Beautiful Helsinki; Let’s Take a Walk!

In my last post I was coming back from Porvoo to meet up with hubby in Helsinki. So, today’s photos are what I  missed when hubby went on his tour and I went on mine. He took a walking tour of Helsinki. There is a lot to see and he took oodles of photos so I am writing two posts on his adventures.

The first photos are the inland port. They have turned the red brick storehouses into restaurants and shops all along the pier. The  Uspenski Cathedral is in the background. This is the main Cathedral of the Orthodox Church of Finland and was built from 1862-1868, after the death of the Russian architect, Aleksey Gornostavev, who designed it. In 2007, one of the famous icons, St Nicolas, the Wonder Maker, was stolen at the height of day,  when the church was full of tourists. It has never been recovered.  I would have loved to have seen the inside of this cathedral. Another trip to Finland is needed!

These photos will give you an idea of the architecture in Helsinki and many of the places that would be good to visit. We’re walking in Helsinki’s Cultural Area. What will we find?

Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki, Finland

They have turned this tug into a bar or restaurant featuring Irish Cider!

Helsinki, Finland

The yellow building is one of three Presidential Palaces. Originally, a salt storehouse stood here. Johan Henrik Heidenstrauch, one of Helsinki’s elite merchants, purchased the entire lot and between 1816 and 1820 built a stately residence, that resembled a palace, more than a merchants house. In 1837, it actually became a palace when it was converted into a residence for the Governor-General of Finland. However, Nicholas I of Russia,  had other ideas for this palace, since he was also the Grand Duke of Finland, it became the Imperial Palace of Finland, for him. Between 1843 and 1845, German architect, Carl Ludvig Engel ( who designed most of the neoclassical buildings in Helsinki and after his death his son took over) tore down all the old storehouses behind this palace and added a new wing. The new wing included a chapel, ballroom, banquet hall and a new kitchen. Remember, I showed more of Engel’s work in my previous Helsinki post. He was quite a busy man!

Helsinki, Finland, Presidential Palace

On October,13th, 1872 the first Finnish-speaking, theater performance was given in the town of Pori at the Hotel Otava. This was an important moment linking the nation’s political and cultural ideology away from the Russian Empire and the intellectual elite, who were Swedish speaking. In the 1860’s Finnish language and art, including theater, became the cornerstone of a cultural movement and gradually developed into a greater political scheme, which lead to National Independence in 1917. The Finnish National Theater, seen here, is the oldest Finnish speaking professional theater in Finland, which first functioned as a touring theater for over 30 years. This theatre, built in 1902 in the National Romantic style, (inspired by the romantic nationalism movement) was erected in the heart of Helsinki, close to the Helsinki Central Railway Station. The theater is reportedly haunted by at least three ghosts; an unknown “Grey Lady” and other actors.

Helsinki, Finnish National Theater

To get a vibe for the city streets here’s a look, near the main train station. Sokos is a large shopping center nearby. There are walkways underground that connect the buildings.

Helsinki, Finland, Sokos Store

and as the streetcar passes we get another look………

Helsinki, Streetcar and Central Train Station

and looking this way………

Helsinki, Finland, Streetcar in City

and this way……

Helsinki, Finland, Central Train Station

The Helsinki Train Station was built in 1862, however the station soon proved to be too small, so a contest was organized in 1904 to encourage plans for a new station. There were 21 entries for the new station and the winning design was by Eliel Saarinen with a National Romantic design.  However, there were calls for newer, modern looking buildings, so Saarinen abandoned his plan and re-designed the station completely. The new design was finished in 1909 and the new building was operational by 1919. In the 1960’s an underground pedestrian underpass and underground shopping center was built south of the station. The station is mostly made in Finnish granite, but it’s distinguishing features are the clock tower and the two pair of “Oscar-looking” statues holding lamps, that are lit at night time.

Helsinki, Finland, Central Train Station

and up close they look like this……..

Helsinki, Finland, Central Train Station

Inside the terminal there are 19 platforms………

Helsinki, Finland, Central Train Station

There are several restaurants too and a private waiting lounge for exclusive use by the President of Finland. The lounge was also designed by Saarinen and has two entrances: a bigger one leading in from Rautatientori Square and a smaller one from the Main Station Hall. The lounge was completed in 1911 and was intended for the private use of the Emperor of Russia, but WWI delayed it’s opening until 1919. During the war the lounge was converted to a temporary military hospital and afterwards was given for the use of the President.

Helsinki, Finland Clock

In 2012, there was another architectural competition to build a new public library in Helsinki, in one of the last open spaces. There were over 543 competitors for this contract and the winner planned a three story building that included a sauna, and a ground floor movie theater and restaurant, which also spills out to outdoor seating in the summer. The building opened in 2018 with robots transporting books to one third of the 185,000 square foot area designed for books. These book-sorting robots use online services to access nearly 3.4 million books, which can be delivered from outside sources to the building. On top of the building is a large open-plan room under a wavy roof, punctured by circular skylights. The rest of the space is for meeting areas, recording studios, and areas for exhibitions and events to be used by the public. This is quite the library!

Helsinki, Finland, Helsinki Central Library Oodi
Helsinki, Finland, Central Library Oodi

In 1923, there was a competition to choose a site for a new parliament house. The building was designed by Johan Sigfrid Sirén and was constructed from 1924 to 1931. Sirén combined a stripped classical architectural style with Neoclassicism with a combination of 14 simplified columns. The exterior is red Kalvola granite and there are five levels to the building connected with a white marble staircase. There is also a paternoster lift.  This small two-man lift/elevator rotates on a never stopping loop and is similar to rosary beads used in an aid in reciting prayer, hence the name paternoster, the first two words of the Lord’s prayer in Latin. Because the elevators rotate and one must jump on and off as they rotate on the loop, they are considered a safety concern and dangerous and not built any more. Those that still exist are priceless!

Helsinki, Finland, Parliament

The Helsinki Art Museum includes 250 sculptures located in parks, streets and squares throughout the city. There is a 5-mile walking trail that covers famous landmarks and many pieces of sculpture! Outside the Helsinki Music Theater is a pike rising from the ground, which is ready to burst into song. This sculpture known as the “Song Trees,” is made of aluminum and steel. The fish represents Finnish folk traditions and poetry. A grand piano elevated beside the fish, represents high culture. There is also a wood pile. I don’t know what that represents! I looked and looked at this piece, from all angles. From this first angle, the tallest column looks like (you know what) and the sculpture, bottom left, a lion with a long tail. The right sculpture looks like a woman with a bad hair day, wearing a fur coat to me. Well to each their own………that’s why it is called art!

Helsinki, Finland, Sculpture in Kansalaistori Square

Maybe we should see the piece from a different angle and farther away!

Helsinki, Finland, Music Center

Here is another view and sculpture on the Walking Sculpture Trail.

Helsinki, Finland, Armor Statue in Kansalaistori Square

This 5-mile trail circles the city……….

Helsinki, Finland, Bike and Walking Trail

I liked the big seagull on the Helsinki Art Museum, one of ten museums in Helsinki. The HAM art collections belong to the people of Helsinki and include over 9,000 pieces of art. The main focus of the museum is Finnish Modernism. It is the most popular museum in Finland. Main exhibitions are held at Tennis Palace, where there are also restaurants and cafés, a museum shop and Helsinki’s biggest cinema complex……

Helsinki, Finland, Art Museum
Helsinki, Finland, Art Museum

Well, I think I need a break! Let’s take a breather here and continue our walk of Helsinki tomorrow! I’ll see you there!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Sartenada says:


    I love this post. It was a great joy to stroll around in Helsinki thru these beautiful photos. Welcome again to Helsinki! There is easy connection from the airport to Helsinki by train. Thank you sharing this post with us.

    Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sheree says:

    As always I love your walking tours. This one was down memory lane revisiting Helsinki. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jo Shafer says:

    Interesting architecture, indeed. The yellow presidential palace looks like a very distant cousin to Catherine the Great’s palace in St. Petersburg (Petrograd). At least, it brought that to mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many of the buildings in Helsinki reminded me of the buildings in St Petersburg. Of course, Finland was ruled, off and on, for many years by Russia and the architects in Helsinki were definitely trying to keep everyone happy! I am loving the Revolution of Marina book you recommenced!


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