Helsinki Cathedral – the white jewel of Helsinki

If you were asked to close your eyes and to tell the first image that comes to mind about Helsinki, you’d probably say that it is the Helsinki Cathedral. At least this is what it happens to me (I also think about the stone giants at the main train station, though). It is the most recognizable spot of the city.

Helsinki Cathedral: the white cathedral

The Helsinki Cathedral

Since 1852, when the construction of the Helsinki Cathedral was over, this building has been imposing its beauty over the Senate Square of Helsinki, right in the middle of the city (map). Its facade can be seen in many photos and during all kinds of media coverage, because many events and protests take place in front of it.

The cathedral originally was build as a tribute to the Tzar Nicholas I of Russia, because for many years Finland was part of Russia and was known as the Great Duchy of Finland. The man to design such an iconic piece was Carl Ludvig Engel, who based its design on the St. Isaac Cathedral of Saint Petersburg, that you can see in this photo:

St Isaac Cathedral of Saint Petersburg
The Helsinki Cathedral was modeled after this one. I think it looks better in white.

Since it was a tribute to the Tsar, the Helsinki Cathedral was inaugurated with the name of Saint Nicholas Cathedral. This, of course, changed after Finland became independent and now it is known simply as Helsingin tuomiokirkko. The architect that succeeded Engel, named Lohrmann, added four little domes that make the cathedral look even more like the one in St. Petersburg.

The cathedral’s style is neoclassic and follows the architecture design of a Greek Cross (its four arms are identically long). The height of the Helsinki Cathedral is 62 meters (203 feet), it has an organ, and it hosts masses and weddings.

Columns of the Helsinki Cathedral

Stairs of the white Helsinki Catedral
Myself, stepping up the stairs.

The Cathedral of Helsinki

A while ago, while re-visiting some photos from Finland, I found some pictures of the Helsinki Cathedral from the inside. That is something not everyone gets to see, either for lack of time, lack of will to climb up the stairs, or for not being interested in the Lutheran faith.

That was the reason I remembered that there was no post about this Helsinki icon on Big in Finland yet. And since maybe not so many people might have seen it from the inside, I was encouraged to write this post.

The most interesting thing about the interior of the white Helsinki Cathedral is its almost complete lack of ornaments. Lutherans were opposed to the worshipping of saints, since they rejected the Catholic notion that saints and virgins were closer to God than others. This makes the Lutheran cathedrals in general more sober than their Catholic counterparts in places like Spain or Italy, that have much more decoration, ornaments and history.

The Helsinki Cathedral has an organ made in 1967 with 57 stops. It is quite beautiful and resembles the first organ installed in the cathedral, shortly after its construction. You can hear and see it in this video.

Altar of the Helsinki Cathedral
The cathedral’s altar is very sober.

The Helsinki Cathedral from the inside
Inside the White Cathedral.

In any case the Helsinki Cathedral is a must-see when you travel to Helsinki, and entering it costs nothing, so we can add it to our list of low-cost (or free) activities in Helsinki. Its opening hours are from 9h to 18h every day, and for the months of Summer in Finland, until 24h.

Do you also think about the Helsinki Cathedral as the iconic image of Helsinki? What do you think of first if not?



Tinder in Finland: women and men

One of the best websites I discovered this year was Tinder na Suecia. The story goes like this: a Spanish man from Galicia went to Sweden, and his friends back at home asked him how the girls on Tinder (the app for meeting people available on iPhone and Android) in the Nordic and Scandinavian countries are. Instead of describing them, he went the smart way: he made screenshots. Genius.

Ever since I saw that website I thought: I should do the same for Finland. And this is what I bring you in this post.

What is Tinder?

For those who don’t know this app, this is what it does: when you want to meet people from the opposite (or same) sex, you can create a profile on Tinder. After that, you choose the people you are interested in and how far away from your location they can be. Age-range and gender are additional settings you can tweak. The app then starts showing you profiles that match your settings, and you can say if you like what you see or not.

I saw you on Tinder
Sometimes you see someone on the street and you think “I have seen this person on Tinder”. Source (CC: by)

I find this idea brilliant in terms of how it solves certain problems.

Meeting people in parties or events can be complicated. Gathering the courage (if you are shy or are not used to it) to start a conversation with a stranger, talking to someone you are not sure is available or is looking for the same things as you, the possibility of rejection… many things that can be uncomfortable. Tinder has simplified these problems in a brilliant way.

Tinder shows you people that you can assumeare interested in meeting people, and signaling that you like that person (from his or her photos and the optional personal description) is as easy as saying “yes” or “no”. If two people chose “yes” about each other then – and only then – they can chat with each other and the rest is up to them. Simple and without any of the complications mentioned above.

I haven’t used the app myself, but I know many people who use it regularly. I think if there comes the day that I need an online tool to meet a lady, Tinder will be the one I use.

If someone is interested in a Tinder-like app for gay people, the most popular equivalent is called Grinder, although you can use Tinder as well.

Tinder in Finland

Following the lead of Tinder Na Suecia, here comes the Finnish version, gathered with the help of Big in Finland’s friend and collaborator @Yprum.

Unlike the site about Sweden, I preferred to remove names and descriptions to enhance privacy. If someone recognizes themselves in these photos and wants them taken down, I’ll do it promptly: send me an e-mail through our contact form.

These are the settings we chose in our search: profiles for men and women situated 50km around Yprum.

Tinder in Finland

Let’s start with the Finnish girls. If you want to go directly to the “men’s section”, just click here.

Tinder in Finland: women

A couple of things before starting off: You will see many Finnish women with dark hair. Although in Finland there are plenty of blondes, they also like to dye their hair black.

You can also see the traditional cap that Finns wear during Vappu in some pictures.

Tinder in Finland: men

Is Tinder better for you in Finland or in Sweden? How good looking do you think the Finnish men and women that are featured in this post are? If we talk about other countries, I got some reports that claim that in Spain it doesn’t work that well and that it works great in Berlin because there is all kinds of people (thus, making your type easier to find).



Top 5 romantic spots in Helsinki

Even though the Finns prefer to celebrate the “Day of Friendship” on February 14th instead of St. Valentine’s Day, they still know how to be romantic. The Finnish newspaper Nyt (the word for “now” in the Finnish language) has published a top-5 list of the most romantic spots in Helsinki.

Since the list is in Finnish we jumped quickly to translate it, in order to tell you the places to steal a kiss in the capital of Finland. The list was gathered for St. Valentine’s, so these recommendations are thought for a moment of cold weather in Finland. Since we are now in the Ruska time and the cold is coming, we thought it is the perfect time to publish it.

But do not worry: most of these places can be enjoyed during the Summer in Finland too.

Romantic places in Helsinki

Has your significant other ever told you that you need to make more romantic gestures? It has happened to all of us, I guess (not to me, but to a friend). If it is true in your case, you can surprise your other half with a trip to Helsinki and visit one of these ideal romantic spots.

1.- Hietaniemi beach. Hietaniemi is a nice neighborhood in Helsinki. It has a park-like cemetery where the state funerals take place and where important Finnish figures such as Alvar Aalto or Mannerheim rest forever. Nonetheless the Hietaniemi beach – the biggest beach of Helsinki – is the real romantic spot.

Lugares románticos de Helsinki: Hietaniemi
The Hietaniemi beach, in summer, and at sunset time. That adds up to romance. Source (CC: by).

The beach is near the cemetery, but not adjacent to it. It lies next to a nice forest. During winter you can see the frozen sea from the beach. To bring romance to the next level, the newspaper suggests doing a picnic on the ice, with good winter clothing and a nice hot beverage. In summer, the picnic will be easier under the sun.

2.- Any place to ice-skate. Like in a movie where you can see people skating on ice in the central square of the city, the second recommended place for romance is an ice rink. There, your partner and you can spend hours skating while holding hands, next to many other couples. The best place for this, as the article recommends, is Kallion kenttä, in Helsinginkatu; and it also suggests to go and have something hot to drink at the shop Villipuutarha, next to the ice rink.

An ice ring in Helsinki
Romance and ice: hand in hand. Source (by-sa-nd).

3.- A coffee shop in the centre where you can get some hot chocolate: a table and some mugs filled with hot chocolate is the next romantic place that Nyt suggests. They give some concrete picks: café The Exhibitionists (Museokatu 28) and the Fazer café (Kluuvikatu 3). You two can also try, of course, authentic Finnish coffee – a beverage some people try to avoid because they say it’s bland.

Café Fazer: one of the most romantic spots in Helsinki
A romantic spot? A special coffee shop always works. Source (cc: by-sa).

4.- The Helsinki Zoo: if you just met, walking around the zoo and asking each other which animal is your favorite could be pretty revealing of the other’s personality. At least that is what the newspaper says. If it is cold outside, you can go to the tropical houses of the zoo.

A Snow Lion
A snow lion? No, it is a lion on the snow. Source (CC: by-sa-nd).

5.- The daring option: the Vermo’r race track. Why don’t you do it like Henry Chinaski and take your other half to the race track? It isn’t the same because here the horses don’t sprint, they trot. The jockey does not sit on the horse, but behind it in a two-wheeled cart called Sulki. A little more Ben-Hur than Barfly, but with the couple.

A trotting horse is clearly a metaphore for love
A trotting horse: metaphor about love from Nyt? Source (by-sa).

Do you know any other romantic spot in Helsinki that you can recommend to us? Have you visited any of the above spots?



Most popular Finnish names for girls and boys

These days, giving a Finnish name to your newborn girl or boy is an option as good as any. The days when kids could only be named after a saint are long gone. Of course when we talk about giving your babies Finnish names we could also propose to you names from any other country – but we are Big in Finland.

In this post we talk about the Finnish names that parents in Finland give their babies these days. We will only talk about the most popular Finnish names.

A name tag
Hello, my name is… Source (CC: by-sa)

Finnish names and surnames

Talking about the meaning of Finnish names is something we have yet to do on this English version of the blog. Another to-do is talking about why most of Finnish surnames end in -nen and where this comes from. In your country there probably is also a suffix is at the end of many surnames like “-mann” in German or “-ez” in Spanish.

Anyways, my favorite Finnish name is – and will always be – Mette Mannonen, like the Finnish weather anchorwoman. In Spanish it sounds funny because it sounds really close to the expression “meter mano”. What this expression means… I will better not reveal here.

The most popular Finnish names for girls and boys (or men and women)

The Civil Registry of Finland compiles, among many other things, the most popular names that Finnish parents give to their children. They keep an annual list here, and they divide the entries between names that parents who speak the Finnish language give their children and names that parents that speak Swedish give.

The last year available is 2013 (you can check other years on the link above) and the names that Finnish speaking parents give their children are:

Finnish names for boys:

  1. Juhani
  2. Johannes
  3. Olavi
  4. Mikael
  5. Onni

Finnish names for girls:

  1. Maria
  2. Sofia
  3. Emilia
  4. Olivia
  5. Aino

Juhani: the most popular of the Finnish names for boys
The Finnish name most used for boys on 2013: Juhani. Source (CC: by-sa).

If you prefer, instead of the year-by-year data (the first time I checked this list was in 2012 and there have been quite a lot of changes to the top 5) there is a second website from the government that lists the most popular names by decade and in total. This list makes no disctintion between languages.

The all-time top 3 male Finnish names for boys since the registry exists are Juhani, Johannes and Olavi. The most popular female names are Maria, Helena and Johanna.

Which Finnish name is your favorite?



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