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Coding Maps

Road Names in Helsinki

Map of Helsinki with the streets coloured by name

I made a map of Helsinki that colours the street depending on what it’s called.

  • Katu = street
  • Tie = road
  • Väyla = way

What does it show?

Downtown, everything is called katu

Helsinki is a really compact city squeezed onto a peninsula with suburbs on the surrounding bays and islands. I like how it’s really easy to distinguish downtown Helsinki just by street names showing up in purple. You can also spot the suburban shopping hubs by their clusters of purple streets too.

The amusing exception to this rule is that the main tourist street in the middle of town isn’t called somethingkatu, it’s Esplanadi, the thin green thread running east-west from the harbour.

There isn’t a lot of variation in main road names

Pretty much all other roads are either -tie or -katu. Small residential streets are more often than not “-polku” and “-kuja” but as these streets are so short I decided not to bother colouring them anything different and instead lumped them with the “others”

Posh Finns have more interesting street names?

My understanding is that roughly speaking the southwestern suburbs in Espoo (by the sea) are fancier than the north and eastern suburbs in Vantaa (by the airport). On the name map, you can see that there is more variation in street names in the southwest (i.e lots more green streets) whereas northeast of the city centre there are comparatively more streets just called “tie”. The exception to this that the far northeast corner of the map presses up against the pretty Sipoonkorpi national park, and the road name variation increases as the houses get fancy again. I could test this theory if I found data for either house prices or neighbourhood mean income or something like that and plot them together.

What Next?

  • I’m interested to do this for Stokholm and see if it has the same split between gatan (katu) and vägen (tie)
  • I’m interested in doing a Helsinki map of streets named after people: if the people have Swedish names, Finnish names, or Russian names
  • I can easily do this for any Finnish town

If you have any more ideas for things to do let me know, or you can play around with the code I used to make the map below. I’ve gone and made it Finnish language specific so I would recommend clicking through to Guiseppe’s code which supports English, French and German towns as well.

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