The Esplanade is a park and an avenue about half a kilometre long, lined by coffee houses. and design shops. It runs parallel to one of Helsinki's main shopping areas, Alexander Street, with its fashion stores, restaurants, bars and malls.
Shapely Amanda The Esplanade Park begins at a fountain, topped by a nude figure. The sculptor, Ville Vallgren, originally called his work "the Mermaid" but the press dubbed her Havis Amanda, "Amanda of the Sea", and the name stuck.
When she was unveiled here in 1908, fine people were outraged. Unlike the women of classical statues, who tended to be built like men, Amanda was very curvaceous. To emphasize the point, the sea lions around her had their tongues hanging out.
It seemed rather indecent in a country that had just given women the vote. Some even whispered that the sculptor, who was working in Paris at the time, had used a woman of the street as his model, though Vallgren insisted she was a 19-year-old innocent. Whatever the truth, she wears her years well.
Drinking in the Chapel Continuing into the park, you pass Kappeli, or the Chapel, one of the oldest restaurants in Helsinki. After the Esplanade was created at the start of the 19th century, it became the place where fashionable people strolled on Sundays. The restaurant was opened in 1867, a building of high ceilings and great windows.
The Esplanade itself is more an avenue than a park, half a kilometre long but only about 50 meters (yards) wide, with roads running along its flanks. There is little of interest on its south side so the choice is between walking down the path in the middle or along the street on the north flank, where there are shops and coffee houses.
In the park’s centre is a statue of J.L. Runeberg, the author of an epic cycle of verses, Tales of Ensign Stål, that describe the events of the war of 1808-09, when Finland was detached from Sweden by Russia.
The non-national anthem The prologue to the story was a poem entitled Our Land, which was later adopted as the national anthem. It is surely the world’s least militant anthem. In its original version, the word Finland doesn't appear till the fourth verse (which is never sung).
If you are in a hurry to get back to the Market Square, take a tram (two stops).