- Helsinki’s current strategic plan (2017—21), aims to make it ‘the most functional city in the world’.
- Government, private companies and philanthropists have all initiated major museum capital projects in the last few years, including the Finnish Museum Hall of Fame and the art museum Amos Rex.
- The major new Central Library Oodi will help promote projects that bring all social classes together and help Helsinki’s citizens stay ahead of the digital curve.
City data: Key facts
- Geographical area: 719 sq. km
- Total population: 643,272
- GDP (PPP) million: $92,799
Located on the northern shore of the Gulf of Finland, Helsinki was founded in the middle of the 16th century and proclaimed the Finnish capital in 1812. As well as being the capital, it is also the administrative, economic and cultural centre of the country. With nearly 660,000 inhabitants and a wider metropolitan population of 1.4 million, it has a vibrant cultural life and is known as an innovative start-up hub and a pioneer in sustainable urban development. The citizens of Helsinki are highly educated, with more than half of the people aged 25-64 having a university degree. In the 2020 UN happiness report, Helsinki was ranked as the happiest capital in the world, offering the best work-life balance. It is also one of the world’s safest cities.
By 2050, Helsinki is projected to provide a home for 820,000 people. In recent years it has internationalised rapidly, and at the end of 2020, some 17% of the city’s residents were of foreign origin. The growth of the city is demonstrated by the fast pace of new construction. The city centre has developed into a vibrant cultural hotspot, with the new Central Library Oodi, the art museums Kiasma, Amos Rex and Helsinki Art Museum (HAM), as well as the concert and event houses Musiikkitalo, Opera and Finlandia Hall all located within one square kilometre. Completely new areas have emerged on Helsinki’s waterfront, such as the smart city districts Jätkäsaari and Kalasatama. Alongside modern architecture, the Art Nouveau and Empire styles are clearly visible throughout the city centre.
In addition to the built environment, Helsinki’s proximity to the sea and surrounding natural landscape is a significant influence on city life. Helsinki has 130 kilometres of coastline and about 300 islands, while forests cover 22% of Helsinki’s land area. It is easy to get around Helsinki by bike and on foot, and the majority of public services are a short distance apart. Helsinki’s goal is to be a city where geographic inequality is minimised and every resident can live in a safe neighbourhood with its own distinct identity.
Helsinki’s City strategy for 2021-2025, “A Place of Growth”, aims at achieving sustainable growth that creates socially, economically and culturally sustainable wellbeing. In the coming years, the City government’s Culture Unit will focus in particular on strengthening the role of children’s culture, improving opportunities for the elderly, enhancing equality and inclusion and investing in digitalisation. Some €8 million has been set aside for the reconstruction of the cultural sector devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Helsinki aims to be a city whose cultural life is expanding and becoming more interesting and diverse. The Helsinki Biennale, an international visual arts event, took place for the first time in the summer of 2021, and will be held again in 2023 and 2025. The city is also bolstering its international position as a home to compelling art venues. Dance House Helsinki, Finland’s first performance and event space dedicated to modern dance, opened in February 2022. Currently, the City of Helsinki and the Finnish state are leading a flagship project to establish a new Museum of Architecture and Design. This cultural institution is to be built on the waterfront and will be a world-class museum and an attractive home for Finland’s renowned design and architecture.
Culture is a key enabler of a good life in Helsinki. It builds the City’s distinctive character, attracts visitors, encourages resident participation, increases cultural understanding, as well as lowers segregation and strengthens people’s bond with Helsinki. The City of Helsinki acts as a strong enabler and convener of art and culture. The goal is for citizens to have a connection to culture and art throughout their whole lives.