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A description of the various attractions and activities in Helsinki.

Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland, is one of the largest and most urbane cities in northern Europe. It is located on the southern peninsula of Finland, along the waters of the Baltic Sea. Founded in 1550 by King Gustav Vasa, Helsinki grew rapidly in the late 1800s and became the capital of Finland in 1917. In 2000, Helsinki was named one of nine European Cities of Culture. It is now considered a premier global metropolis, and has close to one million inhabitants.

Visitors to Helsinki will find a wide variety of interesting attractions and activities. The most prominent tourist attractions include parks, churches and animal exhibits. Sightseeing tours of the city are available by bus, boat or tram. Walking tours are also available through Senate Square and many of the parks and gardens around the city. Senate Square is located in the heart of the city, and is composed of several historic buildings. On one side is the 150-year-old Helsinki Cathedral, perhaps the most famous structure in all of Finland. The cathedral is a fine and oft-photographed example of neoclassical architecture. The other buildings around the square include: the Government Palace, the University of Helsinki’s main building, and the National Library of Finland.

Not far from Senate Square, visitors may enjoy the lovely serenity of Esplanade Park. The park, which is named after the long walkway that goes through it, often hosts local events. During the summertime, the Marimekko Fashion Show the Jazz-Espa concert series, and folk dancing all take place at Esplanade. Another notable city park is Kaivopuisto Park down by the waterfront. Kaivopuisto is Finland’s oldest park and showcases some of the finest outdoor scenery the country has to offer. The sea, rock cliffs, and expansive grass lawns all provide a great place to relax on a nice day. The University Botanical Garden, located near the Central Railway Station in Kaisaniemi Park, is another outdoor attraction.

Helsinki has a lot to offer animal lovers in particular. One of the oldest zoos in the world can be found in Helsinki, the Korkeasaari Zoo. Established in 1889, the zoo contains over 200 species from all over the world, and is devoted to protecting and harboring endangered animals. Korkeasaari also has over 1000 different plant species. The city also has a large ocean exhibit called Sea Life. Visitors can view sharks, sea rays, crabs and other sea creatures in their strange underwater worlds. There is even a transparent tunnel that leads through an ocean tank, putting humans right in the middle of the aquatic seascape. The animals are from the neighboring Baltic Sea, the Arctic Sea, and tropical oceans.

Those who are interested in history and architecture will not want to miss Helsinki’s numerous churches and museums. One of the most unique places of worship in the world can be found at Temppeliaukio Church in the outskirts of the city. Temppeliaukio Church was built in 1969 in the side of a bedrock hill. The rock forms natural walls inside the building, almost like a cave. The bedrock creates excellent acoustics, and therefore makes the church a popular setting for concerts. The largest orthodox church in Western Europe can also be found in Helsinki, the Uspenski Cathedral. Built in 1868, its cupolas and red brick design are clear remnants of the Russian Empire that once ruled Finland.

The largest art collection in Finland can be found at the Ateneum Art Museum. The museum features Finnish and international art from the 1750s to the 1960s. Many national treasures, including work from famous artists such as Albert Edelfelt and Helene Schjerfbeck, are displayed here. A number of prominent events and activities are hosted at Ateneum Hall. For visitors more interested in ancient history, the National Museum of Finland has much to offer. This museum portrays Finnish history from the prehistoric era to modern times. Archeological artifacts, along with important ethnological and anthropological finds have all been collected at the Museum of Finland. A major exhibition highlights the progress of Finnish society and culture from the Middle Ages to the present.

Many sightseers also take interest in the massive Viapori-Sveaborg fortress off the coast. One of the largest sea fortresses in the world, the Viapori-Sveaborg was built in 1748 on islands just off the shore of Helsinki, and is reached by ferry. Tours are available, along with a Sveaborg Experience multi-vision show. For visitors with families, Helsinki also has the world

Though it may not be as famous or historically celebrated as other European cities, Helsinki still isa very modern city with many natural and man-made places of interest. The best time to visit is in the summer, as many more activities will be available then, and the Scandinavian winter can be rather harsh.


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