Vironniemi, Kruununhaka, Katajanokka, Ullanlinna, Eira, Kampinmalmi, Etu-Taala, Taka-Taala, Lauttasaari, Kaivopuisto, Kaartinkaupunki
The district of Vironniemi is the centre of Finnish government, the site of the Presidential Palace, the Council of State and the Senate Square.
It also houses the Helsinki Central railway station, the University of Helsinki, the National Library of Finland, the Finnish National Theatre, the Bank of Finland, the Uspenski Cathedral and the Lutheran Cathedral, and the headquarters of several major corporations.
The popular Aleksanterinkatu shopping street connects many of these famous landmarks. Another shopping area, Kluuvi, is a bustling commercial zone that houses the luxurious Kämp Galleria, the department store Stockmann and various shops, restaurants, and nightclubs.
Other major attractions within Vironniemi include the Ateneum Art Museum, which houses some works by van Gogh, Gaugin, Cezanne and Chagall, Helsinki City Museum, which preserves the heritage of Helsinki and recreates what the city was like in earlier times, and the Military Museum, which records and presents Finland’s military history. Kaisaniemi Park, with its lake, its statues and the University of Helsinki Botanical Gardens, opened in the early 19th century and is the oldest park in Finland.
A neighbourhood next to Helsinki's North Harbour, Kruununhaka is a central area, close to Senate Square and most of the important buildings in the Vironniemi district. The Aleksanterinkatu (Aleksi) shopping street starts out here near the Presidential Palace.
Kruununhaka is one of the oldest sectors of Helsinki. This is where the capital was relocated after it was moved from the mouth of the Vantaa River. Many of the time’s 17th century buildings are still standing, next to the ones that were built in the late 1800s and early 20th century—a pleasing mix of classical, neo-Renaissance and Art Nouveau architecture.
Kruununhaka is a sheltered neighbourhood marked by tranquil courtyards, gently winding lanes and narrow streets surrounded by closely-spaced blocks of granite buildings. It is a rather sombre-looking but delightfully peaceful area, especially considering all the major places nearby.
The island of Katajanokka sits in the Gulf of Finland right next to the mainland. Rent is quite high in this district, which is one of the most desirable places to live in Helsinki. The western end, or the "Old Side", is a rich residential area, with many colourful examples of classic Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) buildings.
The eastern end, or "New Side", is a former military zone that was transformed into a modern, planned residential area in the 1970s-80s. The southern part of Katajanokka borders the South Harbour, the largest passenger harbour in the country.
Major landmarks of the Katajanokka area include the magnificent Uspenski Cathedral, the seat of the Helsinki Archdiocese of the Finnish Orthodox Church and the largest Orthodox church in Western Europe, and its neighbour, the drab, grey Enso-Gutzeit Building designed by Aalto. A tourist favourite is the Hotel Katajanokka, which retains some of the atmosphere of the prison it used to be.
Just west of Katajanokka is Helsinki’s famous Market Square, north of the South Harbour. It is a lively place where vendors sell fresh meat and produce. There are also cafés and restaurants nearby. The bridge to Katajanokka can be found here as well.
Ullanlinna is a stylish district in the southern part of central Helsinki, and one of its pricier suburbs. It used to be a summer retreat area adorned with aristocratic villas, and many of the old buildings survive as embassies and consulates.
The neighbourhood starts south of the scenic Esplanadi Boulevard, and some of the facades of the densely packed buildings here present quite a sight, with interesting carvings over their doors. In the middle of Ullanlinna is a small park called Tähtitorninpuisto (Observatory Park), so called because of the old neoclassical observatory in its centre.
The district also encompasses the fortress islands of Suomenlinna and a number of smaller islands. Most of Helsinki's South Harbour, the largest passenger harbour in Finland, is in this district.
South of the city centre, on the gulf coast, Eira is another wealthy and fashionable neighbourhood, with early 20th century luxury Art Nouveau apartment blocks. In the centre of Eira is Engel Square, a tranquil space surrounded by charming houses and several embassies. Due to the presence of these embassies, Eira has a cosmopolitan, international air and a higher percentage of foreign speakers than almost anywhere else in Finland.
Nearby Punavuori is another posh neighbourhood. It was once a red-light area and factory district that has undergone gentrification, and is now brightened by hip bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. It also houses many glamorous small shops run by young Finnish designers.
West of the city centre, the district of Kampinmalmi includes Kamppi, a major commercial zone and transportation hub. The Kamppi Centre, a massive lifestyle complex, opened in 2005 and houses an underground bus terminal, a market square, a shopping mall, and three residential and office buildings. The entire Centre makes up the largest continuous pedestrian zone in Helsinki.
Another Kampinmalmi neighborhood, Jätkäsaari, is a former harbour that is currently being developed into a new residential and office area.
Within Kampinmalmi is Etu-Töölö, a quiet residential area north of the Helsinki city centre. Most of its closely-spaced old apartment blocks are brick buildings representative of 1920s Finnish Classicism, but also some Art Nouveau-style buildings (particularly in the area by the National Museum) as well as some buildings representing 1930s Functionalism. Small streets separate these architecturally interesting buildings.
Etu-Töölö is also home to important cultural institutions such as the Aalto-designed Finlandia Hall concert venue, the Taidehalli (Art Hall), the National Museum, and the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art.
The former factory district of Taka-Töölö is today one of the greenest sections of Helsinki and a mainly residential area. It is known for its parks. Sibelius Park is named in honour of Finland’s greatest composer, Jean Sibelius, and features a large, abstract monument to him made of several stainless steel pipes welded together somewhat in the shape of the Northern Lights. Thunder, winds and sounds echo through the tubes. Eläintarha, whose name means “zoo” in Finnish, borders the district in the east. However, contrary to its name, it is not and has never been a zoo, but a large municipal park.
The Helsinki Olympic Stadium is in Taka-Töölö. The district also features many sports fields and sports venues. The Finnish National Opera is here. Most of the houses and apartment buildings here were built before 1960.
Lauttasaari is an island on the southwestern corner of Helsinki only 3 km away from the city centre, but its forested landscape makes it a welcoming recreational getaway. Its highest point, Mylly Rock, looks out over a range of forests, parks and marinas, and two beaches.
Lauttasaari is predominantly residential. It has a number of charming old villas built in the 1900s. Some flats date from the 1930s when the earliest apartment blocks arose. On the Vattuniemi headland, an area that used to consist of industrial blocks has been remade into a housing development.
The Länsiväylä, or Western Highway, is the most important connection between Helsinki and Espoo and goes through Lauttasaari. Many people use this route to reach Otaniemi, the Greater Helsinki Area’s answer to Silicon Valley. This is where the Helsinki University of Technology, various research
Next to Ullanlinna is Kaivopuisto. This is actually a park (one of the oldest parks in Helsinki) but it has several hundred residents and counts as a neighbourhood as well. And an exclusive one at that—the houses in the park district are very large and expensive. There are many embassies here as well.
In the public area, there is a sprawling recreational ground that covers several hectares and goes down to the shores of the Gulf of Finland. In summer Helsinki locals converge here to play games, sunbathe, and have picnics. The sea fortress of Suomenlinna can be seen in the distance.
This district centres around the Kasarmitori square, home of a former garrison designed by C. L. Engel that now houses the Finnish Ministry of Defense. The Supreme Administrative Court of Finland and the German Library are on the east end of the square.
Kaartinkaupunki is primarily an office district. It does have several interesting sites: the beautiful, tree-lined boulevard called Esplanadi, the Finnish Architecture Museum, the Finnish Design Museum, and the lovely German Protestant Church. And its Market Square (Kauppatori) is attractively lined with outdoor cafés and terrassits(terrace bars). From spring to fall many vendors gather in Kauppatori to hawk their wares.
centers, and the headquarters of several major companies including Nokia and Microsoft are located.