The South Harbour

The South Harbour is part of Helsinki’s iconic maritime national landscape, which is being developed from the perspectives of preserving the nationally significant cultural environment and recognising the values of the area. This page describes projects and plans for the South Harbour area.
Auringonlasku Eteläsatamassa

Planning principles for the eastern part of the South Harbour

The area of the eastern part of the South Harbour in Katajanokka will be developed based on the planning principles into a maritime part of the pedestrian centre. The planning principles define the main objectives for the planning of the area for the coming years. The goal is to create new urban space in Katajanokka that strengthens the maritime nature and experience of the city centre by expanding the pedestrian centre to the coastal area in the eastern part of the South Harbour.

According to the city’s strategy, the eastern part of the South Harbour will be developed into a centre offering a variety of experiences, with culture and leisure activities strongly present. The goal is to develop the Katajanokka Quay into a park street leading from the Market Square to the Katajanokka harbour area and to connect the area to the pedestrian-oriented city centre. 

As part of the development of the area, a sea swimming pool is also proposed as a permanent part of the South Harbour’s maritime activities. Allas Sea Pool, located on the Katajanokka Quay, is applying for a development reservation for designing a permanent urban spa and a cultural and event centre.
A larger floating spa area, wellness and sports services, and an event venue operating all year round are planned in the area. The functions are intended to be located in a new, larger building. An architectural competition is planned to be organised for the design of the building.

The Urban Environment Committee discussed the planning principles and the development reserve at its meeting on 22 August 2023. The minutes of the meeting can be viewed here: Meeting of the Urban Environment Committee on 22 August 2023 (Link leads to external service)(in Finnish).

Eteläsataman itäosan suunnittelualue kartalla

The planning principles state that Helsinki’s maritime national landscape and recognisable silhouette will be preserved. Places suitable for new construction will also be allocated in the area. New buildings will be fitted as a part of the valuable environment and the South Harbour as a whole. Particular attention will be paid to the unique scenery of the area, viewed both from the sea and land. The recognisable cityscape of the Market Square, coloured by the Empire-style facades, as well as the lines of view from the Katajanokka streets to the sea, will be preserved.

The planning principles in themselves do not allow construction, and they do not have legal force like local detailed plans. However, the planning principles serve as a basis for the detailed plan changes and development of the area.

An opportunity to comment on the planning of the area was offered at an online event on 13 April 2023, as well as until 19 April 2023 via an online survey on the Kerrokantasi service. The survey has closed, but the comments can be viewed on the page(Link leads to external service).

Market Square

The appearance, experience and functionality of the Market Square area will be improved as part of the development work for the Helsinki city centre. The development needs for the Market Square area are particularly related to traffic and connections, the placement of functions, and the renovation of the technical systems of the Market Square.

Kauppatori kuvattuna kesällä.
Photo: Lauri Rotko

The starting points of the planning are the historical value of the iconic marketplace, the maritime character, the significance as a central place of marketplace trade and urban life, and the location in the pedestrian-oriented centre of Helsinki. The planning will also take into account the needs of the developing water traffic, including the construction of a new waterway traffic terminal. The work also seeks to increase opportunities for the expansion and development of marketplace trade. 

The next stage of land use planning for the Market Square will be the submission of a plan proposal scheduled for 2023. 


The Makasiiniranta area will be developed as a part of the walkable city centre and the waterfront trail around the shores of Helsinki, and as the location for the new Architecture and Design Museum. The goal of the planning is to strengthen the attraction of the city centre, as well as to integrate the area better into the city centre’s urban structure, maritime public spaces and the pedestrian centre. The Urban Environment Committee approved the planning principles for the area in the spring of 2021.

In the spring of 2021, the City of Helsinki launched a competition to find a partner for the development and implementation of Makasiiniranta in the South Harbour. The competition was a two-stage quality and concept competition aimed at domestic and international operators in the construction and property sector. The competition was decided in November 2022, when the “Saaret” proposal was announced as the winner.

The winning team will continue planning the area through partnership planning in collaboration with the City of Helsinki. The winner of the competition will also be the party implementing the plots to be formed on the basis of the competition entry. The City Council will later decide on the implementation agreement and approval of the local detailed plan created for the area. A separate architectural competition will be organised in the spring of 2024 for the new Architecture and Design Museum.


The goal of the Makasiiniranta quality and concept competition is to transform the area currently mainly used for the port’s terminal operations and parking into a public and comfortable walkable city space that connects the Market Square and Kaivopuisto Park and enables access to the sea.

Frequently asked questions: South Harbour and Makasiiniranta

Will the values of the national landscape in the South Harbour, future usage possibilities of the shore area and the dignity of the site chosen for the new museum be lost through intensive new construction?

The planning principles for Makasiiniranta and Olympiaranta (pdf, in Finnish) define the maximum building heights and the views to be preserved from Tähtitorninvuori through the city blocks to the South Harbour Bay. The volume of construction has been examined in the space allocation and guideline plan for Makasiiniranta and Olympiaranta (pdf, in Finnish). The document is the starting point of the competition and guides the planning of the area.

How are the conservation goals, characteristics and marine potential taken into account in the Makasiiniranta competition?

For the basis of the planning of Makasiiniranta and Olympiaranta, planning principles have been prepared. They were approved by the Urban Environment Committee at its meeting on 13 April 2021.

With regard to the cultural environment and landscape, the planning principles include the following principles:

  • The significance and identity of the area as part of a nationally significant national landscape and valuable cultural environment will be taken into account in the planning.
  • The aim is to preserve the character of the maritime facade of the area.
  • The values of the environment and its relationship with the existing environment will be taken into account in the planning solution.
  • The views of the sea and the city from Tähtitorninvuori will be preserved.
  • The silhouette of Tähtitorninvuori will continue to rise above the roofs of the building masses.
  • Street views end with the sea.
  • New construction takes into account the street views of Laivasillankatu.

The values of protected and culturally and historically valuable buildings are taken into account in the planning.

Historical and landscape studies will be prepared as planning progresses. The construction of a valuable national landscape and a buffer zone of a World Heritage Site requires extensive research.

Read more about the planning principles in Chapter 2: The planning principles for Makasiiniranta and Olympiaranta (pdf, in Finnish)

Will there be enough space for public functions and cycling and pedestrian traffic in the coastal zone?

The design principles and competition programme emphasise the continuity of the seaside trail and the provision of sufficient space for pedestrians and cyclists. The aim of the competition is to build a coastal area that serves all kinds of users and is cosy and lively 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The competition programme also seeks non-commercial activities for the area.

Port operations will remain in the area, as will part of the ISPS area (International Ship and Port Facility Security Code), which restricts the use of the shore as a seaside trail. In this area, the seaside trail is a connection near the shore.

How will it be ensured that the coastal area does not become shady and windy?

The competitors take these issues into account in their entries, as the task of designers is to design the most comfortable environment possible.

The Makasiiniranta area is windy today, as are almost all the shores of Helsinki. Due to the northern location of Helsinki, the city is also affected by strong south-west winds, the sun is quite low, creating long shadows, and the amount of light varies considerably in different seasons.

What kind of buildings are planned to be built in the area?

A building site for the new Architecture and Design Museum must be assigned within the competition area, so cultural activities will be strongly present in Makasiiniranta. In accordance with the concept competition, hotel and office buildings may also be proposed for the area. Port operations in the form of waterway transport services will remain in Makasiiniranta. The competition programme requires various services at the pedestrian level, such as restaurants, cafés, exhibition spaces, recreational facilities and diverse services that open onto the street space, enlivening the urban and maritime area.

New buildings with new workplaces will bring more visitors to the area on weekdays. At the moment, for example, the Market Square and the Old Market Hall suffer from a lack of customers, as offices are mostly located in other areas of the city centre. The Market Hall and Market Square have become a trinket market serving mainly tourists.

In the evaluation of the entries, the jury pays particular attention to the location of invigorating activities in the area and to how the various services support the activities of the Architecture and Design Museum.

Can exhibition and research centres be built on the shore?

Yes, it is possible within the framework of competition. In addition to the Architecture and Design Museum, it would be quite natural to assign other cultural activities to the area. Activities that raise the profile of the area and serve the needs of all Helsinki residents and other visitors are welcome.

How has the buffer zone of the Suomenlinna World Heritage Site been taken into account in the planning?

Suomenlinna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Makasiiniranta competition area is located in its buffer zone. The definition of the content of the buffer zone is still ongoing.

An agreement between the City of Helsinki and the State of Finland was drawn up in 1976. According to this, the city draws up the town plan for Suomenlinna. The building stock of Suomenlinna and some landscape areas have been the subject of a protection decision in accordance with the Act on the Protection of the Built Heritage. The area is also a historical site. Suomenlinna is one of the most protected areas in Finland, and its characteristics are protected in many ways by local legislation.

The zoning of the Suomenlinna buffer zone is being prepared by the Finnish Heritage Agency in cooperation with the Governing Body of Suomenlinna. The city will participate in the preparation after the Finnish Heritage Agency has prepared a preliminary report.

How will the city and the state fulfil their obligations under the World Heritage Convention?

Protection is provided by national legislation. The town plan being prepared for Suomenlinna will contribute to the implementation of this obligation.

Is Makasiiniranta a property development site of the city?

According to the Helsinki City Strategy, the coastal zone that extends from Olympia Terminal to the Market Square is being developed with the aim of transforming the area into a cohesive entity that supports the vitality of the city centre. The competition is seeking different options to achieve this goal.

Why is the city selling the land in Makasiiniranta to a private investor?

The city will retain ownership of the street areas and squares, public areas and public coastal zone. The transfer of the plots to the private party will take place after the planning. According to the city strategy, the city plays a major role in defining the boundary conditions for partnership planning.

The landscape of the South Harbour has a very large number of privately owned plots. The facade of the west shore consists almost exclusively of private property. The value of the national landscape has never been dependent on the ownership base, so the sale of the land in Makasiiniranta is not a risk from this point of view. The city has a planning monopoly, and the cityscape and the quality of construction are monitored regardless of the owner. According to the terms of the competition, the purchase of future plots of land will only be possible once the project and the buildings have been completed.

Why does the Architecture and Design Museum have to be part of the Makasiiniranta competition?

The competition seeks an overall plan for the area in which the museum will be built. However, the Makasiiniranta competition does not seek an implementer or a building plan for the museum, only a location for the museum building. The plot allocated to the museum is not included in the area handed over to the winner of the quality and concept competition.

A separate architectural competition will be organised for the new museum of architecture and design.

Can a real estate investor later build the museum plot full of buildings?

The Architecture and Design Museum is designated as the northernmost building of Makasiiniranta, and there will be a large waterfront square in front of it. The museum will also form a visible facade towards the Market Square, and it will be in a very visible location in terms of cityscape.

The plot allocated to the museum is not included in the area handed over to the winner of the quality and concept competition.

Where will the ship traffic move from the South Harbour and why?

In line with the City Council’s policy (02/2021), the Port of Helsinki development programme is based on the centralisation of cruiseferry traffic to and from Tallinn to the West Harbour, allowing the ferries operating to Sweden to be moved from the South Harbour to Katajanokka. This will free up a large area in the South Harbour for other use. The Makasiiniranta area will be developed as part of the pedestrian city centre and the seaside trail around the shores of Helsinki, and as a location for the new Architecture and Design Museum. The arrangement requires additional terminal space at both the West Harbour and Katajanokka and making land traffic through the West Harbour smoother through a harbour tunnel leading to Länsiväylä. The West Harbour area will also be also extended through earth fill.

Is the West Harbour tunnel necessary and who will pay for it?

The investments in the port development programme are interlinked, as the arrangements in one part of the port affect other parts. The first step is to increase the capacity of the West Harbour in order to centralise all Tallinn cruiseferry traffic there.

The tunnel from the West Harbour to Länsiväylä allows for the expansion of the port’s operations. All lorry traffic passing through the port will be transferred to the tunnel, as will passenger car traffic to the west of the port. The tunnel will be implemented as the port company’s own investment, and it will be a property managed by the port. The tunnel will be financed by revenue collected in the form of port charges.

The construction is expected to start in the mid-2020s and to be completed in 2027. If necessary, the tunnel can be extended later in connection with the development of Salmisaari.

What is the future of the Katajanokka terminal?

When the Tallinn traffic is transferred from Katajanokka to the West Harbour, all the ferries operating to Stockholm will fit in Katajanokka. However, a new terminal is needed, as the ferries operating to Sweden have a large passenger capacity and are on the move at the same. The traffic between Stockholm and Helsinki is operated by leaving in the afternoon and arriving in the morning. This will lead to the need for more space at Katajanokka.

It is currently being investigated whether K8, the current terminal in Katajanokka, should be renovated and expanded or replaced with a completely new one. K8 is protected in the town plan.

Will there be any ship traffic left at Makasiiniranta?

The South Harbour is preparing for a temporary operation of traffic to St Petersburg in the middle of the decade, when a new terminal replacing T1 will be built in the West Harbour. The red brick Makasiini Terminal will be demolished to be replaced by temporary facilities for the ships operating to St Petersburg. The St Petersburg traffic is estimated to be operated from the South Harbour from 2023 to 2026 and will return to the West Harbour when the new premises there are complete.

In the South Harbour, berths will remain for international cruise traffic. There will also be a reservation for Makasiini Quay to develop high-speed vessel traffic. This would enable traffic that benefits from access from one city centre to another. The remaining maritime traffic in the South Harbour will have in common the fact that there will be no cars on board the ships.

Cruise ships do not need terminal facilities of the current scale. In them, boarding takes place directly from the quay level. Due to the restrictions posed by the Kustaanmiekka strait, the South Harbour can accommodate vessels up to 230 metres, which is roughly the size of Silja Line’s ferries operating to Sweden. Larger cruise ships will fit in Hernesaari. There will possibly be only one place for cruise traffic on the Katajanokka side.

What will happen to the port buildings in the South Harbour?

The Port of Helsinki will give up all the buildings in the South Harbour, including the yellow brick Olympia Terminal and Satamatalo. They are protected buildings, but their purpose of use will change.