A sunny day in the capital so our first stop this morning was to the Helsinki University Botanical Garden in Kaisaniemi not far from the city’s Central Railway Station. Since our last visit two years ago the gardens have been undergoing a large rebuilding programme which is yet to be completed. I was surprised how different the garden layout is but I’m confident it will look beautiful when it’s finished. In the meantime some flowerbeds are covered with black polythene so we will need to make a return visit next year to view it at its best.
The large tropical palm house with its ornate glass roof was built in 1889 and contains specimen plants from around the world. It’s free to visit the gardens but if you wish to view the glass houses an admission is payable except for the first Friday of each month. The gardens have an attractive cafe with some seats out on a sheltered patio in the garden.
Leaving the gardens we returned to the railway station to visit the Russian Tourist Festival promoting holidays which was taking place in the Central Railway Station Square. It was a huge event with stands from each province of Russia, a large stage with singing and folk dancing, demonstrations of local handicrafts and some regional food and drinks. From Helsinki one can travel to St. Petersburg by train or ferry. If you are travelling by train, passengers require a visa but if you take the St. Peter Line overnight ferry you are permitted to stay for up to 72 hours visa free. A few years ago we took this mini cruise and although the boat was old and lacked facilities we enjoyed our visit.
The building behind the stage on the above photograph is the splendid Finnish National Theatre which was completed in 1902 in the National Romantic Style. I just love this building and others in this style such as the National Museum of Finland which is currently undergoing maintenance.
Leaving the square we made our way to Helsinki Cathedral rising high on the north side of Senate Square, this Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral was designed in the Neo Classical Style by Carl Ludvig Engel. The central dome rises to a height of 80 metres and is visible from most parts of the city and is a magnificent sight as you approach Helsinki harbour from out at sea.
When we arrived at 12.00 noon an organ recital was taking place so we stopped to listen for awhile. Below the cathedral and accessed from the rear, visitors can explore the crypt and enjoy refreshments in Cafe Krypta. Art exhibitions are also held in the crypt which is free to visit.
After lunch we headed to the Espa Stage bandstand in Esplanade Park to attend a concert by the Conscript Band of the Finnish Defence Forces who we had seen on previous occasions. Their hour long set was extremely good and included popular Finnish songs plus some international hits including tracks by Michael Jackson and Abba. As it was such a sunny afternoon there was a large audience stretching from the terrace of Cafe Kappeli to the foot of the stage. It was lovely to see so many people enjoying themselves singing and dancing along to the music, the Conscript Band are so talented! There is a varied programme of artists appearing here throughout the summer months and we like to sometimes sit on the terrace opposite and relax with a drink whilst enjoying the live entertainment. To find out what’s happening on the Espa Stage you can take a look here.
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