I remember it was the snowy season and everything closes at 4 pm (some 6 pm). I love my snow boots that I got online shopping – it was warm, water-proof, light, apparently not slippery-resistant enough, I slipped a few times walking on ice, one time I slipped down the stairs like I was one a slide, luckily I landed and stood up graciously from the drama.
In one of these Helsinki winters, touring the city indoor wouldn’t be such a bad idea, especially in European cities where nice museums and churches are everywhere. I purchased a Helsinki card which granted me free access to almost all major art and history museums in the city.
I heard a lot of “compact”, “stylish”, “cultured” when people are talking about Helsinki. Still, it seemed challenging to visit all the museums on the list within 48 hours. Here are my recommendations of the 7 museums that I saw and it sort of explained how the “compact”, “stylish” and “culture” keywords are translated into the Finnish lives.
For museum-goers, it’s a quick and easy way to explore Helsinki without any hassle. This card also includes free public transportation in the city, Suomenlinna ferry, discounted price on the airport shuttle, and cruises to Tallinn and Saint Petersburg!
I saved a lot for my few days in Helsinki and any budget travelers.
Helsinki City Museum
The Helsinki City Museum focuses on and explores the city’s history and culture – with art & photography, plus some temporary exhibitions. The museum is 2-story high and very modern and simple. Why go there? Because of the location and free access. The museum is located down the street from the bustling Senate Square to the waterfront; it took me some time to find the museum entrance, though. The museum shop sells a lot of city albums and postcards. I got a few nice postcards for free. 🙂
The design museum is a major national specialist museum of Finnish Design. The Finnish’s style and design aesthetics are world recognized and are rooted in its simplistic, modern, and clean elements. Helsinki was also named the World Design Capital in 2012. The Design Museum is a celebration of Finnish design in different aspects. The museum is separated into two floors – the ground floor is a permanent exhibition of its selected art objects and items from its 75000 pieces collections. The hall featured a range of pieces like furniture, tableware, appliances, fashion, accessories, and interior decor.
The second floor is a temporary exhibition of talented designers – one of them that I saw was a Danish designer Henrik Vibskov, showcasing his installation art with fashion, fabric, and massive pieces.
Museum of Finnish Architecture
It is a few stories high townhouse right behind the Design Museum. Each floor’s exhibition focuses on the different disciplines of Finland’s architecture since the 1900s, with other temporary exhibitions.
When I was visiting the museum, the museum’s first and second floor was undergoing renovations. The top floor was modeled as a showroom with photos and history of Helsinki’s architectural development – called “DECADES OF FINNISH ARCHITECTURE 1900–1970” and the exhibition (according to their website) will be displayed for 10 years until the year of 2020!
National Museum of Finland
Welcome to one of the most important national museums in the country while itself is an iconic landmark in the Helsinki city center. The museum presents a rich demonstration of Finnish history from the ancient times in the Stone Age to the present day.
The museum is divided into 6 parts, the most impressive exhibition to me was the Jakkarila Manor drawing-room in 18th-century French Rococo style with fixed furnishing, wall coverings, ceiling paintings, doors, and panels brought to the museum from different locations. It has shown the life of the upper class after the Great Northern War.
Another memorable exhibit to me was the Throne room, where it presents the throne of the Emperors of Finland, brought from Moscow, in the era of the 19th century.
At the end of the route, the showrooms showcased the post-war development of Finland in a timeline of decades from the 40s to 2000s.
Helsinki Art Museum (Tennis Palace)
Unluckily the Helsinki Art Museum (HAM) was closed for installation of arts during my visit – therefore, it does not have a permanent exhibition but a temporary art exhibition in the modern eras. The museum was located on the second floor of an entertainment center Tennis Palace in the heart of Helsinki, next to the tram Kamppi station. Tennispalatsi was a structure built for the Olympics and now turned into a multifunctional complex with theaters, shops, and museums.
Ateneum Art Museum
The Ateneum is where the classics are – it’s the Finnish National Gallery just a stone throw away from the Helsinki’s train station. The historic building houses an abundance of classical European arts from the 1750s to the 1960s; however, photography within the museum is not allowed J
Museum of Comp Art Kiasma
Lastly, and it should be one of my favorites, obviously the contemporary art museum – Kiasma. The art museum is on the other side and a short walk away from the train station. The long, narrow building features modern art paintings, sculptures, illustrations, and massive installation exhibits. Besides, it is one of those museums that close the latest @ 8:30pm from Wed to Fri, so save it as the finale of your day trip 🙂
One travel tip for budget travelers: Museum cafés! Many of them are good value with a nice view, food, and environment. For example, I had lunch at the Helsinki National Museum café which was a lunch buffet. For 10 Euros or so they served soup and bread, salad bar, 2 main dishes of choice (beef stew and fish), and unlimited coffee (with paper cups to take away). I reckon it a much better deal than having a sandwich at the same price (or more) in the city…