Helsinki (//; Finnish pronunciation: [ˈhelsiŋki]; Swedish: Helsingfors) is the capital and largest city of Finland. It is in the region of Uusimaa, in southern Finland, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland. Helsinki has a population of 629,512, an urban population of 1,214,210, and a metropolitan population of over 1.4 million, making it the most populous municipality and urban area in Finland. Helsinki is located some 80 kilometres (50 mi) north of Tallinn, Estonia, 400 km (250 mi) east of Stockholm, Sweden, and 388 km (241 mi) west of Saint Petersburg, Russia. Helsinki has close historical connections with these three cities.
The Helsinki metropolitan area includes the urban core of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Kauniainen, and surrounding commuter towns. It is the world's northernmost metro area of over one million people, and the city is the northernmost capital of an EU member state. The Helsinki metropolitan area is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the Nordic countries, the City of Helsinki being the third largest after Stockholm and Oslo.
Helsinki is Finland's major political, educational, financial, cultural, and research center as well as one of northern Europe's major cities. Approximately 75% of foreign companies operating in Finland have settled in the Helsinki region. The nearby municipality of Vantaa is the location of Helsinki Airport, with frequent service to various destinations in Europe and Asia.
In 2009, Helsinki was chosen to be the World Design Capital for 2012 by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, narrowly beating Eindhoven for the title. The city was the venue for the 1952 Summer Olympics and the 52nd Eurovision Song Contest 2007.
In 2011, the Monocle magazine ranked Helsinki the most liveable city in the world in its "Liveable Cities Index 2011". In the Economist Intelligence Unit's August 2015 Liveability survey, assessing the best and worst cities to live in globally, Helsinki placed among the world's top ten cities.
Helsinki is used to refer to the city in most languages, but not in Swedish.
The Swedish name Helsingfors is the original official name of the city (originally in the form Hellssingeforss). The Finnish name probably comes from Helsinga and similar names used for the river that is currently known as the Vantaa River, as documented already in the 14th century. Helsingfors comes from the name of the surrounding parish, Helsinge (source for Finnish Helsinki) and the rapids (Swedish: fors), which flowed through the original village, which is now located in the neighboring city Vantaa. As part of the Grand Duchy of Finland in the Russian Empire, Helsinki was known as Gelsingfors in Russian.
One suggestion for the origin of the name Helsinge is that it originated with medieval Swedish settlers who came from Hälsingland in Sweden. Others have proposed that the name derives from the Swedish word helsing, a former version of the word hals (neck), referring to the narrowest part of a river, i.e. the rapids. Other Scandinavian cities located at similar geographic locations were given similar names at the time, for example Helsingør and Helsingborg.
The name Helsinki has been used in Finnish official documents and in Finnish language newspapers since 1819, when the Senate of Finland moved to Helsinki from Turku (Åbo). The decrees issued in Helsinki were dated with Helsinki as the place of issue. This is how the form Helsinki came to be used in written Finnish.
In Helsinki slang the city is called either Stadi (from the Swedish word stad, meaning "city") or Hesa (short for Helsinki), with Stadi being used to assert that the speaker is native to the city. Helsset is the Northern Sami name of Helsinki.
Helsinki was established as a trading town by King Gustav I of Sweden in 1550 as the town of Helsingfors, which he intended to be a rival to the Hanseatic city of Reval (today known as Tallinn). Little came of the plans as Helsinki remained a tiny town plagued by poverty, wars, and diseases. The plague of 1710 killed the greater part of the inhabitants of Helsinki. The construction of the naval fortress Sveaborg (In Finnish Viapori, today also Suomenlinna) in the 18th century helped improve Helsinki's status, but it was not until Russia defeated Sweden in the Finnish War and annexed Finland as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland in 1809 that the town began to develop into a substantial city. During the war, Russians besieged the Sveaborg fortress, and about one quarter of the town was destroyed in an 1808 fire.
Czar Alexander I of Russia moved the Finnish capital from Turku to Helsinki in 1812 to reduce Swedish influence in Finland, and to bring the capital closer to St. Petersburg. Following the Great Fire of Turku in 1827, The Royal Academy of Turku, at the time the country's only university, was also relocated to Helsinki, and eventually became the modern University of Helsinki. The move consolidated the city's new role and helped set it on a path of continuous growth. This transformation is highly apparent in the downtown core, which was rebuilt in neoclassical style to resemble St. Petersburg, mostly to a plan by the German-born architect C. L. Engel. As elsewhere, technological advancements such as railroads and industrialization were key factors behind the city's growth.
Despite the tumultuous nature of Finnish history during the first half of the 20th century (including the Finnish Civil War and the Winter War which both left marks on the city), Helsinki continued its steady development. A landmark event was the XV Olympic games (1952 Olympic Games), held in Helsinki. Finland's rapid urbanization in the 1970s, occurring late relative to the rest of Europe, tripled the population in the metropolitan area, and the Helsinki Metro subway system was built. The relatively sparse population density of Helsinki and its peculiar structure have often been attributed to the lateness of its growth.
Called the "Daughter of the Baltic", Helsinki is located on the tip of a peninsula and on 315 islands. The inner city area occupies a southern peninsula, which is rarely referred to by its actual name Vironniemi. Population density in certain parts of Helsinki's inner city area is very high, reaching 16,494 inhabitants per square kilometre (42,720/sq mi) in the district of Kallio, but as a whole Helsinki's population density of 3,050 per square kilometre (7,900/sq mi) ranks the city as quite sparsely populated in comparison to other European capital cities. Much of Helsinki outside the inner city area consists of postwar suburbs separated from each other by patches of forest. A narrow, 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) long Helsinki Central Park, stretching from the inner city to the northern border of Helsinki, is an important recreational area for residents. The City of Helsinki has about 11,000 boat berths and possesses over 14 000 hectares of marine fishing waters adjacent to the Capital Region. Some 60 fish species are found in this area. Recreational fishing is a popular hobby among kids and adults alike.
Major islands in Helsinki include Seurasaari, Vallisaari, Lauttasaari, and Korkeasaari – the lattermost being the site of the country's biggest zoo. Other noteworthy islands are the fortress island of Suomenlinna (Sveaborg), the military island of Santahamina, and Isosaari. Pihlajasaari island is a favorite summer spot for gay men and naturists, comparable to Fire Island off New York City.
The Helsinki Capital Region consists of the four municipalities of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, and Kauniainen and is considered to be the only metropolis in Finland. It has a population of over 1,1 million, and is by far the biggest and most densely populated area of Finland, over four times bigger than Tampere. The Capital Region spreads over a land area of 770 square kilometres (300 sq mi) and has a population density of 1,418 inhabitants per square kilometre (3,670/sq mi). With over 20 percent of the country's population in just 0.2 percent of its surface area, the housing density of the area is high by Finnish standards.
The Helsinki Metropolitan Area (Greater Helsinki) consists of the cities of Helsinki Capital Region and ten surrounding municipalities. The Metropolitan Area covers 3,697 square kilometres (1,427 sq mi) and contains a total population of over 1.4 million, or about a fourth of the total population of Finland. The Metropolitan Area has a high concentration of employment: approximately 750,000 jobs. Despite the intensity of land use, the region also has large recreational areas and green spaces. The Greater Helsinki area is the world's northernmost urban area with a population of over one million people, and the city is the northernmost capital of an EU member state.
Helsinki has a humid continental climate (Köppen: Dfb), less than 2 °C (3.6 °F) above the threshold for subarctic classification. Owing to the mitigating influence of the Baltic Sea and North Atlantic Current (see also Extratropical cyclone), temperatures in winter are higher than the northern location might suggest, with the average in January and February around −5 °C (23 °F).
Winters in Helsinki are notably warmer than in the north, and the snow season is much shorter. Temperatures below −20 °C (−4 °F) occur a few times a year or less. However, because of the latitude, days last 5 hours and 48 minutes around the winter solstice with very low Sun (at noon Sun is little bit over 6 degrees in the sky), and the cloudy weather at this time of year accentuates the darkness. Conversely, Helsinki enjoys long daylight in summer, during the summer solstice days last 18 hours and 57 minutes .
The average maximum temperature from June to August is around 19 to 22 °C (66 to 72 °F). Due to the marine effect, especially during hot summer days, daily temperatures are a little cooler and night temperatures are higher than further away in the mainland. The highest temperature ever recorded in the city centre was 33.1 °C (91.6 °F), on 18 July 1945, and the lowest was −34.3 °C (−30 °F), on 10 January 1987. Helsinki Airport (located in Vantaa, 17 kilometres (11 mi) north of the Helsinki city centre) recorded a temperature of 34.0 °C (93.2 °F), on 29 July 2010, and a low of −35.9 °C (−33 °F), on 9 January 1987. Precipitation is received from frontal passages and thunderstorms. Thunderstorms are most common in summer.
|Climate data for Central Helsinki (Kaisaniemi)|
|Record high °C (°F)||8.5|
|Average high °C (°F)||−1.3|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||−3.9|
|Average low °C (°F)||−6.5|
|Record low °C (°F)||−34.3|
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||52|
|Average snowfall cm (inches)||21|
|Average rainy days||19||17||15||11||11||14||12||15||14||16||18||20||182|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||38||70||138||194||284||297||291||238||150||93||36||29||1,858|
|Source: Climatological statistics for the normal period 1981–2010 (except the Records rows, which are 'all-time' records [data source required]) |
|Climate data for Helsinki Airport (Vantaa)|
|Record high °C (°F)||8.2|
|Average high °C (°F)||−2.4|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||−5|
|Average low °C (°F)||−8.1|
|Record low °C (°F)||−35.9|
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||54|
|Average rainy days||23||20||17||12||12||14||13||15||16||18||21||24||205|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||38||74||131||196||275||266||291||219||143||84||37||26||1,780|
|Percent possible sunshine||21||34||41||49||55||49||52||44||35||25||16||14||36.3|
|Source: Climatological statistics for the normal period 1981–2010 (except the Records rows, which are 'all-time' records [data source required])  Sun and record temperatures 1981–2011 only|
Carl Ludvig Engel (1778–1840) was appointed to design a new city centre all on his own. He designed several neoclassical buildings in Helsinki. The focal point of Engel's city plan is the Senate Square. It is surrounded by the Government Palace (to the east), the main building of Helsinki University (to the west), and (to the north) the enormous Cathedral, which was finished in 1852, twelve years after C. L. Engel's death. Subsequently, Engel's neoclassical plan stimulated the epithet, The White City of the North. Helsinki is, however, perhaps even more famous for its numerous Art Nouveau (Jugend in Finnish) influenced buildings of the romantic nationalism, designed in the early 1900s and strongly influenced by The Kalevala, which is a very popular theme in the national romantic art of that era. Helsinki's Art Nouveau style is also featured in large residential areas such as Katajanokka and Ullanlinna. The master of the Finnish Art Nouveau was Eliel Saarinen (1873–1950), whose architectural masterpiece was the Helsinki Central railway station.
Helsinki also features several buildings by the world-renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto (1898–1976), recognized as one of the pioneers of architectural functionalism. However, some of his works, such as the headquarters of the paper company Stora Enso and the concert venue Finlandia Hall, have been subject to divided opinions from the citizens.
Renowned functionalist buildings in Helsinki by other architects include the Olympic Stadium, the Tennis Palace, the Rowing Stadium, the Swimming Stadium, the Velodrome, the Glass Palace, the Exhibition Hall (now Töölö Sports Hall), and Helsinki-Malmi Airport. The sports venues were built to serve the 1940 Helsinki Olympic Games; the games were initially cancelled due to the Second World War, but the venues eventually got to fulfill their purpose in the 1952 Olympic Games. Many of them are listed by DoCoMoMo as significant examples of modern architecture. The Olympic Stadium and Helsinki-Malmi Airport are in addition catalogued by the Finnish National Board of Antiquities as cultural-historical environments of national significance.
As a historical footnote, Helsinki's neoclassical buildings were often used as a backdrop for scenes set to take place in the Soviet Union in many Cold War era Hollywood movies, when filming in the USSR was not possible. Some of the more notable ones are The Kremlin Letter (1970), Reds (1981), and Gorky Park (1983). Because some streetscapes were reminiscent of Leningrad's and Moscow's old buildings, they too were used in movie productions—much to some residents' dismay. At the same time the government secretly instructed Finnish officials not to extend assistance to such film projects.
In the 21st century Helsinki has decided to allow the construction of skyscrapers. Several projects are already in progress, mainly in Pasila and Kalasatama. The tallest (with 40 floors) will rise to at least 150 metres (500 feet). In Pasila, twenty new high-rises will be erected within 10 years. In Kalasataman Keskus REDI, the first 35-story (130 metres) and 32-story (122 metres) residential towers are already under construction. Later they will be joined by a 37-story (140 metres), two 32-story (122 metres, 400 feet), 31-story (120 metres), and 27-story (100 metres) residential buildings. In the Kalasatama area, there will be 30 high-rises within 10 years.
As in all Finnish municipalities, the city council is the main decision-making organ in local politics, dealing with issues such as city planning, schools, health care, and public transport. The council is elected every four years.
The City Council of Helsinki consists of eighty-five members. Following the most recent municipal elections, in 2012, the three largest parties are the National Coalition Party (23), the Greens (19), and the Social Democrats (15). The Mayor, Jussi Pajunen, is a member of the National Coalition Party.
Traditionally, the conservative National Coalition Party (Kokoomus) has been the biggest party on Helsinki City Council, with the Social Democrats being the second biggest. In 2000 the Greens, for which Helsinki is the strongest area of support nationally, gained the position of second most popular party in the city, in 2004 the Social Democrats regained that position, and since 2008 the Greens have again been the second biggest party.
The Left Alliance is the fourth largest party, while the True Finns have increased their support steadily to become the fifth largest party. Support for the Swedish People's Party has been steadily declining over the years, most likely because of the diminishing proportion of Swedish speakers in Helsinki. The Centre Party of Finland, despite being one of the major parties in national politics, has little support in Helsinki, as is the case in most big cities.
Helsinki has a higher proportion of women (53.4%) than elsewhere in Finland (51.1%). Helsinki's current population density of 2,739.36 people per square kilometre is by far the highest in Finland. Life expectancy for both genders is slightly below the national averages: 75.1 years for men as compared to 75.7 years, 81.7 years for women as compared to 82.5 years.
Helsinki has experienced strong growth since the 1810s, when it replaced Turku as the capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland, which later became the sovereign Republic of Finland. The city continued to show strong growth from that time onward, with the exception during the Finnish Civil War period. From the end of World War II up until the 1970s there was a massive exodus of people from the countryside to the cities of Finland, in particular Helsinki. Between 1944 and 1969 the population of the city nearly doubled from 275,000 to 525,600.
In the 1960s, the population growth of Helsinki proper began to decrease mainly due to lack of housing. Many residents began to move to neighbouring Espoo and Vantaa, where population growth has since soared. Espoo's population increased ninefold in sixty years, from 22,874 people in 1950 to 244,353 in 2009. Neighboring Vantaa has seen even more dramatic change in the same time span: from 14,976 in 1950 to 197,663 in 2009, a thirteenfold increase. These dramatic increases pushed the municipalities of greater Helsinki into more intense cooperation in such areas as public transportation and waste management. The increasing scarcity of housing and the higher costs of living in the Helsinki Capital Region have pushed many daily commuters to find housing in formerly very rural areas, and even further, to such cities as Lohja (50 km (31 mi) northwest from the city centre), Hämeenlinna and Lahti (both 100 km (62 mi) from Helsinki), and Porvoo (50 km (31 mi) to the east).
Finnish and Swedish are the official languages of the municipality of Helsinki. The majority, or 81.9% of the population, speaks Finnish as their native language. A minority, at 5.9%, speaks Swedish. Around 12.2% of the population speaks a native language other than Finnish or Swedish. Helsinki slang today combines influences mainly from Finnish and English, but has traditionally had strong Russian and Swedish influences. Finnish today is the common language of communication between Finnish speakers, Swedish speakers, and speakers of other languages (New Finns) in day-to-day affairs in the public sphere between unknown persons. In instances where a speaker's knowledge of Finnish is not known, English is usually spoken. Swedish is commonly spoken in city or national agencies specifically aimed at Finland-Swedish speakers, such as the Social Services Department on Hämeentie or the Luckan Cultural centre in Kamppi. Knowledge of Finnish is also essential in business and is usually a basic requirement in the employment market.
Helsinki is the global gateway to and from Finland. The city has Finland's largest immigrant population in both absolute and relative terms. There are over 140 nationalities represented in Helsinki. The largest groups (as of 2013) are from Sweden, Russia, Estonia, Somalia, China, Kurdistan, Spain, Germany, France, Vietnam, and Turkey. Helsinki was already an international city in the 19th century with a distinctive Swedish majority as well as Finnish, Russian, and German minorities.
Foreign citizens make up 8.0% of the population, while the total foreign-born population makes up 11.1%. In 2012, 68,375 residents spoke a native language other than Finnish, Swedish, or one of the three Sami languages spoken in Finland. The largest groups of residents not of Finnish background come from Russia (14,532), Estonia (9,065), and Somalia (6,845). Half of the immigrant population in Finland lives in Greater Helsinki, and one third in the city of Helsinki.
The Helsinki Metropolitan Area generates approximately one third of Finland's GDP. GDP per capita is roughly 1.3 times the national average.
The metropolitan area's gross value added per capita is 200% of the mean of 27 European metropolitan areas, equalling those of Stockholm or Paris. The gross value added annual growth has been around 4%.
83 of the 100 largest Finnish companies are headquartered in Greater Helsinki. Two-thirds of the 200 highest-paid Finnish executives live in Greater Helsinki and 42% in Helsinki. The average income of the top 50 earners was 1.65 million euro.
The tap water is of excellent quality and it is supplied by 120 km (75 mi) long Päijänne Water Tunnel, one of the world's longest continuous rock tunnels. Bottled Helsinki tap water is even sold to other countries, such as Saudi Arabia.
Helsinki has 190 comprehensive schools, 41 upper secondary schools, and 15 vocational institutes. Half of the 41 upper secondary schools are private or state-owned, the other half municipal. Higher level education is given in eight universities (see the section "Universities" below) and four polytechnics.
- University of Helsinki
- Aalto University
- Hanken School of Economics
- University of the Arts Helsinki
- National Defence University
University of Applied Sciences
- Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences
- Laurea University of Applied Sciences
- Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
- Arcada University of Applied Sciences
The educational department takes part in Lifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013 in Finland.
The biggest historical museum in Helsinki is the National Museum of Finland, which displays a vast historical collection from prehistoric times to the 21st century. The museum building itself, a national romantic style neomedieval castle, is a tourist attraction. Another major historical museum is the Helsinki City Museum, which introduces visitors to Helsinki's 500-year history. The University of Helsinki also has many significant museums, including the Helsinki University Museum "Arppeanum" and the Finnish Museum of Natural History.
The Finnish National Gallery consists of three museums: Ateneum Art Museum for classical Finnish art, Sinebrychoff Art Museum for classical European art, and Kiasma Art Museum for modern art, in a building by architect Steven Holl. The old Ateneum, a neo-Renaissance palace from the 19th century, is one of the city's major historical buildings. All three museum buildings are state-owned through Senate Properties.
The Design Museum is devoted to the exhibition of both Finnish and foreign design, including industrial design, fashion, and graphic design. Other museums in Helsinki include the Military Museum of Finland, Didrichsen Art Museum, Amos Anderson Art Museum, and the Tram Museum.
Helsinki has three major theatres: The Finnish National Theatre, the Helsinki City Theatre, and the Swedish Theatre (Svenska Teatern). Other notable theatres in the city include the Alexander Theatre, Q-teatteri, Savoy Theatre, KOM-theatre, and Teatteri Jurkka.
Helsinki is home to two full-size symphony orchestras, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, both of which perform at the Helsinki Music Centre concert hall. Acclaimed contemporary composers Kaija Saariaho, Magnus Lindberg, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Einojuhani Rautavaara, among others, were born and raised in Helsinki, and studied at the Sibelius Academy. The Finnish National Opera, the only full-time, professional opera company in Finland, is located in Helsinki. The opera singer Martti Wallén, one of the company's long-time soloists, was born and raised in Helsinki, as was mezzo-soprano Monica Groop.
Many widely renowned and acclaimed bands have originated in Helsinki, including Hanoi Rocks, HIM, Stratovarius, The 69 Eyes, Finntroll, Ensiferum, Wintersun, The Rasmus, Poets of the Fall, and Apocalyptica.
The city's main musical venues are the Finnish National Opera, the Finlandia concert hall, and the Helsinki Music Centre. The Music Centre also houses a part of the Sibelius Academy. Bigger concerts and events are usually held at one of the city's two big ice hockey arenas: the Hartwall Areena or the Helsinki Ice Hall. Helsinki has Finland's largest fairgrounds.
Vappu is an annual carnival for students and workers.
Helsinki is the 2012 World Design Capital, in recognition of the use of design as an effective tool for social, cultural, and economic development in the city. In choosing Helsinki, the World Design Capital selection jury highlighted Helsinki's use of 'Embedded Design', which has tied design in the city to innovation, "creating global brands, such as Nokia, Kone, and Marimekko, popular events, like the annual Helsinki Design Week, outstanding education and research institutions, such as the University of Art and Design Helsinki, and exemplary architects and designers such as Eliel Saarinen and Alvar Aalto".
Helsinki also hosts many film festivals. Most of them are small venues, but some have gained renown even abroad. The most prolific would be the Love & Anarchy film festival (also known as Helsinki International Film Festival), which features films on a wide spectrum. Night Visions, on the other hand, focuses on genre cinema, screening horror, fantasy, and science fiction films in very popular movie marathons that take whole night. Another popular film festival is DocPoint, a festival that focuses solely on documentary cinema.
Today, there are around 200 newspapers, 320 popular magazines, 2,100 professional magazines, 67 commercial radio stations, three digital radio channels, and one nationwide and five national public service radio channels.
Each year, around 12,000 book titles are published and 12 million records are sold across Finland.
Sanoma publishes the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat (its circulation of 412,000 making it the largest), the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat, the commerce-oriented Taloussanomat, and the television channel Nelonen. The other major publisher Alma Media publishes over thirty magazines, including the newspaper Aamulehti, tabloid Iltalehti, and commerce-oriented Kauppalehti. Worldwide, Finns, along with other Nordic peoples and the Japanese, spend the most time reading newspapers.
Yle, the Finnish Broadcasting Company, operates five television channels and thirteen radio channels in both national languages. Headquartered in the neighbourhood of Pasila, Yle is funded through a mandatory television license and fees for private broadcasters. All TV channels are broadcast digitally, both terrestrially and on cable. The commercial television channel MTV3 and commercial radio channel Radio Nova are owned by Nordic Broadcasting (Bonnier and Proventus Industrier).
As of 2007, around 79% of the Finnish population uses the Internet. Finland had around 1.52 million broadband Internet connections by the end of June 2007 or around 287 per 1,000 inhabitants. All Finnish schools and public libraries have Internet connections and computers, and most residents have a mobile phone. Value-added services are rare. In October 2009, Finland's Ministry of Transport and Communications committed to ensuring that every person in Finland would be able to access the Internet at a minimum speed of one megabit-per-second beginning July 2010.
Helsinki has a long tradition of sports: the city gained much of its initial international recognition during the 1952 Summer Olympics, and the city has arranged sporting events such as the first World Championships in Athletics 1983 and 2005, and the European Championships in Athletics 1971, 1994, and 2012. Helsinki hosts successful local teams in both of the most popular team sports in Finland: football and ice hockey. Helsinki houses HJK Helsinki, Finland's largest and most successful football club, and IFK Helsingfors, their local rivals with 7 championship titles. The fixtures between the two are commonly known as Stadin derby. Helsinki's track and field club Helsingin Kisa-Veikot is also dominant within Finland. Ice hockey is popular among many Helsinki residents, who usually support either of the local clubs IFK Helsingfors (HIFK) or Jokerit. HIFK, with 14 Finnish championships titles, also plays in the highest bandy division, along with Botnia−69. The Olympic stadium hosted the first ever Bandy World Championship in 1957.
Helsinki was elected host-city of the 1940 Summer Olympics, but due to World War II they were canceled. Instead Helsinki was the host of the 1952 Summer Olympics. The Olympics were a landmark event symbolically and economically for Helsinki and Finland as a whole that was recovering from the winter war and the continuation war fought with the Soviet Union. Helsinki was also in 1983 the first ever city to host the World Championships in Athletics. Helsinki also hosted the event in 2005, thus also becoming the first city to ever host the Championships for a second time. The Helsinki City Marathon has been held in the city every year since 1980, usually in August. A Formula 3000 race through the city streets was held on 25 May 1997. In 2009 Helsinki was host of the European Figure Skating Championships.
The backbone of Helsinki's motorway network consists of three semicircular ring roads, Ring I, Ring II, and Ring III, which connect expressways heading to other parts of Finland, and the western and eastern arteries of Länsiväylä and Itäväylä respectively. While variants of a Keskustatunneli tunnel under the city centre have been repeatedly proposed, as of 2015 the plan remains on the drawing board.
Helsinki has some 390 cars per 1000 inhabitants. This is less than in cities of similar population and construction density, such as Brussels' 483 per 1000, Stockholm's 401, and Oslo's 413.
Rail transport and buses
Public transport is generally a hotly debated subject in the local politics of Helsinki. In the Helsinki metropolitan area, public transportation is managed by the Helsinki Regional Transport Authority, the metropolitan area transportation authority. The diverse public transport system consists of trams, commuter rail, the metro, bus lines, two ferry lines, and on-demand minibuses.
Today, Helsinki is the only city in Finland to have trams or a metro system. There used to be two other cities in Finland with trams: Turku and Viipuri (Vyborg, now in Russia), but both have since abandoned them. The Helsinki Metro, opened in 1982, is the only rapid transit system in Finland. In 2006, the construction of the long debated extension of the metro into Western Helsinki and Espoo was approved, and serious debate about an eastern extension into Sipoo has taken place.
Helsinki's metro system currently consists of 17 stations, with six of them being underground. Once the expansion into Western Helsinki and Espoo is completed in August 2016, seven new metro stations will be opened, with all of them being underground.
The possibility of a Helsinki to Tallinn Tunnel is currently being researched. The rail tunnel would connect Helsinki to the Estonian capital Tallinn, further linking Helsinki to the rest of continental Europe by Rail Baltica.
Air traffic is handled primarily from the international Helsinki Airport, located approximately 17 kilometres (11 mi) north of Helsinki's downtown area, in the neighbouring city of Vantaa. Helsinki's own airport, Helsinki-Malmi Airport, is mainly used for general and private aviation. Helicopter flights to Tallinn are available from Hernesaari Heliport.
Like many other cities of the world, Helsinki had been deliberately founded next to the sea. The city therefore was able to benefit from good sea transportation links right from the start. The freezing of the sea imposed limitations on sea traffic up to the end of the 19th century. But for the last hundred years, the routes leading to Helsinki have been kept open even in winter with the aid of icebreakers, many of them built in the Helsinki Hietalahti shipyard. The arrival and departure of ships has also been a part of everyday life in Helsinki. Regular route traffic from Helsinki to Stockholm, Tallinn, and St. Petersburg began as far back as 1837. Over 300 cruise ships and 360,000 cruise passengers visit Helsinki annually. There are international cruise ship docks in South Harbour, Katajanokka, West Harbour, and Hernesaari. Helsinki is the second busiest passenger port in Europe with approximately 11 million passengers in 2013. Ferry connections to Tallinn, Mariehamn, and Stockholm are serviced by various companies. Finnlines passenger-freight ferries to Gdynia, Poland; Travemünde, Germany; and Rostock, Germany are also available. St Peter Line offers passenger ferry service to Saint Petersburg several times a week.
Special partnership cities
Helsinki has a special partnership relation with: