Helsinki is Finland's capital city. It is located at the crossroads between eastern and western Europe, surrounded by water on three sides. It's a compact city, home to about 550,000 citizens. However, despite its size, Helsinki boasts a bevy of family-friendly attractions for visitors of all ages.
Popular Helsinki Attractions
Founded in 1550, Helsinki has a long and varied history. Once a part of Sweden, the city had ties to imperial Russia during the late 19th and early 20th century. Consequently, much of the old city reflects the neoclassical architecture popular in St. Petersburg at that time. Finland was a part of the Soviet block countries following World War II, but it has really come into its own since the end of communism.
if you are planning a trip to Helsinki, consider visiting the following historic sites:
An excellent example of Finnish modern architecture, this arts complex was completed in 1993 and includes an outdoor amphitheater and a gallery of changing art exhibits. Weekend free chamber music concerts are held here, as well as the city's opera and ballet performances.
Kiasma Museum (Museum of Modern Art)
Helsinki's newest museum, the Kiasma, features post-1960 Finnish modern art with a smattering of international art from the same period. This is a bright and airy museum, with light streaming in from the numerous windows and skylights. The Kiasma is an interactive museum, with Internet kiosks and a multi-media center.
An unofficial symbol of the city, the 19th century, neo-classical Lutheran Cathedral sits at the city's center, in Senate Square. It has been recently cleaned and refurbished and is open daily to visitors without an admission fee. Statues of the twelve apostles look down from the roof.
Temple Square Church
This modern church is carved out of the rock below it, with only the roof visible from outside the building. Constructed in 1969, this peaceful Lutheran church is one of Helsinki's most popular attractions. Free concerts are regularly held here, and the acoustics are awe-inspiring.
Home of Composer, Jean Sibelius
Composer, Jean Sibelius is one of Finland's most revered sons. The home, where the 20th century composer and his wife, Aino, lived for more than 50 years is located about 24 miles outside of Helsinki. Your can tour the house, which is filled with Sibelius' books, music, and other family heirlooms, as well as the lovely gardens and Sibelius' gravesite.
Helsinki is a great place to depart for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Arctic Circle. An hour flight from Helsinki takes intrepid visitors across the Arctic Circle to the town of Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland. Here, visitors can visit a reindeer farm, delight in traditional Lapp folk dancing, or even visit with Santa at his home at the North Pole.
Where to Stay
Finalnd's capital is a modern city where Eastern and Western cultures meet. The city is rich in history and contemporary trends. Take time to plan out your stay, including the type of accommodations you want. Some popular options are:
Hotel GLO Helsinki Kluuvi
Centrally located, Hotel GLO Helsinki Kluuvi offers a variety of features for guests, including standard and deluxe rooms, as well as suites. The hotel accepts online reservations.
The charming hotel overlooks Helsinki's harbor. The property is just minutes from Esplanadi shopping sector and provides guests with magnificent views of Presidential Palace, the Market Place and Upenski Cathedral. Reservations are available online.
Holiday Inn Helsinki City Centre
Located across from Helsinki's Central Station, visitors have easy access to downtown and most major sites. The rooms are comfortably familiar for U.S. visitors and the hotel offers a restaurant with an open terrace and free meals for children under 13. Holiday Inn offers discounts to guests booking online.
Where to Eat
Helsinki is a very cosmopolitan city and is home to a wide variety of restaurants, ranging from small cafes to opulent fine dining restaurants. Finland is famous for its smorgasbord, a buffet-style meal which features sliced cold meats and cheeses, herring and eel, cold salads, and freshly baked pastries and breads. Because Finland is surrounded by water, fish and seafood are plentiful here and delicious. Russian cuisine is also popular, a remnant of the two countries' intertwined history. Food in Finland is fairly expensive, but department store cafes offer a good value for tourists. Vodka is a favorite beverage. The quality is high, and the prices are low. You can sample local eats at the following popular restaurants:
Bistro Helsinki 15
This modern bistro offers guests the charm of a neighborhood restaurant plus an elegant menu. Open for lunch and dinner only. Check out their menu and options online.
Discover Scandinavian cuisine at the neighborhood restaurant. Dishes include cold smoked salmon, marinated herrings and roasted reindeer. Review their menu before you make your dinner plans.
Savor traditional Russian cuisine at this festive and romantic restaurant. Two dining rooms and a selection of private rooms make it an ideal getaway. Explore your menu options before booking your reservations.
Shopping in Helsinki
Sleek, modern Scandinavian design is famous throughout the world, and Helsinki offers some excellent shopping opportunities. Look for handcrafted ceramics, glass art, hand-loomed rugs, fashion and jewelry. The city's main shopping street is Aleksanterinkatu, which runs off of Senate Square and is packed with department stores. Market Square is home to a morning market, which features produce from all over Finland, as well as hand-crafted items. In December, a Christmas market is added.
On Top of the World
The second-most northern city in the world, Helsinki is a magical destination for travelers. The city's high-tech achievements, old world charm and magnificent natural surroundings make Helsinki a must-visit vacation destination.