Vanhakaupunki

 
 
 

Vanhakaupunki means “old town”. Though you can’t actually find an old town on the location, this is the place where Helsinki was originally founded in 1550 by the Swedish King Gustav Vasa, at the mouth of Vantaanjoki. Later, in 1640, the city was moved to its current location in Vironniemi and Vanhakaupunki was slowly forgotten.

Only one existing map remains, which is drawn by Hans Hansson in 1645. It shows Helsinki’s former and current position. The church is the only building marked.

 
 
Hans Hansson’s map from 1645 illustrated by Sophie Dorn

Hans Hansson’s map from 1645 illustrated by Sophie Dorn

 
 

Nowadays Vanhakaupunki is divided into two subdivisions of Helsinki: Vanhakaupunki and Vanhankaupunginlahti. Together with the neighborhoods Arabianranta, Toukola, Kumpula, Käpylä and Koskela it forms one of Helsinki’s central major districts.

This unique landscape showcases not only its natural value, but also its cultural heritage. Where the Vantaanjoki river splits and flows around Kuninkaankartanonsaari, there is a Museum of Technology, which was built in 1920-1930. Rapids on the Eastern side and a waterfall on the Western side of the island. This is also where Helsinki’s oldest Power Plant is located. It is producing electricity from hydropower since 1876. On the site of old Helsinki, there are nowadays a few wooden Houses and Block of Flats from the 50s.

Annalan Huvila (1826) is probably the most picturesque building you will find. It is beautifully placed on a hill with a large and well taken care of park in front of it.
Interesting side note: Did you know that the front of the villa was originally the back of the building? With the transformation of the area and shore line, the building literally got flipped. Back in the days, the entrance of the house was facing the landside, whereas you could overlook the water and islands from the backyard.

 
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None of the old settlements are existing anymore, since fire is a common threat for wooden structures. All what is left are archaeological discoveries, but if you pay attention you can still find and feel the true old town of Helsinki…like the imprint of its church.

 
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