Once upon a time in 1809 a war between Sweden and Russia ended in Russian victory and a then pretty much irrelevant piece of land called Finland became part of Russian empire. The Russians wanted to transfer the capital of Finland from Turku (closer to Sweden) to Helsinki (closer to St. Petersburg) and that?s what they did. Russians wanted to develop the city more along the lines of how they had built St. Petersburg themselves. So they hired German architecht Carl Ludvig Engel to plan and build the new neoclassical style center.
This photo is taken from Sofiankatu (Sofia street) towards the Senate Square and Helsinki Cathedral. This street has been there since 1640s, thus being very much the oldest part of Helsinki. The Cathedral itself was the final part of the plan to rebuild the city center as a heart of the new capital, completed in 1852. Today it remains the most famous landmark and tourist attraction in the Finnish capital.
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This is the old Helsinki (Senate Square) on the map: