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Helsinki (Swedish: Helsingfors) is the capital of Finland. It is located in the southern part of Finland on the shore of the Gulf of Finland. Helsinki forms a conurbation with three other cities, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen, which are together called the capital area (see Helsinki Metropolitan Area). This area has a total population of almost a million.

Helsingin kaupunki
CityHelsinki (1550)
Administrative ProvinceSouthern Finland
Historical ProvinceUusimaa
 - Total
Ranked 349st
186 km² land area
(total 686 km²)
 - Total (2003)
 - Density
Ranked 1st
2923/km² (1st)

Table of contents
1 Geography
2 History
3 Sights and travel
4 Statistics
5 External links


Helsinki is located at 60°10'24" North, 24°56'55" East (60.173333, 24.948667)1.

The city has a total area of 686 km² (264.8 mi²). 186 km² (71.8 mi²) of it is land and 500 km² (193 mi²) of the area is covered with water.

For a complete listing of suburbs in Helsinki, see Suburbs of Helsinki.


The Swedish king Gustav Vasa had a great interest to build up at the rapids of the river Vantaa a community that would transfer all trade, both export and import, to one place in Finland. In 1550 he ordained that a new town, Helsingfors, should be founded. At that time, however, Helsinki was little more than a place for the King and his retinue to stay while they were away from the capital Turku on hunting trips.

It was thanks to the paternal solicitude for his people that the city was founded. Gustav Vasa believed that a town standing directly opposite Tallinn, which was a remarkable Hanseatic centre, was needed to attract to it the trade hitherto the monopoly of foreigners, mostly Germans, Russians and Dutchmen.

Finland was in those days the eastern province of the newly established Swedish state. After northern Estonia, including Tallinn, became a part of Sweden in 1561, the rivalry between Tallinn and Helsinki ceased to matter Gustav Vasa's economic plans.

When the city later was moved to the southernmost peninsula of the neighbouring area, it was only because there were more favourable conditions for a harbour.

The original foundation was at the mouth of the Vantaa river, but the population eventually migrated somewhat to the west in order to take advantage of better sea-anchorage.

Helsinki only became the capital of Finland in 1812 after Finland had been captured from Sweden by Russia.

Carl Ludvig Engel (1778-1840) designed several neo-classicism buildings to Helsinki and he was kept in Helsinki by an unique assignment; he was supposed to plan a new centrum all by him self, which was later on also called The White City Of The North.

The city became shallow and wide at the time when most buildings had only two or three floors. In the middle of the city he planned an enormous Cathedral, which was finished in 1852, twelve years after C.L. Engels death.

Helsinki is, however, perhaps even more famous for its numerous Art Nouveau buildings, designed in the early 1900s and strongly influenced by Kalevala, which is a very popular theme in the national romantic art of that era.

Historical population

1810: 4,070 inhabitants
1830: 11,100
1850: 20,700
1880: 43,300
1900: 93,600
1925: 209,800

Sights and travel

Helsinki spreads around a number of bays and over a number of islands. The city is small and intimate; lively but not bustling. Its size makes it easy to walk around and cafés, markets, and the nearby islands are its summer delights.

Suomenlinna is a huge fortress built on one small group of these islands in the mid-eighteenth century. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular tourist attraction. Another popular sight is the Helsinki zoo located on an island named Korkeasaari.

Air travel to Helsinki is via the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. Helsinki also has popular ferry links with Stockholm, Sweden and Tallinn, Estonia. Silja, Viking and Tallink are the biggest ferry operators.


Population (2001/2002): 559 718
Female: 53,5%
Male: 46,5%
Swedish-speaking: 6,4%
Foreigners: 5,0%

Average temperature (2001): +5,9°C
Warmest month, July, average temperature: +20,2°C
Coldest month, February, average temperature: -6,8°C

External links