Vantaa – Vanda
|— City —|
Location of Vantaa in Finland
|- City manager||Juhani Paajanen|
|- Total||240.36 km2 (92.8 sq mi)|
|- Land||238.38 km2 (92 sq mi)|
|- Water||2.02 km2 (0.8 sq mi)|
|Area rank||298th largest in Finland|
|- Density||829.19/km2 (2,147.6/sq mi)|
|Population rank||4th largest in Finland|
|Population by native language |
|- Finnish||88.6% (official)|
|- Swedish||3% (official)|
|Population by age |
|- 0 to 14||18.5%|
|- 15 to 64||70.5%|
|- 65 or older||11.1%|
|Time zone||EET (UTC+2)|
|- Summer (DST)||EEST (UTC+3)|
|Municipal tax rate||19%|
Vantaa, with its population of 197,663 (31 December 2009), is the fourth most populated city of Finland. The biggest airport in Finland, the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, is located there. It also hosts a science centre, Heureka.
In addition there is the city museum next to the railway station in Tikkurila. The museum is housed in the oldest station building in Finland, designed by Carl Albert Edelfelt and completed in 1861. There are exhibitions with various themes on local history.
The city is bilingual, with a majority (88.6 %) being Finnish and minority (3%) Finland Swedish speakers. Vantaa's residents that speak a native language other than Finnish or Finland Swedish stand at 8.4% of the population.
Vantaa encompasses 240.36 square kilometres (92.80 sq mi), of which 2.02 km2 (0.78 sq mi) is water. Population density is 829.19 /km2 (2,147.6 /sq mi). It borders Helsinki, the Finnish capital, which is to the south and southwest. Other neighbouring municipalities are Espoo to the west, Nurmijärvi, Kerava and Tuusula to the north and Sipoo to the east.
The name Vantaa was taken into use in 1972 when the municipality gained market town rights. The first record of the area is as Helsinge in 1351 when king Magnus II of Sweden granted salmon fishing rights on the river Vantaa to the Estonian Padise monastery. The municipality was formerly known as Helsingin maalaiskunta "Rural municipality of Helsinki". The rapids of river Vantaa were known as Helsingfors, from which the current Swedish name of Helsinki derives. In 1972, the municipality was renamed Vantaa/Vanda and promoted to a market town (i.e. Vantaan kauppala/Vanda köping), and in 1974, finally renamed Vantaan kaupunki/Vanda stad "City of Vantaa".
On October 11, 2002, the city was shocked by the explosion of a bomb in the local Myyrmanni shopping centre, killing 7, including the bomber, a 19-year-old chemistry student from the Espoo-Vantaa Institute of Technology (see Myyrmanni bombing).
|National Coalition Party||28.1%||20||22 596|
|Social Democratic Party of Finland||25.6%||18||20 599|
|Green League||13.9%||9||11 150|
|True Finns||9.8%||7||7 848|
|Left Alliance||7.7%||5||6 229|
|Center Party||5.6%||4||4 516|
|Christian Democrats||3.7%||2||2 951|
|Swedish People's Party||3,5%||2||2 838|
|Pro Vantaa||1,4%||0||1 111|
Vantaa is twinned with:
Finnair's head office is located in Tietotie 11 on the grounds of Helsinki-Vantaa Airport in Vantaa. The company moved the head office there from central Helsinki in 1994. The company held a "house-warming" ceremony on 11 January 1994. The head office of Finavia, the company that manages Finland's airports, is located on the grounds of the airport. Other airlines with head offices on the grounds of the airport include Air Finland and Blue1.
Helsinki – Helsingfors
|— City —|
|Helsinki Cathedral, Suomenlinna, Senate Square, Merihaka, City Hall, Parliament House, surroundings of the Central railway station, Aurinkolahti beach|
|Nickname(s): Stadi (for Helsinkians)
|- Mayor||Jussi Pajunen|
|- City||715.55 km2 (276.3 sq mi)|
|- Land||213.66 km2 (82.5 sq mi)|
|- Water||501.89 km2 (193.8 sq mi)|
|- Urban||770.14 km2 (297.4 sq mi)|
|- Metro||2,970.17 km2 (1,146.8 sq mi)|
|Area rank||[[List of Finnish municipalities by area|167Template:Safesubst:Template:Safesubst:Template:Safesubst: largest]] in Finland|
|- Rank||Largest in Finland|
|- Density||2,735.28/km2 (7,084.3/sq mi)|
|- Urban density||1,345.59/km2 (3,485.1/sq mi)|
|- Metro density||442.26/km2 (1,145.4/sq mi)|
|Population by native language|
|- Finnish||84.3% (official)|
|- Swedish||6.1% (official)|
|Population by age|
|- 0 to 14||13.7%|
|- 15 to 64||72%|
|- 65 or older||14.3%|
|Time zone||EET (UTC+2)|
|- Summer (DST)||EEST (UTC+3)|
|Municipal tax rate||17.5%|
Helsinki ( listen (help·info); Swedish: Helsingfors, listen (help·info)) is the capital and largest city in Finland. It is in the southern part of Finland, in the region of Uusimaa/Nyland, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, by the Baltic Sea. The population of the city of Helsinki is 584,420 (31 March 2010), making it the most populous municipality in Finland by a wide margin. Helsinki is located some 400 kilometres (250 mi) east of Stockholm, Sweden, 300 kilometres (190 mi) west of St. Petersburg, Russia and 80 kilometres (50 mi) north of Tallinn, Estonia. Helsinki has close connections with these three cities.
The municipality of Helsinki forms the heart of the Helsinki metropolitan area and Greater Helsinki area. Over one million people live in the Helsinki metropolitan area, which includes the city of Helsinki and three other cities. Two of these cities, Espoo and Vantaa, immediately border Helsinki to the west and north. Kauniainen, the third city, is an enclave within the city of Espoo. The Helsinki metropolitan area is the northernmost urban area on Earth with a population of over 1 million people, and the city is the northernmost capital of a EU member state. Altogether 1.3 million people live in the Greater Helsinki area, which includes the aforementioned cities and 9 suburban satellite towns. Approximately 1 in 4 Finns live in the Greater Helsinki area.
Helsinki is Finland's major political, educational, financial, cultural and research center. Helsinki is also an important regional city on the Baltic Sea and northern Europe. Approximately 70% of foreign companies operating in Finland have settled in the Helsinki region.
The nearby city of Vantaa in the Helsinki metropolitan area is the location of Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, with frequent service to various destinations in Europe and Asia. Since early 2009, Helsinki has begun to contemplate a possible merger with Vantaa. On 30 March 2009, the city council of Vantaa agreed to review Helsinki's proposal of a possible merger. The city council emphasizes that the review is not about the possibility of ceasing the existence of the city of Vantaa.
In 2009, Helsinki was chosen to be the World Design Capital for 2012 by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design. Helsinki narrowly beat Eindhoven for the title.
Helsinki was established as a trading town by King Gustav I of Sweden in 1550 as the town of Helsingfors, which he intended to be a rival to the Hanseatic city of Reval (today: Tallinn). Little came of the plans as Helsinki remained a small coastal town for a long time, plagued by poverty, wars, and diseases. The plague of 1710 killed the greater part of the inhabitants of Helsinki. The construction of the naval fortress Sveaborg (In Finnish Viapori, today also Suomenlinna) in the 18th century helped improve Helsinki's status, but it was not until Russia defeated Sweden in the Finnish War and annexed Finland as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland in 1809 that the town began to develop into a major city.
Czar Alexander I of Russia moved the capital from Turku to Helsinki to reduce Swedish influence in Finland. The Royal Academy of Turku, back then the only university in the country, was relocated to Helsinki in 1827 and eventually became the modern University of Helsinki. The move consolidated the city's new role, and helped set it on the path of continuous growth. This transformation is highly apparent in the downtown core, which was rebuilt in neoclassical style to resemble St. Petersburg. As elsewhere, technological advancements such as railroads and industrialization were key factors behind the city's growth.
Despite the tumultuous first half of the 20th century, Helsinki continued to develop steadily. A landmark event was the XV Olympiad (1952 Olympic Games) held in Helsinki. Finland's rapid urbanization in the 1970s, occurring relatively late in a European context, tripled the population in the metropolitan area and led to the development of the Helsinki Metro subway system. The relatively sparse population density of Helsinki and its peculiar structure have often been attributed to this late growth spurt.
The Swedish name Helsingfors ([hɛlsiŋˈfɔrs] or [hɛlsiŋˈfɔʂ]) is the original official name of the city of Helsinki (in the very beginning, in the form Hellssingeforss). The Finnish language form of the established city's name probably originates from Helsinga and similar names used for the river that is currently known as the Vantaa River (Vantaanjoki/Vanda å) as documented already in the 14th century. Helsinki (pronounced with the stress on the first syllable: [ˈhelsiŋki]), is used to refer to the city in all languages except Swedish and Norwegian. Helsingfors comes from the name of the surrounding parish, Helsinge (source for Finnish Helsinki) and the rapids (in Swedish: fors), which flowed through the original village. The name Helsinge was possibly given by medieval Swedish settlers who came from Hälsingland in Sweden. Another possibility is that the name is derived from the Swedish word hals (neck), referring to the narrowest part of the river, i.e. the rapids.
Helsinki is spread across a number of bays and peninsulas and over a number of islands. The inner city area occupies a southern peninsula, which is rarely referred to by its actual name Vironniemi. Population density in certain parts of Helsinki's inner city area is very high, reaching 16,494 inhabitants per square kilometer (42,719/sq mi) in the district of Kallio, but as a whole Helsinki's population density of 3,050 inhabitants per square kilometer (7,899/sq mi) ranks it as quite sparsely populated in comparison to other European capital cities. Much of Helsinki outside the inner city area consists of postwar suburbs separated from each other by patches of forests. A narrow, ten kilometre (6.2 mi) long Helsinki Central Park that stretches from the inner city to the northern border of Helsinki is an important recreational area for residents.
Some notable islands in Helsinki include Seurasaari, Lauttasaari and Korkeasaari – which is also the country's biggest zoo – as well as the fortress island of Suomenlinna (Sveaborg) and the military island of Santahamina.
Helsinki has a humid continental climate. Owing to the mitigating influence of the Baltic sea and Gulf stream, temperatures in winter are much higher than the northern location might suggest, with the average in January and February around
|Climate data for Helsinki|
|Record high °C (°F)||8.5|
|Average high °C (°F)||−1.7|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||-4.3|
|Average low °C (°F)||−6.9|
|Record low °C (°F)||−34.3|
|Precipitation mm (inches)||47|
|Snowfall cm (inches)||20|
|Source: Climatological statistics for the normal period 1971–2000|
[[File:|left|195px|thumb|The view across summertime Kaisaniemenlahti.]]
[[File:|left|thumb|195px|Parliament of Finland on the right, and new supplemental offices on the left.]]
Carl Ludvig Engel (1778–1840) designed several neo-classical buildings in Helsinki. He was kept in Helsinki by a unique assignment, as he was elected to plan a new city centre all on his own. The city became low and wide at the time when most buildings had only two or three floors. The central point of Engel's city plan is the Senate Square, surrounded by the Government Palace, the main building of the University, and the enormous Cathedral, which was finished in 1852, twelve years after C. L. Engel's death. Engel's neo-classical plan of the city centre has later given Helsinki the epithet The White City Of The North.
Helsinki is, however, perhaps even more famous for its numerous Art Nouveau (Jugend in Finnish) buildings, designed in the early 1900s and strongly influenced by the Kalevala, which is a very popular theme in the national romantic art of that era. Helsinki's Art Nouveau style is also featured in large residential areas such as Katajanokka and Ullanlinna. The master of the Finnish Art Nouveau was Eliel Saarinen (1873–1950), whose architectural masterpiece was the Helsinki central railway station.
Helsinki also features several buildings by the world-renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto (1898–1976), attributed as one of the pioneers in functionalism. Many of Aalto's works are either loved or hated. Aalto's buildings, such as the headquarters of the paper company Enso and the concert and congress house Finlandia Hall, have sparked much debate amongst Helsinki's inhabitants.
In addition to Aalto's work, there is a body of other noteworthy functionalist architecture in Helsinki, such as the Olympic Stadium, the Tennis Palace, the Rowing Stadium, the Swimming Stadium, the Velodrome, the Glass Palace, the Exhibition Hall (now Töölö Sports Hall) and Helsinki-Malmi Airport. The sports venues were built to serve the 1940 Helsinki Olympic Games; the games were initially cancelled due to the Second World War, but the venues eventually got to fulfill their purpose in the 1952 Olympic Games. Many of them are listed by DoCoMoMo as significant examples of modern architecture. The Olympic Stadium and Helsinki-Malmi Airport are in addition catalogued by the National Board of Antiquities as cultural-historical environments of national significance.
As a historical footnote, Helsinki's neoclassical buildings were often used as a backdrop for scenes set to take place in the Soviet Union in many Cold War era Hollywood movies, when filming in the USSR was not possible. Some of the more notable ones are The Kremlin Letter (1970), Reds (1981) and Gorky Park (1983). Because some of the streetscapes were reminiscent of Leningrad's and Moscow's old buildings, they were used in the production – much to some residents' dismay. At the same time the government secretly instructed Finnish officials not to extend assistance to such film projects.
The population of nearly 585,000 people consists of 85% whose native language is Finnish and 6.1% whose native language is Swedish. 9.6% of the population have a native language other than Finnish or Swedish. Helsinki has a higher proportion of women (53,4%) than elsewhere in Finland (51,1%). Helsinki's current population density of 2,739.36 people per square kilometer is the highest in Finland by a wide margin. A man's life expectancy is 75.1 years in Helsinki as compared to the national average of 75.7 years. Women in Helsinki have a life expectancy of 81.7 years as compared to the national average of 82.5 years.
Helsinki has experienced strong growth since the 1810s, when it replaced Turku as the capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland, which later became the sovereign Republic of Finland. The city continued to show strong growth from that time onwards, with the exception during the Finnish Civil War period. From the end of WWII up until the 1970s there was a massive exodus of people from the countryside to the cities of Finland, in particular Helsinki. Helsinki's population doubled in a little over 20 years, from 1944 up to 1969 the population of the city nearly doubled from 275000 to 525600.
In the 1970s, Helsinki's population growth began to slow down due to lack of housing in the capital. Many residents began to move to neighboring Espoo and Vantaa. The population growth in these neighboring cities has risen exponentially. Espoo went from having a population of 22,874 people in 1950 to 244,353 in 2009, a ninefold increase. Neighboring Vantaa has had more dramatic changes. Vantaa went from having a population of 14,976 in 1950 to 197,663 in 2009, a thirteenfold increase. The dramatic increase in population pushed these cities to work in more cooperation with each other in such areas as public transportation and waste management. The increasing scarcity of housing and the higher costs of living in the Helsinki metropolitan area have pushed many daily commuters to find housing in formerly very rural areas, and even further, to such cities as Lohja (50 kilometers northwest from the city center), Hämeenlinna and Lahti (both 100 kilometers from Helsinki, and Porvoo (50 kilometers to the east).
The 1980s were a time of stalled growth in the city of Helsinki, when there was continuous migration to neighboring towns. Since the 1990s and into the 2000s, growth has been both positive and negative. Some reasons for a decline in the population are young families seeking cheaper housing with more green space nearby. The city of Helsinki's own predictions show that the current city of Helsinki should reach a population of 575,000 in 2015 and 586,000 in 2030. However, due to new housing construction within the acquired area of southwestern Sipoo the city should reach a population of well over 600,000 inhabitants.
The most important future population growth areas will include the newly acquired land area in Sipoo, and development of Jätkäsaari, Kalasatama, Keski-Pasila and Kruunuvuorenranta.
Finnish and Swedish are the official languages of the municipality of Helsinki. The majority, or 84.3% of the population, speak Finnish as their native language. A minority, at 6.1%, speak Finland Swedish. Those who speak a native language other than Finnish or Swedish stand at around 9.6% of the population.
Finnish speakers replaced those that spoke Swedish as a majority of the city's inhabitants in 1890, nearly 30 years before Finland's independence. In 2008, 35,125 people spoke Swedish as their first language, comprising 6 percent of Helsinki's population.
The population of the city that does not hold Finnish citizenship stand at 5.2% (29 200) of the population. Those that were born outside Finland stand at 7.9% (44,400) of the population. 33% of foreigners resident in Helsinki are other EU nationals. In 2008, 55,245 residents spoke a native language other than Finnish, Swedish or Sami. The largest group of residents with a non-Finnish background come from Estonia (5,900), Russia (5,633), Somalia (2,400), China (1,150) and Thailand (680). Half of the immigrant population in Finland live in the Helsinki metropolitan area. One third of the immigrant population of Finland reside in the city of Helsinki. 44% of the African population in Finland live in Helsinki. In 2001, out of all the EU-15 capitals, only Lisbon had a smaller share of immigrants in their population. There are some challenges to integration, as the immigrant unemployment rate on average is 2.5 times higher than native Finns.
The Helsinki metropolitan area generates approximately one third of Finland's GDP. GDP per capita is roughly 1.5 times the national average, making Helsinki one of the wealthiest capitals in Europe. Helsinki's GDP per capita is one of the highest of any city in the world.
The tap water is of excellent quality and it is supplied by 120 km (75 mi) long Päijänne Water Tunnel, one of the world's longest continuous rock tunnels. Bottled Helsinki tap water is even sold to countries such as Saudi Arabia.
The employment rate in the Helsinki metropolitan area stands at around 75% and employment growth has been good. Around 20% work in manufacturing and construction, compared to 10% in London and 30% in Milan. In private-sector services the distribution is that 34.5% work in trade, 17% in transport, 8% in hotels and restaurants, 5.7% in financial services, and 34.5% in other market services.
The metropolitan area's gross value-added per capita is 200% of the mean of 27 European metropolitan areas. It equals Stockholm or Paris. The gross value-added annual growth has been around 4%.
83 of the 100 largest Finnish companies are headquartered in Greater Helsinki. Two-thirds of the 200 highest-paid Finnish executives live in Greater Helsinki and 42% in Helsinki. The average income of the top 50 earners was 1.65 million euro.
Helsinki has 190 comprehensive schools, 41 upper secondary schools and 15 vocational institutes. Half of the 41 upper secondary schools are private or state-owned, the other half municipal. Higher level education is given in eight universities (see the section "Universities" below) and four polytechnics.
The biggest historical museum in Helsinki is the National Museum of Finland, which displays a vast historical collection from prehistoric times to the 21st century. The museum building itself, a national romantic style neo-medieval castle, is a tourist attraction. Other major historical museum is the Helsinki City Museum, which introduces visitors to Helsinki's 500 year history. The University of Helsinki also has many significant museums, including the University Museum and the Natural History Museum.
The Finnish National Gallery consists of three museums: Ateneum Art Museum for classical Finnish art, Sinebrychoff Art Museum for classical European art, and Kiasma Art Museum for modern art. The old Ateneum, a neo-renaissance palace from 19th century, is one of the city's major historical buildings. All three museum buildings are state-owned through Senate Properties.
Helsinki has three major theatres: The Finnish National Theatre, the Helsinki City Theatre, and the Finland Swedish Svenska Teatern. The city's main musical venues are the Finnish National Opera and the Finlandia concert-hall. Bigger concerts and events are usually held at one of the city's two big ice hockey arenas: the Hartwall Areena or the Helsinki Ice Hall. Helsinki has Finland's largest fair centre.
Many widely renowned and acclaimed bands have originated in Helsinki, including Hanoi Rocks, HIM, Stratovarius, The 69 Eyes, Norther, Wintersun, Finntroll, Ensiferum, The Rasmus, Shape of Despair and Apocalyptica.
Helsinki is the 2012 World Design Capital, in recognition of the use of design as an effective tool for social, cultural and economic development in the city. In choosing Helsinki, the World Design Capital selection jury highlighted Helsinki's use of 'Embedded Design', which has tied design in the city to innovation, "creating global brands, such as Nokia, Kone and Marimekko, popular events, like the annual Helsinki Design Week, outstanding education and research institutions, such as the University of Art and Design Helsinki, and exemplary architects and designers such as Eliel Saarinen and Alvar Aalto".
Helsinki is the centre of the Finnish media, most national newspapers as well as the broadcasters are located there.
There are two public service local radio stations in Greater Helsinki, Finnish-language Ylen aikainen (the regional edition of YLE Radio Suomi) and Swedish-language YLE Radio Vega Huvudstadsregionen (the regional edition of YLE Radio Vega). There are also privately-owned local radio stations.
Helsinki has a long tradition of sports: the city gained much of its initial international recognition during the 1952 Summer Olympics, and the city has since then been very open to arranging sporting events, for example the first World Championships in Athletics 1983 and 2005, and European Championships in Athletics 1971, 1994 and 2012 etc. Helsinki hosts fairly successful local teams in both of the most popular team sports in Finland, football and ice hockey. Helsinki houses Helsingin Jalkapalloklubi (HJK), Finland's largest and most successful football club. Helsinki's track and field club Helsingin Kisa-Veikot is also pretty dominant in Finland. Ice Hockey is a sport of passion for many Helsinki residents, who usually take a stance for either of the local clubs IFK Helsingfors (HIFK) or Jokerit. HIFK, with 14 Finnish championships titles, also plays in the highest bandy division, so does Botnia -69. The Olympic stadium hosted the 1st ever Bandy World Championships in 1957.
Helsinki has several ring roads: Kehä I/Ring I, Kehä II/Ring II, and Kehä III/Ring III. From central city to east and west, there are Itäväylä/Österleden and Länsiväylä/Västerleden. From the central city to north, there are several routes. There is a proposal to build a Stockholm-like tunnel under central Helsinki to hide cars from streets. Central Helsinki has popular underground parking facilities.
Public transportation is generally a hotly debated subject in the local politics of Helsinki. In Helsinki metropolitan area, public transportation is managed under Helsinki Region Transport, the metropolitan area transportation authority. The diverse public transport system consists of trams, commuter rail, the subway, bus lines and two ferry lines.
Today, Helsinki is the only city in Finland to have trams or subway trains. There used to be two other cities in Finland with trams: Turku and Viipuri (Vyborg, now in Russia), but both have since abandoned trams. The Helsinki Metro, opened in the year 1982, is the only subway system in Finland. In 2006, the construction of the long debated extension of the subway system west into Espoo was approved, and serious debate about an eastern extension into Sipoo has taken place.
Air traffic is handled primarily from the international Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, located approximately 19 kilometres (12 mi) north of Helsinki's downtown area, in the neighbouring city of Vantaa. Helsinki's second airport, Malmi Airport, is mainly used for general and private aviation. Copterline has provided fast (18 min.) helicopter flights to Tallinn, but discontinued the regular service in December 2008 on grounds of unprofitability.
Ferry connections to Tallinn and Stockholm are serviced by various companies. Finnlines passenger-freight ferries to Gdynia, Poland and Travemünde, Germany are also available, while Tallink began service to Rostock, Germany in 2007.
Senaatintori joulukuisena aamuna
The Senaatintori square on a winter morning in December.
The Pohjoisranta at night.
Central Helsinki in evening.
Tower of the Helsinki Olympic
Helsinki Olympic Stadium Tower, offers a good view over Helsinki.
The Esplanadi Park in central Helsinki in early june.
Finnish National Theatre and Aleksis Kivi statue in Rautatientori.
Altar of Temppeliaukio Church that is built underground
Hietaniemi beach in summer.
Itäkeskus is the biggest shopping mall in the Nordic countries.
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Athens, Greece 2006
|Eurovision Song Contest Hosts Helsinki|
| Succeeded by|
Belgrade, Serbia 2008
Helsinki (Finnish) or Helsingfors (Swedish)  is the capital of Finland. Founded in 1550, the "Daughter of the Baltic" has been the Finnish capital since 1812, when it was rebuilt by the tsars of Russia along the lines of a miniature St. Petersburg, a role it has played in many a Cold War movie. Today, Helsinki pulls off the trick of being something of an international metropolis while still retaining a small-town feel. The best time to visit is in summer, when Finns peel off their overcoats and flock to outdoor bars and cafes to enjoy the sunshine.
Helsinki's current population is about 575,000, but the Greater Helsinki region including the neighboring suburban cities of Espoo and Vantaa has a population of over 1.3 million.
Helsinki was founded in A.D. 1550 by King Gustav Vasa of Sweden as a trading post to compete with Tallinn to the south in Estonia, which was Danish at that time. The growth of the city was slow until the establisment of Sveaborg (nowadays Suomenlinna) Maritime Fortress in the front of Helsinki in the middle of 18th century. In 1809, Finland was annexed by Russia during a war of that period and the capital of Finland moved from Turku to Helsinki in 1812. The Czar felt the Grand Duchy of Finland needed a capital of grand proportions. The architects Johan Albrecht Ehrenström, a native Finn, and Carl Ludwig Engel, from Germany, were given the task of rebuilding the city in the Empire style. This can be seen today around the Lutheran Cathedral, which was completed in 1852. The same style, and even architects, is also a part of St. Petersburg's history. Though thoroughly a Scandinavian capital, Helsinki today reflects the influences gained from the occupiers - from the western and eastern cultures.
The county of Helsinki forms the core of Finland's largest urban area, known in Finnish as the "capital area" (pääkaupunkiseutu). The Gulf of Finland lies to the south, while the posh suburban municipality of Espoo, with the embedded tiny enclave of Kauniainen, is to the west. The more industrialized municipality of Vantaa is to the north. Beyond these three, the suburbs rapidly give way to farms and forests, most notably Nuuksio National Park at the intersection of Espoo, Vihti and Kirkkonummi.
Within Helsinki itself, the city center is on the southern peninsula at the end of the city's main thoroughfare Mannerheimintie (or just Mansku). Both the central railway station and the main bus terminal are in the city center. Shopping streets Aleksanterinkatu (or Aleksi for short) and Esplanadi (or Espa) connect to Senate Square (Senaatintori), the historical center of the city. See the Helsinki Guide Map  for an interactive searchable map of the city.
City of Helsinki Tourist Information Office, Corner of Pohjoisesplanadi and Unioninkatu (just off Market Square), ☎ +358-9-31013300. Mon-Fri 9 AM-8 PM, Sat-Sun 9 AM-6 PM; closes 6/4 PM Oct-Apr. A fount of information with helpful, multilingual staff. They also sell tickets to museums and sightseeing tours. edit
Helsinki is by far Finland's most cosmopolitan city and, while no London or New York, there is a fairly good cross section of people from around the world.
The city is officially bilingual, with a 86% Finnish-speaking majority and a visible 6% Swedish minority. In practice most people speak both and English as well, and it's not unusual to meet people who speak four languages or more. Staff at some stores, such as the Stockmann department store, wear name tags with national flags representing the languages they speak.
Helsinki's celebrations are among the most exciting in the country.
Helsinki is among the world's northernmost capitals and the lengthy winter, from October all the way up to April, is dark and freezing. Winter temperatures average -5°C, but the wind chill makes it feel even colder and the mercury can plunge below -30°C on a particularly cold day. Snow falls only intermittently and, until January, often melts into gray slush.
The brief summer, on the other hand, can be extraordinarily pleasant. Temperatures climb above 25°C, parks burst into green and sunbathers dot the city's beaches.
All international and domestic flights land at the compact, modern and airy Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport  (IATA: HEL, ICAO: EFHK), which is 20 kilometers to the north of the city. There are two adjacent terminals, connected by a short walkway:
Regular taxis to the center cost €30-40. Shared Airport Taxi  (tel. 0600 555 555 for bookings) mini-vans start from €25 for two. A train line to the airport is under construction, but until it's completed in 2014 or so, public transport options are:
If you need a place to sleep between flights, there are several reasonable hotels in or very near the airport:
Copterline  halted their scheduled flights between Helsinki and Tallinn in December 2008.
All long-distance trains throughout Finland and the Russian cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg terminate in the heart of the city at the Rautatieasema (Central Railway Station). This station also provides easy interchange to the metro and tram lines.
Long-distance buses terminate at the new underground Central Bus Station (Linja-autoasema) in the Kamppi Center  (Kampin Keskus). The station is adjacent to Mannerheimintie, directly connected to the Kamppi metro station and within a short walking distance from the Central Railway Station.
For travel from St. Petersburg (Russia), Russian minibuses depart from the Oktyabrskaya Hotel (opp Moskovsky train station) around 10 PM and arrive behind Tennispalatsi at Eteläinen Rautatiekatu 8, one block away from Kamppi, early in the morning. Departures back start around 10 AM in the morning. The trip costs around 15 euros, making this by far the cheapest option, but the buses are cramped and uncomfortable.
Helsinki is well connected with ferry services to Tallinn (Estonia) and Stockholm (Sweden), and there are limited services to Travemünde & Rostock, Germany as well as Gdynia, Poland. Scheduled services to St. Petersburg (Russia) or the Baltics no longer operate (as of 2009), although there are occasional summer cruises.
Ferries arrive at three harbours with five terminals:
See the Port of Helsinki  for the latest details.
All public transportation within Helsinki is coordinated by HKL , while regional transportation connecting Helsinki to the neighboring counties of Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen is operated by YTV  (Helsinki Metropolitan Area Council). The following basic ticket types are available:
The City ticket allows you to travel by almost any local public transportation method (buses, trains, trams, metro, Suomenlinna ferry) within the boundaries of Helsinki. The Regional ticket covers almost any public transportation method within the boundaries of Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo and Kauniainen. However, if you purchase a specific Tram or Train ticket, you are allowed to travel only by tram or train respectively. All tickets allow unlimited transfers within their validity periods and regions. Children under 7 travel free, while tickets for children under 16 are half price.
Fares can be paid by cash when boarding (except on trams), by sending a text message to 16355 (valid on trams, metro and some buses; requires a Finnish SIM card) or by Travel Card (matkakortti), a reloadable smartcard sold at the R-kiosks and HKL offices, very similar to London's Oyster card. The Travel Card costs €9 (nonrefundable) and gives a 25% discount on fares. Using it is slightly cumbersome, as you must hold your card against the reader and simultaneously press the numbered button corresponding to the desired ticket type. Hold the card without pressing anything to see the remaining value or to register a transfer.
Alternatively, you can opt for the Helsinki Card (1 day €33 to 3 days €55)  or HKL Tourist Ticket (matkailijalippu) (1 day €6.80, 3 days €13.60 or 5 days €20.40), both of which offer unlimited travel within the city. Tourist Tickets are sold at HKL offices, R-Kiosks located in the city center, ticket vending machines or by the driver (1-day ticket only). The Helsinki Card also offers free admission to a number of museums and attractions.
The YTV Journey Planner  will get you from a street address, place or sight to another by suggesting possible public transport connections, covering the entire metropolitan Helsinki region. Try eg. "Airport" or "Railway station" for place names.
Getting around by night can be a bit tricky (or expensive), as trains and trams stop before midnight and the buses at 1.30. A limited night bus network, all leaving from either Elielinaukio or Rautatientori next to the railway station, runs on weekends and public holidays after 2 am, charging approximately twice the price of a daytime ticket.
Beers on wheels
The SpåraKOFF Bar Tram  is a bright red tram converted into a pub on wheels. The tram runs during the summer only from Wednesday to Saturday, once an hour from 2PM to 9PM, along a route roughly paralleling the northern half of the 3T line, with stops at the Railway Square, Linnanmäki amusement park, Opera House, Aleksanterinkatu and the Market Square. The tour lasts about 40 minutes. The price €7 does not include any drinks.
For tourists the most convenient and scenic means of travel is the extensive tram network, especially lines 3B and 3T that together do a figure-eight circuit around the city. (Both run the length of the loop, the tram just changes signs halfway through.) Trams and HKL offices usually stock an informative leaflet listing attractions along the way.
While the trams operate in the city center, buses cover the rest of the city. The main stations for northbound and eastbound buses are on the two squares adjacent to the Central Railway Station: Eliel Square (Elielinaukio) and Railway Square (Rautatientori). Westbound buses operate from the underground bus station in the Kamppi Center which is adjacent to the Kamppi metro station.
A metro line runs from the center to the eastern suburbs, but few places along the line are of interest to tourists. After Itäkeskus, the line splits in two, with one line going to Mellunmäki and the other to Vuosaari. Travelling between Ruoholahti and Mellunmäki or Vuosaari usually takes about 21-22 minutes.
Note that since 8th of November 2009 the Central Railway Station metro station suffered heavy flooding damages has been closed for repairs that are estimated to last up to 6 months. The railway station is however fully functional.
VR's suburban trains operate north from the Central Railway Station, branching out in three directions. HKL tickets are valid within city limits, YTV (regional) tickets on suburban trains to Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen.
The HKL ferry to Suomenlinna from the Market Square (Kauppatori) is a cheap and popular summer getaway. Another HKL operated ferry, mostly used only by the island's residents, leaves from the eastern end of Katajanokka. In addition, private operators provide ferries to Suomenlinna and various other islands during the summer; however, schedules can be sparse. HKL's Tourist Ticket and mobile-phone ticket are both valid also on the Suomenlinna ferry.
Taxis in Helsinki are expensive. Cab fares are regulated by the government, so getting into any taxi is €5.10 on weekdays, or €8.00 after 8 PM and all day Sunday. The meter ticks at €1.33/km. The rate increases if there are over two people. There are also surcharges for large bags and leaving from Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport (€2).
During weekend nights and some popular events or holidays, it can be a bit difficult to find a taxi. Walk to the nearest taxi stand or try to book by phone from Taxi Helsinki 0100 0700  or Lähitaksi  0100 7300. If it's a very busy night, try calling Taksione at +358-50-5455454 or Kajon at 01007070. Drivers are not required to pick up a person hailing them on the street, and they usually don't, but it's worth a try if you see one cruising by. If the queues at night seem frustratingly long and you are willing to walk a bit, try heading towards Hakaniementori or Lauttasaari Bridge, where you can often hail a returning taxi (don't bother if the light is not on).
Yellow Line  is a good, cost-effective option for getting from the airport to the city center. Minivans carry up to seven or eight passengers and drop passengers off at their individual destinations. The shuttles can be found at their bright yellow desks in arrivals lounges 1 and 2. The cost is €20 for one or two passengers and varies based on the number of people in the van.
During the summer, Citybikes  can be borrowed for free from 26 stands throughout the city center. A refundable deposit of €2 is required, and you tend get what you pay for: the bikes can be in bad shape and availability can be poor. Bicycle helmets can be borrowed from Jugendsali (Pohjoisesplanadi 19). You are required to remain within the boundaries of the city center. Guided bike trips are available through Biketours .
If you bring your own bike, there is an extensive network of bike routes within the city. Downtown bike lanes are typically on the sidewalks (instead of next to car lanes on the street) so be aware of pedestrians. Don't be afraid to ring your bell! Review your bike map carefully, as some bike routes will stop and require you to walk your bike. . There is also a journey planner for cycling . Once you get out of the city centre, cycling is less complicated.
If an ordinary bike isn't enough for you, you can also rent a cyclerickshaw (riksa) large enough for three from Riksavuokraus  (tel. +358-50-5582525) in Eiranranta near Kaivopuisto. Prices start at €9/30 min, driver not included but available on request.
Car rental is not a particularly good way of getting around Helsinki, since parking is limited and expensive. Most street-side parking in the city center is in "Zone 1" and costs €3/hour during working hours, although Saturdays (mostly) and Sundays (always) are free. There are also several large underground parking garages at Kamppi and Forum.
If you're looking for an organised tour in or around Helsinki, there's only one game left in town:
Surrounded by sea and a vast archipelago, Helsinki is at its best in the summer when the dialogue between the city and nature is at its fullest. Classical Helsinki's sights can be divided into an eclectic set of churches and a wide variety of museums. For a coastal amble past some of Helsinki's minor and major sights, see the itinerary A seaside stroll in Helsinki.
If you see only one place in Helsinki in the summer, make it Suomenlinna . The "Gibraltar of the North" was once the greatest sea fortress in the Baltic, built by the Swedish in the mid-1700s at great expense to protect their eastern flank. But when the Russians invaded in February 1808, the bulk of the unprepared and bankrupt Swedish army hastily withdrew, allowing the Russians to conquer Helsinki without a fight and besiege the fortress. With no reinforcements in sight, commander Carl Olof Cronstedt surrendered unconditionally two months later, and Finland was ceded to the Russians. Cronstedt's actions probably saved countless civilian lives, but King Gustav IV needed a scapegoat and sentenced him to death for treason; fortunately, the losing king was himself soon overthrown, and Cronstadt lived out his years gardening.
Today's Suomenlinna is still living in its own time with only old buildings, few cars, fewer than a thousand inhabitants and lots of old fortifications, catacombs and cast iron cannons. But it's not just a museum: the sprawling complex houses restaurants, cafes, theaters and museums, and is a very popular place for a picnic on a fine summer day, watching the vast passenger ferries drift by on their way to Estonia and St Petersburg. It was included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1991 as a unique monument to European military architecture.
Entry to the island is free. The HKL ferry from Market Square is the cheapest and most convenient of getting there at €3.80 for a 12-hour tourist return. Guided tours in English are available daily at 11 AM and 2 PM in Jun-Aug and on Sat/Sun only at 1:30 PM the rest of the year, €7/person, and history buffs will want to drop into the Suomenlinna Museum  at the Visitor Centre (€5).
A beautiful archipelago (saaristo) surrounds the Helsinki city center. In addition to the major islands listed below, there are scheduled services to many smaller islands, and you can also tour them by sightseeing cruise. Most of the cruises depart from the Western corner of the Market Square and last from one to several hours. Note most ferries and cruises operate only in the summer high season.
Many of Helsinki's museums are as interesting from the outside as from the inside. Architecture buffs will get a kick out of Helsinki's Neo-Classical center, centered around Senate Square (Senaatintori), where a statue of the liberal Russian czar Alexander II stands guard. Aleksanterinkatu and the Railway Station square also have some beautiful neo-classical buildings — look out for the Romantic Kalevala-esque themes — but unfortunately these areas also have many concrete monstrosities mixed in.
Helsinki is an Olympic city, the host of the 1952 Olympic Games.
Helsinki has an active cultural life and tickets are generally inexpensive. Important performing groups include:
Most of Finland's exchange students end up in Helsinki's universities. The Helsinki University of Technology, the Helsinki School of Economics and the University of Art and Design Helsinki are currently in the process of being merged into one large "innovation university" called Aalto University.
As elsewhere in the country, obtaining work in Helsinki may be difficult. See the main Finland article for details.
Shopping in Helsinki is generally expensive, but fans of Finnish and Nordic design will find plenty of things of interest. Most large shops and department stores are open weekdays from 9AM-9PM. As in the rest of Finland, most shops close by 6PM on Saturday and are closed entirely on Sunday (except in summer and before Christmas, when they typically open at noon). A notable exception is the Asematunneli complex, located underground adjacent to the Central Railway Station, most shops here are open until 10PM almost every day of the year. A supermarket in Kamppi Center (see below) is also open until 10PM. Small grocery stores and the R-Kioski convenience store chain are open on Sun year-round, too. In the Punavuori area there is a Delish convenience store open 24 hours a day year round.
Helsinki's main shopping drag is Aleksanterinkatu (Aleksi), which runs from Senate Square to Mannerheimintie and is packed with large stores. The parallel Esplanadi boulevards have specialist and generally very expensive boutiques. Access to the area is easy, as trams 3, 4/4T and 7A/7B all run down Aleksanterinkatu, and the area is just a stone's throw from the Central Railway Station and Kaisaniemi metro stations.
In the suburban cities of Vantaa and Espoo you can also find big shopping malls. Vantaa has Jumbo  and Myyrmanni , while Espoo has the centers of Iso Omena  and Sello . All of these are easily accessible by commuter transport or by car.
There are high-end design stores around Aleksanterinkatu and Etelä-Esplanadi. The Design District Helsinki area around Uudenmaankatu and Iso Roobertinkatu is full of design and antique shops, fashion stores, museums, art galleries, restaurants and showrooms. Here you can find the most interesting names, classics, trend-setters and so much more. Visit Design Forum Finland  at Erottajankatu 7 to get a map of shops and galleries.
Most outdoor markets in Helsinki are open only in summer, but the market halls are open all year round.
Helsinki has a selection of great "underground" record stores with a greatly varying selection of both Finnish and international music. Most of them also sell vinyl (12"/10"/7"). Generally speaking, prices aren't cheap, but the selection may be worth it. Some of the more collectible stuff may even be cheaper than elsewhere.
If you have only a limited amount of time, check out the record stores around Viiskulma', a brisk walk from the city center:
Elsewhere around the city center:
A bit further:
In Kallio, easily accessed via Hakaniemi metro station:
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
Helsinki has by far the best cosmopolitan restaurants in Finland, and is a good place to escape the usual diet of meat and potatoes... if you can foot the bill, that is. As usual in Finland the best time to eat out is lunch, when most restaurants offer lunch sets for around €6-10. Lunch sets are typically served from 10:30AM to 2PM, but the times vary between venues. In the evening, only budget places are less than €10, while splurges cost well over €30 per head.
A surprisingly large number of restaurants close down for a month or more in summer (July-August), so call ahead to avoid disappointment.
Budget choices are largely limited to fast food, although there are a couple of workaday Finnish eateries in the mix. In addition to McDonalds and its Finnish imitators Hesburger/Carrols, Helsinki is also full of pizza and kebab places, where a meal typically costs around €7-8 (sometimes as low as €4-5, especially in Kallio). A more healthy option is Unicafe , a chain of restaurants owned by the Helsinki University student union, which has around 10 outlets in central Helsinki and offers full meals from €5.70, including vegetarian options.
Central Helsinki is dominated by restaurants dedicated to international cuisine, and these are particularly useful for vegetarian visitors, Finnish food being largely meat-based. A particular touch is provided by a bunch of "Nepalese" restaurants, which actually serve generic north Indian food, but almost any of which you are guaranteed to leave happy and full. Localized Chinese and Italian cuisines are also well represented.
Two classes of fine dining stand out in Helsinki: fresh seafood and Russian. During the dark days of the Soviet Union, it was sometimes said that the best Russian restaurants in the world were across the border in Helsinki. For something authentically Finnish and uniquely Helsinki, try Vorschmack, an unusual but surprisingly tasty mix of minced lamb and herring, served with chopped pickles and sour cream (smetana).
Helsinki has plenty of hip places for a drink. The main nightlife districts, all in the city center within crawling distance of each other, are around Iso-Roobertinkatu, the Central Railway Station and Kamppi. Helsinki's busy gay nightlife is centered around Eerikinkatu and surrounding streets.
Going out is not cheap, and complaining about the prices is a popular Finnish pastime, but compared to (say) London or New York City the prices aren't that bad. If you are on a budget and intent on getting plastered, follow the Finns and drink up a good "base" at home or hotel before going out on town. Alternatively, you can start the night outside the city centre area and head to the district of Kallio where bar prices are significantly lower. Popular places include Heinähattu, Roskapankki and Tauko but there are lots more to choose from, just walk along Helsinginkatu or Vaasankatu. You can reach Kallio from the center by walking, by tram (lines 1, 3B, 6 or 7B) or by metro (get off at Hakaniemi and walk uphill, or Sörnäinen, and head west). Most bars in Kallio close at 2AM, whereas in city centre there are many that are open until 4AM.
Note that, while entry to bars and clubs is often (but not always) free, you must use and pay for the coat check (narikka), usually around €2, if you're wearing anything more than a T-shirt. In many places you must pay even if you don't leave anything at the cloakroom. If a ticket price is advertised, it usually does not cover the coat check.
The drinking age is 18, and this is rather strictly enforced, so bring along ID. Underaged drinking is still a huge problem, and many bars and clubs apply house limits of 20-24 years, but these are enforced less strictly and a patron of younger age will some times be let in if one fits the clientele, especially women.
Information on clubs and live performances can be found in free, Finnish-language tabloids such as City , which can be picked up at many bars, cafes and shops.
In Helsinki, the most popular nightclubs have long queues starting to form around 11:30 PM. Get in early to avoid standing, although it can be a nice way to meet people. After around 1:00-2:00 AM it might be impossible to get in anymore. You may try to just walk past the queue looking important, but a more efficient strategy is to discreetly tip the bouncer (€10-20). The larger group you are, the more difficult things get. Look smart!
Accommodation is generally quite expensive, but of a high standard. Hotels are usually cheaper on weekends, when business travelers are away.
There are quite a few budget hotels in Helsinki, the cheapest being youth hostels. Many student dormitories turn into youth hostels during the July-August school break, which happily coincides with peak season for tourists. The Finnish Youth Hostel Association  can provide further information.
Much of Helsinki is blanketed with wifi ("wlan") hotspots, and the City of Helsinki maintains a handy map . By comparison, Internet cafes with shared PCs are few and far between in Helsinki, but here is a partial listing.
The crime rate in Helsinki is generally low. Occasional pickpockets target summer crowds and bicycles are prone to petty theft. Walking in the streets after dark is generally safe and the city center is indeed quite lively until the early hours of the morning. However, it's best to steer clear of obviously drunk people looking to pick a fight, the traditional trouble spots being the frustratingly long queues for late night snack food or taxis. The Kaisaniemi park behind the main Railway Station is possibly best avoided at night, and the area of Kallio and Sörnäinen (northeast from the center, after the Pitkäsilta bridge) may be somewhat rougher than other parts of the downtown. Recently, due to free movement of people in the European Union, Helsinki has been a destination for beggars and petty criminals from poorer parts of the Union.
In the summer, a common problem in the center of the city are aggressive birds. The seagulls will try to take your ice cream cone or sandwich from you, so try to avoid eating where you see a lot of bigger birds. Tourists feeding the birds are a main cause of the problem, and feeding birds is prohibited.
In winter, try to keep a steady footing: despite the use of vast quantities of gravel and salt, pavements can be quite slippery when the temperature hovers around zero and near-invisible black ice forms.
Helsinki's bedrock is close to the surface, so new building works invariably involve some dynamite to build foundations, and it's thus quite common to hear explosions around the center. Blasting is often preceded by a loud sequence of warning beeps, which speed up as they count down. There is no danger to anyone, as the builders are experts (and the solid granite bedrock is very, very strong), but now you know where that "BOOM!" came from.
In Finland itself the following make good day trips:
As a coastal city, Helsinki has good connections to some fine international destinations nearby:
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Vantaa (Swedish: Vanda) is the fourth largest city in Finland after Helsinki, Espoo and Tampere. It is part of the Greater Helsinki area. The most important parts of Vantaa are Tikkurila, Hakunila, Koivukylä, Korso, Martinlaakso and Myyrmäki. Tuusula, Kerava, Sipoo, Helsinki, Espoo and Nurmijärvi are neighbour communities and cities of Vantaa.
The biggest airport in Finland, Helsinki-Vantaa, is located in Central Vantaa.
Finnish and Swedish are the official languages of Vantaa. In 2006 Swedish was the mother language of 3.1 percent of population of Vantaa.