Helsinki might not be as well-known as its neighbouring cities Stockholm and Saint Petersburg, but it can easily compete with the two. The capital city of Finland may not be the largest or the oldest of the Nordic cities but it still offers a lot to experience.
The city of Helsinki has a population of just over 600,000 people, but it is the cultural and political centre of the country. There are museums and historical sights to be seen and the city offers opera and theatre too, but in most cases I’d recommend skipping the latter if you’re not fluent in Finnish. The National Museum of Finland takes you through the history of the country, while Kiasma display modern art and the Ateneum that has an extensive collection of Finnish art.
The architecture varies from Carl Ludvig Engel’s neoclassical buildings to Alvar Aalto’s modern functionalism and the cityscape is enchanting. The churches, such as the Orthodox Uspenski church, Helsinki cathedral and the underground church of Temppelinaukio are out of this world. Finally, located just off of Helsinki seafront is the historical island of Suomenlinna, which is a World Heritage Site that served as a fort since the 18th century and has been mostly kept in its former glory.
Even though the city is old, its lifestyle is modern. The city centre is fairly small and pretty much everything is within walking distance. If not, the tram or the metro will take you there in no time. The centre has everything – museums, shops, parks and restaurants but if you’d like to take a look at the old Punavuori or Kallio it is very easy to get there. The ticket price for public transport within Helsinki varies from €2.60 to €3.20 depending on where you get the ticket (SMS ticket is the cheapest) and the tram ticket is €2.50.
The nightlife is comprehensive for a small city. If you fancy a cheap pint, head to Vaasankatu in Kallio and if you’re up for a wild night out, stay in the centre, where most of the nightclubs, from casual places to fancy bars for C-list celebrities, are located.
Whether you’d like to see the tourist attractions or get to know the real Helsinki, there’s something for everyone. Check out Kallio and Hakaniemi to see the hip young part of the city or hop on a tram to see the luxurious area of Eira and the beautiful park of Kaivopuisto. If you’re daring enough, go try the rollercoasters and other rides at Linnanmäki amusement park, which is located right outside of the city center in Alppila.
Image credit: Sonja Sjogren
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