Helsinki is the capital and largest city of Finland. Finland, in Finnish ‘Suomi’, is the eight largest country in Europe but with a population of 5.52 million also the most sparsely populated country in the European Union.
Helsinki was founded in 1550 by King Gustav I Vasa of Sweden and was intended to compete with the city of Reval (now Tallinn, Estonia). When Russia invaded Finland in 1808, Helsinki was burned to the ground. In 1809 Finland was ceded to Russia and in 1812 the Russian tsar Alexander I moved the capital of the grand duchy of Finland from Turku (Åbo) to Helsinki. Meanwhile, the center of Helsinki had been completely reconstructed under the influence of the German-born architect Carl Ludwig Engel.
Helsinki is situated on the northern shore of the Gulf of Finland. It comprises 300 islands interconnected with many bridges.
It has a population of 588,000. Even though the population increases by 5-8 thousand people every year, it is still one of the smallest European capitals. The majority of the population is concentrated in the Southern region.
Helsinki is a vibrant seaside city of beautiful islands and great green parks. It is the center of Finnish business, education, culture and science. The city is home to eight universities and six science and technology parks. 70% of foreign enterprises operating in Finland have their headquarters in here. It’s one of the best cities for living in the world.
Helsinki’s economic life and development is based on its excellent harbors and on good railway and road connections to the extensive interior of the nation. Helsinki’s main industries include food, metal and chemical processing, printing, textiles, clothing, and manufacture of electrical equipment. The wares of the Arabia porcelain factory, one of the largest of its kind in Europe, are internationally known.
Some interesting facts:
– Tap water comes straight from mountain springs via Päijännetunneli, the longest water tunnel in the world. The quality of water in Helsinki is so high that it is exported to other countries.
– In winter, there is no snow on the sidewalks and boulevards of central Helsinki. The city government heats the granite slabs from underground, so the snow and ice immediately melt.
-In 2012 a special dog pool has been opened. It’s suited for both beginners and professional swimmers. Swimming lessons for puppies are especially popular.
-Helsinki Cathedral, the white Jewel of Helsinki imposes its beauty over the Senate Square of Helsinki, right in the middle of the city. The cathedral originally was built as a tribute to the Tzar Nicholas I of Russia, because for many years Finland was part of Russia and was known as the Great Duchy of Finland. The iconic building was designed by Carl Ludvig Engel, who based its design on the St. Isaac Cathedral of Saint Petersburg. Since it was a tribute to the Tsar, the Helsinki Cathedral was inaugurated with the name of Saint Nicholas Cathedral. This changed after Finland became independent and now it is known simply as Helsingin tuomiokirkko.
-Temppeliaukio Church, a Lutheran church in the Töölö neighborhood of Helsinki. The church was designed by architects and brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and opened in 1969.
-Uspenski Cathedral, the largest orthodox church in Western Europe.
-National Museum of Finland.
-Helsinki Design Museum.
-Seurasaari Island (open air museum).
-Suomenlinna, located on a series of small islands just 20 minutes away from Helsinki’s south harbor by ferry. It is a fine example of a fortified military structure.
-Park of Esplanadi, the two streets in Helsinki officially named Pohjoisesplanadi and Eteläesplanadi.
-Old Market Hall has served its customers since 1889. Merchants sell all sorts of cheese, fish, shellfish, vegetable, fruit and cakes to spices, coffee and tea.
-Linnanmäki. an amusement park.
-Vallila District in south west Helsinki was traditionally a working class district, and still is in many places. But the cheaper rents and attractive Nordic classic buildings brought in more young people, which unfortunately for the local residents did cause some gentrification.