Laura Kolbe is a Finnish professor of European history at the University of Helsinki. She is also a Helsinki City Council member, representing the Centre Party.
Walking around the fortress islands is like jumping into the history of the Baltic Sea and the geopolitics of the Gulf of Finland. The historic fortifications are reminders of Finland’s and Helsinki’s military legacy between East and West. Today this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a charming cultural and tourist attraction that is well worth a visit any time of the year.
2. Uspenski Cathedral
The cathedral and its surroundings in the Katajanokka district reflect how Helsinki grew into a multilingual city during the 1800s. Completed in 1868, the cathedral is a reminder of “Russian Helsinki” and represents the largest Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe. Uspenski Cathedral and nearby Helsinki Cathedral are the capital’s landmarks.
Uspenski cathedral - Visit Helsinki
Tram 6 takes you to Hämeentie, the street that lies at the heart of Helsinki’s early history and industrial roots (see the Arabia factory and Museum of Technology). At one end of the street is the Kumpula field where students in 1848 first sang “Maamme”, which would eventually become Finland’s national anthem. These days there are many interesting residential neighbourhoods with experimental architecture along Hämeentie.
Helsinki’s status as a major city was underlined by the construction of a metro system in the post-war period. Europe’s shortest metro line takes you to the interesting neighbourhoods and shopping centres to the east. Hakaniemi is a traditional working class district; Kulosaari is an English-style garden suburb; Herttoniemi is typical of the residential areas that were constructed in the 1950s; Itäkeskus is a multicultural centre where you can see “the whole world”; and Vuosaari is still being developed as a model district for the new millennium.
The best cinnamon rolls and sweet pies in Helsinki can be found in this small and elegant café on Uudenmaankatu. The atmosphere combines an urban living room vibe with the aromas of your grandmother’skitchen. While sipping your coffee you can admire the handsome Art Nouveau building across the street that houses the major Finnish publisher Otava. (Closed 3.-18.7.2016)