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 ^^

 

Sibelius Monument

One of the must visit places in Helsinki

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Sibelius Monument or Passio Musicae is a stunning timeless composition that was opened on the 7th of December 1967. It was erected to commemorate the great achievements of the most loved Finnish composer- Jean Sibelius.

The monument was designed by a talented Finnish sculptress named Eila Hiltunen. Her project was the winning entry for the Sibelius monument competition organised by the Sibelius Society. Being an abstract artist, Hiltunen created the most original entry for the competition – a monument made of welded steel tubing standing on four legs. For the post war Finland, such a radical abstract design was a matter of a big divide and debates in the society. Finnish art experts of that time appreciated Hiltunen’s out-of-the-box thinking and bravery, whilst conservative critics felt the project was sacrilegious. At that time, some people found that this abstract work was executed in a too new technique, and was made of rather new materials. They also thought it was too much to comprehend.

 

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Today however, the Sibelius monument has become a symbol of Helsinki and perhaps even of the whole country.  It is one of the main tourist attractions in the city and something every person coming to Helsinki for the first time has on their to-do list.

The monument is conveniently located in the Töölö area which can be easily reached from the city centre. You can take bus number 24, or alternatively tram 4 or 10. These will take you to the place in about 20 minutes. Otherwise, you can take a relaxing 35 minute walk through some cosy and out-of-the way streets of Helsinki.

The monument is located in Sibelius park (Sibeliuksen puisto) which incidentally is a perfect place for enjoying beautiful Finnish nature and having some peaceful time like we do in Finland. If you get a bit cold or peckish, you can pop to the cosiest cafe in the area called Regatta. There you will find a great selection of coffees, locally made herbal teas, delicious pies and all sorts of traditional Finnish snacks. Regatta is also a great place to see real local Finns sitting on the reindeer rugs whilst enjoying barbecue sausages. Be ready to share a table with a friendly local as this place is popular!

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Whilst you are already in a famous Töölö district, nearby is a famous Rock Church– one of the  main tourist attractions in Helsinki!

Enjoy your exploring!

Helsinki Guru ^^