Helsinki, FinlandLocation: Europe
Helsinki, Finland is one of the exciting ports of call on a Disney Cruise Line European Cruise vacation. With over a quarter of the population of Finland, Helsinki is a thriving cosmopolitan port city and crucial economic and cultural center for the nation. Visitors to Helsinki are dazzled by its mixture of big-city excitement and small- town hospitality and charm.
Things to See and Do
There is an endless array of pleasures awaiting Helsinki vacationers and their families. For a taste of the city's heritage, you can view the vast collection of artifacts dating back to prehistoric times at the National Museum of Finland—a building famously fashioned as a romantic style neo-medieval castle—or pay a visit to the Helsinki City Museum, which introduces visitors to Helsinki's 500 year history.
Outside of Helsinki's museums, you can stroll the Senate Square, built to resemble a miniature St. Petersburg, and tour the renowned Lutheran Cathedral—an arresting structure with a high central dome and Corinthian columns, built in the neo-classical (Empire) style. Take in a concert at the historic Finlandia Hall or savor a fine Finnish lager as you relax at a seaside café, watching sailboats glide by. You can even elect to enjoy a ferry ride around the archipelago.
The sea itself lends beauty to many of Helsinki's outdoor areas of interest. Embark on an exploration of the beautiful archipelago that surrounds the city's center, or venture to the magnificent Suomenlinna sea fortress—one of the largest maritime fortresses in the world—built in 1748 when Helsinki was under Swedish rule to counter the threat from Russia. During the summer, you can experience a concert in the open-air theater here.
A brush with exotic wildlife is also a treat in Helsinki, with over 200 different animal species and 1,000 species of plant life on the island of Korkeasaari. Helsinki Zoo, Finland's largest zoo, is located there, where you can meet European forest reindeer, snow leopards and Musk ox, to name a few.
Local Culture and Flavor
The pleasures to be found in Helsinki culture are many. For full immersion in a time-honored Finnish tradition, you can relax in an authentic wood-burning sauna. Treat your family to wild thrills at Linnanmäki, the city's oldest amusement park, or enjoy the pools and water slides of the largest Nordic water park, Serena. You can even shop for souvenirs at the city's indoor and outdoor flea markets or antique shops.
A retreat within a retreat can be discovered when you visit Seurasaari, an island oasis renowned for its green hills, wetlands and herb-rich forest. At the open-air museum on the island, the traditional Finnish way of life is displayed in the cottages and farmsteads relocated here from all around the country.
Past and Present
With its rich history, Helsinki has attracted famous architects who have contributed to the staggering collection of historic landmarks that dot the city. In fact, when control of Finland passed to Russia in the early 1800s, Czar Alexander ordered a grand rebuilding of Helsinki while simultaneously declaring it the capital of Finland. The result of this massive construction project was the transformation of the city into how it stands today.
History buffs, lovers of nature, culture enthusiasts and worldly shoppers will find remarkable experiences waiting for them in Helsinki.
Fun Facts & Tips
Olympic Stadium features a 72-meter-high tower that offers a great view over the city.
Kotiharjun is one of the few wood-burning public saunas in the city, and offers separate saunas for men and women.
Visitors to Helsinki enjoy excellent fresh fish dishes such as pike, trout, perch, whitefish, salmon and Baltic herring.