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Visiting Helsinki

Map of Helsinki

Suomenlinna Fortress
The historically significant Suomenlinna fortress is not only a major military monument worthy of the Unesco World Heritage List, but also home to about 900 Finns who live in the renovated barracks. The entire site is a fun, multi-faceted attraction for Helsinki residents and visitors. The fortress, built during Swedish rule in the 18th century, is situated on an island at the entrance to Helsinki’s harbour, reached by a 15-minute ferry ride from the city’s Market Square. The fortification became a strategic military shipyard with one of the biggest dry docks in the world, comparable to the fortress at Gibraltar. Apart from admiring the architecture there is plenty to experience at Suomenlinna, which contains seven museums, galleries, restaurants and cafes, several parks, beaches and nature areas. Guided walking tours are offered and there are always events taking place like exhibitions, jazz shows and theatrical performances, particularly during summer.

Address: The Visitor’s Centre is at Suomenlinna C 74, situated in the middle of the fortress at Tykistölahti bay; Telephone: Visitor’s Centre: (0)9 684 1880; Website:; Transport: Ferries run regularly from Market Square, from the early morning hours until 2am. During summer a water bus also operates. Private boats can moor at the Suomenlinna visitor’s marina; Opening time: The various museums usually open between 11am and 4pm daily. For information regarding the various events and exhibitions contact the Visitor’s Centre which opens between 11am and 4pm, and up to 6pm during the summer months

Senate Square
Architecture buffs enjoy sitting in a café admiring the buildings surrounding Helsinki’s lively Senate Square, renowned as Europe’s finest examples of the neoclassical style. The square is dominated by the city’s main landmark, the Lutheran Cathedral, designed by Carl Ludwig Engel and consecrated in 1852. The interior is as perfect as the exterior design, and is open to the public daily for no charge. Other buildings on the Square designed by Engel are the Palace of the Council of State, built in 1822, and the University buildings (1832), including the library, regarded as Engel’s finest masterpiece.

Uspenski Cathedral
Many travellers have compared Helsinki to the beautiful Russian city of St Petersburg which is a close neighbour across a short strait of water, and the exotic red-brick Orthodox cathedral Uspenski, designed by Aleksei Gornostayev of St Petersburg in the late 1800s, cements the Russian connection. The cathedral sits atop a rocky outcrop on the Katajanokka peninsula opposite the fish market, fronted by a statue of Tsar Alexander II, as a memento of Russia’s occupation of Finland until 1919. The magnificent Byzantine edifice is topped with a characteristic golden onion dome, and the interior is opulently decorated with valuable icons.

Address: Kanuvakatu 1; Telephone: (0)9 634 267; Opening time: Tuesday to Friday 9.30am to 4pm; Saturdays 9.30am to 2pm; Sundays 12pm to 3pm

Market Square
Helsinki’s bustling Market Square is not only where traders set up shop selling food and various other goods, but it is also the central meeting point of the city, sandwiched between the sea and a row of impressive historic buildings which include the City Hall, the Swedish Embassy and the Presidential Palace. Trams and waterbuses converge on the square, where visitors gather to watch the changing of the bulkily clad guard at the Palace and admire the Havis Amanda mermaid statue at the west end of the Square in front of Esplanade Park.

Temppeliaukio Church
This awesome and unique piece of architecture, the Temppeliaukio (‘Church in the rock’) was designed by brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and carved out of solid granite as recently as 1969. It has become one of Helsinki’s most famous attractions, its rock walls roofed over with a massive concave copper ceiling, which gives it excellent acoustics. The church is often used as a venue for musical events

Address: Lutherinkatu 3; Telephone: (0)9 494 698; Transport: Tram 3B, 3T; Opening time: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday and holidays 10am to 8pm; Wednesday 10am to 7pm; Saturday 10am to 6pm; Admission: Free

Seurasaari Open Air Museum
The Seurasaari open-air Museum allows visitors to step back in time and glimpse the traditional way of life in the Finnish countryside, and all this in the heart of the capital city. The museum, situated on a lovely green island accessed from the mainland via a footbridge, consists of a collection of cottages, farmsteads, parsonages, rural churches, manor houses and other old buildings, all preserved and relocated from their original sites around the provinces of Finland. The 86 buildings currently on the museum site have been arranged to form a complete replica of a country district, reflecting what life was like in various levels of rural society between the 18th and 20th centuries.

Address: Seurasaari; Telephone: (0)9 4050 9660 (summer), (0)9 4050 9574 (winter); E-mail:; Website:; Opening time: Open daily May to September. From May to September opens Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm, weekends 11am to 5pm. During June, July and August open daily 11am to 5pm, with late closing at 7pm on Wednesdays; Admission: €5. Under 18s free

The National Museum of Finland
Visitors who enjoy getting to know the country they are exploring will enjoy the National Museum of Finland in Helsinki, which depicts Finnish life from prehistoric times to the present. Housed in an impressive Romantic style building, the museum’s permanent exhibition is divided into five sections, including the ‘Treasure Trove’, a display of coins, medals and weaponry. The archaeological section features some rare Stone Age finds. Also interesting are the folk costumes, textiles and furniture displays that make up Finland’s cultural heritage collection. The museum also has a café and shop.

Address: Mannerheimintie 34; Telephone: (0)9 4050 9544 (Ticket office); E-mail:; Opening time: Tuesday and Wednesday 11am to 8pm; Thursday to Sunday 11am to 6pm; closed Monday; Admission: €5.50 / €3.50, free for those under 18; free admission Tuesdays from 5.30 pm to 8 pm