Helsinki ( ; , ) is the
capital and largest city in Finland.
It is in
the southern part of Finland, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, by the Baltic Sea.
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%.
along with the neighbouring cities of Vantaa
(Esbo), and Kauniainen (Grankulla), constitutes what is known as
the capital region, with over 1,000,000 inhabitants.
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
and minority Swedish
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.
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,
(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 Hälsingland in Sweden.
Another possibility is that the
name is derived from the Scandinavian word hals
referring to the narrowest part of the river, i.e. the
In Helsinki slang
the town is also
(from the Swedish word stad
city) and Hesa
in colloquial Finnish. is the North Sami
name of 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 Reval (today:
Little came of the plans as Helsinki
remained a small coastal town for a long time, plagued by poverty,
wars, and diseases. The plague
1710 killed two-thirds of the inhabitants of Helsinki. The construction of
the naval fortress Sveaborg (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.
Alexander I of Russia moved
the capital from Turku 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
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. Petersburg.
As elsewhere, technological advancements
such as railroads and industrialization
were key factors behind
the city's growth.
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 Vaasa, although
some senators and officials remained in hiding in the
After the tide of war turned against the Red
forces, German troops allied with the White Government liberated
Helsinki in April 1918.
Tampere, 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 Suomenlinna 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
In the aerial bombings of the Winter War
(1939–40) and the Continuation War
(1941–44) Helsinki was attacked by Soviet
. 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
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 Brussels.
Helsinki seen from Spot
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 Vironniemi. Population density in certain parts of
Helsinki's inner city area is very high, reaching in the district
of Kallio, 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.
ten kilometre (6.2 mi) long Helsinki Central Park that stretches from the inner city to the northern
border of Helsinki is an important recreational area for
notable islands in Helsinki include Seurasaari, Lauttasaari and Korkeasaari – which is also the country's biggest zoo – as well
as the fortress island of Suomenlinna (Sveaborg) and the military island of Santahamina.
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,
Carl Ludvig Engel
The view across summertime
designed several neo-classical
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
Square, surrounded by the Government
Palace, the main building of the University, and the
enormous Cathedral, which was finished in 1852, twelve years after
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
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 Katajanokka 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
Hall, have sparked much debate amongst Helsinki's
addition to Aalto's work, there is a body of other noteworthy
functionalist architecture in Helsinki, such as the Olympic
Stadium, the Tennis Palace, the Rowing Stadium, the Swimming Stadium, the
Velodrome, the Glass
Palace, the Exhibition Hall (now Töölö Sports Hall) and
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 Stadium and Helsinki-Malmi Airport are in addition catalogued by the National Board of
Antiquities as cultural-historical environments of national
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 Käpylä, Kumpula, Toukola 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
movies. Some of the more notable ones are The Kremlin Letter
(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
(21), and Social
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
Helsinki. The largest groups are from Russia, Estonia, Sweden, but also
large numbers of residents from Somalia, Serbia, China, India, Iraq and
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 Ingå, Kirkkonummi, Vihti and
Nurmijärvi and Pornainen, though absolute numbers were in hundreds between
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
, one of the world's longest continuous rock tunnels.
Helsinki tap water is even sold to countries such as Saudi Arabia.
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
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
biggest historical museum in Helsinki is the National
Museum of Finland, 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.
of Helsinki also has many significant museums, including the
University Museum and the Natural History Museum.
Finnish National Gallery consists of three museums: Ateneum Art Museum for classical Finnish art, Sinebrychoff Art Museum
for classical European art, and Kiasma Art Museum 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
has three major theatres: The Finnish National Theatre, the Helsinki City Theatre, and the Finland
Teatern. The city's main musical venues are the
National Opera and the Finlandia concert-hall. Bigger concerts and events are usually held
at one of the city's two big ice hockey arenas: the Hartwall
Areena or the Helsinki Ice Hall. Helsinki has Finland's largest fair
Helsinki is considered as one of the main hubs of popular music in
, many widely
renowned and acclaimed bands have originated in Helsinki, including
, The Rasmus
Shape of Despair
, The 69 Eyes
, and Apocalyptica
Arena 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
, in recognition of the use of design as an effective
tool for social, cultural and economic development in the city.
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 Helsinki, 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
. 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
HIFK, with 14 Finnish championships titles, also plays in the
division, so does Botnia -69.
The Olympic stadium hosted the 1st ever Bandy World Championships
Helsinki also sees the development of other sports like rugby.
There are two amateur clubs in Helsinki: Helsinki rugby club
and the Warriors
has several ring roads: Kehä I, Kehä II, and Kehä III.
central city to east and west, there are Itäväylä and Länsiväylä.
Helsinki region roads.
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
, the city's transportation authority. The diverse
public transport system
consists of trams
, commuter rail
, the subway
lines and two
lines. The Helsinki Metropolitan Area
Council manages traffic to the surrounding municipalities of
Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen.
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: Turku and Viipuri (Vyborg, now in Russia), but both have since
, 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 Espoo was
approved, and serious debate about an eastern extension into
Sipoo has taken place.
traffic is handled primarily from the international Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, located approximately north of Helsinki's
downtown area, in the neighbouring city of Vantaa.
airport provides scheduled non-stop flights to many important
cities in Europe, Asia and North America. Helsinki's second
Airport, is mainly used for general and private
aviation. Copterline has provided fast (18 min.) helicopter flights to
Tallinn, but discontinued the regular service in December 2008 on
grounds of unprofitability.
connections to Tallinn and Stockholm are serviced by various companies.
Finnlines passenger-freight ferries to Gdynia, Poland
and Travemünde, Germany are also available, while Tallink began
service to Rostock, Germany in 2007.
Museum of Finland 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 Aleksanterinkatu's Christmas
Vltava on the right and Sanomatalo in the background.File:Helsinki_Market.JPG|Helsinki
market square in winter.File:Helsinki center
evening.jpg|Central Helsinki in evening.File:Tower of the
Helsinki Olympic Stadium.jpg|Helsinki Olympic Stadium Tower, offers a good view over
Helsinki.File:Hesakirkot--GFDL--.jpg|Rooftops of the
southern inner city districts.File:Uspenski_Cathedral_Helsinki.jpg|The
Orthodox cathedralFile: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 Theatre and Aleksis Kivi statue in
Rautatientori.File:Temppeliaukio Church 3.jpg|Altar of
Temppeliaukio Church that is built undergroundFile:Hietaniemi
beach in summer.File:Itäkeskus shopping
centre.JPG|Itäkeskus is the biggest shopping mall in the Nordic