Since 1812, Helsinki has been the capital of Finland. At the time, the country had been annexed by Russia, but the Russian Czar was generous enough not to begrudge the Grand Duke of Finland a beautiful capital. The Johan Albrecht Ehrenström and Carl Ludwig Engel were given the task of transforming the trade post of Helsinki into a city with imperial allure. That is still visible in the area around the Lutheran Cathedral.
The city itself has 560,000 inhabitants, but including the suburbs the number of people living in Helsinki is about a million.
Helsinki is located in the extreme south of the country on the Finnish Gulf. The city was built on a number of islands and around bays. On the other side of the water lies the Estonian capital Tallinn, while the Russian city of Saint Petersburg lies some 300 kilometres to the east.
Information technology and financial services are the backbone of the economy. The largest mobile phone manufacturer - Nokia - has its headquarters in Helsinki.
About a third of the Gross Domestic Product of Finland is realised in and around Helsinki. The average income is about 1.5 times higher than it is in the rest of Finland, which makes Helsinki one of the wealthiest cities of Europe.
The full name of the airport of the capital of Finland is Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. It is located 18 kilometres to the north of the city. It is easy to reach from the Circular Road III (Kehä III) and from road 45 to/from Tuusula.
Helsinki has an extensive tram network. Lines 3B and 3T (T stands for Tourist) pass many interesting locations in the city.
Buses depart from two different stations: from the square next to the train station (Rautatieasema) and from the underground station Kamppi. From there, regional buses also depart, and it also serves as a subway station. Visitors to Helsinki have little interest in the city's subway. There is one subway line that divides the suburbs to the east of the city into two.
From the market square (Kauppatori) there are ferries operated by Suomenlinna bound for holiday islands off the coast. There are also ferries to Tallinn (Estonia) and Stockholm (Sweden).
In addition, there are the Citybikes, that can be rented at one of the 26 Citybike stations for 2 euros.
Traffic and Parking
Driving in the Finnish capital is very easy. The traffic flows are monitored from a central command centre. If necessary, traffic lights are operated from the centre to ease congestion. Buses and trams have right of way; usually that is arranged via the traffic lights.
From Helsinki, there are excellent motorways to Turku in the west, Tampere and Lahti in the north, and Porvoo and Saint Petersburg in the east.
The centre of Helsinki is divided into three parking zones. All of the zones have paid parking in the street from Monday to Friday, and in zone 1 (the shopping area) on Saturday as well. It is easy to park your car in one of the nine car parks in the centre. Whether a car park is available is clearly indicated on road signs along the roads in the centre.
Helsinki has a large number of hotels in every price range. There is a reasonable supply of budget hotels. Hotel Kämp claims to be Finland's only 5 star hotel. Its rooms are priced accordingly. Generally speaking, it is not hard to find a room. If you want to be certain you have a room in a particular hotel, we recommend booking in advance.
For more information about Helsinki, we recommend Google, and the following sources: