Officially Finland’s capital consists of eight major districts, which are divided into 34 subdistricts and then there are several more smaller subdivisions. All in all, it can get a bit confusing. The following neighbourhoods and districts should definitely be on your must-see list for your next stay in Helsinki.
As one of Helsinki’s oldest neighbourhoods, Kaartinkaupunki’s streets are lined with stunning Gothic and Neo-Renaissance style buildings. This part of the city is the waterfront home of Kauppatori Market Square and Old Market Hall, with vendors selling Nordic handicrafts and Baltic snacks like fried herring. Beautiful Esplanade Park becomes a concert location in summer, and the entire park is surrounded by fine dining restaurants.
Over on Korkeavuorenkatu street, boutiques sell locally designed clothing, jewellery and homeware. This street also has Helsinki’s oldest still operating fire station. Erottaja Fire Station was completed in 189, it has been called the most beautiful fire station in the country and is home to the Fire Museum. Another beautiful building just around the corner from the fire station is the Rikhardinkatu Library, which was the first building specifically designed to function as a library in the Nordic countries in 1882.
Over in the eastern downtown area of Helsinki lies Kallio, which is Finland’s most dense residential zone with one of the highest concentrations of small apartments in the city. The area was once a working class neighbourhood but today it is popular with students, singles and artists. Small neighbourhood shops sell old maps, records or vintage clothes, while Hakaniemi Market Hall is packed with Finnish delicacies and crafts. A buzzing foodie scene includes popular vegan bistros and craft coffee spots, and the bars have a casual, alternative vibe.
Kallio is also known for its many Finnish public saunas and the Kallio Church, carved into granite and hosting concerts and organ recitals. The green residential area of Torkkelinmäki was built on the highest point in Kallio in the 1920s. And two parks worth visiting in the neighbourhood are the green stretch at Tokoinranta, and Karhupuisto Park ('Bear Park').
One of the greenest parts of Helsinki is Töölö, which can be divided into Etu-Töölö and Taka-Töölö. Etu-Töölö, or inner Töölö, is home to the neoclassical style Parliament House and Temppeliaukio Church, carved from solid rock, as well as the Natural History Museum of Helsinki. And along main street Mannerheimintie, the National Museum of Finland has Viking relics, and Finlandia Hall hosts concerts and conferences.
Taka-Töölö, or outer Töölö, includes 36 hectares of parks and 15 hectares of forest area. The largest park here is Eläintarha Park, which includes the Winter Garde on its south side. By the sea Sibelius Park is a favourite with visitors, with Sibelius Monument in the centre of the park. The locals of Taka-Töölö head to bakeries around Töölöntori square for breakfast pastries.
When it comes to number of residents Suomenlinna is incredibly small, with only around 800 residents. But these residents do make sure that the island has all you will need to spend the day in comfort as you explore the history of the island, including a shop, library, hospital and a regular ferry service to the mainland.
Suomenlinna is one of Finland’s cultural treasures and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1991. Though Suomenlinna means “Castle of Finland” there is no actual castle on the island but between all the its many features – including old barracks, a defunct prison, a church, and no fewer than six museums – you’re unlikely to get bored during your visit.
As a city known for design and high technology it is no wonder that Helsinki has a proper Design District, which covers several of Helsinki's city centre neighbourhoods that include Punavuori, Kaartinkaupunki, Kruunuhaka, Kamppi and Ullanlinna. With this Design District Helsinki map you can easily find your way around the district and discover the design pieces that you love.
A great place to start is of course the Design Museum, its permanent collection provides a concise and comprehensive history of Finnish design that will take you from the trailblazers of the late 19th century to Alvar Aalto — the father of Finnish Modernism — and into the present. From here the map will easily guide you to other museums and art galleries, or designer studios and showrooms, or vintage and antique stores. Helsinki’s Design District has something for everyone.