Senate Square, Helsinki
Aleksanterinkatu leads into Helsinki's imposing Senate Square (Senaatintori), in the center of which is a bronze statue of Tsar Alexander II (by W. Runeberg, 1894). As Grand Duke of Finland, Alexander encouraged Finnish self-government and in 1864 summoned the Finnish Diet.
Transit: Tram: 1, 2, 3B, 4.
From the Market Square in Helsinki a street between the President's Palace and the Guard House leads into Aleksanterinkatu. Along this street to the left are numerous buildings recalling centuries of Finnish history.
House of the Nobility
At the end of Aleksanterinkatu in Helsinki, on the right, is the House of the Nobility. In Sweden the status of nobility was conferred by being "introduced" in the House of the Nobility, after which the coat of arms of the newly ennobled family was set up in the Knights' Hall. To the rear of the House of the Nobility, running parallel with Aleksanterinkatu, is Hallituskatu. Opposite it are the premises of the Finnish Literary Society (Suomen Kirjallisuuden Seura).
Near the Finnish Literary Society building, on the right, is the Government Palace (Valtioneuvostonlinna), formerly the Senate of the Grand Duchy of Finland. In the staircase hall (entrance from Senate Square) the Russian Governor-General, Nikolay Bobrikov, was assassinated by Eugen Schauman in 1904. On the left side of the street stands the bluish-gray Sederholm House, the oldest stone building in Helsinki.
St Nicholas's Cathedral
On the north side of Helsinki's Senate Square a broad flight of steps leads up to the Lutheran Cathedral (Tuomiokirkko; St Nicholas's), standing 10m/33ft above the square on a granite crag. The Cathedral was begun in 1830 to the design of C. L. Engel and completed in 1852 in a different style. It contains statues of Luther, Melanchthon and the Finnish Reformer Mikael Agricola as well as a fine organ.
On the west side of Helsinki's Senate Square is the University (Yliopisto), built by Engel in 1828-32, with an extension of 1936 on Fabianinkatu. To the north of the University is the University Library (Yliopiston Kirjasto; 1836-45), also designed by Engel, which contains some 1.5 million volumes and 2,000 manuscripts, with the largest collection of Slavonic works in the West. The Library is generally regarded as the finest building by Engel in Helsinki.
Natural History Museum
The Finnish Museum of Natural History is located at The University of Helsinki. It contains about seven million specimens. Animals are portrayed in their natural environments.
Address: Pohjoinen Rautatiekatu 13, Box 17, SF-00014 Helsinki, Finland
Opening hours: 9am-4pm; Sun: 10am-4pm; Thu: 9am-6pm; Sat: 10am-4pm; Closed: Mon
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), New Year's Eve (Dec 31)
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €6.00, Child 15 & under €3.00, Child 6 & under FREE
Useful tips: Tours available in English, Finnish and Swedish by appointment only. Free admission on Thursdays from 4-6pm.
Guides: Guided tour available as optional extra.
House of the Estates
From Helsinki's Senate Square, Snellmaninkatu runs north. On the right, just beyond Kirkkokatu, can be seen the former House of the Estates (1891). Over the entrance is a bronze group (by Emil Wikström, 1903) depicting Tsar Alexander I at the Diet of Borgå in 1809. Opposite, in front of the Bank of Finland, is a statue of the Finnish statesman and philosopher J. V. Snellman (1806-81), who secured the recognition of Finnish as an official language on an equal basis with Swedish. Diagonally opposite the Bank, at the corner of Rauhankatu, are the National Archives; here too is an attractive cafe.
At the corner of Liisankatu and Marinkatu in Helsinki is a brick-red complex housing the Military Academy and Military Museum. This district of Kruununhaka (originally a small hunting reserve for the nobility) was rebuilt in Art Nouveau style between 1910 and 1925. This part of the town shows more variety of pattern than Katajanokka, with pleasant courtyards, gently curving streets, irregular little lanes and flights of steps. Beyond this we come to an arm of the Baltic, which farther west, near the Finlandia Hall, forms Töölö Bay (Töölönlahti).
The arm of the Baltic in Helsinki is crossed by the Pitkäsilta (Long Bridge), beyond which, after the Strand Inter-Continental Hotel (on right), is the district of Hakaniemi. Some 200m/220yd farther on is its market square, with a market hall only slightly inferior to the one in the city center.
Stockmann's Department Store
From Senate Square in Helsinki, Aleksanterinkatu continues west. This section of the street is busier and livelier than the lower part. At its intersection with the broad Mannerheimintie, in the center of the street, is a sculpture by F. Nyland (1932), "Three Smiths", scarred by Soviet bombing. To the left is Stockmann's department store, established by a Lübeck man, G. F. Stockmann, who began with a small general store at the corner of Aleksanterinkatu and Unioninkatu, on Senate Square. The present store extends to the left along Mannerheimintie to its intersection with the Esplanade.Stockmann's department store is now Finland's largest retail operation. Given its century-old existence, Stockmann's is considered a national institution.
Map of Helsinki Attractions