Early Helsinki history

The way Helsinki started

The city of Helsinki was founded in 1550 by the Swedish king Gustav Vasa during the times when Finland was a part of the Swedish kingdom. Helsinki was meant to outperform Tallinn (Known as Reval at the time) as a trading port and to become a trading center for the whole of southern Finland.


So you may ask, where is the place that Helsinki was founded? It would be logical to believe that the area around the main Market Square (Kauppatori) in Helsinki would be the starting point.

In fact, that is not the right answer. There is an area called Vanhakaupinki in the far eastern area of Helsinki. This name directly translates into English as “the old city”. The area is located at the mouth of the Vantaa River next to the modern Arabia district. To this day, there are no complete buildings left – only foundations and memorial plaques exist. In this picture you can see some fascinating remains of the original church, which were recovered during the 1980’s by archaeologists who were excavating. They also found over 150 graves within the church. It is dating back to the 16th century.



In the year 1640 it was decided that the sea shores of the area were too difficult for the boats to access. The same year, Queen Christina of Sweden decided that the city of Helsinki should be moved to the modern Kruununhaka area, near the city center. So, the city center was moved.

In 1809, Finland became a part of the Russian Empire and it was the time when Helsinki was turned into the capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland. The idea of turning Helsinki into the capital was especially promoted by the Russian Tsar, who found it to be a place remote enough from Sweden as well as close enough to Saint Petersburg (the capital of the Russian Empire at the time). It was also a favorable location of the city due to its proximity to the Suomenlinna fortress (known as Sveaborg under the Swedish rule). At that time, Suomenlinna was considered to be equal to Gibraltar in terms of its defence capabilities, and it made Helsinki especially attractive for Alexander I. As a result, in 1812 Helsinki was officially named to be the capital of the Grand Duchy. The city has been rapidly growing ever since.

Enjoy your time in Helsinki!
Helsinki Guru ^^