Helsinki, in Finnish Helsinki, is the capital of Finland and the country’s largest city. The town is located in Southern Finland, the province of Nyland ny, by the Gulf of Finland on the southern coast. It has a land area of 214 km2 and 630 000 residents (2017), of which 5.7 per cent is Swedish speaking. The Helsinki region has around 1.2 million residents (2017).
Helsinki, also called the “Baltic Sea Daughter”, is beautifully situated on a peninsula in the Gulf of Finland, surrounded by many small islands, partly linked to bridges. The landscape is hilly with heights of 30-60 meters. The city is also often called the “White City of the North” because of the white granite that characterizes the monumental architecture of the city center. Helsinki was a European cultural city in the year 2000.
Helsinki is Finland’s most important center for administration, trade and culture, and trade and service industries are the main trade routes. The Helsinki region is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the EU. The city is also an important industrial city with over 10 per cent of the country’s industry. The industry is very versatile, including significant high-tech industry, but also shipyards, foundries, textiles, machinery, paper and food industries, as well as the well-known ceramic factory Arabia. The highest concentration of workplaces is found in the center, Böle, Drumsö, Mejlans and Sockenbacka.
Transport and Communications
The harbor is good and spacious, but must be kept open by icebreakers for 2-3 winter months. Helsinki is Finland’s most important import port with about half of its imports. About a third of exports also cross the city’s port. The port facilities include, among others, the Västra harbor, which takes much of the transatlantic freight traffic, and the Södra harbor (coastal and passenger traffic). There are connections to Tallinn, Stockholm and Travemünde that several shipping companies operate, including Silja Line, Viking Line, Tallink and Eckerö Line.
Helsinki is also the country’s most important railway hub. All major cities in Finland have a rail connection to Helsinki, but Moscow and St. Petersburg also have daily train connections.
The city has two airports, Helsinki-Vantaa, where international air traffic takes place, and Helsinki-Malm. The former is located 19 km north of Helsinki and is the country’s largest airport. Internal communications include a subway system.
Public institutions and culture
The city is the seat of the country’s government and other central government agencies and cultural institutions. The university, founded in Turku (Finnish: Turku) in 1640 and relocated to Helsinki in 1828, is the country’s largest. There are technical colleges (in the suburb of Espoo), both Finnish and Swedish language schools, veterinary colleges, military colleges and a number of other colleges. The most important cultural institutions are the Sibelius Academy, the National Museum and other art collections, the Swedish theater, the Finnish theater, the opera, the national archive and more. The city also has the Olympic Stadium from the 1952 Summer Olympic Games.
In 2018, the new main library ODE opened, which became the newest addition to the tribe of cultural buildings around Medborgartorget in Tölöviken. From here on, the Concert Hall Finlandia House, the National Museum, the Music House, the Parliament House and the Museum of Modern Art Kiasma are located here.
Helsinki is a modern city, with very few older buildings. The settlement has gradually grown throughout the peninsula and spread to the surrounding islands and the mainland itself. The oldest part of town is on the east side of the peninsula. Here is the Market Square with the Town Hall (City Hall), the Presidential Palace and the Uspenski Cathedral, as well as the Senate Square with the Storkyrkan (Cathedral), the University, the University Library and the Trinity Church. Other nearby buildings include the Bank of Finland and the Riddarhuset. Helsinki has sixty districts, each divided into smaller areas, but to simplify the administration, the city is also divided into eight major districts.
The city’s administrative center is dominated by neoclassical-style buildings designed by architects Carl Ludvig Engel and JA Ehrenström, among others. Modern office and business premises are located along Södra Esplanadgatan and Alexandersgatan. Around the Railway Square is the Ateneum Art Museum, outside stands the statue of W. Aaltonen by Aleksis Kivi. The main business street is the Mannerheimvägen, here is the Swedish theater, the post office with the equestrian statue of Mannerheim outside, the Parliament House, the National Museum, the Michael Agricola Church and the new Museum of Contemporary Art, Kiasma. The newer neighborhoods contain excellent examples of modern urban planning, including Hagalund (Finnish: Tapiola) in Espoo has attracted international attention for its varied housing, outdoor areas and public buildings. Large areas are laid out for parks and colony gardens. In this context, many large sports facilities and recreational areas such as Djurgården with the Olympic Stadium (for the 1952 Olympic Summer Games), and Sanduden’s outdoor swimming pool, the Sibelius Park and the Tölö area have been developed. Around the mainland there are islands such as Högholmen with a zoo, Blåbärslandet and Rönnskär sea bath, Sveaborg with traditional fortifications and historical museum.
Helsinki was founded by Gustav Vasa in 1550 to compete with the Hanseatic city of Reval (Tallinn) on trade from Russia. Helsinki is the youngest capital of the Nordic region, and the city was originally located somewhere else than it is today, at Forsby (Finnish: Koskela) in Helsinge county (hence the name), now part of Helsinki, at the outlet of the Vanda river (Finnish: V antaanjoki). The location was less fortunate for shipping, and the entire city system was therefore moved in 1640 a few kilometers to the southwest to the area between the present Senate Square and the North Harbor. The city’s growth was hampered by several city fires, in 1654, 1713, when the city was burned by retiring Swedish soldiers, and in 1808 by the new Russian conquest. Helsinki was long just a small town; in 1810 it had 4000 residents.
In the middle of the 18th century, an economic boom flourished in connection with the construction of the fortress Sveaborg, and after Finland became part of Russia in 1809, Helsinki in 1812 was made the capital of the independent Grand Principality. The purpose was to weaken the ties to Sweden that Turku represented. After Turku burned in 1827, the university was also moved to Helsinki. Around the 1840s, the new Helsinki was completed with its neo-classical buildings. The city had a rail link with Tavastehus 1862 and St. Petersburg 1870. During the War of Independence in 1918, the city was besieged by the Russians, and during the winter war of 1939-40, the city was repeatedly exposed to Russian bomb attacks. Since the end of the 19th century, the city has had strong immigration from the country, which has led to a gradual decline in the proportion of Swedish-speaking people. Helsinki hosted Olympic Summer Games in 1952 and, after World War II – as the capital of a neutral country – hosted many international conferences.