Touring Helsinki’s history and architecture

September 19, 2010

HELSINKI, Finland, Sept. 19, 2010/ Bon Voyage / – Finland’s capital city, Helsinki, is often overlooked by tourists who want to make their way to the more exciting destinations of Lakeland and Lapland. And that is a pity.

Because before heading to these breathtaking natural wonders of Finland, you should check out an entirely different form of beauty and splendour that is Helsinki its man-made attractions in the form of impressive architecture and museum collections.

More than a fleeting glance

Helsinki deserves more than just a fleeting glance. In fact, it has so much to offer its visitors that it requires more than a few days of sightseeing.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Suomenlinna Fortress alone takes more than a day of exploration. The fortress dates back to the 18th century. Built to serve as a military bastion, it stands sentry on an island right smack at Helsinki’s gateway to the sea. It is now home to seven museums, countless restaurants and cafes, as well as several shops and art galleries. It is also ideal for nature walks and beach excursions. Watch out for theatrical and jazz performances when visiting the area.

Visit Helsinki’s two major public squares for impressive architecture sightings. First, there is the famous Senate Square where you can hang out in one of its many open air cafes and enjoy the view of the notable neoclassical buildings surrounding you. You can’t miss the imposing and gorgeous Lutheran Cathedral whose interiors are also worth seeing. Other impressively-designed buildings in the area include the Palace of the Council of State and the University buildings. All these date back to the 1800s and are masterpieces of the famed Carl Ludwig Engel.

The perfect place to observe the everyday goings-on of the Helsinki locals is at the bustling Market Square. You’ll find plenty of stalls selling mouth-watering delicacies and quirky tourist souvenirs. There are also several historic buildings in the area such as the City Hall and the Presidential Palace. Don’t miss the flamboyant changing of the guards when passing by the palace.

Helsinki also has its share of remarkable churches, such as the Uspenski Cathedral and the Temppeliaukio Church. The red-brick Uspenski Cathedral towers above the city in front of the striking statue of Tsar Alexander II. The Cathedral is as impressive inside as it is outside. Check out its opulent interior ornamentation and priceless collection of icons. The Temppeliaukio Church on the other hand is not your regular church. It was carved out of a massive granite boulder, surrounded with granite walls and covered with a concave copper ceiling – definitely worth a visit.

Experience Finland’s bygone days

To cap off your Helsinki tour, stop by the city’s museums  – such as Seurasaari Open Air Museum and the National Museum. Seurasaari is interesting because it presents visitors with an opportunity to experience the bygone days of Finland. It shows traditional countryside living in original (albeit relocated) farmsteads complete with parsonages and cottages. The museum is composed of 86 buildings and located on a beautiful island connected to the mainland with a charming footbridge.

The National Museum, although similar in concept to any other national museums you’ve visited before, is also worth checking out for its colourful heritage collection and interesting treasure display.