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Top Rated Attractions in Helsinki

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Suomenlinna Maritime Fortress

The waves of the Kronbergsfjärden bay crash against the rocks bounding the fortress of Suomenlinna, a sight as riveting as the fortress itself. The majestic fortification straddles six islands that compose the city of Helsinki, and is representative of a long-drawn struggle in Finnish history. Originally called Sveaborg from 1748 to 1808, this sea fortress was the property of Sweden before it was ambushed in the Russo-Swedish war. Later, Suomenlinna stood testament to the time of Russian administration, until the independence of Finland made it the latter's property. Also known as the Castle of Finland, the Suomenlinna draws comparisons to the Fort of Gibraltar, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fortress houses six museums that can be explored at leisure.

Uspenski Cathedral

Mounted on a small hillock on the Katajanokka peninsula, the Uspenski Cathedral stands as an example of Russia's architectural influence. The splendor of the church's Eastern Orthodox architecture is visible from far corners of the city, with sunlight bouncing off the cathedral's gilded cupolas, and cross-shaped spires reaching for the skies. The red-bricked facade is impressive as well, the result of design work by Russian architect Aleksey Gornostayev. Up until 2007, the Uspenski Cathedral was home to the icon of St. Nicholas, before it was stolen. The cathedral is dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos and has a crypt chapel that is named after Alexander Hotovitzky, former vicar of the Orthodox parish of Helsinki.

Seurasaari Open-Air Museum

This open-air museum was founded in 1909 on the popular recreational island of Seurasaari. The permanent exhibition consists of Finnish peasant architecture, including 85 buildings brought from various parts of the country. There are outhouses, swings, church boats, a tar-burning pit and the wooden Karuna church (1686). The founder of the museum, Professor of ethnology Axel Olai Heikel, is interred next to this church. The two-storied building has perfectly preserved interiors. Enjoy wandering about in the woods and the events that are arranged here, notably the traditional midsummer feast.

Helsinki University Library

The gorgeous University Library, right next to the main building of the University and the Cathedral, is one of Engel's most beautiful creations, completed in 1844. Large windows soften its yellowandwhite exterior, while trees surround the back of the building, making this one of Helsinki's most endearing sights. The outer wall of the library sports a bronze bust of Czar Alexander I and a plaque commemorating the designers of the old city centre, J. A. Ehrenström and C. L. Engel. The interior of the library building is also spectacular. The old interiors are in good shape, and the current refurbishment process is expected to bring even more of the old lustre back. The main hall with its oldfashioned furnishings and marvellous ceiling frescoes is one of the most admired interiors in Finland. The soft, beautiful exterior and ! serene mood of the petite building, overshadowed by taller, more majestic structures, have a calming effect on the whole neighbourhood.

Temppeliaukio Church

Visible from the outside as a concave, pistachio-colored dome, the Temppeliaukio Church is part of a larger structure that is hidden underneath a giant rock. Designed by architect siblings Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, the church is deemed as one of the biggest success stories in modern Finnish architecture. The interiors of the church resemble an otherworldly aura, with jagged, rocky walls that were retained from the body of the original monolith. The ceiling of the church steals the show, slashed in symmetric skylights that encircle the copper dome from the inside. This allows plenty of natural light to filter in, thus bathing the earthy church hall in warm sunshine. The church is also an acoustic marvel, owing to the rock walls that produce more refined musical notes.

Helsinki Cathedral

An imposing religious landmark in the capital city's Senate Square, this Lutheran cathedral is one of Helsinki's most important monuments. The majestic outline of its 71-meter (232.93-feet) central tower illustrates the true glory of the White City of the North. The cathedral was designed by C. L. Engel in 1830; when Engel died in 1840, E. B. Lohrmann took over the supervision and added several touches to the original blueprints, including details in the simple yet beautiful interior. The cathedral was finally completed in 1852, though the famous grand steps would not be added for another 20 years. Despite the western, classical style, the influences of Russia and especially that of Czar Nicholas I are also visible. The Czar also donated the altarpiece, which was the work of Russian artist Von Neff. The cathedral has a high-ceilinged crypt, a venue for exhibitions and concerts, and a café open every summer.

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