Hotels in Helsinki, Finland
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What The Helsinki? Finnish Features and Fun in Lapland's Capital
Finland's capital city of Helsinki, also known as the "Daughter of the Baltic," brims with history, architecture, gastronomy, museums and design, which, regardless of the season, provide a variety of focal points. Founded in 1550 as a trading centre, Helsinki rests on the southern peninsula of the country, where the Mannerheimintie thoroughfare ends. Rebuilt using the city of St. Petersburg as a model in 1812, the Russian tsars created a city centre that would later be used as a set in several Cold War movies. You’ll find numerous Finnish hotel favourites throughout the capital city, with several convenient hotels situated near the airport or within an easy train ride.
Architecture and History
Senate Square, or the Senaatintori, with its noteworthy neoclassical architecture, makes up the oldest part of the city with the most popular historical landmarks. At its centre is a monument in remembrance of Czar Alexander II, surrounded by figures symbolising art, work, law, science and peace. Bordering buildings include the Government Palace, the National Library of Finland, Sederholm House, the oldest stone building in Helsinki, the main University of Helsinki building, and Helsinki Cathedral. The buildings were all designed by Carl Ludvig Engel prior to 1852. For a musical treat, a modernised glockenspiel composition plays for five minutes daily in Senate Square at 17:49 (5:49 pm) for everyone around to enjoy. For those in need of shopping adventures Aleksanterinkatu (Aleks) and Esplanadi (Espa) Streets connect to Senate Square as well.
The Cathedral Itself
Helsinki Cathedral is easily the most widely visited building of the centre, a unique individual among cathedrals with its simple elegance, stoic altar painting of the death of Christ, ornate arches, massive organ and interesting corner pillars adorned with statues. The roof features sculptures of the twelve apostles watching over the city. The structure sits high enough to be seen from sea by approaching vessels and offers a picturesque view of the harbour and square. The Cathedral was once used not only for church services, but as a meeting space for a growing Protestant Lutheran population.
Highlights: When It’s Warm Outside
In warm months, there are plenty of outdoor bars, cafes, and street performances, and Esplanadi Park offers many free open-air concerts. Also popular during summer visits, guests can hop on a boat trip to neighbouring islands, take a bike tour of the city or do some moonlight kayaking. There’s an interesting church carved out of rock, referred to by many as ‘Rock Church’, which now serves as a popular concert hall. Conversely, if you prefer a little quiet time, there’s the Kamppi Chapel of Silence. Although full services are not given at the Chapel, silent visitation and reflection is encouraged, and the building is staffed by social workers and clergy for anyone in need. Additionally, assorted design shops are found throughout Helsinki’s Design District, including the famous Marimekko Store. You surely won't want to miss Market Square, where you'll find loads of booths selling everything from crafts and traditional figurines to plates overflowing with grilled salmon and vegetables, locally-grown fresh berries, Salmiakki, a salty black Finnish licorice, and an area favourite - reindeer meatballs.
Or If It’s Cold
Although it can get quite cold (20 below, anyone?) and snow-laden in the winter, Helsinki remains a fun stop for many. Dog sled rides and husky hikes are favourites of the area, with several local guides from which to choose. The world-renowned Christmas Market of the Square fills with shoppers to surprisingly crowded levels, with over 100 booths selling crafts, supplies and Finnish souvenirs of the season while a huge, painstakingly-dressed Christmas tree sparkles in the middle. Homemade cinnamon rolls and hot berry juice await at the quirky Cafe Regatta of Töölö, where guests are paid 5 cents each to stay for a coffee refill and can roast a sausage over the outdoor bonfire. A visit to the harbour is in order to watch ships arriving and departing, cracking through the ice as they go, and the "rocking chair on skis" offers a short and silly ride upon the frozen Baltic. Seurasaari Island is worth a visit, offering plenty of history and lessons in Finnish culture, as well as numerous squirrels for visitors to watch and feed. Many of the arctic animals at Helsinki zoo are still active and ready for a wintery romp also. Year-round features include countless traditional Finnish saunas, with up to 3 million saunas across all of Finland, or take in a museum from a wide city selection including Heureka Finnish Science Centre, the Natural History Museum, and Ateneum Art Museum.
Price rangefrom R309to R6,864
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