Helsinki’s city brand and tourism image has evolved through various stages of history

Travel brochures and guidebooks about Helsinki have been published by private individuals and societies since the 1850s. The city authorities did not start to publish tourism material until the 1950s. In 1963, the Helsinki City Tourist Office, predecessor of today’s Helsinki Marketing, was established.

In her article in the latest issue of Helsinki Quarterly, researcher Salla Jokela examines how the brand and image of Helsinki developed throughout the decades. During the 1930s, for instance, Helsinki adopted the moniker ’White City of the North’ (Pohjolan valkea kaupunki), and this image of whiteness was understood to refer to the Cathedral and other light-coloured buildings in the city centre.

In the 1960s–1980s, Helsinki was often referred to as the ’Daughter of the Baltic’ in tourist brochures. There were also attempts to emphasise the perceived exoticness of Helsinki and Helsinkians, linked to the city’s position at the dividing line between Europe’s eastern and western cultural spheres.

New city brand is made of people and actions

In the past few years, the city marketing activities in Helsinki have focussed on the creation and implementation a new city brand concept. Developed in 2015–2016, this concept is based on an extensive process of interaction with city residents and other local stakeholders. The process consisted, among other things, of identifying the strengths and weaknesses of Helsinki. The citizens were now brought into focus as the main content and makers of the city’s brand and reputation.

The current city brand has many links to earlier focus areas in city marketing, including the emphasis on interesting contrasts perceived in the natural environment and cityscape of Helsinki. According to Salla Jokela, the idea of taking the local people and their actions as the basis of the brand is a new element compared to the city marketing efforts of previous decades.

Urban research in the spotlight

Published by the City of Helsinki, Helsinki Quarterly is a journal which aims to compile the latest research findings and statistical information related to the Helsinki and its urban region. The journal appears four times per year, and the Finnish- and Swedish-language editions are published under the name Kvartti. The articles published in Helsinki Quarterly are also available online at

The articles in the latest issue of Helsinki Quarterly deal with the increase in the number of children in Helsinki – particularly the inner city – as well as the long-term changes in children’s independent mobility in the urban environment. Other topics include the effects of the West Metro line on housing prices in the vicinity of the metro stations, the connection between the geographical proximity of businesses and employee mobility, the record-breaking year in Helsinki tourism, and the opportunities and challenges brought by new urban civic activism for the operation of the city authorities.

Articles in Helsinki Quarterly 2018:

Helsinki Quarterly 2018 

Salla Jokela: The development of Helsinki’s city brand

Pekka Mustonen: Helsinki tourism enjoys a record-breaking year – but what next?

Pasi Mäenpää & Maija Faehnle: Urban civic activism: solutions for the governance of a self-organising urban community

Tamás Lahdelma: Geographical proximity and employee mobility in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area

Oskari Harjunen: Housing market has already anticipated the effects of the West Metro

Ari Niska: Number of children on the rise particularly in Inner Helsinki

Veera Moll: From city streets to suburban forests – changing mobility patterns of children in Helsinki