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Helsingin kaupunki
Helsingfors stad
Helsinki coat of arms
city in Finland
Helsinki on a map of Finland
Province Southern Finland
Region Uusimaa
Sub-region Helsinki
City manager Jussi Pajunen
Official languages Finnish, Swedish
 - total
 - land
ranked 342nd
185.32 km²
184.47 km²
 - total (2003)
 - change
 - density
ranked 1st
{{{popchange}}} %
Urbanisation 99.9 %
Unemployment rate 8.9 %

Helsinki (pronounced with the stress on the first syllable in Finnish: ['helsiŋki]), or Helsingfors in Swedish (), also called "Stadi" in local slang, is the capital of Finland. It is located in the southern part of Finland on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, at 60°10′ N 24°56′ E. Helsinki forms a conurbation with three other cities, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen, which are together called the capital area. This area has about 975,000 citizens. The Greater Helsinki area contains a lot more municipalities and has a total population of 1,232,741 (2004).



Main article: History of Helsinki

Founded in 1550 as a rival to the Hanseatic city of Tallinn by the King Gustav I of Sweden, Helsinki struggled in its infancy. The fledging settlement was plagued by poverty, wars and diseases. For a long time it remained as a small low-key coastal town, overshadowed by the more thriving trade centers in the Baltic region. Construction of the Suomenlinna sea fortress helped to improve its status, but it was not until Russia defeated Sweden in the Finnish War and annexed Finland as autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland in 1809 that Helsinki began to truly change.

To help reduce the Swedish influence, tsar Alexander I of Russia had the capital moved from Turku to Helsinki. Academy of Åbo, the only university in the country, was also relocated to Helsinki in 1827, eventually becoming the University of Helsinki. This move consolidated the city's new role and the following decades saw unprecedented growth and development for the city, creating the prerequisites for the birth of a modern world class capital in the 20th century. This transformation is highly apparent in the downtown core, which was rebuilt in neoclassical style to resemble St. Petersburg. Like elsewhere, technological advancements such as railroads and industrialization were a key factor behind the growth.

Although much of the first half of the 20th century was a violent period for Helsinki, it continued to steadily develop. Modern postwar urbanization of the 1970s, which occurred relatively late in European context, tripled the population in the metropolitan area, making the Helsinki metropolitan area one of the fastest growing urban centers in the European Union in 1990s.



Historical downtown Helsinki skyline from the sea
Historical downtown Helsinki skyline from the sea

Helsinki has 190 comprehensive schools, upper secondary schools and 15 vocational institutes. Half of the 41 upper secondary schools are private or state-owned. Higher level education is given in eight universities (see the section "Universities" below) and four polytechnics.



In Helsinki, public transport is mostly managed by Helsinki City Transport. The diverse public transport system consists of trams, VR lähiliikenne commuter trains, the Helsinki Metro and bus lines. The Helsinki Metropolitan Area Council manages traffic to the surrounding municipalities of Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen.

Today, Helsinki is the only city in Finland to have trams or metro trains. There used to be two other cities in Finland with tram traffic: Turku and Viipuri (Vyborg). However, Turku abandoned trams in 1972 and Viipuri (at that time part of the Soviet Union) abandoned them in 1957.

The metro line, opened in 1982, was the first, and so far the only, metro line in all of Finland. For the first 16 years of its existence, the line was topologically only one straight line, but in 1998 a fork was added at Itäkeskus metro station, dividing the remainder of the line into two branches with three stations each. Metro is an especially important method of transportation for commuters in the growing suburbs of Eastern Helsinki, and there are also plans to further expand the system to Espoo (see Länsimetro), but lack of agreement over financing has caused delays to the project. If the plans for automation in the system are approved, the Helsinki Metro will operate without drivers in 2010.

Air traffic is handled from the international Helsinki-Vantaa Airport and Malmi Airport. Ferry connections to Tallinn and Stockholm are serviced by various companies, including Silja Line, Viking Line, SeaWind Line, Linda Line, Nordic Jet Line and Tallink (see Ruotsinlaiva). In summer, passenger ferries to Travemünde, Germany are also available. Copterline provides fast helicopter flights to Tallinn.

Other services

Rooftops of the southern inner city districts
Rooftops of the southern inner city districts
The Senaatintori square on a winter morning
The Senaatintori square on a winter morning

The largest hospitals of Finland are located in Helsinki, for example HYKS and many private hospitals. Also police and fire departments serve citizens.


Main article: Politics of Helsinki


Main article: Geography of Helsinki

Helsinki spreads around a number of bays and peninsulas and over a number of islands. Some of the most important islands 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.


Main article: Economy of Helsinki


Main article: Universities in Finland


Main article: Culture of Helsinki

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 centrum all on his own, which later on was also referred to as The White City Of The North. The city became shallow and wide at the time when most buildings had only two or three floors. In the middle of the city, on the northern side of the Senate Square, he planned an enormous Cathedral, which was finished in 1852, twelve years after C. L. Engel's death.

Helsinki is, however, perhaps even more famous for its numerous Art Nouveau buildings, designed in the early 1900s and strongly influenced by Kalevala, which is a very popular theme in the national romantic art of that era.

The Kiasma, opened in 1998, is the city's contemporary art museum. There is an active ICT and digital cultures scene in Greater Helsinki.

Valon Voimat "Forces of Light" is an annual winter arts festival.

Helsingin Juhlaviikot is an annual arts and culture festival, which takes place every August.

Helsinki is also the birth place of several international celebrities, including the bands HIM, The Rasmus and The 69 Eyes who all have achieved extremely high levels of fame and success both at home and abroad, thus bringing many tourists eager to see the home city of their idols to Helsinki.

Sites of interest

See also: Tourism in Finland

The city is small and intimate; lively but not bustling. Its size makes it easy to walk around and cafés, markets, and the nearby islands are its summer delights.

The main districts around the center include Katajanokka, Eira, Kamppi, Kruununhaka, Töölö, Punavuori and Kallio.

Suomenlinna is a large fortress built on one small group of these islands in the mid-eighteenth century. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular tourist attraction.

Another popular sight is the Helsinki zoo located on an island named Korkeasaari.

Seurasaari is an outdoor museum area. It contains log houses and items collected from various parts of Finland.

Töölö district, situated close to the city center, hosts many of Helsinki's tourist attractions.
Töölö district, situated close to the city center, hosts many of Helsinki's tourist attractions.

The new opera house of the Finnish National Opera, which opened in 1993, is close to the city center in Töölö.

Kaivopuisto is the most popular park in Helsinki.

Linnanmäki is Helsinki's fun fair.

If you are into architecture, Temppeliaukion kirkko is worth seeing. Built inside of stone, this unconventional church is regularly visited by tourists.

Sibelius-monumentti (The Sibelius-monument), a modernist work by sculptor Eila Hiltunen, memorializes Finnish composer Jean Sibelius and is a popular tourist attraction.

Kiasma is the museum of contemporary art, designed by Steven Holl. The museum hosts a number of exhibitions.

The Uspenski Cathedral is the main Orthodox church in Finland.

Hietaniemi is a popular beach within a walking distance from the downtown.

Kauppatori (The Market Square) is situated in the heart of Helsinki and in the summertime the numerous stands sell all kinds of Finnish crafts and foods. The traditional herring market in October is a particularly popular event, as the fishers from the archipelago sail into the harbour and sell their products, traditional foods and crafts of the Finnish coast.

Nuuksio is the piece of wilderness closest to Helsinki. This area is suitable for day trip hiking. There are lots of tiny lakes, rock, swamp and pine forest.

Heureka (actually located in Vantaa) is a science center featuring exhibitions and an IMAX theater.

The botanical gardens are worth seeing as well.

Tarvaspää, the home and atelier of the renowned Finnish painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela, lies further away from the centre, but is certainly worth a visit. The museum has many paintings by one of the central artists of Finland's "Golden era" and a nice cafe.

Air travel to Helsinki is via the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. Helsinki also has popular ferry links with Stockholm, Sweden and Tallinn, Estonia. Silja, Viking and Tallink are the biggest ferry operators.

Notable natives


Helsinki was the host of the 1952 Summer Olympics.


The asteroid 1495 Helsinki was named after the city by its discoverer, the Finnish astronomer Yrjö Väisälä.

See also

External links

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