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Helsinki?

Introduction to Helsinki

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With a population of just under 620,000, the capital of Finland – Helsinki could certainly not be described as a mega-city like Moscow or London. Its beauty is in its modest size – and reflects the equally small country population of just under 5.6 million people. But for what Helsinki lacks in size, it more than makes up with its personality, its history, its culture, its beautiful nature and its diverse array of architecture.

Helsinki is in many ways perfectly located for the avid travelers.

To give you an idea.

  • NORTH – Lapland by train in 8.5-9 hours
  • EAST – Moscow by sleeping train in 14 hours
  • SOUTH – Tallinn by boat in 2.5 hours
  • WEST – Stockholm by an overnight boat
  • Or flights to many other major cities such as Tokio, Hong Kong, Rome, London, New York amongst many others.

You can find a great diversity of cultures, cuisines, architectural styles and personalities in Helsinki. For example – whilst wandering around the Senate Square and admiring the vast array of Russian “Empire Style” buildings, you can almost lose yourself and imagine you are once again a part of the Russian Imperial era, when this part of the city was created.

For the artistic souls, a pleasurable stroll around Katajanokka island will show you the second largest collection of Art Nouveau buildings in Europe (after Riga) as well as the great achievements of the Finnish National Romantic Style.

You can find superior buildings such as those designed by Alvar Aalto – Finlandia music hall, or the Stora Enso building. Perhaps for the Moomin fans amongst us, perhaps you want to take a stroll in “Tove Jansson park” – where Tove Jansson – the creator of the moomins, used to play as a child and spent her early years. Or for some nature try the beautiful Esplanadi park, or even a picturesque boat journey to Suomenlinna. All these things are only a very small part of what Helsinki has to offer.

In the series of blog posts we will tell you everything you should know about Helsinki and places around it so that you get the most out of your time here!

Stay with us!
Helsinki Guru ^^

FREE Museum Days

Helsinki is a beautiful city that has a lot to offer. Here you will find a great variety of architectural styles, cosy cafes, traditional saunas and, of course – museums! Helsinki is a city that actively promotes the cultural development of its citizens and FREE museum days are quite common. In this article you will find out which museums you can visit for free and when!

National Museum of Finland

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The National museum of Finland is perhaps one of the most loved museums in Helsinki. The building for the museum was designed by a famous Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen in 1916. It is a great example of the Finnish National Romantic Style which was very popular at the time. The museum today takes the visitors though the history of Finland – from the Stone Age through to the modern day. The FREE entrance to the museum is every single Friday of the month, but only from 16:00-18:00. So make the most of your visit! The address is Mannerheimintie 34.

Incidentally, the first Friday of the month is the time when most of the city museums are open for FREE. If you are coming to Helsinki around that time then don’t miss that chance!

Kiasma museum

kiasma_1.jpgKiasma is a contemporary art museum, in an equally contemporary building. The building was designed by an American Architect, called Steven Holl, and is in a very modern and breath taking style. It is located in the very heart of Helsinki, only a 10 minute walk from the old city centre. The museum offers a great variety of exhibitions which promote the status of the modern art in Finland. The entrance to Kiasma is free on the first 1st Friday of the month from 16:00-20:00 o’clock. You can find the museum at: Mannerheiminaukio 2.

Museum of Finnish Architecture

 

The name of the museum speaks for itself. It is a brilliant place for those who love architecture. The museum is entirely devoted to the architecture in Finland and even has a specialised library. The museum offers permanent and temporary exhibitions which change every other month. You can visit the museum free of charge during the 1st Friday of the month from 11-16 o’clock .The address is Kasarmikatu 24.

Natural History Museum

504029e1297a49f48a6eda29bbc22892.jpgThe Natural History Museum is located in an attractive building that features a statue of two giraffes on its balcony.  The museum is great for kids and those interested in nature. Zoological, botanical and geological collections are the main collections there. On the 1st Friday of the month you can enter the museum for free from 14-17. The address is Pohjoinen Rautatiekatu 13.

Sinebrychoff Art Museum

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The Sinebrychoff Art Museum is a beautiful place located in a historic building which used to belong to the one of the richest families in Helsinki. The building used to host the Sinebrychoff brewery offices on the first floor and the living quarters of the family on the second floor.  Today, the museum has the most valuable pieces of the old European masters to be found in Finland. You can visit this museum Free of charge during the 1st Wednesday of the month between 17:00-20:00 o’clock. The address is Bulevardi 40.
Looking for more free things to do? Check out this blog post.

Enjoy your time in Helsinki!

Helsinki Guru ^^

What is the weather like in Helsinki?

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What is the weather like in Helsinki?

It is a question commonly asked by travellers to Helsinki. As we are located at the very North of Europe, many tend to think that Finland is that cold place constantly covered with snow and ice. In this blog post I will try to explain what you can realistically expect when travelling to Helsinki.

It is generally considered that the Helsinki climate is a combination of maritime and continental climate types. Our proximity to the Arctic as well as to the gulf Stream creates the conditions that make four seasons in Helsinki very distinctive.

So let’s start with the winter.  If you ask, ‘When does the winter start?’, it is difficult to give a definite answer. It often depends on the year, but generally winter comes to Helsinki as early as the beginning of November or as late as December. The temperatures then usually fluctuate between 0 °C and -25 °C.  January is considered to be the coldest month – with an average low temperature of -9 and an average high of -1 °C. The end of January is considered to be the coldest time of the year, with the temperature often dropping below -20 °C. So be prepared!  On December the 21st you can also experience the shortest day of the year – only 5 hours 49 minutes of day light.

On the contrary the summer months are generally very warm and sunny. July is the hottest month here with the temperatures reaching above +20 °C. However, even when coming to Helsinki in the summer, don’t forget to take some warmer clothing with you. Some years the temperatures in July can be as low as +8 °C or +10 °C.  July is also a great time to come because of the widely celebrated in Finland Juhannus or Summer solstice. It is a tradition of celebrating Midsummer dating back to the pagan times in Finland. You can also experience pretty much endless day light in Helsinki in July, otherwise known as the white night.

Regardless of the weather, there are always plenty of things to do in Helsinki!

Enjoy your stay!

Helsinki Guru ^^

Helsinki Railway Station or Rautatientori

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When you first arrive at Helsinki railway station, you will notice a building which has a very unique style. Helsinki Central Railway Station – (or Rautatientori to the Finns) is indeed one of the most iconic examples of an Art Nouveau style of architecture in Helsinki, called National Romantic style. Finished in 1919, it fully reflected the spirit of its time.

Eliel Saarinen was the architect who won the competition for the railway’s design. Already famous for his work in the Romantic style, Saarinen submitted a promising design for the main railway station in Helsinki. His first design was very much romantic, and was similar in its style to the National Museum of Finland (one of his earlier creations). However, due to the changes in the mood and spirit of the Helsinki citizens, Eliel Saarinen was asked to produce a design more functional and modern in itself. That was also the turning point in Saarinen’s career; he decided to switch from Romanticism to the styles that were reflective of the modern times. This is how the design for Helsinki Railway Station was born.

When looking at the exterior of the Helsinki Railway Station, you can notice some of the main features that made it one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world (BBC included it in the Top 10 in 2014). The station is laid out of Finnish granite – a natural resource in abundance in Finland. The roof is made of copper. Its current greenie colour is the result of the material being oxidised. The gorgeous clock tower is an element that was common for the Jugendstill style. Two pairs of statues which are holding spherical lamps in their hands are greeting everyone who enters the station.

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The station today has 19 platforms and is used to maintain good connections throughout the Helsinki region, the whole of Finland and also with Russia.

Next to the Central Helsinki Railway station you can find a stunning building called the Ateneum museum. Worth paying a visit if you happen to be nearby.

Enjoy your travelling!

Helsinki Guru ^^

 

 

 

Temppeliaukio – or “The Rock Church”

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Temppeliaukio (otherwise known to non-locals as the rock church) is conveniently located in the very heart of Helsinki, in a district called Töölö. The rock church attracts roughly half a million people each year, and is incredibly famous for its unique design. It is in fact often one of the first things that people want to see when they come to Helsinki!

The Rock church was a ground breaking project designed by two brothers – Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, locally known as the Suomalainen brothers. In 1906, the area of southern Töölö underwent the initial stages of planning, and a location for what was to be a church for the area, was reserved. However, the church was not built until the year 1969 – over 60 years later. It took a total of three competitions to create an architectural design that satisfied the parish council. But even after the design of the church was accepted, the project still faced a lot of criticism – caused by a difficult situation in the world, particularly the African unrest. Some locals tended to promote the opinion that the Töölö district already had enough churches, and the money required for its construction could be better used somewhere else.

The unrest in Africa related mainly to an unrecognized republic called Biafra. It caused many Finnish students to turn against the Rock church project. They claimed that the money should be spent on the needs of the suffering people in Biafra. On a summer night in 1968, a group of students decided to openly express their opinion, and wrote the word ‘Biafra’ on the exterior walls of the church, in graffiti. Some people believe that it was the first graffiti that was recorded in Finland.

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Nevertheless, all the uprising challenges of the Rock Church were overcome, and the project was eventually completed in 1969. To satisfy partially those who were against the building of the church, the project was built on a smaller scale than was originally designed, and all of the budget that was originally planned was not used.

The main unique feature of the church is that it is excavated directly into a rock, and the experience of entering the church is literally that of going into a cave.  These untouched rock surfaces inside are multi-purpose; they not only give a natural look and feel to the church in a very unusual way, but they also create incredible sound acoustics. For this exact reason, the Rock church today often serves as a music venue, and if you’re lucky, you can even hear an organ recital on certain days!

The address for the Rock Church is Lutherinkatu 3. By taking tram number 2 from the central railway station, you can arrive at the rock church in only 15 minutes. Alternatively you can walk there in around 20 minutes.

Whilst you are already in the beautiful Töölö district, nearby is the famous Sibelius monument – another place high on the list of places to see in Helsinki – a monument honoring a man who is closely in the hearts of the Finnish people. If you would like to try coffee and cake in one of the most traditional cafes in Helsinki (with arguably one of the best views!) you can also visit the famous cafe Regatta.

Enjoy your sightseeing of the Töölö district!

Helsinki Guru ^^

 

Helsinki Cathedral

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Helsinki Cathedral is perhaps one of the most iconic buildings in Helsinki center. Built in a prominent place in the very heart of Helsinki, it reminds us of the wealth and glory of the Russian empire. Surrounding Helsinki Cathedral is the Senate square – an area entirely different to anywhere else in Helsinki – it was built by the Russians from the 1800’s, and modeled to look like St Petersburg in Russia. If you have ever been there (or if you go) you will see how similar the two are!

Originally, Helsinki Cathedral was built in 1852 as a tribute to the Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. It also used to have a different name. At the time It was called the Saint Nicolas Church.

For a long time, Finland has been a Lutheran country. Being heavily influenced by the Swedish kingdom, the Finnish people were turned from paganism (believing in several gods) into Christianity, and then later on into Lutheranism. Lutheranism has its origins from Germany, and it was introduced to the Finns by Sweden – when Finland was under the Swedish rule. Nowadays, Lutheranism is the predominant religion that the majority of Finnish people still consider themselves as being.

Helsinki Cathedral is also a great example of the freedom that was granted to the Finns by the Russians,particularly during the first half of the 19th century. Helsinki cathedral was built as a Lutheran church from the very beginning. The Russian Tsar at the time wanted to show that he will ensure that various freedoms of the Finnish people were respected – for the first time he allowed the Finnish language to become the official language of Finland (under the Swedish rule, only the Swedish language was the language of governance). He also allowed the introduction of the first official Finnish currency – the Finnish Markka. The cathedral was a part of another freedom – religious freedom; and this was a huge statement from Russia – that they wanted to give the Finns freedom and autonomy. In fact, the Finns had never been forced to turn to a Russian Orthodox religion when they were a part of the Russian empire, and all these freedoms (for a time at least), caused many Finns to respect the Russian Empire.

The cathedral itself was a grand  project of two famous architects – the first was Carl Ludwig Engel and the second was Ernst Lornmann. The original design of the cathedral was made by Engel. His love for neoclassical style found inspiration for Helsinki, in Saint Isaac’s Cathedral – located in Saint Petersburg.

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The cathedral is a unique piece of architecture and it has some very unusual features. The layout of the church is designed like a Greek cross – it has 4 areas inside that can all be used. The second unusual feature is that Helsinki cathedral does not have any bells inside. The dome on the Helsinki cathedral was not designed to be strong enough to bear the weights of the bell. As a result, the bells had to be relocated into the building adjacent to the cathedral. In-fact, to this day, this building is the bell tower.  You can find the bell tower in a white building to the left of the Helsinki cathedral (when you face it from the senate square). Helsinki cathedral also has 12 zinc statues on top of its roof. These 12 statues are larger than life, and there are representing the 12 apostles.

In addition to that, the cathedral has a very unusual crypt that has never served its purpose. In old days, the crypt used to be a cellar where wood storage was located. Nowadays, you can have a buffet lunch there or enjoy an organ concert. The cafe Krypta  is open only during the summer months: from June until August, and is definitely worth a look.  

Today Helsinki Cathedral is the most popular tourist attraction with more than 350 000 visits each year.

If you are an architecture lover, check out this place – the Rock Church 

Enjoy the Neoclassical beauty of the Helsinki Cathedral!

Helsinki Guru ^^

Ateneum

Ateneum National Art Gallery

 

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From the outside, Ateneum art museum is perhaps one of the most prominent buildings in Helsinki. Due to its close proximity to the Central Railway station Central Railway station in Helsinki, Ateneum attracts the attention of every visitor coming into the city centre, as the beautiful exterior of the building in which the museum is contained is one of the first things a visitor will see. Constructed in 1887 in a style much grander than any other building surrounding it, Ateneum was known as a ‘Palace of a million marks’ – when you see it, you’ll understand why.

Indeed, Ateneum was a great project for a small nation like Finland. When you look above the entrance to the building, you can observe a text in large letters – which reads ‘Concordia res parvae crescunt’. For those of you who don’t speak Latin, the translation is ‘Through unity small things do grow’ – this was the original motto of Ateneum. It is a direct reference to Art and crafts being contained under the same roof – the Helsinki Drawing School was located there, and also the School of Applied Art, and that was the original aim of the building.  In fact, Ateneum used to have multiple functions during its early years. In both the interior and exterior, most of this old heritage still survives.

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Today however, the museum has a large collection of Finnish art from some masters, and also some lesser known artists. There you can also enjoy the works of Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne and some other world famous artists.  The museum regularly hosts various temporary exhibitions. The building has served its current purpose of a National gallery from 1990s.

You can find the museum at the address Kaivokatu 2, which is just a 2 minute walk from the central railway station and Rautatientori metro station. The museum is open every day, except Mondays. The entrance fee is 15 euros per adult. For more information you can visit http://www.ateneum.fi/.

Enjoy the museum!

Helsinki Guru ^^

 

FREE in Helsinki

Are you coming to visit Helsinki and afraid that everything is expensive here? No need to worry. In this blog post you will find out all the things you can do for FREE or almost free in Helsinki.

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  • My personal favorite in Helsinki is Suomenlinna.

Suomenlinna is a beautiful sea fortress that was founded by the Swedish monarchy in the 18th century. The purpose of the fortress was to protect the city of Helsinki from sea invasions. As Saint Petersburg was founded in 1703, Russia posed a great risk to the Swedish kingdom. As Finland was a part of Sweden at the time, it used to suffer the most from the Russo-Swedish wars. Nowadays, Suomenlinna is a peaceful, picturesque place full of charm. It is also a real district of Helsinki with the population of just under 1000 people. In order to get there you need to take a boat from the market square. The boat is a part of the public transportation in Helsinki region, which means you can use a daily pas to go there. If you need to buy a ticket, you can buy a Suomenlinna ticket for 5 euros. The ticket is valid for 12 hours which gives you plenty of time to explore the islands.There are no entrance fees to get to the island. All you need to do is to have a public transport ticket!

  • National Library of Finland

National Library of Finland is a part of the University of Helsinki. It is also known as Helsinki University Library. The neoclassical yellow building is located in front of the main entrance to the Helsinki Cathedral. Its exact address is Unioninkatu 36. The interior design of the place is simply stunning! It is definitely something that is worth seeing while in Helsinki. The library has a large collection of books in various languages and and impressive 115 kilometres of shelf materials.  The library is open Monday to Friday 9am-20pm, Saturday 9am-4pm. The best thing is, it is completely FREE!

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Three Cathedrals of Helsinki

One of the most iconic buildings in Helsinki is indeed the Helsinki Cathedral. Built in the year 1852, the cathedral still continues to inspire people by its beauty. Built in a simple neoclassical style, it merely stuns people by its simplicity. The cathedral also has a very unusual crypt that has never served its purpose. In old days, the crypt used to be a cellar where wood storage was located. Nowadays, you can have a buffet lunch there or enjoy an organ concert. Crypt is open only during the summer months: from June until August. The entrance to the cathedral as well as to the crypt is completely FREE of charge. The exact address is Unioninkatu 29.

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  • Uspenski Cathedral or Russian Church

Uspenski Cathedral was built by a real Russian architect in 1868. It was during the times when Finland was called a Grand Duchy of Finland and when it used to be a part of the Russian empire. The Cathedral is the great cultural heritage and one of the main attractions in the city. The cathedral is famous for its miraculous icon of  the Theotokos of Kozeltshan. The icon was stolen from the cathedral  in 2011. However, one of the thieves felt really guilty for his did and he helped the police to rescue it. Today the miraculous icon is once again inside the cathedral. You will see it a big wooden frame surrounded by golden rings and necklaces. These were the donations by the thankful worshipers,   The address of the church is Kanavakatu 1.

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The famous Rock Church is one of a kind place in Helsinki. It is located a bit outside of the city center. However, the short tram journey or a 15 minute walk will take you there from the central railway station. The church is famous for its unusual design. Being literally carved into the rock, it attracts thousands of visitors each year who come to admire its extraordinary design. Rock church is also a popular place for weddings as well as various concerts. Hence, sometimes it may not be open for visitors. There is a small 3-euro entrance fee. It is completely worth it though if you are a true beauty lover.

The exact address is Lutherinkatu 3.

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There are also plenty of free museum in Helsinki that you might enjoy visiting. Read my next post to find out!

Enjoy your time in Helsinki!

Helsinki Guru ^^