Sights to See in Helsinki
Hietaniemi Cemetery

Hietaniemi Cemetery in Helsinki is unusual on many counts.

For one thing, few large, modern cities have a cemetery in the central part of town. Fewer still become tourist meccas.

In the capital city of Finland, Helsinki, however, Hietaniemi Cemetery has earned that role by being a continuing source of beauty and stillness in an often bustling metropolis.

Helsinki itself is nearly five centuries old, and the city only became Finland's capital in 1809. It actually only saw most of its rapid growth more toward the mid to end of the 19th century. One of the results of growth around an already established community was the "downtown" graveyard that houses many of Finland's most notable past citizens.

The highly popular author Mika Waltari September 19, 1908 – August 26, 1979), author of "The Egyptian", and many other novels that were made into films in the 1950s, is interred here. The architect Carl Engel, a German, is also at rest in one of the graves of Hietaniemi Cemetery. He designed what may be the very symbol of Helsinki to the outside world: The Lutheran Cathedral, as well as Senate Square and many other public fixtures.

But even those much less well known outside Finland, but still famous within, are interred here. There are a half-dozen past presidents of Finland, a major WWII general, and the famous Finnish artist, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, who has a large series of frescoes in the National Museum.

The cemetery is divided into three main sections: The Jewish section, the Muslim section and the Orthodox cemetery. Though laid out according to religious denomination, the latter section contains a wide cross-section of people and statuary.

The visitor soon notices that each section contains a unique style of headstone, sculpture and arrangement of plants and flowers. All these things are what attract many visitors to the destination, most of whom don't know any of the "inhabitants", of course.

Apart from some of the famous individuals laid to rest at Hietaniemi, there are a large number of anonymous but equally important residents. Many brave soldiers from Finland's past wars are housed in the cemetery.

In fact, soldiers from as far back as the Crimean War (1856) have remains here. Fighters against Russian oppression from the period of  Tsar Alexander in 1809 up to the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 are here as well. Finland gained its full independence in 1917 after seven centuries of Swedish rule, followed by one century of Russian domination.

As you can imagine, many who opposed the Nazis and the Soviets in WWII rest at Hietaniemi.

A Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a feature of many cemeteries around the world, is a prominent part of the grounds. The lush parkland and many delightful fowl and red squirrels give added beauty to an already lovely area.

Alongside the cemetery is Hietaniemi Cemetery Chapel, established in 1933. Small, with a seating capacity of only 225, this 1873 building makes for a delightful side trip. The belltower is a particularly striking architectural feature in a city that is a fine mixture of historical and modern buildings.

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Sights to See in Helsinki - Hietaniemi Cemetery

Page Updated 12:19 PM Friday 5/8/2015