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 Russia (Imperial Palace of Finland).
The necessary rebuilding and furnishing work, carried out between 1843 and 1845, was directed by architect Carl Ludvig Engel, the creator of neoclassical Helsinki. The Imperial family of Russia visited in palace several times between 1854-1915.
During the World War I palace functioned as military hospital for Russian Army. In the Finnish Civil War (1918) it was first the headquarters of the Executive Committee of the Helsinki Workers and Soldiers Soviet. With the victory of the Whites, the Reds abandoned the Palace, which was temporarily used by German and White Finnish military staff. After the war it was quickly converted to the presidential palace of independent Finland. Complete repairs were made at speed, with the furnishings and art collections of the Palace being returned from storage in the National Museum and the Ateneum Art Museum, and also being supplemented. Since then, it has been the official residence of the President. The Palace was again refurbished and modernised by Martti Välikangas in 1938.
The Presidential Palace is open for tours, which can be arranged through Helsinki Expert.
St. Stephen"s Basilica is a Roman Catholic basilica named in honour of Stephen, the first King of Hungary (c. 975–1038), whose supposed right hand is housed in the reliquary. It was the sixth largest church building in Hungary before 1920. Today, it is the third largest church building in present-day Hungary.
The basilica was completed in 1905 after 54 years of construction, according to the plans of Miklós Ybl, and was completed by József Kauser. Much of this delay can be attributed to the collapse of the dome in 1868 which required complete demolition of the completed works and rebuilding from the ground up.
The architectural style is Neo-Classical; it has a Greek cross ground plan. The façade is anchored by two large bell towers. In the southern tower is Hungary"s biggest bell, weighing over 9 tonnes. Its predecessor had a weight of almost 8 tonnes, but it was used for military purposes during World War II. Visitors may access the dome by elevators or by climbing 364 stairs for a 360° view overlooking Budapest.
At first, the building was supposed to be named after Saint Leopold, the patron saint of Austria, but the plan was changed in the very last minute, so it became St. Stephen"s Basilica.
The Saint Stephen Basilica has played an active role in the musical community since its consecration in 1905. The head organists of the church have always been very highly regarded musicians. In the past century the Basilica has been home to choral music, classical music as well as contemporary musical performances. The Basilica choir performs often in different parts of Europe as well as at home. In the summer months they perform every Sunday. During these months you can see performances from many distinguished Hungarian and foreign organ players alike.