"Island of the happy ones". This is how residents of Lauttasaari refer to themselves. The expression condenses the local pride and relaxed atmosphere that is abundant in the western districts of the city.
These residential areas have both well-off residential quarters lined with luxurious houses, as well as archipelago landscapes that make for relaxed get-aways.
The administrative definition of West Helsinki is somewhat different from the ordinary Helsinkian’s point of view. For instance, Lauttasaari is in fact part of the southern districts, even if geographically it is one of the furthest out west. The last stops on the Helsinki side of the western metro extension are Lauttasaari and its little sister island Koivusaari. Munkkiniemi, on the other hand, is joined to the downtown area by tram but is still officially part of West Helsinki. The residential islands of Kuusisaari, Lehtisaari and Kaskisaari all belong to the district of Munkkiniemi. These small islands are linked via bridges and complete a loop by joining Lauttasaari. In addition to bridges, these western islands are also linked through history. Both Lauttasaari and Munkkiniemi were detached from the former rural municipality of Helsinki in 1919 to form the municipality of Huopalahti. The said municipality rejoined Helsinki in the great regional annexation of 1946.
The first historical references to Lauttasaari date back to the 1540s and Munkkiniemi was first mentioned in the books in the 17th century. Perhaps the common history of these districts explains the specific independent spirit found in both. A common joke in Lauttasaari is a declaration of independence, often made on April Fools' Day.
Munkkiniemi, as we know it today, started taking shape in the 1920s. This district has the city's oldest townhouses, closely following the style of their Central European models. The residential houses in Lauttasaari and other islands have mostly been built after the Second World War. Kaskisaari and Kuusisaari have mostly small family houses whereas the housing mix of Lauttasaari is mainly apartment buildings. Lauttasaari represents future residential thinking in Helsinki, with even some radical revisions in sight from, for instance, roofing the Western Highway to filling the surrounding sea for a new residential area.
The western districts offer an exciting option for a day trip. The best way to get around is by bike – the city bike network also reaches this zone – by either following the shoreline towards Munkkiniemi or crossing the Lauttasaari Bridge. The sandy pathways along the water open up a gorgeous view with plenty of beautiful pitstops. The sunset seen from these islands and beaches is worth experiencing.