Mannerheimintie, (in Swedish Mannerheimvägen, colloquially Mansku) can be considered the main street of Helsinki - another contestant for that title would be Aleksanterinkatu, which it crosses.
Mannerheimintie translates to Mannerheim road and got its current name from Marshal Mannerheim (1867–1951). The street of 5.5 km is the main north-south route west of the railway and has been a major thoroughfare for centuries.
Already in the 17th century a road existed here connecting settlements on the Helsinki peninsula to the King's Road, the main east-west road in Finland back then. With the Russian rule after the Napoleonic Wars, Helsinki became the capital of Finland and a new zoning plan was drawn up. The southernmost part of present-day Mannerheimintie was named Henriksgatan (in Swedish, which aside of Russian was the administrative language then – its Finnish name would be Heikinkatu) after then-Secretary of State Robert Henrik Rehbinder. Henriksgatan was divided into a western and eastern street with a narrow park between them, this is where the tram today runs. North of the Turku barracks (where Lasipalatsi now is), the street was named Åbovägen (Sw.)/Turuntie (Fi.), i.e. Turku Road.
In the 1850s Turuntie was renamed Västra chausséen (Sw.)/Läntinen viertotie (Fi.) (Western Chaussee), whereas present-day Hämeentie the other main road leading north-east from Helsinki was renamed Östra chausséen (Sw.)/Itäinen viertotie (Fi.) (Eastern Chaussee) and both were widened and covered with gravel to the city border, in the case of the Western Chaussee, to Töölöntulli. Here voyagers had to pay a toll to cross into the city. To this day these remain important arteries into central Helsinki.
In 1928 the "chaussee" part was once again named Turuntie, and in 1935 the two Henrikinkatu streets were merged into one as the trees were cut down and the park transformed into lanes for trams to accommodate more traffic in the quickly growing capital. The street got its present name during WWII in 1942, when Heikinkatu and Turuntie were administratively turned into one street and renamed Mannerheimintie after commander-in-chief Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim on his 75th birthday.
Today Mannerheimintie remains a lively street passing many of the city's most famous attractions, and can be considered Helsinki's Broadway.
- See also: Helsinki#Get around
Walking or cycling the whole route is an option if you have time. There are sidewalks and bike lanes along the whole length and the route is mostly flat. If you don't have your own, you can rent a city bike during the warmer half of the year, or an electrical scooter. Bikes can be left at dedicated stations, the electrical scooters basically where you like (but don't just drop it right at the sidewalk or in the front of a door).
Several tram lines go along the street, but line 10 goes virtually the whole length of Mannerheimintie so it serves as a good "hop on-hop off" line for this itinerary. In addition many city bus lines ply the route.
Getting around by car is doable but certainly not the best idea. Driving is not a big problem (though there may be some congestion), but parking is. In practice parking and even stopping is banned along all of Mannerheimintie though you can park on side streets if there is space available (in central Helsinki you better opt for a parking garage), see nearby attractions you're interested in and drive a bit further and park again.
Part 1 Downtown
The 1 southern end of Mannerheimintie is a crossing with three other notable streets. Facing Mannerheimintie, you will have Eteläesplanadi to your right, Erottaja behind your back and Bulevardi to your left. The Esplanade and the Boulevard are lined by trees. Esplanadi is made up of two streets, Eteläesplanadi (Southern Esplanade) and Pohjoisesplanadi (Northern Esplanade) on the other side of the Swedish Theatre and between them Esplanadinpuisto (Esplanade Park) leading to the Market Square and the sea. You can walk up Erottaja (lit. the separator) for a nice view along Mannerheimintie, including all of the first and some of the second section's (as defined in this itinerary) sights.
Erottaja, at least in Wikivoyage's district division, separates Central Helsinki from the calmer and more residential Southern Helsinki. To the left of Mannerheimintie is what we call Kamppi and Southwestern Helsinki.
The first part of the journey takes you through some of the most central parts of the city. The white building to the right is the 2 Swedish theatre, possibly the finest Swedish-speaking cultural venue of Helsinki. In the front of it is a work of modern art "Faith, hope and love". Crossing Pohjoisesplanadi, the next notable building is the 3 Stockmann department store. This large brick building is the fifth largest department store in Europe, and one of four big shopping places along or near this part of Mannerheimintie.
Opposite Stockmann is 4 Hotel Marski, as of 2021 operated by Scandic. "Marski" is the nickname of Marshal Mannerheim. The street next to Marski is Lönnrotinkatu, named after 19th century writer Elias Lönnrot. One block further north, the street leading into Kamppi (parallel to Lönnrotinkatu) is Kalevankatu. The block after Kalevankatu is more or less occupied by the 5 Forum shopping center, first opened in 1952, demolished and rebuilt in 1985 at which point it made up the northern 2/3 of the block but its shops and restaurants have since "spread" into parts formerly used serving as office spaces.
Back to the right side of Mannerheimintie, the street lining the northern wall of Stockmann is the pedestrianized 6 Aleksanterinkatu, which can be considered Central Helsinki's main shopping street. The main entrance to the department store from this street features the Stockmann clock hanging from the roof above the entrance. This has been a popular place for people to meet for as long as the department store has been there. There's a small square where the streets meet, named 7 Kolmen sepän aukio ("Three Smith's Square") after the statue of three blacksmiths in the middle of it. The square is one of the places that can be considered the very center of Helsinki, together with the Central railway station, Narinkka square or the Senate square.
Right behind the square is the 8 old student house (Vanha ylioppilastalo), a club house for students at Helsinki University established in 1870. The following building is the 9 new student house (Uusi ylioppilastalo), established in 1910. Both are used for student parties and other events and the new building houses several student nations. Matter of fact, the whole block where these houses are, is owned by the university's student organization. The stone building at the corner with Kaivokatu is the 10 Kaleva house, named after the insurance company that originally had the house built. From 1914 to 2019 it housed Hotelli Seurahuone, one of the city's grand old hotels - in 2022 the first Hyatt hotel in the Nordic countries is scheduled to open here.
Looking along Kaivokatu the thing you will see one block away is the iconic Central Railway Station, and crossing the street you'll arrive at the 11 Sokos department store, Stockmann's rival in central Helsinki though a bit less luxurious. The department store is built in functionalist style, but look across Mannerheimintie for a really iconic functionalist building - 12 Lasipalatsi. The white 1930s building withneon signs was brought back to its former glory after a big renovation at the turn of the millenium. Below the building, and continuing underground below the 13 Narinkkatori square is the modern art gallery Amos Rex. And at the other end of the square is the 14 Kamppi mall, the biggest 21st century shopping mall in central Helsinki.
At the right side of Mannerheimintie you can see the orange-yellow functionalist 15 Main Post office where the Finnish Post will return in late 2021 after moving out a year earlier. The next building is the modern art gallery 16 Kiasma from the mid-1990s, and in front of it a 17 statue of Marshal Mannerheim riding a horse. The glass building behind Kiasma is 18 Sanomatalo, the main office of the media company Sanoma best known for publishing the daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.
Back to the left side, there's Paasikivi square and the 19 Hankkija building with the flagship store of Alko, the government monopoly store for alcoholic beverages above 5.5%. Across Arkadiankatu there's a small park with 20 Pikkuparlamentti, the "small parliament", which is an annex parliament building - up next will be the real thing.
Part 2 Culture and history
21 Baana, a bike and pedestrian route connecting central Helsinki with Ruoholahti in the southwest passes under Mannerheimintie following a former railway track. Mannerheimintie enters what Wikivoyage defines as Western Helsinki and will stay in district for the rest of its length. In central Helsinki the street has been lined by shops and restaurants, but by now that has changed to sights and cultural institutions.
The street going west is Pohjoinen Rautatienkatu (Northern Railway Street), revealing what there was in the "moat" that's now Baana. Right north of it is the imposant granite 22 parliament building (Eduskuntatalo), completed in 1931. Outside there are three statues of early presidents; Svinhufvud, Stålberg and Kallio. Across Mannerheimintie the parliament doesn't face just a building but a big open area with the new central library 23 Oodi with the 24 Kansalaistori (citizen's square) in front of it, some office buildings further away, as well as 25 Musiikkitalo (Helsinki Music Centre).
Keeping to the right-hand side of the street, the next building is 26 Villa Hakasalmi (Hakasalmen huvila). It was built as a residence for nobleman Carl Johan Walleen but has been the property of the City Museum since 1896 and houses different exhibitions and lectures. A bit further north and at the opposite side is the 27 national museum, which looks more like a church than anything else, matter of fact, it even has a cross on its southern wall. The reason is that its design has been inspired by medieval churches (many of which can be seen along the King's Road) - but the building also features some designs not really to be found in a church.
On the other side of the street, there's yet another famous building with a completely different design - the 28 Finlandia hall built in Carrara Marble from Tuscany. Completed in 1971, it's a concert hall and congress and event venue, and one of the last works by architect Alvar Aalto. It's notable for hosting the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) conference between the Eastern and Western Blocs in 1975. The Finlandia Hall sits at the shore of 29 Töölönlahti Bay, which is a bay of the Baltic Sea but appears as a lake in the middle of the city. The bay is a popular place for locals to stroll, jog or bike around.
Further north, along the bay is the 30 Hesperia Park. It also forks off west between the northern and southern 31 Hesperia streets (Pohjoinen and Eteläinen Hesperiankatu) stretching across Töölö to Taivallahti Bay. At the junction of the Hesperia streets and Mannerheimintie is a modern art 32 memorial to former president Risto Ryti, east of Mannerheimintie and just north of the Finlandia Hall, a modern art 33 memorial to president Urho Kekkonen.
The next notable buildings for travelers are left of Mannerheimintie, two large hotels that as of 2021 are known as 34 Scandic Park Helsinki and 35 Crowne Plaza Helsinki but have been known by many other names in the past. On the opposite side of the street and a bit further north is the Opera House, or more formally, the 36 Finnish National Opera and Ballet building. As the name reveals, this is the place to go if you'd like to see opera performances. It's also the last place in the set of notable cultural venues along Mannerheimintie - much of the next sections will be about spectator sports instead.
Part 3 Taka-Töölö
The Töölö district is divided into two; Etu-Töölö (lit. front Töölö) closer to central Helsinki that you've just passed through, and Taka-Töölö (lit. rear Töölö) further out and this is where Mannerheimtie heads next.
At the Opera house there's a major street crossing with Runeberginkatu going west and Helsinginkatu going east. Now you will pass some notable sports venues. Right next to Mannerheimintie on its right-hand side is 37 Töölön Kisahalli (Töölö Sports Hall), a functionalist sports venue that, at its completion in 1935, functioned as the exhibition hall of Helsinki.
Further northwest, although not right at Mannerheimintie is the 38 Olympic Stadium - the main Finnish sports venue where football games, track and field events, and major concerts take place. It was completed for the 1952 Summer Olympics (first scheduled for 1940), and the architectural style is functionalism, like many buildings in Töölö.
Sticking to Mannerheimintie, at the left side, is the 39 Töölö tram depot, one of three such depots in Helsinki (the others are in Vallila and Koskela in what we call Inner East). A few steps away are the rail traffic museum (Raitioliikennemuseo) and the Korjaamo cultural center, both formerly part of the tram depot complex. As mentioned in the Functionalist architecture in Finland - article, the district of Töölö hosts a large number of functionalist buildings, and at the corner of Mannerheimintie and Humalistonkatu there's a 40 gas station in this architectural style.
At the right (eastern side) of Mannerheimintie, opposite of the gas station, there are some 41 interesting windows. Back in the day, the bank Helsingfors Aktiebank had an office here and the painted windows in black and gold remain although the bank hasn't been in business for half a century or so. Behind the relatively non-descript buildings (let's admit it, you've by now passed most of the famous buildings along the street) along Sallinkatu you can find some ball sport venues including the 42 Bolt Arena, the home field of the football (soccer) team HJK.
Again a larger street crossing follows, with Nordenskiöldinkatu leading southwest towards Etu-Töölö and northeast towards Pasila, looking in the direction of the latter you can see Helsingin Jäähalli the hockey rink of the team Helsinki IFK. One block further, still following the right side of Mannerheiminkatu, at the junction with Reijolankatu there's another interesting functionalist gas station housing a 43 McDonalds restaurant decorated with Americana and nicknamed the Rock n'roll McDonalds.
Further north there's the pub 44 Viisi Penniä ("five pennies"). Once upon a time the city border went here and you had to pay a toll of five pennies to enter the city. The place where the toll barrier was located are marked with 45 two small pillars with plaques, one at each side of the street. The area around here is still known as "Töölön tulli", translating to something like Töölö toll plaza and is made up of a 46 square with a Shell gas station named Helsinki Tullinpuomi (lit. Helsinki toll barrier) in the middle. Here also the roads from Helsinki towards Turku and Tampere fork apart, Mannerheimintie will continue towards Tampere. In addition, at the east side of the street you can access the southernmost part of Helsinki Central Park.
Part 4 Beyond the 19th century city border
As you probably have noticed, the further north you go, the street becomes more residential and the attractions far between. But it should not come as a surprise as it's a road leading straight out from the core of Helsinki to a motorway which in turn takes you to other parts of the country.
On the right side along the straight stretch of Mannerheimintie north (rather: northwest) from Töölön tulli features 47 eleven residential buildings pretty similar to each other, but all tilted 45° away from the street and as such pointing north-south. And behind these buildings there are paths leading up to the urban forests of the 48 Keskuspuisto (the Central Park) as mentioned before. Lehtikuusentie leads up to 49 Helsinki's Rudolf Steiner school (a Waldorf education institution). By the way, from Töölöntulli onwards, most streets are named "road" (tie) rather than "street" (katu) - Mannerheimintie is exceptional as it is a "road" all the way to central Helsinki.
The straight stretch ends at the 50 junction with Kuusitie where Mannerheimintie almost widens into a square. There is a turning track for trams at this "square". After that, the road goes slightly downhill and crosses one of the few 51 bridges (the other one was at Baana) across Tilkanvierto. To the left there's a narrow park leading to Pikku Huopalahti bay. Then Mannerheimintie goes uphill again. After a bend, the next sight is at the left side of the street. The 52 Tilkka building, functioning as the Central Military Hospital until 2005 is now a retirement home and yet another beautiful example of functionalist architecture.
After a bend, the street goes slightly downhill and you've arrived at the final stretch and can see the "finish line" straight ahead. There's greenery on the right side and office buildings on the left. At the Korppaanmäentie junction, tram line 10 that has followed Mannerheimintie from the southern end veers off to the left. One block to the right (east) is the 53 Ruskeasuo allotment garden. Further on, some newer office buildings block off the view to the 54 Ruskeasuo bus garage to the right.
After that you'll arrive at the 55 northern end of Mannerheimintie at the junction with Hakamäentie going east towards Pasila and Käpylä, Vihdintie going west towards Etelä-Haaga, and motorway 3 (European Highway E12) going straight ahead towards Tampere. In Wikivoyage's Helsinki districtification this is also the border between Western and Northern Helsinki.
The 56 terminus of tram 10 isn't far away from the northern end of Mannerheimintie, just a few hundred meters west along Vihdintie. There are also buses both back to downtown and in other directions, after all this is a major traffic junction.
If you've traveled in the opposite direction you're right in the middle of everything, so why not consult our district articles for Central, Southern and Southwestern Helsinki for interesting things to experience nearby.