The first location to be introduced in this Visit Helsinki series is Tähtitorninvuori or Tähtitorninmäki (Observatorieberget or Observatoriebacken in Swedish), which is the perfect spot for a take-away meal. There are benches in a beautiful park surroundings waiting for you, so let me tell a bit more about it.
You might get some hints from parts of the Swedish name, observatorium; indeed there is an observatory, which was built in 1831-1834. Before that, the hill had had different names, but once the observatory designed by the architect Carl Ludvig Engel and Professor of Astronomy F. G. W. Argelander was finished, people began to call this area of Ullanlinna (sw. Ulrikasborg) Tähtitorninvuori, which is still its official name. Locals often call it Tähtitorninmäki (translated as Star tower hill) or “Tähtäri”. Today, there is a museum in the observatory. Due to street lights etc., it is no longer possible to perform high-quality astronomical observations, but there are still a handful of different functions in the building, a café among others.
If you want to visit the park only, but still soak in a bit of culture, there are some sculptures along its Northern and Eastern sides.
- Haaksirikkoiset or The Shipwrecked was made by Robert Stigell and erected in 1898 in the most visible location (click the link to reach a map), overlooking the Port of Helsinki South Harbour.
- Habsburg-höyrylaivan haaksirikon muistomerkki or The memorial to the shipwreck of S/S Habsburg from 1939 by Gunnar Finne is decorated with the following text: “In Finnish soil rest 383 German warriors fallen defending our freedom in the year 1918.”
- Niels Haukeland and Rafael Wardi together designed Juutalaispakolaisten muistomerkki or Memorial to Jewish Refugees – Hands Begging for Mercy, which was unveiled in 2000 in memory of eight refugees surrendered to the Germans during the Second World War.
- Kuninkaallisen Suomen tykistörykmentin muistomerkki or Memorial to the Royal artillery regiment of Finland by Gustaf von Nummers has a plaque with the text “The Royal artillery regiment of Finland 1794-1811”.
The three memorials are located between Laivasillankatu down at the harbour and the German church in the corner of Bernhardinkatu and Unioninkatu. This is a good point of entry to the park. On its Western side, the Surgical Hospital is located and to the South, the park is flanked by apartment buildings.
Why the “hill” in its name? The area rises to 30 metres and is perfect for sledding in the winter! My photo above is actually taken in angle toward the peak.
Visit the Market Square (where the red-squared road number 4 is in the map below; links here and here) and buy something fresh and delicious to eat, then enjoy it in this refuge, home to green lawns and many old trees.