Walking Tour of Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki, Finland, does not have an ancient city center with medieval buildings like many of its neighbors. However, being a more modern city, it has stunning and elegant 19th century Neo-classical architecture and is sure to please. It is also fairly compact and pleasant to walk, especially in the summertime. The architectural center of Helsinki is, without doubt, Senate Square, with its beautiful, white Lutheran Cathedral as its focus. There are numerous museums which are geared around someone or some aspect of Finland’s past.
My walk begins at Market Square, located right on the harbor. At the pier nearby, you can book a boat ride to Soumenlinna, the island fortress complex that guarded access to the harbor from Baltic Sea approaches. For now, however, wander around the busy square, people-watching.
Leave the square by turning left on Norra Esplanaden. The Swedish Theater is ahead, on the left. Continue west on Esplanaden, then bear left onto Lonrotsgaten, and then turn right on Fredrikenkatu. At Arkadiagaten, turn left, then right on Runebergsgaten, and right again on Lutherinkatu, to see the Temppeliaukio Church, known as the “rock church” because it was carved out of solid rock. Only its roof is visible as you approach.
Exit the church and return on Runebergsgaten to Arkadiakatu and turn left. Continue to one of Helsinki’s major boulevards, Mannenheimvagen. Turn left here, walking northward. The Finnish Parliament Building (Eduskuntatalo) is on the left. Check out its interior and then continue north to see Finlandia Hall, the city’s major concert venue.
Now, reverse direction on Mannenheimvagen, and then turn left on Kaivokatu. The Railway Station, one of Europe’s most recognized and one of the world’s most copied buildings, is on your left. Just ahead, on the left, is the National Theater. As the road you are on, now called Kaisaniemenkatu, continues, it merges with Unioninkatu, and brings you to Kaisaniemi Park, which contains the lovely Botanical Gardens of the University of Helsinki, worth an hour or so.
When you leave the park, turn right on Unioninkatu, which leads southward toward the harbor. At Rauhanakatu, turn left. Near the corner is the statue, called Dawn, and, beyond it, the stately Finnish Archives Building.
Return to Unioninkatu and continue down the hill. On your left is the Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity, with its unusual ochre façade. In the next block is the Library of the University of Helsinki, on your right, just before you enter Senate Square, the city’s most beautiful public space. Here you will find the white Lutheran Cathedral, with its distinctive green dome, one of the city’s landmarks. It sits on the north side of the square. Also on the square is the Neo-classical Senate Building. Its Corinthian columns make it one of the most elegant edifices in the city. The ochre-colored building, opposite the Cathedral, was designed by German architect, Carl Engel, who built many structures in the city.
Next, continue south on Unioninkatu, and then turn left on Esplanaden to return to Market Square, where the walk began.