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Destinations · Europe · finland · Helsinki · Essence ·

Essence

Author: Anothertravelguide.com0 COMMENTS

Essence

Helsinki is an excellent one-weekend destination. Although, with its population of half-million it may seem just a pocket-size metropolis, the city takes one by surprise with its incredible intensity of life. In 2000, Helsinki marked its 450th anniversary; different times have left their marks on the rhythm of the city life and its architecture. Perhaps the most concentrated taste of the Helsinki feel can be savoured at the Hotel Troni rooftop bar; the hotel, completed in 1928, used to be the city's tallest "skyscraper". The tiny Atelje Bar, located on the 14th floor, is always jam-packed: as far as its panoramic view is concerned, it is unequalled among other watering holes; the whole city and the nearby archipelago of more than 100 islands are literally at your feet. Helsinki is enveloped by the sea on three sides: in the East, the West and the South. Thanks to the numerous parks, a third of the city is green, which makes it the perfect place for idle ramblings. The Byzantine-Russian-style Uspenski Cathedral, the largest Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe, is another witness of the history of Helsinki. Just across the street from it stands the Enso-Gutzeit office building (1962), designed by Alvar Aalto, the most eminent of Finnish architects and an icon of 20th-century Modernism. There are several of his buildings in Helsinki; one of the best-known is the Finlandia Hall (1967-1972), a concert hall Aalto designed with a new symbolic city centre in mind. Since the country's independence in 1917, few new buildings had been constructed in Helsinki. Other locations worth visiting on the "Aalto tour" are the Academic Bookstore and Savoy Restaurant (1937). While working on the restaurant interior, Aalto created the legendary Savoy Vase, allegedly inspired by "a young Eskimo girl's leather breeches". The vase is still a bestselling design object and one of the symbols of Finnish design. The respect commanded by Aalto was so great that Finnair would delay a flight if the great architect happened to be running late for it. The architect enjoyed knowing that he was being waited for and is said to have purposefully delayed his arrival on more than one occasion. The Kiasma museum of contemporary art (1998), designed by the American architect Steven Holl, in its turn, has become one of the symbols of the Helsinki of today. It has, in a way, even evolved into the new city centre of Helsinki; incidentally, the lawn in front of the building seems to have become the favourite hangout of the Helsinki punk community - at least in warm weather. A number of new projects are currently in the works, including the extravagant and controversial cross-shaped Helsinki Waterfront Hotel building by Herzog & de Meuron.
In 2005, the part of the city centre concentrating the majority of Helsinki art galleries, style stores, restaurants and cafes was officially renamed the Design District. Finnish design and fashion have lately experienced a real boom - and so has the country's gastronomy, the top Helsinki restaurants easily competing with some of Europe's finest gourmet addresses.

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