Finland’s capital was in the 16th century, but the city that exists today is in the 1800s. This was the period when the Russians planned Helsinki likeSt. Petersburg, with its wide streets and neoclassical mansions.
The Swedes had finished Suomenlinna, an ambitious sea fortress designed to keep the Russians at bay. This massive project is still in place, and it is one of many exciting things to discover in Helsinki. Make time to see some modern architecture, such as the Temppeliaukio Church.
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Board the ferry from Kauppatori and you’ll be in one of the most amazing man-made places in Scandinavia, if not the world, in a matter of minutes. Suomenlinna is a massive maritime fortress comprising seven islands. The Swedes built it in the mid-1800s to defend their eastern territories, but it was overrun by the Russians at the turn of the century. It is not an exaggeration to say that very little has changed at Suomenlinna since then.
2 Helsinki Cathedral
This landmark’s tall green dome soars above the Helsinki cityscape, and at night it appears to shine like a beacon from the water. Whatever the reason for your visit to Helsinki, this whitewashed neoclassical cathedral is a must-see. St. Nicholas’ Cathedral when it was built in the mid-nineteenth century, in honour of Russian Tsar Nicholas I, who was also Grand Duke of Finland. After Finland gained independence in 1917, it was Helsinki Cathedral.
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This is a finger of green space right in the middle of the city, where tourists and Helsinki residents come to picnic, relax, and in the summer. The Espa Stage, an outdoor venue with an exciting schedule of shows and live music performances, is in front of Cafe Kappeli now. Come to Jazz-Espa, a month-long jazz festival, in July, or the Marimekko Fashion Show in June.
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4 Temppeliaukio Church
It’s safe to say that there aren’t many churches like this one in the world. Suomalainen Brothers won a post-war design competition, and Temppeliaukio in 1969. The structure is underground and was hewn from bedrock, which forms the interior walls. A circular skylight surrounds the central dome, allowing sunlight to flood into the main chamber during the day. The architects designed every piece of decoration and furniture inside this magnificent church.
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5 Uspenski Cathedral
If you want to see examples of Russia’s century-long relationship with Finland, this orthodox cathedral in Pormestarinrinne is a good place to start. The church’s origins are unmistakable from the outside, with its red-brick towers and golden cupolas. Take a look at the Iconostasis, which contains a collection of beautiful paintings of the Virgin Mary and other saints.
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6 Old Market Hall
The Old Market Hall near the water in Eteläranta has been open all day, Monday through Saturday, since 1889. There had never been a permanent structure for Helsinki’s open-air markets, which were in squares. It’s a striking Byzantine revival structure that’s worth seeing even if you don’t need to shop. If you want to buy something, you’ll have stalls selling fresh produce such as meat, fish, fruit, and vegetables, as well as Finnish cakes and cheeses.
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