"Blending the New with the Old"
Helsinki. It's a comfortable city – big enough to have all the
trappings of a capital but small enough for everything to be close at
hand, within walking distance but backed up by an excellent public
transport system that's properly integrated – a network of buses,
trams, trains and ferries, all of which can be used with one multi-day
travel card. And they work – its online transport planner gives
connections that are realistic and convenient. If you're stuck – nearly
everybody speaks very good English.
Article and Images by Richard Lewis
It's a Nordic city, so is clean and has the designer feel about it –
blending the new with the old seamlessly. It has seasons – proper snowy
winters, through to sunny summers where so much seems to be centred
around the water (Helsinki has the largest archipelago in the
|It has a
great range of architecture from stark modernism
through classical romantic.
It has museums and public art in
abundance and lots of events. And then there's the countryside
around it with public parks and country houses to enjoy.
All this adds up to a great base for photography whatever the time of
year, and whatever your interest. Just be prepared for the season
you visit – it can get very cold in winter and rather warm – actually
hot – in the summer. Also be prepared for seasons not to align
with those you might be accustomed to. Schools go back in mid-August so
summer activities can start winding down from then.
Getting into specifics, here are some places to go for photography:
- National Museum of Photography. Always has a
major exhibition and
smaller ones featuring Finnish or well known international
- Suomenlinna Island. An old naval fortress
actually spread over
several islands and now a World Heritage Site. It's reached by a
15 minute ferry ride from the east harbour.
- Seurasaari Open Air Museum. On an island within
the city, you'll
find old buildings in rural settings from around Finland, many staffed
by interpreters in costume.
- Esplanadi. This is a tree lined boulevard
dropping down from the
city centre to the harbour and, with its pavement cafes and parks, is
the place to people watch.
- Interesting Buildings. There are many – for
example the Church in
the Rock, Helsinki Market Hall, the National Museum, the Cathedrals,
the Parliament building, Finlandia Hall, the Fish Market. Add in
the Neoclassical and Art-Nouveau quarters, and the city gives great
opportunities for street and architectural photography. Just
outside Helsinki is Hvittrask, a country house formerly the home (and
now museum) of noted Finnish architects Gesellius, Lindberg &
- Söderskär. A 2 hour boat trip to this island in
archipelago, with its old lighthouse, flora, and birds. So
peaceful so photogenic, but only in mid-summer.
Further afield - Porvoo to the east and Hanku to the west are
photogenic old towns with traditional wooden buildings. Saimaa to
the north east of Helsinki is the heart of Finland's lake district (and
where Russian traditions remain strong). Rovaniemi lies on the
Arctic circle with Finnish (and Norwegian) Lapland beyond.
across the Baltic, Tallinn is an easy day trip, with its largely
unspoilt old quarter. Less than four hours on a high speed train
will take you to St. Petersburg (visa required unless you take the
alternative boat trip). West, via the Stockholm ferry, are the
tranquil Åland islands. Or just go out and enjoy Finland's lakes
Being a Nordic country, accommodation in Finland can be pricey, but for
those on a budget I can suggest CheapSleep Hostel with beds from around €20/night
through to private double rooms from
full service hotel, the Radisson
Blu Seaside Hotel
(which is less than 10 minutes out of the centre by Number 6 or 9 tram)
has always served us well - double rooms en-suite with breakfast from
(Obviously these rates
will vary by season and according to what's happening in the city) and
there are many other hotels to suit individual preferences.
Eating out in Helsinki can also be expensive but there is a wide range
of places to
eat with prices to suit all pockets.
Why visit this place?
"Helsinki doesn't feature
on many people's bucket lists of places to photograph. But with its
wide range of classical and modern architectural styles, seaside
location with adjacent islands, outdoor museums, and busy event
calendar, there's lots to see and do. It's very
seasonal, and a good base for onward travel to photogenic locations
across the Nordic region."
When is the best time of
year to visit?
Most times work - depends
on what you want to photograph. It's very seasonal with sunny summers
and snowy winters. Being a northern city, it does enjoy long hours of
sunshine in the summer, with correspondingly long nights in the winter.
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