Katajanokka is on a headland that cuts into the water immediately east of the Helsinki city center. A canal dug in the 1800s pushed it from ‘peninsula’ to ‘island’, so it’s technically sectioned off from the rest of the city. Many visitors who book hotels in Katajanokka are cruise passengers who just docked at the harbor on the southern shore of the island. Ferries regularly arrive here from Stockholm, Tallinn and Mariehamn.
The island is best known for hosting the Russian Orthodox church, or Uspenski Cathedral. It’s an impressive brick-red building visible from virtually anywhere on the island due to its prominent onion domes. In all, there are 13 domes – one each for Christ and his twelve disciples – and they’re gilded with 22-karat gold.
Other sites on the island include the Merikasarmi Complex of the Foreign Ministry and the Nokka prison building. The latter was built in the 1830s and used into the early 2000s. It has now been converted into one of the premier hotels in Katajanokka. Renovations were done carefully, and the prison building still retains its façade and outer wall.
Guests who stay in this area are within walking distance of central Helsinki, but there are few outright attractions on site. The biggest draw for most is proximity to the harbor, and most visitors based here are either on the way in or the way out.