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Helsinki, or Helsingfors in Swedish, is the capital of Finland. It is located in the southern part of Finland on the shore of the Gulf of Finland. Helsinki forms a conurbation with three other cities, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen, which are together called the capital area. The Greater Helsinki area has a total population of 1.2 million.
Helsinki spreads around a number of bays and over a number of islands. Some famous islands include Seurasaari, Lauttasaari and Korkeasaari.
The city is small and intimate; lively but not bustling. Its size makes it easy to walk around and cafés, markets, and the nearby islands are its summer delights. Suomenlinna is a huge fortress built on one small group of these islands in the mid-eighteenth century. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular tourist attraction. Another popular sight is the Helsinki zoo located on an island named Korkeasaari.
Seurasaari is an outdoor museum area. It contains log houses and items collected from various parts of Finland.
The new opera house of the Finnish National Opera, which opened in 1993, is close to the city center in Töölö.
Kaivopuisto is the most popular park in Helsinki.
If you are into architecture, church Temppeliaukion kirkko is worth seeing.
Uspenski Cathedral is the main Orthodox church in Finland.
Hietaniemi is a popular beach within a walking distance from the downtown.
Nuuksio is the piece of wilderness closest to Helsinki. This area is suitable for day trip hiking. There are lots of tiny lakes, rock, swamp and pine forest.
Heureka is a science center featuring exhibitions and an IMAX theater.
Botanical gardens are worth seeing as well.
Air travel to Helsinki is via the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. Helsinki also has popular ferry links with Stockholm, Sweden and Tallinn, Estonia. Silja, Viking and Tallink are the biggest ferry operators.
King Gustav I of Sweden had a great interest to build up at the rapids of the river Vantaa a community that would transfer all trade, both export and import, to one place in Finland. In 1550 he ordained that a new town, Helsingfors, should be founded. At that time, however, Helsinki was little more than a place for the King and his retinue to stay while they were away from the capital Turku on hunting trips. It was thanks to the paternal solicitude for his people that the city was founded. Gustav believed that a town standing directly opposite Tallinn, which was a remarkable Hanseatic centre, was needed to attract to it the trade hitherto the monopoly of foreigners, mostly Germans, Russians and Dutchmen.
Finland was in those days the eastern province of the Swedish state. After northern Estonia, including Tallinn, became a part of Sweden in 1561, the rivalry between Tallinn and Helsinki ceased to matter Gustav Vasa's economic plans. When the city later was moved to the southernmost peninsula of the neighbouring area, it was only because there were more favourable conditions for a harbour. The original foundation was at the mouth of the Vantaa river, but the population eventually migrated somewhat to the west in order to take advantage of better sea-anchorage. Helsinki only became the capital of Finland in 1812 after Finland had been captured from Sweden by Russia.
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This city is also known as: Helsinki.