Despite its somewhat severe cityscape and chilly northern latitude, Helsinki bursts with vibrant street life and a joyful creative spirit. It's the only European capital with no medieval past, and it shows — its center has no "Old Town," as the city was conscientiously laid out by 19th-century urban planners. Today Helsinki is an architectural delight for its Neoclassical and Art Nouveau buildings and churches — with the stirring "Chapel in the Rock," fine National Museum of Finland, and island fortress and open-air folk museum. While parts of the city may seem dark and drab, splashes of creativity and color hide around every corner — but you'll only discover them if you take the time to look.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ Temppeliaukio Church Awe-inspiring, copper-topped 1969 "Church in the Rock."
▲▲ Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral Orthodoxy's most prodigious display outside of Eastern Europe.
▲▲ Lutheran Cathedral Green-domed, 19th-century Neoclassical masterpiece.
▲▲ National Museum of Finland The scoop on Finland, featuring folk costumes, an armory, czars, and thrones; the prehistory exhibit is best.
▲▲ Seurasaari Open-Air Folk Museum Island museum with 100 historic buildings from Finland's farthest corners.
▲▲ Suomenlinna Fortress Helsinki's harbor island, sprinkled with picnic spots, museums, and military history.
▲ Senate Square Consummate Neoclassical square, with Lutheran Cathedral.
▲ Helsinki City Museum Tells the city's history well and in English.
▲ Ateneum, The National Gallery of Finland Largest collection of art in Finland, including local favorites plus works by Cézanne, Chagall, Gauguin, and Van Gogh.
▲ Sibelius Monument Stainless-steel sculptural tribute to Finland's greatest composer.