the comic strip that was later turned into a television series features a family of creatures that resemble hippopotamuses.
There are now 15 Moomin Cafes located around the globe. While in Helsinki, be sure to visit the Moomin Cafe so you can immerse yourself in the world of the show, which features life-size plush dolls of the Moomin characters of the show — all while enjoying some great coffee.
The City of Architecture
Helsinki is known for its mix of Neoclassical, Jugendstil, and National Romanticism architecture. One of its most notable architects as Alvar Aalto, who contributed many buildings such as the Academic Bookstore and Finlandia Hall. Since it is one of Europe’s youngest capital cities, Helsinki does not feature old landmarks that many expect from a European city. However, there is endless stunning architecture to be seen. A stroll through the city is all you need to take it all in.