Finland’s capital is characterised by the cultures of the forces occupying it in previous centuries. The Swedish and Russian influences are unmistakeably reflected in the city’s architecture.
Helsinki was founded as recently as 1550 by the Swedish King Wasa and since that time has burnt down no less than five times. The remnants have been stamped by a mixture of both eastern and western architectural styles that, in recent years, have been complemented by very modern architecture. Glass palaces now border on historic buildings such as the orthodox church that dates back to 1854.
The market place, in the heart of Helsinki next to the Baltic port, is a meeting place for tourists and locals alike. It is here that most tourists arrive by ferry and often start their tour of Finland with a visit to the market. Just off shore of the port lies the Swedish naval fortress of Suomenlinna, dating back to 1748, that was built to defend the city and is now a popular tourist attraction.
The Åland islands
To the south-west of the Finnish mainland lie the Åland Islands – approximately 6500 rocky outcrops covering an area of 10,000 km². Only 60 of the islands are actually inhabited and are home to a total of 25,000 people. In terms of their climate, the island are a favourite holiday destination since they enjoy more sunny days than the mainland.
Tourists come here to marvel at the varied landscape and enjoy a spot of island-hopping by ferry. Attractions include old Viking burial sites, ruined Swedish castles and the region’s capital Mariehamn, built during the Russian occupation.
Nature-lovers and adventure travellers really get their money’s worth in this region, because the nature reserve offers countless ways to spend your holiday. Kayakers and anglers come here to enjoy the crystal-clear water and the emerald surroundings beckon holidaymakers to go hiking.
Not unlike the Wildmark, only slightly larger, the Kainuu region is above all favoured by hikers and cyclists. In the wintertime it is possible to go skiing and the regions capital, Kajaani, also offers a host of interesting cultural attractions.
During the Swedish occupation (in the 14th century), Turku was the capital of Finland. However, when the country was occupied by the Russian tsar, the capital was moved to Helsinki. The Castle, which dates back to the 16th century, is the city’s main tourist attraction next to the cathedral, the Protestant church’s most important place of worship in Finland.