Can You Recognise Helsinki From These Old Pictures?

Helsinki Market Hall
Helsinki Market Hall
Photo of Jessica Wood
25 August 2017

Helsinki has undergone many changes in its lifetime, from becoming Finland’s capitol under Russian occupation, the short but violent civil war in 1918, to its recent modernisation. This has created a mixture of Swedish, Russian, and Finnish buildings, some of which are still recognisable from how they were 100 or more years ago and others which have changed entirely. Check out these then-and-now photos to compare old Helsinki to the modern day.

Central Train Station, between 1890 and 1900

The city’s major transport connection, which essentially had the modern city built around it, has been operating since 1862. The current station, one of the most iconic pieces of architecture in Finland, wasn’t opened until 1919 and has since been modernised to serve more than 200,000 passengers each day to as far afield as St. Petersburg. This photo of the first station shows how trains were much smaller and less prominent as a mode of transport back in the day.

Helsinki old railway station

The station today:

Helsinki Railway Station, modern building

Market Square, 1907

As in most towns, Helsinki’s market square has long since served as a central hub for trade, meetings, and getting around the city. Much of the square has remained the same, including the cobbled streets and tram tracks, with only the tradesmen and building occupants changing.

Helsinki market square, 1907

The square today:

Helsinki market square, 2013

Helsinki Old Church park, 1900

This Lutheran church built in 1826 is the oldest surviving church in Helsinki, built to accommodate the city’s growing population after the former church became too small. The surrounding park has also remained a recreational space since its opening. Since this photo was taken, it has gained several graves and memorials from the Finnish Civil War and Estonian War of Independence.

Helsinki Old Church park, 1900

The church today:

Helsinki Old Church, 2017

Katajanokka, 1908

Norrmen House, seen in this photo, was built on Katajanokka in 1897 opposite the orthodox cathedral, which still stands. Initially it contained high-class apartments and a restaurant and later the Allied Commission during World War Two. The house was demolished in 1960 to be replaced with a modern office building, which was highly controversial and considered as a detriment to the city. Some recent films have digitally added Norrmen House back into the city scape and there have been proposals to rebuild a replica.

Katajanokka, 1907

Katajanokka today:

Katajanokka, 2013

South harbour, 1912

The south harbour has also been an integral part of the city for hundreds of years. The wooden piers were built shortly after Helsinki was made the capitol city of Finland to boost trade. Today the harbour has expanded to accommodate large passenger ferries, making it the first part of Helsinki which many cruise visitors see. Fishing vessels still bring in spoils at the harbour to sell at the adjacent market.

Helsinki south harbour, 1912

South harbour today:

Helsinki south harbour, 2011

Töölönlahti Bay, 1912

Töölö is today a busy district of the city, containing the Finnish Parliament House, the National Museum of Finland, and the popular Church of the Rock. The bay was also a location of the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games. However, much of it was only developed in the past 100 years or so, especially between 1920 and 1930. This image displays the area’s natural rock formations and how sparse it was before the population boom.

Töölönlahti Bay, 1912

Töölönlahti Bay today:

Töölänlahti Bay, 2005

Old Student House, 1908:

This picture shows the Old Student House of the University of Helsinki, built in 1870 on what was the edge of the city at the time, so that the student parties wouldn’t bother other residents. In its time, the house has hosted many events including balls, political protests, theatre performances, and student clubs. The house’s music hall still hosts rehearsals for many prominent choirs and orchestras, including the Helsinki University Symphony Orchestra.

Old Student House, 1908

Old Student House today:

Old Student House, 2005

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