The popular place to go to in Helsinki, Finland is Esplanade Park or “Espa” as the locals call it. This is the green heart of the city. People enjoy coming here to relax, listen to music, watch performances and to have picnics. The park was designed as a green promenade in the Continental style. There are beautiful tree-lined alleys and flowerbeds.
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Chapel Esplanade is one of the most historic restaurants in Helsinki, built in 1867.
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Opposite the restaurant is Espa Stage that hosts the longest festival of music in Finland that begins each year in May and goes to the end of August. Visitors can see around 200 artists and groups performing.
On either side of the stage, you can find a pool with interesting sculptures that were commissioned from Viktor Jansson.
Water Nymphs depicts a mermaid and child playing with a fish. The mermaid was modeled after the sculptor’s daughter Tove Jansson who was the world-famous creator of the Moomins.
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Hey There depicts a small boy playing with a fish.
The pools are lined by perennials like moon lilies and exotic lilies of the Nile. Audiences listening to performances on the stage can enjoy the summer flowers in the large flower pots. Next to the stage is an open-air cafe.
In the center section of the park is Runeberg Esplanade where you can see lovely flowering crab apple trees by the statue of J. L.Runeberg. The statue is circled by columnar aspen trees and laburnum bushes.
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The statue of Johan Ludvig Runeberg, Finland’s national poet and author of the Finnish national anthem is surrounded by a beautiful flowerbed. The flowers are replanted three times a year – after the May Day celebrations, before the Midsummer holidays and heather and conifer plants in autumn. The large trees are illuminated in the wintertime. There is a tradition to light candles in the windows as a sign of patriotism on Independence Day, December 6.
On the pedestal of this memorial is the eight-meter-high statue of the Maiden of Finland wrapped in a bearskin. In her right hand is a laurel wreath and a pile of Runeberg’s books lies by her feet. In her left hand, she holds a tablet with the words of the first and last two stanzas of the Finnish national anthem in Swedish. The inscription on the side of the memorial reads “From the Finnish people to the Singer of Our Nation”.
Runeberg Esplanade also includes the park’s four historic kiosks.
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Theatre Esplanade is the western section of the park. Here is the restaurant Teatteri and the Svenska Theater. The theater was designed by Professor Nikolai Benois, the court architect of Tsar Nicholas I.
At this end of the park, you can find more pleasant shade on hot days when the old horse chestnut trees blossom in early June and there are rhododendrons, hydrangeas and seasonal plants next to the restaurant terrace.
There are two memorials here. One to the author, journalist and historian Zacharias Topelius and
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the second to the great Finnish poet and journalist Eino Leino, the first writer to use the Finnish language fluently for all artistic purposes.