Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki is the capital of the Republic of Finland. The emphasis is on the first syllable. The city lies on the southern coast of the country on the Gulf of Finland. Helsinki is also the largest city and in every way the center of the country.

Helsinki is (after the town was moved in 1639) built on a rocky promontory in the Gulf of Finland. The center of town is the market square (kauppatori) by the water. Special is that most large ferries dock here nearby.

Behind the market square is the Senate Square. This part of the city in 1816 is, after a major fire, rebuilt in classical style by the architect Carl Ludwig Engel. It is now considered as the most important landmark of the city. On the square is the white cathedral, the trademark of Helsinki which can be seen from far already.

East of the market, on the Katajanokka peninsula is the red-brick Russian Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral. In summer on the waterfront of the peninsula lies the icebreaker fleet docked in Helsinki.

West of the market starts the business, shopping and entertainment center of the city. The Alexander Street (Aleksanterinkatu) here is the main shopping street that ends at the Stockmann department store. Once a regular shopping street, now the luxury shopping street with a park and music pavilion in the middle.

The center is bounded by the Helsinki Central Station, designed in neo-romantic style by the architect Eliel Saarinen. On the north side from here to the banks of the estuary Töölönlahti you can see some interesting buildings: the first modern art museum Kiasma, and also the striking parliament building, from red granite built in neoclassical style. Further to the north the National Museum and the white Finlandia Hall, in 1971 designed by Alvar Aalto.

Immediately surrounding the center are the residential areas and Kruununhaka Katajanokka, built in Art Nouveau and the southern Ullanlinna, Eira and Punavuori. These areas are quite hilly. Just west of downtown is the Temppeliaukio Church, a church that is carved into a rock. West of the center is the modern residential and office area Ruoholahti.

North of the headland start the suburbs and cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa which are the largest. Especially in Espoo early modern housing can be found, such as the garden city of Tapiola.  In general, the houses are apartment blocks and (to a lesser extent) single-family houses that are surrounded by pine and birch forests in a wreath and stretch to the north and east of the center.


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