Whether you’re searching the online rental accommodation adverts or navigating the public transport system, the more you know about the different suburbs of Helsinki the easier your task will be.

So… below I’ve popped a map of Helsinki’s neighbourhoods (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subdivisions_of_Helsinki for more information). There’s lots of detail, so you’ll need to click on the image to get a larger version.

Helsinki neighbourhoods (see link above)

However, Wikipedia’s map is missing some details, so I’ve modified a map from GoogleMaps (with Brigitte’s PhotoShop skills), adding some of the other important neighbourhoods. There’s quite a lot of detail on the image, so be sure to zoom in.

Neighbourhoods and suburbs of Helsinki (modified from GoogleMaps). I've underlined some of the areas that we've come across often while travelling around the city or search apartment adverts.

But how to remember all these different names? What I’ve found useful is translating the names from Finnish to English. For example, we’re now staying in Pohjoinen Hesperiankatu – but it became much easier for me to remember when I realized that it was “northern Hesperian street”. Similarly, some of the buses say that they are heading to Kaivopuisto – but when translated to “the park of the well” I remember that it’s the area around the southern-most city centre park of Helsinki. So… a non-exhaustive guide to understanding place names in Helsinki:

Directions

  • etelä = south(-ern)
  • itä = east(-ern)
  • länsi = west(-ern)
  • pohjois = north(-ern)
  • etu = front
  • taka = back
  • ylä = upper
  • meri = maritime

Streets

  • gaten = street (Swedish)
  • katu = street
  • tie = street
  • valtatie = highway

Landscape features

  • alppi = alpine
  • harju = ridge
  • haka = hook (not sure why this is popular among Helsinki place names)
  • joki = river
  • kallio = rock
  • kaupunki = city
  • keskus = centre (as in Itäkeskus, which hosts the biggest shopping mall in all the Nordic countries)
  • kirkko = church
  • kivi = stone
  • kylä = village
  • lahti = lake
  • laakso = valley
  • linna = castle (as in Linnanmäki; see previous post)
  • mäki = hill
  • munkki = monk (as in Munkkiniemi; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munkkiniemi)
  • niemi = cape (as in headland)
  • puista = park
  • ranta = beach or coast
  • saari = island
  • puutarha (or tarha) = garden (often referring to summer gardens; similar to allotments in the UK?)
  • tori = (town) square
  • torni = tower
  • vuori = mountain or hill

 

And finally, some useful places to know on the map (these are often displayed as end destination on buses):

  • Eläintarha = area north of the Olympic stadium (translates as zoo; literally “animal-garden”)
  • Rautatieasema = central train station (translates literally as “iron-road-office”)
  • Erottaja = one of the central city squares in Helsinki (check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erottaja)
  • Elielinaukio = city square adjacent to the Rautatieasema
  • Kamppi = underground terminal for long-distance busses (many local buses and trams pass close by). A rather modern shopping mall (of the same name) is built on top of the bus terminal.