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Helsinki ( ; , ) is the capital and largest city in Finlandmarker. It is in the southern part of Finland, on the shore of the Gulf of Finlandmarker, by the Baltic Seamarker. The population of the city of Helsinki is ( ), making it the most populous municipality in Finland by a wide margin. Population with foreign background stands at around 10%.

Helsinki, along with the neighbouring cities of Vantaamarker (Vanda), Espoomarker (Esbo), and Kauniainenmarker (Grankulla), constitutes what is known as the capital region, with over 1,000,000 inhabitants. The Greater Helsinki area contains 12 municipalities and has a population of over 1,300,000.

Helsinki is Finland's capital for business, education, research, culture, and government. Greater Helsinki has eight universities and six technology parks. Some 70% of foreign companies operating in Finland have settled in the Helsinki region.

The city is bilingual, with majority being Finnish and minority Swedish speakers.

Since early 2009, Helsinki has started contemplating a possible merger with Vantaa. On 30 March 2009, the city council of Vantaa agreed to do a review of Helsinki's proposal of a possible merger. The city council emphasises that the review is not about a possible discontinuation of the city of Vantaa.


The Swedish name ( or ) is the original name of the city of Helsinki, and is still the official Swedish name for the city. The Finnish name, Helsinki (pronounced with the stress on the first syllable: ), has been dominant in non-Scandinavian languages for decades. The Swedish name Helsingfors comes from the name of the surrounding parish, Helsinge (source for Finnish Helsinki) and the rapids (in Swedish: fors), which flowed through the original town. The name Helsinge was probably given by medieval Swedish settlers who originated from the area of Hälsinglandmarker in Sweden. Another possibility is that the name is derived from the Scandinavian word hals (neck), referring to the narrowest part of the river, i.e. the rapids.

In Helsinki slang the town is also called Stadi (from the Swedish word stad, meaning city) and Hesa in colloquial Finnish. is the North Sami name of Helsinki.

Early history

Helsinki was founded by King Gustav I of Sweden in 1550 as the town of Helsingfors, which he intended to be a rival to the Hanseatic city of Revalmarker (today: Tallinnmarker). Little came of the plans as Helsinki remained a small coastal town for a long time, plagued by poverty, wars, and diseases. The plague of 1710 killed two-thirds of the inhabitants of Helsinki. The construction of the naval fortress Sveaborgmarker (In Finnish Viapori, today also Suomenlinna) in the 18th century helped improve Helsinki's status, but it was not until Russia defeated Sweden in the Finnish War and annexed Finland as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland in 1809 that the town began to develop into a major city.

Czar Alexander I of Russia moved the capital from Turkumarker to Helsinki in order to reduce Swedish influence in Finland. The Royal Academy of Turku, back then the only university in the country, was relocated to Helsinki in 1827 and eventually became the modern University of Helsinkimarker. The move consolidated the city's new role, and helped set it on the path of continuous growth. This transformation is highly apparent in the downtown core, which was rebuilt in neoclassical style to resemble St. Petersburgmarker. As elsewhere, technological advancements such as railroads and industrialization were key factors behind the city's growth.

Twentieth century

In 1918 the Finnish Civil War broke out and Helsinki fell to the Red Guards on January 28, the first day of the war. The Red side gained control of the whole of southern Finland after minor hostilities. Most members of the Senate fled to Vaasamarker, although some senators and officials remained in hiding in the capital. After the tide of war turned against the Red forces, German troops allied with the White Government liberated Helsinki in April 1918.

Unlike Tamperemarker, Helsinki suffered relatively little damage in the war. After the White victory many former Reds were put in prison camps, the largest camp with some 13 300 prisoners was located on the fortress island of Suomenlinnamarker in Helsinki. Although the civil war left a considerable scar in society, the standard of living in the country and the city began to improve in the following decade. Renowned architects such as Eliel Saarinen created utopistic plans for Helsinki, but they were never fully realized.

In the aerial bombings of the Winter War (1939–40) and the Continuation War (1941–44) Helsinki was attacked by Soviet bombers. The most intense air raids took place in the spring of 1944, when over two thousand Soviet planes dropped some 16,000 bombs in and around the city. Fortunately successful air defence efforts spared Helsinki from the destruction visited upon many other European cities.

Despite the tumultuous first half of the 20th century, Helsinki continued to develop steadily. A landmark event was the XV Olympiad (1952 Olympic Games) held in Helsinki. Finland's rapid urbanization in the 1970s, occurring relatively late in a European context, tripled the population in the metropolitan area and led to the development of the Helsinki Metro subway system. The Helsinki metropolitan area was one of the fastest growing urban centres in the European Union in the 1990s. The relatively sparse population density of Helsinki and its peculiar structure have often been attributed to this late growth spurt. The Helsinki metropolitan area is the second most sparsely populated EU-capital after Brusselsmarker.


Helsinki seen from Spot Satellite

Helsinki is spread across a number of bays and peninsulas and over a number of islands. The inner city area occupies a southern peninsula, which is rarely referred to by its actual name Vironniemimarker. Population density in certain parts of Helsinki's inner city area is very high, reaching in the district of Kalliomarker, but as a whole Helsinki's population density of ranks it as quite sparsely populated in comparison to other European capital cities. Much of Helsinki outside the inner city area consists of postwar suburbs separated from each other by patches of forests. A narrow, ten kilometre (6.2 mi) long Helsinki Central Parkmarker that stretches from the inner city to the northern border of Helsinki is an important recreational area for residents.

Some notable islands in Helsinki include Seurasaarimarker, Lauttasaarimarker and Korkeasaarimarker – which is also the country's biggest zoo – as well as the fortress island of Suomenlinnamarker (Sveaborg) and the military island of Santahaminamarker.


The city has a temperate continental climate. Owing to the mitigating influence of the Baltic sea and Gulf stream, temperatures in winter are much higher than the northern location might suggest, with the average in January and February around −5 °C. Temperatures below −20 °C occur normally only for a week or two in a year. However, because of the latitude, days lasts less than six hours in the winter solstice, and the very cloudy weather at this time of year accentuates the darkness. Conversely, Helsinki enjoys long days in summer, almost nineteen hours at the summer solstice. The average maximum temperature from June through August is around 19 to 21 °C. The highest temperature ever recorded at city centre was 31.6 °C on July 18, 1945 and the lowest was −34.3 °C on January 10, 1987.


The view across summertime Kaisaniemenlahti.
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 city centre all on his own. The city became low and wide at the time when most buildings had only two or three floors. The central point of Engel's city plan is the Senate Squaremarker, surrounded by the Government Palacemarker, the main building of the University, and the enormous Cathedralmarker, which was finished in 1852, twelve years after C. L. Engel's death. Engel's neo-classical plan of the city centre has later given Helsinki the epithet The White City Of The North.

Helsinki is, however, perhaps even more famous for its numerous Art Nouveau (Jugend in Finnish) buildings, designed in the early 1900s and strongly influenced by the Kalevala, which is a very popular theme in the national romantic art of that era. Helsinki's Art Nouveau style is also featured in large residential areas such as Katajanokkamarker and Ullanlinna. The master of the Finnish Art Nouveau was Eliel Saarinen (1873–1950), whose architectural masterpiece was the Helsinki central railway station.

Helsinki also features several buildings by the world-renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto (1898–1976), attributed as one of the pioneers in functionalism. Many of Aalto's works are either loved or hated. Aalto's buildings, such as the headquarters of the paper company Enso and the concert and congress house Finlandia Hallmarker, have sparked much debate amongst Helsinki's inhabitants.

In addition to Aalto's work, there is a body of other noteworthy functionalist architecture in Helsinki, such as the Olympic Stadiummarker, the Tennis Palacemarker, the Rowing Stadium, the Swimming Stadium, the Velodrome, the Glass Palacemarker, the Exhibition Hall (now Töölö Sports Hall) and Helsinki-Malmi Airportmarker. The sports venues were built to serve the 1940 Helsinki Olympic Games; the games were initially cancelled due to the Second World War, but the venues eventually got to fulfill their purpose in the 1952 Olympic Games. Many of them are listed by DoCoMoMo as significant examples of modern architecture. The Olympic Stadiummarker and Helsinki-Malmi Airportmarker are in addition catalogued by the National Board of Antiquities as cultural-historical environments of national significance.

During the 1960s and 1970s many aesthetically and historically important houses were swiftly demolished to make room for the rapidly expanding city and instead houses presenting more values of functionalism were built. This has later been widely regarded as a bad move and has led to a strong protectionism of old buildings in Helsinki. The plans made during the era of rapid growth expected Helsinki to have well over one million inhabitants at the turn of the millennium. Much due to the strong protectionism of today there are still many areas left with distinctive old wooden houses, such as Käpylämarker, Kumpulamarker, Toukolamarker and Puu-Vallila.

As a historical footnote, Helsinki's neoclassical buildings were often used as a backdrop for scenes set to take place in the Soviet Union in many Cold War era Hollywood movies. Some of the more notable ones are The Kremlin Letter (1970), Reds (1981) and Gorky Park (1983). Because some of the streetscapes were reminiscent of Leningrad's and Moscow's old buildings, they were used in the production – much to some residents' dismay. At the same time the government secretly instructed Finnish officials not to extend assistance to such film projects.


Helsinki has eighty-five members in its city council. The three largest parties are National Coalition (26), Greens (21), and Social Democrats (16).


The population of Helsinki is predominantly Finnish-speaking, with a sizable Swedish-speaking minority ( ). Also, 6.4% of the population are foreign citizens, and have a first language other than Finnish or Swedish.

The city has Finland's largest immigrant population in both absolute and relative terms. There are people of over 130 nationalities resident in Helsinki. The largest groups are from Russiamarker, Estoniamarker, Swedenmarker, but also large numbers of residents from Somaliamarker, Serbiamarker, Chinamarker, Indiamarker, Iraqmarker and Germanymarker.


The Helsinki metropolitan area generates approximately one third of Finland's GDP. GDP per capita is roughly 1.5 times the national average, making Helsinki one of the wealthiest capitals in Europe. In 2004, the local economy grew by 3.2%. Helsinki's GDP per capita is one of the highest of any city in the world.

Since the 1950s, the economy has become largely service-based, although industries such as shipbuilding continue to employ a substantial number of people. Large service-based employers include the public sector and the information technology sector. Helsinki has many staffing agencies.

The metropolitan area is the location of choice for the headquarters of large Finnish companies as well as the regional headquarters of international companies. The Helsinki metropolitan area has the best availability of highly skilled employees in Finland, and good infrastructure and business support systems. Since June 2007, the city centre has hosted the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), which has led to the relocation of several hundred international experts and their families to Helsinki.

Improving the economy of Helsinki and cooperation between the municipalities of the Helsinki conurbation are seen as major future challenges for the economic development of the region.

Helsinki's population growth has been steady for some time even though intra-areal migration has favoured Espoo and surrounding areas until very recently. The population of Greater Helsinki grew by in 2007 alone. The fastest growing area is the countryside belt between Ingåmarker, Kirkkonummimarker, Vihtimarker and Nurmijärvimarker and Pornainenmarker, though absolute numbers were in hundreds between 2000–2004. Between 2000–2004 net migration in Helsinki was negative at −330 residents. 20–30 year olds compose a rough fifth of the population of Helsinki as opposed to a mere 14 percent in Finland as a whole.

The tap water is of excellent quality and it is supplied by long Päijänne Water Tunnel, one of the world's longest continuous rock tunnels. Bottled Helsinki tap water is even sold to countries such as Saudi Arabiamarker.

The employment rate in the Helsinki metropolitan area stands at around 75% and employment growth has been good. Around 20% work in manufacturing and construction, compared to 10% in London and 30% in Milan. In private-sector services the distribution is that 34.5% work in trade, 17% in transport, 8% in hotels and restaurants, 5.7% in financial services, and 34.5% in other market services.

The metropolitan area's gross value-added per capita is 200% of the mean of 27 European metropolitan areas. It equals Stockholm or Paris. The gross value-added annual growth has been around 4%.

83 of the 100 largest Finnish companies are headquartered in Greater Helsinki. Two-thirds of the 200 highest-paid Finnish executives live in Greater Helsinki and 42% in Helsinki. The average income of the top 50 earners was 1.65 million euro.


Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences is the largest business polytechnic in Finland.
Helsinki has 190 comprehensive schools, 41 upper secondary schools and 15 vocational institutes. Half of the 41 upper secondary schools are private or state-owned, the other half municipal. Higher level education is given in eight universities (see the section "Universities" below) and four polytechnics.

Institutions of higher education




The biggest historical museum in Helsinki is the National Museum of Finlandmarker, which displays a vast historical collection from prehistoric times to the 21st century. The museum building itself, a national romantic style neo-medieval castle, is a tourist attraction. Other major historical museum is the Helsinki City Museum, which introduces visitors to Helsinki's 500 year history. The University of Helsinkimarker also has many significant museums, including the University Museum and the Natural History Museum.

The Finnish National Gallery consists of three museums: Ateneum Art Museummarker for classical Finnish art, Sinebrychoff Art Museum for classical European art, and Kiasma Art Museummarker for modern art. The old Ateneum, a neo-renaissance palace from 19th century, is one of the city's major historical buildings, whereas the highly modern Kiasma is probably the most debated building in Helsinki. All three museum buildings are state-owned through Senate Properties.

Helsinki has three major theatres: The Finnish National Theatremarker, the Helsinki City Theatre, and the Finland Swedish Svenska Teaternmarker. The city's main musical venues are the Finnish National Operamarker and the Finlandia concert-hallmarker. Bigger concerts and events are usually held at one of the city's two big ice hockey arenas: the Hartwall Areenamarker or the Helsinki Ice Hallmarker. Helsinki has Finland's largest fair centremarker.

Helsinki is considered as one of the main hubs of popular music in Northern Europe, many widely renowned and acclaimed bands have originated in Helsinki, including HIM, Stratovarius, Norther, Wintersun, Ensiferum, The Rasmus, Shape of Despair, The 69 Eyes, Hanoi Rocks, and Apocalyptica.


Helsinki Arenamarker hosted the Eurovision Song Contest 2007, the first ever Eurovision Song Contest arranged in Finland, following Lordi's win in 2006.

Helsinki is the 2012 World Design Capital, in recognition of the use of design as an effective tool for social, cultural and economic development in the city. In choosing Helsinki, the World Design Capital selection jury highlighted Helsinki's use of 'Embedded Design', which has tied design in the city to innovation, "creating global brands, such as Nokia, Kone and Marimekko, popular events, like the annual Helsinki Design Week, outstanding education and research institutions, such as the University of Art and Design Helsinkimarker, and exemplary architects and designers such as Eliel Saarinen and Alvar Aalto".


Helsinki has a long tradition of sports: the city gained much of its initial international recognition during the 1952 Summer Olympics, and the city has since then been very open to arranging sporting events, for example the first World Championships in Athletics 1983 and 2005, and European Championships in Athletics 1971, 1994 and 2012 etc. Helsinki hosts fairly successful local teams in both of the most popular team sports in Finland, football and ice hockey. Helsinki houses HJK, Finland's largest and most successful football club. Helsinki's track and field club Helsingin Kisa-Veikot is also pretty dominant in Finland. Ice Hockey is a sport of passion for many Helsinki residents, who usually take a stance for either of the local clubs HIFK or Jokerit. HIFK, with 14 Finnish championships titles, also plays in the highest bandy division, so does Botnia -69. The Olympic stadium hosted the 1st ever Bandy World Championships in 1957.

Helsinki also sees the development of other sports like rugby. There are two amateur clubs in Helsinki: Helsinki rugby club and the Warriors rugby club.



Helsinki region roads.
Helsinki has several ring roads: Kehä I, Kehä IImarker, and Kehä III. From central city to east and west, there are Itäväylä and Länsiväylämarker. From the central city to north, there are several routes. There is a proposal to build a Stockholm-like tunnel under central Helsinki to hide cars from streets. Central Helsinki has popular underground parking facilities.

Helsinki has some 390 cars per 1000 inhabitants. This is less than in cities of similar density, for instance, Brussels' 483 per 1000 and Stockholm's 401, and Oslo's 413.

Rail transport and buses

Public transportation is generally a hotly debated subject in the local politics of Helsinki. In Helsinki, public transportation is mostly managed under Helsinki City Transport, the city's transportation authority. The diverse public transport system consists of trams, commuter rail, the subway, bus lines and two ferry lines. The Helsinki Metropolitan Area Council manages traffic to the surrounding municipalities of Espoomarker, Vantaamarker and Kauniainenmarker.

Today, Helsinki is the only city in Finland to have trams or subway trains. There used to be two other cities in Finland with trams: Turkumarker and Viipurimarker (Vyborg, now in Russia), but both have since abandoned trams. The Helsinki Metro, opened in the year 1982, is so far the only subway system in Finland. In 2006, the construction of the long debated extension of the subway system west into Espoomarker was approved, and serious debate about an eastern extension into Sipoomarker has taken place.


Air traffic is handled primarily from the international Helsinki-Vantaa Airportmarker, located approximately north of Helsinki's downtown area, in the neighbouring city of Vantaa. The airport provides scheduled non-stop flights to many important cities in Europe, Asia and North America. Helsinki's second airport, Malmi Airportmarker, is mainly used for general and private aviation. Copterlinemarker has provided fast (18 min.) helicopter flights to Tallinn, but discontinued the regular service in December 2008 on grounds of unprofitability.

Sea transport

Ferry connections to Tallinnmarker and Stockholmmarker are serviced by various companies. Finnlines passenger-freight ferries to Gdyniamarker, Poland and Travemündemarker, Germany are also available, while Tallink began service to Rostockmarker, Germany in 2007.


File:Helsinkimerelta--GFDL--.jpg|Port of HelsinkiFile:FinlandNationalMuseum.jpg|The National Museum of Finlandmarker is located in Helsinki.File:Senaatintori joulukuisena aamuna 2004.jpg|The Senaatintori square on a winter morning in december.File:Helsinki Pohjoisranta.jpg|The Pohjoisranta at night.File:Stockmann department store in Helsinki at dawn in December 2004.jpg|Stockmann department store along the Aleksanterinkatumarker's Christmas street.File:Mittsommernacht-in-helsinki.jpg|Restaurant Vltava on the right and Sanomatalo in the background.File:Helsinki_Market.JPG|Helsinki market squaremarker in winter.File:Helsinki center evening.jpg|Central Helsinki in evening.File:Tower of the Helsinki Olympic Stadium.jpg|Helsinki Olympic Stadiummarker Tower, offers a good view over Helsinki.File:Hesakirkot--GFDL--.jpg|Rooftops of the southern inner city districts.File:Uspenski_Cathedral_Helsinki.jpg|The Uspenski Orthodox cathedralmarkerFile:FinlandParliament.jpg|Wall of Parliament HouseFile:Esplanadin puisto.jpg|The Esplanadi Park in central Helsinki in early june.File:Finnish National Theatre.jpg|Finnish National Theatremarker and Aleksis Kivi statue in Rautatientori.File:Temppeliaukio Church 3.jpg|Altar of Temppeliaukio Churchmarker that is built undergroundFile:Hietaniemi beach.jpg|Hietaniemi beachmarker in summer.File:Itäkeskus shopping centre.JPG|Itäkeskusmarker is the biggest shopping mall in the Nordic countries.

See also


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