Helsinki (pronounced with the stress on the first syllable in Finnish — think "Helsing Ki"), or Helsingfors in Swedish , is the capital of Finland. It is located in the southern part of Finland on the shore of the Gulf of Finland. Helsinki forms a conurbation with three other cities, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen, which are together called the capital area. The Greater Helsinki area has a total population of 1.2 million.
Main article: History of Helsinki
King Gustav I of Sweden had a great interest to build up at the rapids of the river Vantaa a community that would transfer all trade, both export and import, to one place in Finland. In 1550 he ordained that a new town, Helsingfors, should be founded. At that time, however, Helsinki was little more than a place for the King and his retinue to stay while they were away from the capital Turku on hunting trips. It was thanks to the paternal solicitude for his people that the city was founded. Gustav believed that a town standing directly opposite Tallinn, which was a remarkable Hanseatic centre, was needed to attract to it the trade hitherto the monopoly of foreigners, mostly Germans, Russians and Dutchmen.
Finland was in those days the eastern province of the Swedish state. After northern Estonia, including Tallinn, became a part of Sweden in 1561, the rivalry between Tallinn and Helsinki ceased to matter in Gustav Vasa's economic plans. When the city later was moved to the southernmost peninsula of the neighbouring area, it was only because there were more favourable conditions for a harbour. The original foundation was at the mouth of the Vantaa river, but the population eventually migrated somewhat to the west in order to take advantage of better sea-anchorage. Helsinki only became the capital of Finland in 1812 after Finland had been captured from Sweden by Russia.
In Helsinki there are eight universities (see the section "Universities" below) and some polytechnics.
In Helsinki public transport is done by HKL. It consist of buses ("dösä"), trams ("spåra/spora"), Helsinki Metro and VR's commuter trains. YTV handles traffic to 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 tram traffic in 1972 and Viipuri (at that time part of the Soviet Union instead of Finland) abandoned it in 1957.
The Helsinki Metro line, started in 1982, was the first, and so far the only, metro line in the entire 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 station, dividing the remainder of the line into two sub-lines with three stations each.
Air traffic is located in Helsinki-Vantaa Airport and Malmi Airport. Ferry connections to Tallinn and Stockholm are serviced by Silja Line, Viking Line, Seawind Line and Tallink .
The biggest hospitals of Finland are located in Helsinki, for example HYKS and many private hospitals. Also police and firemen service citizens.
Main article: Politics of Helsinki
The demographics of Helsinki is divided between 53.5 percent females and 46.5 percent males. Out of the total population there are 6.4 percent Swedish-speaking and 6.0 percent foreigners.
Main article: Geography of Helsinki
Helsinki spreads around a number of bays and over a number of islands. Some famous islands include Seurasaari, Lauttasaari and Korkeasaari – which is also the country's biggest zoo – as well as the fortress island of Suomenlinna (Sveaborg).
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 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.
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. Suomenlinna is a huge 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.
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.
If you are into architecture, church Temppeliaukion kirkko is worth seeing.
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 is a science center featuring exhibitions and an IMAX theater.
Botanical gardens are worth seeing as well.
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.
Helsinki was the host of the 1952 Summer Olympics.