When it comes to Northern Europe tourist destinations, Helsinki, Finland probably doesn’t jump off the map. However, as part of a Northern European Cruise, we enjoyed a (rainy) day there. There’s enough to keep the tourist entertained.
Finland has an interesting history, with a culture and language that is very distinct from its Scandinavian and Russian neighbors, even though it was under Swedish rule for six centuries and then ceded to Russia in the early 1800’s. There are very obvious Swedish and Russian influences in Helsinki from fortresses to street names and churches.
Here are a few of the interesting sights:
Suomenlinna Fortress. The Swedish built this fortress (they called it Sveaborg) in the 18th century, when Finland was part of the Swedish kingdom. It can be reached by a short (15 minute) ferry ride (the terminal is near Market Square, just a short distance from Senate Square).
The fortress contains defensive walls, gates, gun emplacements, tunnels, courtyards, a prison, museums, beaches, churches and park areas, as well as shops and cafes. A useful printed guide can be obtained at the ferry terminal.
Today the Fortress is used for cultural events and conventions in addition to being a great place to picnic and experience a bit of Finnish history.
Senate Square. This is Helsinki’s central square, surrounded by 19th century neo-classical buildings.
Temppeliaukio Rock Church. This church was completed in 1969. It’s unique in that it was carved right into bedrock. It must have been a massive undertaking. It’s worth visiting for the unusual setting.
Uspenski Cathedral. This church is a reminder of Russian influence in Helsinki. It is the largest Eastern Orthodox Church in Western Europe. It was completed in 1868. It is quite beautiful inside.
Johanneksen (St. John’s) Church. A Lutheran church, built in the late 1800’s and the largest stone church in Finland by seating capacity (seats 2,600 people). It stands out in the Helsinki skyline with twin towers that are 243 ft. in height.
Bat Baby (aka Angel-Demon Statue). One of the more strange sculptures I’ve seen. It’s from 2009 and part of an exchange with the Triumph Gallery in Moscow and Volker Diehl Gallery in Berlin.