An architectural delight
02.09.2011 - 04.09.2011
As a birthday treat, I tacked a weekend stay onto a business trip to Helsinki. I was curious about the Nordic countries but hadn't yet visited so this was a great opportunity. And what a treat - a compact and visually amazing little city. Anyone who loves design must visit - and it is easily connected by ferry to other cities so I've got a self-made cruise itinerary already percolating for a future trip.
I stayed in a small hotel in a former 'castle' (really more of a townhouse with Art Nouveau castle touches) called Glo Hotel Art. Perfect location for walking - there are trams and a Metro but I never had to make use of them. But they would be useful on a longer stay to get out to the Olympic Stadium and some of the further districts. Walking meant lots of photo ops to suss out the interesting details on so many of the apartment blocks and commercial buildings.
Here's a sampling of some of the best ones I found:
There was great shopping - both in stores like the Marimekko mothership and various high-end department stores, as well as the outdoor Market Square and indoor Market Hall near the southern harbour:
Also near the harbour are the two major cathedrals, highlights of the skyline in this very low built capital.
In the afternoon, I boarded the short ferry over to Suomenlinna fortress which is now a public park spanning a number of small islands. although very peaceful with lovely vistas there are still many remnants of the former past as a military base for Sweden and Finland (as well as a brief stint as a prison for Russian communists).
On Saturday evening, tired from a long day of walking, I decided to take an evening harbour cruise which circled around through the many small islands with summer cabins and private docks.
There were many great buildings in such a small area - the Post office, the Parliament, the contemporary art museum, and a 'Glass Palace' with restaurants and cafes.
But without a doubt my favourite building was the Central Station designed by Eliel Saarinen. After Grand Central, the most beautiful train station I've seen yet.