Helsinki: An Architectural Tour

‘The city of Helsinki brings together varying different styles of design, which are best viewed by putting on your boots and taking to the streets. This is a quick architectural tour of Helsinki…’

Senate Square / Helsinki Cathedral

Senate Square is the most iconic area of Helsinki and is the historic centre of the city.  The Square is home to Helsinki Cathedral, the Government Palace and the University of Helsinki.

The majority of the buildings in Senate Square were designed by Carl Ludvig Engel. This includes the Cathedral. which dates back to 1852.

Location / Senate Square

Government Palace

This pale orange/yellow building was the first major to be designed by Carl Ludvig Engel.  The building houses the Senate of Finland and makes up one side of the structures of Senate Square.

In 1904, Nikolai Ivanovich Bobrikov, who was the Governer-General of Finland at the time, was shot and killed by a Russian assassin, Eugen Schauman.

Location / Senate Square

Helsinki City Museum / Sederholm House

Helsinki City Museum, which includes the Sederholm House Building, sits on the corner of Senate Square.  The museum focuses on the history and culture of Helsinki and its residents throughout time.

Sederholm House, which houses the children’s museum, is the oldest stone building in the city centre and dates back to 1757.

Location / Aleksanterinkatu 16-18, just off Senate Square

The House of Nobility (The Ritarihuone)

This house was originally constructed as a meeting place for the upper echelons of Finnish society.  It was designed by Swedish born architect, Georg Theodor Chiewitz, who was also responsible for the Swedish Theatre in the city.

The building is Neogothic in style and instantly recognisable in downtown Helsinki by its red brick exterior.

Location / Ritarikatu 1

Presidential Palace

The Palace is one of three official residences of the President of Finland. That can’t be a bad job, can it? It sits on the Esplanade, looking out across Market Square.

The Palace was originally designed as a residential home. However, it was later redesigned by Carl Engel Ludvig. The building now hosts various state functions and parties that I wouldn’t likely be invited to.

Location / Mariankatu 2

Stora Enso HQ

Stora Enso is a manufacturer of paper and pulp, which doesn’t sound that exciting because it isn’t.  However, the building it uses as its headquarters is.

This white waterside building was designed by Alvar Aalto and completed in 1962.  The architect himself is legendary in his home nation of Finland and, although the Stora Enso building might not be in the same style as the more historic structures in the city, it’s iconic nonetheless.

Location / Kanavaranta 1

Uspenski Cathedral

Uspenski is the largest Orthodox Cathedral in Western Europe. The structure is typical of the Soviet influence on the nation.  The Cathedral is one of the most beautiful structures in Helsinki.  It’s well used, despite the fact that fewer than 2% of the population is of the Orthodox faith.

Uspenski Cathedral was designed by Russian architect Alexey Gornostaev.

Location / Katajanokka Island

Katajanokka Art Nouveau District

As you wander along the streets of Katajanokka, the colours of the buildings alone are Instagram worthy.  However, the actual designs and embellishments of the structures are stunning.

This small island district has a unique collection of art nouveau designs that feature beautiful wrought-ironwork, quirky windows and gorgeous roof lines.

Location / Katajanokka Island

National Archives

The National Archives consists of three main buildings, with the headquarters on Rauhankatu.  The Neo renaissance  HQ was designed by Gustav Nystrom, with the neoclassical sculpture above the roof by Carl Eneas Sjostrand.

The roof sculpture is of particular importance to Finland and consists of three women.  The central figure represents the nation of Finland, while the others signify criticism and history.

Location / Rauhankatu

Burgher’s House

Burgher’s House is the oldest wooden building in Helsinki.  The house has been standing in central Helsinki since 1818 and is now part of the National Museum complex.

The vibrant yellow home is still decorated in the style of the Wickholm family, who lived there from 1859.  It’s a really fascinating step back in time and is free to enter.

Location / Kristianinkatu 12


The walking tour is approximately 1 mile and should take around 90 minutes at a leisurely pace.  Enjoy the architectural tour of Helsinki.

Suz xx




Hi, I'm Suz. I love travelling (obvs..), dogs, shoes and wine, although not necessarily in that order. I''m a full-time introvert and part-time traveller and live with my husband in Snowdonia, North Wales.

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