Helsinki's Top 5 Churches

Helsinki Travel

The seaside atmosphere, architectural diversity, acclaimed design, numerous museums, sauna culture, and traditional Finnish food are excellent reasons to visit the City of Helsinki. Furthermore, Finland's capital is small enough to explore on foot, and its historical landmarks are near together. Some of them, of course, are churches, each one unique in color, style, materials, and denomination, but all immensely appealing.

The primary Christian groups in Helsinki are Lutheran and Orthodox, although there are also numerous beautiful Anglican and German churches. These landmarks are not only for religion, but they also serve as gorgeous tourist attractions and are popular with architecture enthusiasts, who can appreciate the wide range of styles found in the city.



Although it's hardly the most beautiful capital in Europe, Helsinki does have several interesting historical and merely visual landmarks that I've visited several times. As an architecture fan, I especially enjoy visiting Helsinki's churches, ranging in styles from classical to ultra-modern. For a complete cultural experience, I admired these architectural splendors from both inside and outside. The following is a guide to my five favorite churches in Helsinki, with brief descriptions of each.

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Helsinki Map


Top 5 Churches in Helsinki


1. Helsinki Cathedral

Helsingin tuomiokirkko
Helsinki Cathedral, the ideal blend of simplicity and elegance, and the steps

Helsinki Cathedral is an Evangelical Lutheran church built between 1830 and 1852 in honor of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, Grand Duke of Finland. The neoclassical building stands out in the Helsinki skyline, with its towering, green dome encircled by four smaller ones. Carl Ludvig Engel, a German architect, designed it. 

The building is Greek cross-shaped with a square center and four equilateral arms, each with identical colonnades of six Corinthian columns. The minimalist décor of the church makes the altar artwork with two golden sculptures of angels, the yellow marble pulpit, the central chandelier, and the exclusive curved organ of the 20th century look outstanding.

There are a lot of steps with no railings to get to the church's main entrance. If you require a wheelchair ramp, there are a few available. Located in the bell tower, the Cathedral Shop sells Christian items, various souvenirs of Helsinki, ice cream, and drinks. Café Krypta, a unique summer cafeteria right beneath the building, is also well worth visiting. In addition, the crypt hosts changing art exhibitions with free admission.

Address: Unioninkatu 29, 00170 Helsinki, Finland
Website: Helsingin Tuomiokirkko


2. St. John's Church

Johanneksenkirkko
The church interior, with the altar in the background

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. John is Finland's largest stone church and finest example of Neo-Gothic church architecture. Designed by architect Adolf Emil Melander from Stockholm and built between 1888 and 1891, it stands on the Punanotko hill, where traditionally Midsummer fires were lit.

The structure is 59 meters (194 feet) long, with a 42-meter (138-foot) long nave. A massive granite footing and red brick masonry distinguish the exterior. Two 74-meter (243-foot) towers stand above the main entrance in the northeast section.

The lighting effects created by the towering arched windows, rose windows in the pediments, and numerous small ones with ornate and colored glass are amazing. Since 1932, Finnish painter Eero Järnefelt's Beatific Vision, depicting Saul's conversion to Christianity and transformation into the apostle Paul, has graced the altar. The church has excellent acoustics. Its main organ was constructed in 1891 by the world-famous German firm E. F. Walcker & Cie.

Address: Korkeavuorenkatu 12, 00120 Helsinki, Finland
Website: Johannes församling


3. Uspenski Cathedral

Uspenskin katedraali
Southwest view of the Uspenski Cathedral

Location on the Katajanokka peninsula, the Uspenski Cathedral is the largest Orthodox church in Northern and Western Europe. The structure, designed by architect Alexey Gornostaev from the Russian Empire, was constructed between 1862 and 1868 primarily of bricks transported from a ruined 19th-century fortress in Åland. The cathedral's golden onion domes and red brick exterior, modeled after a 16th-century church near Moscow, make it one of the most visible reminders of Russia's influence on Finnish history.

The building is east-west oriented, with the altar facing east. It contains 13 domes, the largest symbolizing Christ and the smaller ones representing the Apostles. The cathedral's exterior displays elements of Slavonic architecture, while its interior reflects Byzantine influences. Massive columns, arched vaults with Byzantine ornaments, and vaulted ceilings with biblical sayings characterize the temple's interior decoration. The entire room is magnificently equipped but without pews or chairs.

The breathtaking view of Helsinki and the harbor region from the church square is an added pleasure for all visitors to the Uspenski Cathedral. It is a popular tourist destination, attracting more visitors than the Helsinki Cathedral.

Address: Kanavakatu 1, 00160 Helsinki, Finland
Website: Orthodox Parish of Helsinki


4. Helsinki Old Church

Helsingin vanha kirkko
View of the Old Church from the southwest

The Old Church is one of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran churches in Helsinki. Located in the Old Church Park, also known as Plague Park by the locals because a thousand remains of the 1710 plague victims rest here, this white wooden church has a Neoclassical style. Originally intended to be a temporary building, the church was completed in 1826 by the architect Carl Ludvig Engel, making it the oldest existing church in central Helsinki and the second oldest of all the current churches in the city, after Östersundom Church. The Old Church seats 1,200 visitors and is Helsinki's most popular wedding church. The park is a popular place for picnics and relaxing in the summertime.

Decorated with simple pilasters, pediments, and a delicate bell tower, the church façade looks austere but beautiful. The altarpiece "Jesus blesses children," painted by Robert Wilhelm Ekman, is one of Helsinki's most beautiful works of religious art. Initially intended for the Helsinki Cathedral, it admires visitors here instead. In 1869, Per Larsson Åkerman, a Swedish organ builder, installed a 36-stop organ.

Address: Lönnrotinkatu 6, 00120 Helsinki, Finland
Website: Kirkko Helsingissä


5. Rock Church

Temppeliaukion kirkko
The Temppeliaukio Church's copper dome roof

Temppeliaukio Church, also known as Rock Church, excavated directly into solid rock and completed in 1969, is unique among churches in Helsinki. Half a million people visit this Lutheran church designed by Finnish brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen each year, making it Finland's greatest popular architectural attraction.

A copper-line dome covers the church hall supported by reinforced concrete beams on the rock walls. Red, purple, and gray are shades of granite that adorn the interior. From morning to midday, rays of light touch the roof periphery, reaching the altar wall and an ice-age crevice serving as an altarpiece through the row of windows. The Temppeliaukio Church, unlike traditional churches, does not have bells. Loudspeakers mounted on the building's exterior wall produce an imitation of a bell ringing. The church's outstanding acoustics make it perfect for concerts.

Address: Lutherinkatu 3, 00100 Helsinki, Finland
Website: Lutheran Church in Helsinki


Helsinki: Small-Group Walking Tour with City Planner Guide


Small-Group Walking Tour with City Planner Guide is a great way to get to know the heart of Helsinki and its most important landmarks, such as Uspenski Cathedral and Helsinki Cathedral, with a professional guide. On this 3-hour tour, you will learn about Helsinki's history, from the plague in the Middle Ages to Lenin's visit in the 20th century, and have the opportunity to ask any questions you want.


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