Living in Helsinki all my life, I can safely claim that one of the strongest scents in the city arises from the tracks of the main railway station. The whole area of the Helsinki Central Station symbolises encounters and goodbyes, departures and arrivals. Even within all the bustle, there is something constant and stagnant, and that feeling is most condensed in the grand hall. Outside the station, the high-rising stone men greet visitors and say hi to locals. Helsinki's busiest spot – a bustling commercial hub – still looks like Helsinki: modest in size, laid-back even at rush hour, diverse. For most of the year, the morning sun hits you directly in the eyes when exiting the station at the side of the Rautatientori Square. That's when my heart skips a beat, this is my Helsinki <3.
The Kluuvi district encompasses most of the very centre of downtown Helsinki. The Helsinki Central Station, the big department stores, and many buildings belonging to the University of Helsinki are all found here. One of the main commercial high streets, Aleksanterinkatu, intersects Kluuvi. The district has only about 640 residents, but 24,000 people work there.
The landscape in the area that is now Kluuvi has changed over the centuries. In the early 19th century, it still had a long and narrow bay that was filled in with earth little by little and filled in completely in the 19th century. Construction in the area was challenging – yet it is home to some of the whole country's most relevant buildings from a cultural-historical point of view, built on top of poles buried 15-20 metres deep into the ground.
The most central landmark of Kluuvi is the main railway station. Local train services for the metropolitan area depart from the Helsinki Central Station, as do intercity services to other cities in Finland. A direct train to Saint Petersburg also leaves from here.
Kluuvi is also a cultural hub thanks to the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, the Helsinki Music Centre, the Ateneum Art Museum, and the National Theatre. The Kaisa House is the main library at the central campus of the University of Helsinki. Completed in 2012, the library complex has received several design awards and represents a new era of library architecture. The newest addition to Kluuvi's cultural institutions is the new Helsinki Central Library Oodi that opened at the end of 2018, and has been recognised as a architectural feat.
The Kaisaniemi Park and the Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden are the lungs of Kluuvi. The name of the first public park in the city derives from the restaurateur Catharina "Cajsa" Wahllund, whose patrons included notable Finnish cultural figures such as the poet, author and historian Topelius, the national poet Runeberg, the composer Sibelius and the statesman Snellman. The Botanic Garden's outdoor area is around four hectares in size. It invites visitors to explore the world of plants. Ten greenhouses open to the public offer a lush getaway in the wintertime.