The symbol of Helsinki is the brilliant white cathedral known in Finnish as Tuomiokirkko that towers above Senate Square. The square and its surroundings form a unique and cohesive example of Neoclassical architecture. It is dominated by four buildings designed by Carl Ludvig Engel between 1822 and 1852: Helsinki Cathedral, the Government Palace, the main building of the University of Helsinki and the National Library of Finland.
Situated close to Senate Square are the popular Market Square and Esplanade Park, where locals and visitors alike can catch their breath amidst the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
Between Senate Square and the Market Square is the Tori Quarter, which offers cosy cafés and restaurants, interesting events and numerous attractive design boutiques.
South of Esplanade Park is the Design District, home to the Museum of Finnish Architecture, the Design Museum and Design Forum Finland, not to mention countless design offices and shops.
Across the Market Square in the Katajanokka district is Uspenski Cathedral, the largest Orthodox church edifice in Western Europe. Completed in 1868, the cathedral is one of the most visible reminders of the Russian influence on Finnish history. In stark contrast to the redbrick cathedral with its gold domes, Temppeliaukio Church in the Töölö district is an icon of modern architecture that was quarried out of the natural bedrock. In fact, in terms of the number of visitors it attracts, the “rock church” is the most popular architectural attraction in Finland.
Suomenlinna is one of the world’s biggest sea fortresses. Constructed on a chain of islands off the coast of Helsinki in the 1700s, the fortress is one of the most popular attractions in Finland. The UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a wide range of services, including restaurants, museums and events, providing an unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages.
Another landmark in Helsinki is the Olympic Stadium, an iconic example of Functionalist architecture that was completed in 1938 and eventually hosted the games in 1952. Today the stadium is used for major sporting events and concerts. The 72-metre-tall Stadium Tower affords superb views over the city.
Ateneum Art Museum is the National Gallery of Finland. The collections include Finnish art from the 1750s to the 1960s and western art from the latter half of the 1800s to the 1950s. The collections include masterpieces of Finnish Golden Age art, including the works by Albert Edelfelt, Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Helene Schjerfbeck. The Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma breaks the mould of traditional art museums with exhibitions that present the latest trends in the art world.
The National Museum of Finland presents Finnish life from prehistoric times to the present, including major archeological finds, as well as historical, numismatic and ethnological collections. The Natural History Museum in turn presents four permanent exhibitions: Finnish Nature, World Nature, History of Life, and Story of the Bones. Visitors can dive beneath the surface of the Baltic Sea and marvel at the collection of bones and magnificent dinosaurs.
The Open-Air Museum at Seurasaari reveals how Finns lived over the centuries. The authentic wooden buildings from different parts of Finland tell the stories of Finnish life from the 18th to the 20th century.
The popular monument to legendary Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) can be found in Sibelius Park. Resembling organ pipes, the unique sculpture was designed by Eila Hiltunen and unveiled in 1967.
The top attractions for families include Helsinki Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the world with over 200 species, and Linnanmäki Amusement Park, where the classic wooden rollercoaster is still the number one ride. Right next to Linnanmäki is Sea Life, which presents the underwater world from the tropical rain forests to the Baltic Sea, including jelly fish, starfish, rays and sharks.