Helsinki is the capital of Finland and has a population of over 1.2 million people; it is by far the most populous area of the country, as well as the hub for politics, education, research, finance, and culture. The city can proudly boast having one of the highest urban standards of living in the world and is also the northernmost capital of all of the EU member states.

A brief history of Helsinki

The Tavastians inhabited the present day area of Helsinki as early as the Iron Age. They used the area for fishing and hunting, but due to a lack of archaeological evidence, it is difficult to know how extensive these settlements were. The city as we know it today was established in 1550 by King Gustav I of Sweden. The king initially planned to issue an order to resettle the bourgeoisie from surrounding towns in this new city, however, his plans never came into fruition and instead the city became full of disease, poverty and war. In fact, in 1710 the plague killed a large proportion of the city’s population. In the 18th century, there was an attempt to redevelop the city by building a naval fortress, however, it wasn’t until Russia defeated Sweden in the Finnish War and annexed Finland onto the Grand Duchy of Finland in 1809, that the city began to develop.

Things to do in Helsinki

There is plenty to do in Helsinki, but the city’s top attraction is Suomenlinna, an 18th-century sea fortress and nature reserve, it is really beautiful as it is spread across 6 islands that are linked with bridges. There are walking trails across the parkland and between popular sights such as the King’s Gate drawbridge and Suomenlinna Museum. Suomenlinna also hosts Submarine Vesikko, which is a restored 1930s vessel where visitors are invited onboard to discover what life was like on a submarine. After all of that excitement, you can also relax and have a handcrafted beer from the brewery or eat at one of the several waterside restaurants. In terms of architecture, one of the most unusual and impressive buildings is the Temppeliaukion Church, which is built into the excavated rock and Helsinki’s main cathedral is also notable, it’s a Lutheran church located in the Töölö neighbourhood.

Beaches around Helsinki

Like many Scandinavian cities, Helsinki has a public beach in the city centre, it is called Hietaniemi and is a sandy beach that gets very busy with people playing volleyball and relaxing on the long summer days. It is perfect for the whole family and also has a lovely bistro that serves food and refreshments. Surprisingly enough, the water on this beach can actually reach over 20° C during the summer, which is considered incredibly warm for the Nordic countries. If you want to go further afield, then check out Isosaari Island, which is located just off the coast and can be reached by passenger ferry that takes around 40 minutes.

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Discover how to reach and what to do to Helsinki: tips, events, local festivals, culture, food and all the other details to explore Helsinki can be found on our blog!

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