The capital of Finland lies on a peninsula in the Gulf of Finland. Even though the city lies far in the south, it is the most northerly of continental European capitals!
In Helsinki, there are roughly 620,982 people, 315 islands, and 1 sea fortress. If you wanted Helsinki by the numbers, there you have it. Are you curious about the “white city of the north?” And how it got that nickname?
Read on to find out more curiosities about the history of Helsinki! Brace yourself for a barrage of fascinating facts!
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Helsinki is often referred to as the “white city of the north.” Your brain might be whirring a little, wondering exactly what white connotes for the Finnish capital. The word white actually refers to the white buildings which are built from a local near-white granite.
Helsinki was first founded in 1550 by King Gustav I Vasa of Sweden, about 5km from where the city now dwells. In 1640, the city was relocated 5km south to its present-day location so that it could be closer to the sea. Harbors! Ports! Trade routes! Oh My!
The plague hit Helsinki hard in 1710 and the city burned to the ground in 1713. Rebuilding was difficult as Russians kept attacking the city in the 18th century. Once the fortress was completed in 1748, the settlement became more secure. The fortress was called Sveaborg or Suomenlinna depending on who you asked, the Swedes or the Finns!
In 1808, Russia invaded Finland again and burned Helsinki to the ground. It seems obvious then that Finland surrendered to Russia. Russian tsar Alexander I allowed reconstruction to begin under the German architect Carl Ludwig Engel. When Russians take over Finland they hire Germans? Who knew!
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Hotel Kämp is a luxury five star hotel that has a story to tell. It was the dream of Carl Kämp, to open a hotel of grandeur and splendeur! He hired architect Theodor Höijer to complete it. It was finally finished in 1887.
Hotel Kämp was immediately regarded as “magnificent” by the media and by the local Finns as well. It was incredibly ahead of its time, as it was the first hotel in Finland to have an elevator. It also took pride in using other modern technologies like the dazzling use of electric lighting. Bright idea, Carl Kämp!
The Kämp’s kitchen was a diverse one! In the kitchen, you would find a Russian baking pies, a German preparing sausages and smoked meat, and a Finn handling the fish. When someone is good at something, it’s best to let them do their thing! Especially when we are talking about the kitchen!
There was an absence in Helsinki’s heart. That gaping hole was a motion picture theatre! In 1910, the Helikon opened in Hotel Kämp’s Ballroom, but went bankrupt in 1925. Another cinema took it over for four years but they went under as well. It was then restored to being just a ballroom. And the hole went back to being a hole again…
In 1914 and 1915, a sixth floor was added to the hotel. It was time for an upgrade after all, which involved modernizing all the rooms with water pipes and radiators. Not to mention hot water capabilities! Things were heating up, folks!
Let’s make this simple. These are the best hotels in Helsinki!
It was the early 1900s and something was missing. It was glaringly obvious. There were 30 years of debating going on amongst the city’s diplomats and business owners. After all the hullabaloo, the city’s art gallery void was filled by the Kunsthalle Helsinki, the Taidehalli in 1928.
When deciding to build an art gallery in Helsinki, the citizens of the Finnish capital had something a little grander in mind. They wanted to build an “art palace.” Gallery schmallery! After an invited competition, the Taidehalli design for an “art palace” was accepted by Jarl and Hilding Eklund.
The Taidehalli decided to model their first exhibition after the Paris Salon, by filling the halls to the brim! Art by 135 Finnish artists were on display. We’re talking floor to ceiling art here, people!
Interestingly, the Taidehalli does not actually own its own collection of art. However, that doesn’t put a cork in any of the fun. The Taidehalli hosts seven or eight major exhibitions a year, featuring art from outside collections. Not owning art isn’t a problem for this art institution.
Do you have an open schedule? Figure the best things to do in Helsinki before you visit!
The Declaration of Helsinki was an important document. A really, really important document developed for the medical community to serve as the ethical principles and rules to follow pertaining to human experimentation. It was first adopted in 1964 in Helsinki, and the world followed suit!
Some revisions were needed because the declaration written in 1964 just didn’t cover all the bases it needed to cover. The Declaration of Helsinki has gone through seven rounds of revisions. That’s right seven!
In our opinion, the most important amendment occurred in 1975 during the first round of revisions, making the document over twice its original length! The most notable change was indicating that the: “concern for the interests of the subject must always prevail over the interests of science and society.” Agreed. Definitely Agreed.
This crucial set of ethical standards for human research certainly has an important role in the modern medical world. The Declaration of Helsinki was described in 2000 as not just critical to medical practitioners, students, and researchers but as “the property of all humanity.” Important stuff we got here, humans!
Want to learn more about Helsinki? The top museums in Helsinki might hold the answers!
Helsinki, the seaside capital of Finland, was founded by Sweden’s King Gustavus Vasa in 1550. The impetus was to compete with Tallinn for the Baltic Sea trade. We like a good competition, don’t we?
It took a while for the town to take off in terms of population and numbers, but as of 1917 Finland became independent and Helsinki was named the capital. Statisticians say that as of 2018, Helsinki was one of the fastest growing cities in all of Europe.
Although its nickname is the “white city of the north,” another of its names is the “Daughter of the Baltic.” Of course, our favorite name for the Finnish capital city is “the world’s coldest capital.” With the average temperature each year below 0 °C, Helsinki sure has earned that title!
There’s a lot to get to know about the history of this coldest capital. We hope you found these 17 facts unbrrr-lievable!
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Lily Allen-Duenas is a wandering yoga instructor, massage therapist, and reiki healer. For the last two years she’s been journeying around the world, teaching yoga on island resorts in Cambodia, surf hostels in Sri Lanka, and wellness centers in the Phillipines. Lily loves building her life around her passions, health, wellness, and travel. You can follow her journey at wildyogatribe.com or get social with her @wildyogatribe