Top Historic Sights in Helsinki, Finland

Explore the historic highlights of Helsinki

Senate Square

Senate Square (Senaatintori) presents Carl Ludvig Engel's architecture as a unique allegory of political, religious, scientific and commercial powers in the centre of Helsinki. It has been the centrum of Helsinki since the city was established in 1640. Russians destroyed Helsinki entirely during the Great Northern War (1713-1721).When the Finland became an autonomous part of Russia in 1812, the capital was moved from Turk ...
Founded: 1816-1852 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki Cathedral is a distinct landmark in the scenery of central Helsinki, with a tall green dome surrounded by four smaller domes. It was built in 1830–1852 in neoclassical style to replace an earlier church from 1727. The cathedral was designed by Carl Ludvig Engel, to form the climax of the whole Senate Square laid out by Engel, surrounded by a number of buildings all designed by him.Today the cathedral is one ...
Founded: 1830-1852 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Havis Amanda

Havis Amanda is a nude female statue sculpted by Ville Vallgren (1855-1940). He made it 1906 in Paris, but was not erected at its present location at the Market Square in Kaartinkaupunki until 1908. Havis Amanda is one of Vallgren's Parisian Art Nouveau works. She is a mermaid who stands on seaweed as she rises from the water, with four fish spouting water at her feet and surrounded by four sea lions. She is depicted ...
Founded: 1906 (erected 1908) | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Presidential Palace

To the north of Kauppatori Square stands the Presidential Palace, one of C. L. Engel’s grand neo-classical buildings. Originally at the beginning of 19th century, a salt storehouse stood on the site. The entire lot was bought by merchant Johan Henrik Heidenstrauch who built the first palace in 1820. He had to sell it to the senate of Finland in 1837 and the building was moved to the official residence of the Tsar or Rus ...
Founded: 1816-1845 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Ateneum Art Museum

Ateneum is the national gallery of Finland presenting the most important art collection in Finland. Ateneum's collections includes several classics from most well-known Finnish artists like Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Helene Schjerfbeck and Albert Edefelt. There is also a fine collection of international art, among its gems the works of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin.The museum building itself was designed by Theodor H& ...
Founded: 1887 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Uspenski Cathedral

Uspenski Cathedral is an Eastern Orthodox cathedral dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos (the Virgin Mary). The cathedral was designed by the Russian architect Alexey Gornostaev (1808–1862), but it was built after his death in 1862-1868. It was made of bricks brought mainly from Bomarsund fortress in Åland which had been destroyed during the Crimean War in 1854.Uspenski cathedral represents the Slavonic architec ...
Founded: 1862-1868 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Hakasalmi Villa

Hakasalmi Villa was built in 1843 by the procurator and privy counsellor Carl Johan Walleen as a combined city and country residence. The architect was E.B. Lohrmann from Berlin. Two wings were added to the front of the main building in 1847, the north one served as a bakery and the south one as a greenhouse. The villa was surrounded by a large English garden.The municipality of Helsinki bought Hakasalmi from Aurora Karam ...
Founded: 1843 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

The National Museum of Finland

The National Museum of Finland presents Finnish history from the Stone Age to the present day, through objects and cultural history. The permanent exhibitions of the National Museum are divided into six parts. The Treasure Troves presents the collections of coins, medals, orders and decorations, silver, jewellery and weapons. Prehistory of Finland is the largest permanent archeological exhibition in Finland. The Realm pre ...
Founded: 1905-1910 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Parliament House

Since 1907 the Parliament of Finland was convened in House of the Estates and Finnish House of Nobility. Both buildings became however too small for the 200 members of the independent Finland Parliament. In 1923 a competition was held to choose a site for a new Parliament House. Arkadianmäki, a hill beside what is now Mannerheimintie, was chosen as the best site.The architectural competition which was held in 1924 wa ...
Founded: 1926-1931 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Olympic Stadium

The story of Olympic Stadium began in 1927, when City of Helsinki and several sport associations created the Stadium Foundation. The purpose of foundation was to build an adequate venue for the summer olympics. Construction of the Olympic Stadium began in 1934 and it was completed in 1938. It was designed in functionalistic style by the architects Yrjö Lindegren and Toivo Jäntti.The stadium was built to host the ...
Founded: 1934-1938 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Temppeliaukio Church

Quarried out of the natural bedrock, The Temppeliaukio church is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city; half a million people visit it annually. The interior walls are created naturally by the rock. The church was designed by architects Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and opened in 1969. The interior was excavated and built into the rock but is bathed in natural light entering through the glazed dome. Due to ...
Founded: 1969 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna ("Sveaborg", "Viapori") sea fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Finland’s most popular tourist attractions. The construction of the fortress started by the king of Sweden in 1748 as protection against Russian expansionism. Suomenlinna was planned to be a principal base for naval military operations and the general responsibility for the fortification work was given to Augustin Ehrensvärd. Th ...
Founded: 1748-1917 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

The Old Church

The old church of Helsinki was designed by famous architect C. L. Engel and completed in 1826. It was originally mentioned to be temporary church for the construction time of new cathedral in Senate Square. When the old Ulrika Eleonora Church was demolished, the recovered building materials and part of the movables were auctioned but some of the furnishings including the pulpit, benches and chandeliers as well as the org ...
Founded: 1826 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Sibelius Monument

The Sibelius monument was designed by Eila Hiltunen and completed in 1967. It consists of series of more than 600 hollow steel pipes welded together in a wave-like pattern. The purpose of the artist was to capture the essence of the music of Sibelius. The monument weighs 24 tonnes. It’s probably the most well-known abstract sculpture in Finland and popular tourist attraction.
Founded: 1967 | Location: Helsinki , Finland

St. John's Church

St. John’s Church was built between 1888-1891. It was designed by A. E. Melander, who win the design competition in 1878. St. John’s Church is most remarkable sample of neo-gothic church architecture in Finland. It’s also biggest stone church in Finland with 2600 seats.The twin towers are 74 metres in height, and the church has excellent acoustics. It’s therefore used for big concerts and events as well as service ...
Founded: 1888-1891 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Observatory Hill

This 30 meters high rock hill was used as guard hill in the Middle Ages. If enemy ships were seen coming from the sea, fire was lighted to the hill to warn local people. After the great fire in Turku (1827), instruments and astronomical books of Turku University observatory were transferred to Helsinki.The Helsinki astronomical observatory was built to the hill in 1834. It designed in cooperation by professor Friedrich Wi ...
Founded: 1834 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

German Church

The neo-gothic German Church was built in 1864 by Harald Bosse and C. J. von Heideken. The tower was added in 1897. It’s popular venue for weddings and concerts.
Founded: 1864 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Kallio Church

The spectacular Kallio church, designed by Lars Sonck and built in 1908–1912, represents the Finnish national romantic school of architecture, as well as a change to Art Nouveau. The bells of the tower play a melody composed by Jean Sibelius. Inside the church are numerous interesting details such as a crucifix and relief made by sculptor Hannes Autere.In the beginning of independent Finland Tolstoyan movement took ...
Founded: 1908-1912 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Hietaniemi Cemetery

The Hietaniemi cemetery is the location for Finnish state funeral services and most remarkable cemetery in Finland. The cemetery was placed to Hietaniemi in 1829. It was originally a military cemetery for the Finnish Guard, which was part of the Russian army.The cemetery includes still a large military cemetery section for soldiers from the capital fallen in the wars against the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany: in the Winte ...
Founded: 1829 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Military Museum of Finland

The Military Museum of Finland was earlier located in a garrison building designed by Evert Lagerspetz in 1883. This site was closed in 2016.
Founded: 1883 (Museum opened in 1948) | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Seurasaari Open-Air Museum

Seurasaari is a museum island, which consists of old, mainly wooden buildings transplanted from elsewhere in Finland and placed in the dense forest landscape of the island. The Open-Air Museum was founded in 1909. All the different provinces of Finland are represented in the well preserved old buildings and they give an overall view of Finnish countryside life from the 18th to the 20th century. At present, there are 87 se ...
Founded: 1909 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

St. Henry's Cathedral

St. Henry's Cathedral is dedicated to Henry, Bishop of Uppsala. It was constructed between 1858–1860. The architecture of the church is Gothic Revival with statues of Saint Henry, Saint Peter and Saint Paul decorating the exterior. Since Finland is predominantly Lutheran, the church was intended primarily for use by Catholic foreigners. The church is the main Catholic church in Helsinki, and offers Mass in many ...
Founded: 1858-1860 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Tamminiemi

Tamminiemi villa was one of the official residences of the President of Finland from 1940 until 1981. From that date, until his death, it served as the residence of President Urho Kekkonen. Designed by architects Sigurd Frosterus and Gustaf Strengell, the jugendstil villa was built in 1903 for the Danish-born businessman Jörgen Nissen. The villa was later owned or rented by a number of individuals, before being acqui ...
Founded: 1903 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Herttoniemi Manor Museum

The history of Herttoniemi Manor dates back to the 16th century. The Herttoniemi area is probably named after Laurens Hertoghe who might have been the first owner of the manor. The heyday was in the late 1700’s, when the manor was owned by Augustin Ehrensvärd. He led the construction of Suomenlinna fortress. The present main building originates from the beginning of 19th century, when the manor was owned by ad ...
Founded: 19th century | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Tuomarinkylä Manor Museum

The history of Tuomarinkylä Manor dates back to the 15th century. The present main manor house was built around 1790. Today the main building is a museum and there’s also a horse farm and restaurant. The fairly small museum has eight room carefully restored in the style of different periods over the last two hundred years.
Founded: ca. 1790 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Vartiokylä Hill Fort

Vartiokylä hill fort is one of the most prominent historic sites from the age before Helsinki city was established. The fortification dates from the 13th and 14th centuries and it has been in use only for a short period. It is unknown who built it but probably the hill was fortified by Swedish-speaking settlers, crown or some local noble (like Bo Jonsson Grip). During the first World War Russians built trenches to Varti ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Reims Cathedral

Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Reims) is the seat of the Archdiocese of Reims, where the kings of France were crowned. The cathedral replaced an older church, destroyed by fire in 1211, that was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. That original structure had itself been erected on the site of some Roman baths. A major tourism destination, the cathedral receives about one million visitors annually.

History

Excavations have shown that the present building occupies roughly the same site as the original cathedral, founded c. 400 under the episcopacy of St Nicaise. That church was rebuilt during the Carolingian period and further extended in the 12th century. On 19 May 1051, King Henry I of France and Anne of Kiev were married in the cathedral.

On May 6, 1210 the cathedral was damaged by fire and reconstruction started shortly after, beginning at the eastern end. Documentary records show the acquisition of land to the west of the site in 1218, suggesting the new cathedral was substantially larger than its predecessors, the lengthening of the nave presumably being an adaptation to afford room for the crowds that attended the coronations. In 1233 a long-running dispute between the cathedral chapter and the townsfolk (regarding issues of taxation and legal jurisdiction) boiled over into open revolt. Several clerics were killed or injured during the resulting violence and the entire cathedral chapter fled the city, leaving it under an interdict (effectively banning all public worship and sacraments). Work on the new cathedral was suspended for three years, only resuming in 1236 after the clergy returned to the city and the interdict was lifted following mediation by the King and the Pope. Construction then continued more slowly. The area from the crossing eastwards was in use by 1241 but the nave was not roofed until 1299 (when the French King lifted the tax on lead used for that purpose). Work on the west facade took place in several phases, which is reflected in the very different styles of some of the sculptures. The upper parts of the facade were completed in the 14th century, but apparently following 13th century designs, giving Reims an unusual unity of style.

Unusually the names of the cathedral's original architects are known. A labyrinth built into floor of the nave at the time of construction or shortly after (similar to examples at Chartres and Amiens) included the names of four master masons (Jean d'Orbais, Jean-Le-Loup, Gaucher de Reims and Bernard de Soissons) and the number of years they worked there, though art historians still disagree over who was responsible for which parts of the building. The labyrinth itself was destroyed in 1779 but its details and inscriptions are known from 18th century drawings. The clear association here between a labyrinth and master masons adds weight to the argument that such patterns were an allusion to the emerging status of the architect (through their association with the mythical artificer Daedalus, who built the Labyrinth of King Minos). The cathedral also contains further evidence of the rising status of the architect in the tomb of Hugues Libergier (d. 1268, architect of the now-destroyed Reims church of St-Nicaise). Not only is he given the honor of an engraved slab; he is shown holding a miniature model of his church (an honor formerly reserved for noble donors) and wearing the academic garb befitting an intellectual.

The towers, 81 m tall, were originally designed to rise 120m. The south tower holds just two great bells; one of them, named “Charlotte” by Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine in 1570, weighs more than 10,000 kg.

During the Hundred Years' War the cathedral was under siege by the English from 1359 to 1360. After it fell the English held Reims and the Cathedral until 1429 when it was liberated by Joan of Arc which allowed the Dauphin Charles to be crowned king on 17 July 1429.

In 1875 the French National Assembly voted £80,000 for repairs of the façade and balustrades. The façade is the finest portion of the building, and one of the great masterpieces of the Middle Ages.

German shellfire during the opening engagements of the First World War on 20 September 1914 burned, damaged and destroyed important parts of the cathedral. Scaffolding around the north tower caught fire, spreading the blaze to all parts of the carpentry superstructure. The lead of the roofs melted and poured through the stone gargoyles, destroying in turn the bishop's palace. Images of the cathedral in ruins were used during the war as propaganda images by the French against the Germans and their deliberate destruction of buildings rich in national and cultural heritage. Restoration work began in 1919, under the direction of Henri Deneux, a native of Reims and chief architect of the Monuments Historiques; the cathedral was fully reopened in 1938, thanks in part to financial support from the Rockefellers, but work has been steadily going on since.

Exterior

The three portals are laden with statues and statuettes; among European cathedrals, only Chartres has more sculpted figures. The central portal, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is surmounted by a rose window framed in an arch itself decorated with statuary, in place of the usual sculptured tympanum. The 'gallery of the kings' above shows the baptism of Clovis in the centre flanked by statues of his successors.

The facades of the transepts are also decorated with sculptures. That on the North has statues of bishops of Reims, a representation of the Last Judgment and a figure of Jesus (le Beau Dieu), while that on the south side has a modern rose window with the prophets and apostles. Fire destroyed the roof and the spires in 1481: of the four towers that flanked the transepts, nothing remains above the height of the roof. Above the choir rises an elegant lead-covered timber bell tower that is 18 m tall, reconstructed in the 15th century and in the 1920s.

Interior

The interior comprises a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. It has interesting stained glass ranging from the 13th to the 20th century. The rose window over the main portal and the gallery beneath are of rare magnificence.

The cathedral possesses fine tapestries. Of these the most important series is that presented by Robert de Lenoncourt, archbishop under François I (1515-1547), representing the life of the Virgin. They are now to be seen in the former bishop's palace, the Palace of Tau. The north transept contains a fine organ in a flamboyant Gothic case. The choir clock is ornamented with curious mechanical figures. Marc Chagall designed the stained glass installed in 1974 in the axis of the apse.

The treasury, kept in the Palace of Tau, includes many precious objects, among which is the Sainte Ampoule, or holy flask, the successor of the ancient one that contained the oil with which French kings were anointed, which was broken during the French Revolution, a fragment of which the present Ampoule contains.

Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral, the former Abbey of Saint-Remi, and the Palace of Tau were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1991.