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Nordic FAQ - 4 of 7 - FINLAND
Section - 4.5 Main tourist attractions

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Top Document: Nordic FAQ - 4 of 7 - FINLAND
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  4.5.1 Helsinki
          Helsinki (Swedish: Helsingfors) is the capital and largest city
          of Finland. It is in the southern coast of the country on the
          Gulf of Finland and occupies the tip of a small peninsula. The
          "towns" of Vantaa and Espoo are effectively suburbs of
          Helsinki, and together with Kaunianen, form the metropolitan
          where ca. 1 million people or nearly 20% if Finland's
          population live.
          The city is protected from the sea by a fringe of islands, so
          that its harbor is almost landlocked. It is underlain by hard
          rock, which shows in rounded masses, smothered and polished by
          ice sheets. Hollows in this surface are occupied by lakes or
          the sea, although some have been filled with urban waste to
          create new land. Summers in Helsinki are rather mild, with an
          average temperature of 18C in July; winters are pretty long and
          cold, January temperatures averaging -6°C. A belt of sea ice
          forms close to the coast during the winter months,but a passage
          is usually kept open by icebreakers.
          Helsinki was founded in 1550 by King Gustav Vasa to compete
          with the Hansaetic city of Tallinn in Estonia, some 50km south
          across the Gulf of Finland, and merchants from several smaller
          towns were ordered by force to move to Helsinki. It didn't
          start out well, however; many of the merchants moved back to
          their own towns, the place of the town had to be moved a couple
          of times to more suitable locations, fires and war destroyed
          the town several times, and plague killed most of the
          ihabitants. For over two hundred years, Helsinki was little
          more than a fishing village, but things started to improve when
          the construction of the huge fortress of Sveaborg started in
          1748 on the islands just outside Helsinki and brought tens of
          thousands of soldiers, builders, officers, etc. to Helsinki.
          In 1809 Sveaborg (the modern Finnish name is Suomenlinna)
          surrendered almost without a shot to a Russian army that was
          much smaller than the Swedish-Finnish garrison, and Finland
          became an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia. Helsinki was made
          capital in 1812, the university (founded 1640) was moved there
          from Turku in 1827, and the modern growth of the city started.
          The war had destroyed much of the old Helsinki, and the central
          city was rebuilt according to the plans of the German-born
          architect C.L.Engel in grand imperial scale to show the power
          of the Russian Empire. The city was bombed during the World War
          II, but not as badly as it might have because of the ingenious
          air raid defense (for example, a fake Helsinki was built next
          to the real one and set on fire to fool the Russian bombers).
          The Helsinki accords was the "declaration of policy intent"
          signed in Helsinki in 1975, by the United States, Canada, the
          USSR, and 32 European countries at the end of the Conference on
          Security and Cooperation in Europe (1973-75). The accords
          declared inviolable the frontiers of all the signatory nations,
          provided for scientific, technological, and cultural exchanges,
          and pledged the signatories to respect human rights, including
          "freedom of thought, conscience, religion, or belief."
          The most important sights in Helsinki include the following:
          + The Senate Square, in the very centre of Helsinki, is one of
            the most beautiful neo-classical squares in Europe. On one
            side of the square is situated the Senate palace, and on the
            other, the maiun building of Helsinki University; above them
            rises the Helsinki Cathedral (all are designed by C.L.Engel),
            and in the centre of the square is a statue of Emperor
            Alexander II. The university library is next to the main
            building of the university is considered to be perhaps
            Engel's finest work, especially the intererior is beautiful.
            Slightly "hidden" behind the square is the old House of the
            Estates, a fine piece of exuberant neo-renaissance
            architecture with golden decorations. Ateneum Art Museum
            located in the Rautatientori square nearby has the best
            collection of fine arts in Finland; mostly Finnish painters
            and some foreign masters of turn of the century (the rest of
            the somewhat modest collection of foreign art is housed in
            the Sinebrychoff museum on Bulevardi street); on the same
            square is the railway station, designed by Eliel Saarinen,
            which is a large and innovative Art Nouveau building (the
            main entrance looks a bit like an old radio set).
          + The Market Square, in the South Harbour, is a lively
            year-round market in beautiful surroundings. Beside the
            square is the fountain of Havis Amanda, the symbol of
            Helsinki. The Esplanade, a park avenue lined with shops and
            cafes starts from the fountain; at it's other end is the
            Swedish Theatre and the Stockmann department store, reputedly
            the largest in Scandinavia, and certainly the best one in
            Helsinki. A part of the Stockmann, although located in a
            separate building next to it, is the Academic Bookstore which
            is a must for every bookhoarder. They have a large selection
            of books in English, as well as several other major
            languages. For slightly cheaper shopping, you could take the
            subway to the Itäkeskus -station (East Centre). The station
            is right next to a huge suburban mall.
          + On the other end of the Market Square rises the golden,
            onion-shaped cupola of the Uspensky Cathedral, representing
            the other major religion in Finland, Greek Orthodoxy. Ferries
            leave from the square to the 18th century island fortress of
            Suomenlinna (Sveaborg), once called "the Gibraltar of the
            North" (but unlike Gibraltar, never had much military
            significance), located just outside the harbour; it's a
            beautiful place for picnics and just strolling around.
            There's also a centre for Scandinavian art in one of the old
            barracks, and a museum dedicated to the man behind Sveaborg's
            building, Augustin Ehrensvärd. The fortress is included in
            the UNESCO list of world heritage. Tickets to the ferries
            cost only about 10 FIM. There are also ferries to Korkeasaari
            Zoo, also located in a nearby island. Another good place for
            picnics is the Kaivopuisto park, where free pop-concerts are
            held in summer.
          + Going down the Mannerheimintie (Mannerheim street), which
            starts from the other end of the Esplanade, you'll pass the
            following places of interest: the parliament, which is a
            massive granite building that dates from the 1930's (and,
            frankly, looks like something that Albert Speer might have
            designed..). The Finlandia-house, by Finland's most famous
            architect Alvar Aalto, built of white marble, where the
            Helsinki accords were signed (it's also the home of e.g the
            Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra). The Italian Carrara-marble
            plates haven't quite stood the test of Finnish weather, so it
            might be a good idea to wear a helmet in case of falling
            marble. :) The National Museum built in Art Nouveau style
            displays objects from different periods of Finnish history.
            The collection is relatively interesting, but displayed in a
            somewhat conservative way. Also, the museum is far too small
            for it's purpose. The National Opera is the next building on
            the line, it's a piece of modern architecture finished in
            1993, more beautiful from the inside than the outside; and
            finally, the Olympic Stadium, where the 1952 Olympics were
          + You might also want to check the Temppeliaukio church in the
            district of Töölö, which is carved into a low hill of granite
            rock and covered by a copper dome (architect Reima Pietilä).
            Take a look from above, some of the staircases of the houses
            next to it for example; it looks like a landed UFO.
            Seurasaari island has an open-air museum of traditional
            Finnish wooden houses, not quite as good as Skansen in
            Stockholm or Bygdøy in Oslo, but if you're interested in folk
            culture it's certainly worth checking out. Linnanmäki
            amusement park is the largest in Finland; it differs in no
            way from your average large amusement park, but might still
            be a nice place to spend a day, especially if you're
            travelling with children. Heureka Science Center in the
            suburb of Vantaa is another good place to spend time with
            children; it popularizes science, lets you do all sorts of
            experiments of your own, and has a globular movie theatre.
            You can get there by local train or a special bus line
            leaving from Rautatientori. Ainola, home of the composer Jean
            Sibelius, is located in Järvenpää not far from Helsinki.
          + Internet addicts visiting the city can cure their withdrawal
            symptoms at the CompuCafe at Annankatu 22 in the center of
            the city. Free net access is also provided by an increasing
            number of public libraries, for instance the Kirjakaapeli
            library in the Kaapelitehdas (Cable Factory) culture center
            in western Helsinki. The place is well worth a visit on its
            own right. It's a huge old factory building where cables used
            to be made (hence the name), which after the closing of the
            factory was spontaneously taken over by various artists,
            workshops, clubs, etc., and after a brief wrestle with the
            city authorities and the company owning the building, it was
            turned in its entirety into a culture complex. It now houses,
            in addition to the library, cafes, galleries, several
            museums, repetition rooms for rock bands, classical
            orchestras, martial arts clubs, theatre groups, etc, and its
            a site for all sorts of cultural happenings. Getting there is
            easiest by taking the subway to the Ruoholahti station.
        For more information on Helsinki, you may wish to check these
              A clicable map of Helsinki WWW-resources:
              Official Helsinki city information:
  4.5.2 Turku, the old capital
          Turku (Swedish: Åbo) is a port city in southwestern Finland at
          the mouth of the river Aura, about 160 km west of Helsinki. It
          has several important libraries, museums, and theaters. The
          Swedish University of Åbo (Åbo Akademi, 1917) and the
          University of Turku (1920) serve, respectively, the Swedish and
          Finnish populations of this bilingual city.
          Turku/Åbo is Finland's oldest city, founded sometime in the
          early 13th century, but not very many old buildings remain
          because of tens of disastrous fires, the worst one being that
          of 1827 which destroyed the city almost completely. Most of the
          buildings are, therefore, fairly new, with a couple of old
          monuments remaining. Before the Russian takeover in 1809, Turku
          was Finland's largest city and served as its capital. It was
          rather heavily damaged during also during the WWII.
          The city is divided by the river Aura, on the bank of which
          rises the Turku Cathedral, the most important medieval
          cathedral in Finland and a national sanctuary. It was started
          in 1230, and it's present shape (except for the cupola and the
          roof, which were built after the 1827 fire) dates from late
          middle ages. In the cathedral are buried e.g the wife of Erik
          XIV, Queen Karin Månsdotter (Kaarina Maununtytär) and some of
          the most famous of Gustav II Adolf's military leaders from the
          Thirty Years' War (the Finnish marshalls Evert Horn and Åke
          Tott, the general of the Hakkapeliitta cavalry Torsten
          Stålhandske and the Scottish colonel Samuel Cockburn). There's
          also a museum in one of the galleries.
          The other major medieval monument in Turku is the castle,
          started in the 1310's. The castle acted as the main castle of
          Finland in the middle ages and renaissance and experienced it's
          best days in the 16th century when the duke of Finland, Johan,
          held his court there together with the Polish-born princess
          Katarina Jagellonica whom he married in 1562. Later, in 1568,
          Johan imprisoned his brother, the mad renaissance king Erik
          XIV, and he was held prisoner in Turku castle. It's an
          impressive construction, but perhaps not exceptionally
          romantic. In the river Aura, there are two 19th century
          sailingships that act as museums, the Suomen Joutsen and Sigyn.
          The Cloister Hill (Luostarinmäki) has an attractive collection
          of simple wooden merchants houses that were spared from the
          fire of 1827.
          For more information on Turku: <>
  4.5.3 Tampere, the third largest city of Finland
          <from: Kari Yli-Kuha >
          Tampere (in Swedish Tammerfors) lies about 160 km northwest of
          Helsinki. A major manufacturing hub and the textile center of
          Finland, Tampere also produces metals, heavy machinery, pulp,
          and paper, etc. The heavy concentration of industry has
          prompted some to call it Finland's Manchester (the center, with
          several rather attractive old factory buildings, looks pretty
          industrial, too).
          Just currently some old factories, such as Finlayson and
          Tampella, and their wide factory areas in the centre of the
          city are being renovated and partly rebuilt, but still in an
          attempt to maintain the architectural general appearance.
          Tampere was founded in 1779 and is the largest inland city in
          Scandinavia. The location between two lakes, Näsijärvi and
          Pyhäjärvi, and the rapids (Tammerkoski) joining the lakes gave
          birth to the industry in the city. The cathedral by Lars Sonck
          is a masterpiece of Finnish national-romantic Art Nouveau; it's
          frescoes by the symbolist painter Hugo Simberg are especially
          fascinating. Lake tours, "Hopealinja" (Silver Line) in
          Pyhäjärvi and "Runoilijan tie" (Poet's Way) in Näsijärvi, are
          popular in the summer. A gravel ridge, Pispalan harju, and the
          settlement there is also a major tourist attraction. Tampere
          has two theatres (TT and TTT) and a summer theatre with a
          revolving auditorium. The Särkänniemi amusement park is very
          popular in the summer. The new Tampere Hall is currently the
          second most popular place in Finland (after Finlandia House in
          Helsinki) for international congresses, large special events
          and exhibitions.
          One of the gastronomic delicacies typical for Tampere is black
          sausage ("mustamakkara") which is made of blood, though not
          nearly all regard it as a delicacy.
          Other tips:
          + Main shopping street Hämeenkatu
          + "Koskikeskus" shopping center by the rapids
          + Pyynikki natural park only two kilometres west from downtown
          + A 20 min ferry trip to Viikinsaari island

For more information on Tampere:

   A clicable map of Tampere WWW-resources:
   Official Tampere city information:
   Maps of Tampere:
  4.5.4 Jyväskylä
          <from: Jarmo Ryyti>
          Jyväskylä was where Alvar Aalto began his career as an
          architect; from 1920's up until our days, dozens of buildings
          designed by him have been built in and around Jyvaskyla, thus
          making the city famous for its architecture.
          Jyväskylä in the area of Finnish language culture it has a
          remarkable succession of "firsts": the first Finnish-language
          lyceum, the first school for the girls, the first teachers'
          training college (the seminary) the first national song and
          instrument festivals, the first society for the advancement of
          public education, the first "summer university", and the first
          arts festival.
  4.5.5 Porvoo
          Porvoo (Swedish: Borgå) on the coast of the Gulf of Finland
          received its town rights in 1346. The town lies 48 km northeast
          of Helsinki, along the Porvoonjoki River. It's a rather small
          town with only 30,000 or so inhabitants, but it's rather
          attractive and the (mostly wooden) Old Town still has a rather
          medieval character. Building of the the cathedral in the center
          of the Old Town was finished 1414-18, and the Diet of Porvoo
          where Finland was granted its autonomous status as a Grand
          Duchy was held there in 1809 by emperor Alexander I. The house
          of Porvoo Gymnasium, built 1760, is on the cathedral square.
          The town hall was built in 1764 and now houses a historical
          museum; the art collection of the museum is in the Holm house
          (1762), included are works by two great artists of the golden
          age of Finnish art who were born in Porvoo, the painter Albert
          Edelfelt (1854-1940) and the sculptor Ville Valgren
          (1855-1940). Edelfelt's studio is one of the most popular
          museums of Porvoo area, it's located close to the Haikko manor
          (now a hotel) a few kilometers from Porvoo. The poet Johan
          Ludvig Runeberg spent the 25 last years of his life in Porvoo;
          his home at the corner of Aleksanterinkatu and Runeberginkatu
          has been a museum since 1880. He is buried in the Näsimäki
          cemetary of Porvoo. Next to the Old Town, on a hill across the
          Porvoo river, is Linnanmäki or Borgbacken (Castle Hill, which
          has given Porvoo its name; Borgå = Castle River). There are no
          stone fortifications left, the only remains are moats that have
          belonged to hillfort built by the Danes in the late 12th or
          early 13th century.
  4.5.6 Other places of interest in Finland
          Åland islands (Ahvenanmaa in Finnish) are a beautiful
          archipelago, perfect for cycling, with medieval churches
          scattered around and the castle ruins of Kastelholm.
          Naantali/Nådendal, close to Turku, is a charming small,
          medieval town by the sea, where a Brigittine cloister was
          located (the church still remains). A popular place to visit in
          summers. Likewise, Rauma, located 100km north of Turku, has a
          very charming old town which is included in the UNESCO world
          heritage list, and a church that was part of a Franciscan
          monastery. The inland lake-system, with such lakes as Saimaa
          and Päijänne is perfect for a canoeing holiday; trips on one of
          the many lake steam boats are also recommended. The mightiest
          of Finnish medieval castles, Olavinlinna, is located in an
          island in the Saimaa, and a famous opera-festival is arranged
          in the castle every summer. The province of Lapland is among
          the last wild natural areas in Europe; no real mountains
          (except in some areas close to Norwegian border), but low fells
          that rise to some 500 metres. Good for trekking, but be
          prepared for mosquitoes.
          For general information through WWW see the clicable map of
          Finnish resources at <>

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