Europe / Finland

Helsinki

Helsinki, Finland's capital city is a beautiful European destination, bursting at the seams with history, natural beauty and friendly people. On the one hand, it's metropolitan; on the other, the delightfully provincial countryside is not far away. There are lots of reasons to add Helsinki to your list of must-see destinations.

Helsinki is the capital and largest city in Finland. It is in the region of Uusimaa, located in southern Finland, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea. The population of the city of Helsinki is 596,233 (31 January 2012), making it by far the most populous municipality in Finland. Helsinki is located some 400 kilometres (250 mi) east of Stockholm, Sweden, 300 kilometres (190 mi) west of St. Petersburg, Russia and 80 kilometres (50 mi) north of Tallinn, Estonia. Helsinki has close historical connections with these three cities.

The Helsinki Metropolitan Area includes the city of Helsinki and three other cities: Espoo and Vantaa, which immediately border Helsinki to the west and north, respectively; and Kauniainen, which is an enclave within the city of Espoo. The Helsinki metropolitan area is the world's northernmost urban area among those with a population of over one million people, and the city is the northernmost capital of a EU member state. Altogether 1.1 million people, approximately one in five Finns, live in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.

Helsinki is Finland's major political, educational, financial, cultural and research centre as well as one of northern Europe's major cities. Approximately 70% of foreign companies operating in Finland have settled in the Helsinki region.

The nearby city of Vantaa in the Helsinki metropolitan area is the location of Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, with frequent service to various destinations in Europe and Asia. Since early 2009, Helsinki has been exploring a merger with Vantaa. On 30 March 2009, the city council of Vantaa agreed to review Helsinki's proposal of a possible merger, while emphasizing that the review is not about the possibility of terminating the existence of the city of Vantaa. On 31 January 2011, the city council of Vantaa turned down Helsinki's proposal of a possible merger, with 45 votes against the proposal compared to 22 in favour of it.

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.

Helsinki has a humid continental climate. Owing to the mitigating influence of the Baltic Sea and Gulf Stream, temperatures in winter are much higher than the far northern location might suggest, with the average in January and February around -5 °C (23 °F). Temperatures below -20 °C (-4 °F) occur normally a week or two in a year. However, because of the latitude, days last less than six hours around the winter solstice with really low sun rays, and the very cloudy weather at this time of year accentuates the darkness. Conversely, Helsinki enjoys long days in summer, close to nineteen hours around the summer solstice. The average maximum temperature from June to August is around 19 to 21 °C (66 to 70 °F). Due to the marine effect, especially in the summer daily temperatures are cooler and night temperatures are higher than further away in the mainland. As near as in Vantaa, the climate is surprisingly much more continental, with warmer summers and colder winters. The highest temperature ever recorded at city centre was 34.0 °C (93.2 °F) on 28 July 2010 and the lowest was -34.3 °C (-30 °F) on 10 January 1987.

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