Helsinki, the White City of the North
Helsinki is the capital of Finland and the centre of Finland´s business, education, research, and culture. Greater Helsinki, with population of over a million, has eight universities and six technology parks. Although an international metropolis, Helsinki somehow retains a small-town feeling. Beautiful in winter, still it is most enjoyable during summer.
Helsinki's unofficial symbol, the Lutheran Cathedral - Tuomiokirkko -with its striking white walls is just one of the many churches and museums worth to visit in this city. Uspenski Cathedral for instance is the largest orthodox church in Western Europe; and The Church in the Rock (Temppeliaukion kirkko) is a church was literally dug out of solid rock.
Outside Helsinki, many choose to take a ferry from Market Square and see Suomenlinna, a magnific sea fortress. This trip will also give a chance to see how beautiful the archipelago (saaristo) that surrounds the centre of Helsinki is.
Leisure, entertainment and nightlife
Water park Serena, Kotiharjun sauna, or visit to one of the clubs where the Finnish jazz is as best – there is plenty to do in Helsinki, Restaurants here serve both cosmopolitan and Finnish cuisine, very often with Russian touch, and nightclubs in the centre and in Kallio district are particularly recommended, as well as Arctic Ice Bar, where the temperature is always -5°C (do not worry: you will get a coat on entry).
If you in the centre see a strangely red tram closing by, get on board and... have a drink there too. Perhaps the trip on this tram, converted to a pub and called Spårakoff, will allow you to enjoy the city even more (the tram operates only during summer).
Getting here and getting around
The main international/domestic airport, 15 km north from the city, has bus connection to the railway station. A helicopter tour from Tallinn (Estonia) to the city centre takes about 20 minutes. Helsinki has also very good ferry services to Tallinn, as well as to and Stockholm (Sweden). There are also ferries to St. Petersburg (Russia) and to northern Germany.
Travelling within the boundaries of Helsinki, by buses, trains, trams, subway (metro), and Suomenlinna ferry will be easy when one single ticket (The City ticket) is bought, but one can also choose a reloadable smartcard called Travel Card (matkakortti). The train line 3T is particularly convenient for tourists.
Helsinki was founded in 1550 by King Gustav Vasa of Sweden as a trading post to compete with Hanseatic city of Reval (today Tallinn). Helsinki developed into the major city when in the beginning of 19th century Finland was annexed to Russia (and became Grand Duchy of Finland) and the capital of Finland was moved here from Turku, in attempt to diminish the Swedish influence in Finland. The Czar put his finest architects to work on rebuilding the city in Empire style.
Neither during WWI, nor when heavily bombed by Soviets during WWII, Helsinki did not suffer much damage. Developing steadily after the war; the capital of Finland has today the second most sparsely populated metropolitan area of all EU-capitals.
Time zone: UTC (GMT) +2. Daytime saving time (DST) is observed.
Currency: Euro (EUR, €).
Climate: maritime/temperate continental. Long, dark and cold winters (November - March). The drastic temperature drops (below -20°C) can occur only for short periodes.
Summers (June - August) are mild and warm, with moderate rainfalls and the day temperatures between 15°C and 22°C. In the warmest month - July - it can be really warm.