According to Wikipedia, Helsinki is the capital and largest city of Finland. It is located in southern Finland, (faraway from Santa and Rudolph unfortunately) on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, a long arm of the Baltic Sea. Helsinki has a population of 600,000 and a metropolitan population of 1.4 million, making it the most populous area in Finland.
Helsinki has close historical connections with three cities, Tallinn in Estonia, Saint Petersburg and Stockholm. Most who visit Helsinki also tend to drop Estonia, which makes for a really interesting getaway.
In the Economist Intelligence Unit’s August 2012 livability survey, assessing the best and worst cities to live in, Helsinki placed eighth best overall. In terms of livability, I’m guessing Helsinki is like how Singapore is in South East Asia. Clean and safe streets, a structured way of life, though things may be slightly more expensive than neighbouring countries.
The Helsinki Senate Square
The Helsinki Senate Square is one of the oldest parts of central Helsinki, according to Wikipedia. The key landmarks surrounding the square are the Helsinki Cathedral, the Government Palace, main building of the University of Helsinki. It’s supposed to be representative of political, commercial and religious powers in Helsinki.
The statue is that of Emperor Alexander II. Erected in 1894, it was built to commemorate his initiation of several reforms that increased Finland’s autonomy from Russia. The statue comprises Alexander on a pedestal surrounded by figures representing the law, culture and the peasants.
During the Russification of Finland from 1899 onwards, the statue became a symbol of quiet resistance, with people of Helsinki protesting to the decrees of Nicholas II leaving flowers at the foot of the statue of his grandfather, then known in Finland as “the good czar”.
University of Helsinki
Helsinki’s Shopping Street – Esplanade
Unlike the ‘Esplanade’ arts theatre in Singapore, which resembles a durian, Esplanade in Finland is Helsinki’s shopping street. I spotted many international brands here, from the likes of L’occitane, Mango, Zara… there are also home-grown brands like departmental store Stockmann.
Rautatientori and more…
Helsinki is a quaint European city with lots to see and do. I like it how you could have almost the entire place to yourself, especially during the early hours of the morning. Unlike the more famed touristy cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, Helsinki is the salve for the over-travelled soul, looking to take a break from bus loads of Chinese and European tourists. It’s a lovely place for early birds, on a search for a place of peace and quiet, for themselves.
I’ll be sharing more on Helsinki’s trains, buses and cars – stay tuned!