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Helsinki is the capital and largest city of Finland. It is in the region of Uusimaa, located in southern Finland, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea. The population of the city proper of Helsinki is 601,035 (31 August 2012), making it by far the most populous municipality in Finland. Helsinki is located some 80 kilometres (50 mi) north of Tallinn, Estonia, 400 kilometres (250 mi) east of Stockholm, Sweden, and 300 kilometres (190 mi) west of Saint Petersburg, Russia. Helsinki has close historical connections with these three cities.
Helsinki Metropolitan Area includes the city of Helsinki and three other municipalities: Espoo and Vantaa, which immediately border Helsinki to the west and north, respectively; and Kauniainen, which is an enclave within the city of Espoo. The Helsinki metropolitan area is the world's northernmost urban area of over one million people, and the city is the northernmost capital of an EU member state. Altogether 1.1 million people, approximately one of five Finns, live in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.
Helsinki is Finland's major political, educational, financial, cultural and research centre as well as one of northern Europe's major cities. Approximately 70% of foreign companies operating in Finland have settled in the Helsinki region.
The nearby city of Vantaa in the Helsinki metropolitan area is the location of Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, with frequent service to various destinations in Europe and Asia. Since early 2009, Helsinki has been exploring a merger with Vantaa. On 30 March 2009, the city council of Vantaa agreed to review Helsinki's proposal of a possible merger, while emphasizing that the review is not about the possibility of terminating the existence of the city of Vantaa. On 31 January 2011, the city council of Vantaa turned down Helsinki's proposal of a possible merger, with 45 votes against the proposal compared to 22 in favour of it.

Carl Ludvig Engel (1778–1840) was appointed to design a new city centre all on his own. He designed several neoclassical buildings in Helsinki. The focal point of Engel's city plan is the Senate Square. It is surrounded by the Government Palace (to the east), the main building of the University (to the west), and (to the north) the enormous Cathedral, which was finished in 1852, twelve years after C. L. Engel's death. Subsequently, Engel's neoclassical plan stimulated the epithet, The White City Of The North. Helsinki is, however, perhaps even more famous for its numerous Art Nouveau (Jugend in Finnish) influenced buildings of the romantic nationalism, designed in the early 1900s and strongly influenced by the Kalevala, which is a very popular theme in the national romantic art of that era. Helsinki's Art Nouveau style is also featured in large residential areas such as Katajanokka and Ullanlinna. The master of the Finnish Art Nouveau was Eliel Saarinen (1873–1950), whose architectural masterpiece was the Helsinki central railway station.
Helsinki also features several buildings by the world-renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto (1898–1976), recognized as one of the pioneers of architectural functionalism. However, some of his works, such as the headquarters of the paper company Stora Enso and the concert venue, Finlandia Hall, have been subject to divided opinions from the citizens.
Renowned functionalist buildings in Helsinki by other architects include the Olympic Stadium, the Tennis Palace, the Rowing Stadium, the Swimming Stadium, the Velodrome, the Glass Palace, the Exhibition Hall (now Töölö Sports Hall) and Helsinki-Malmi Airport. The sports venues were built to serve the 1940 Helsinki Olympic Games; the games were initially cancelled due to the Second World War, but the venues eventually got to fulfill their purpose in the 1952 Olympic Games. Many of them are listed by DoCoMoMo as significant examples of modern architecture. The Olympic Stadium and Helsinki-Malmi Airport are in addition catalogued by the National Board of Antiquities as cultural-historical environments of national significance.[citation needed]
As a historical footnote, Helsinki's neoclassical buildings were often used as a backdrop for scenes set to take place in the Soviet Union in many Cold War era Hollywood movies, when filming in the USSR was not possible. Some of the more notable ones are The Kremlin Letter (1970), Reds (1981) and Gorky Park (1983). Because some streetscapes were reminiscent of Leningrad's and Moscow's old buildings, they too were used in movie productions—much to some residents' dismay. At the same time the government secretly instructed Finnish officials not to extend assistance to such film projects.
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