How to Plan Your Own Museum Tour in Helsinki with a Travel Pass

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One great activity in the early, snowy morning is to slide down the snow with a bunch of energetic kids!

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.

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 Finnish lives.

Helsinki Card

If you are visiting Helsinki in winters (like I did when I was stopping by Helsinki to see the Northern Lights in Lapland), 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.

How to use the Pass? I saved a lot for my few days in Helsinki and any budget travelers. Simply make an order online and select the duration that you need: 24-hour, 48-hour, or 72-hour. Visitors can download a mobile card on their mobile phone, or get the physical card shipped before your trip. Show your card at the entrance to have free access and skip the line benefits. However, I recommend downloading the card to your phone because there’s one less thin that you have to worry about, and you also save the shipping costs from €8 to €12, depending on your location.

^2Helsinki Card highlights For museum-goers, it’s a quick and easy way to explore Helsinki without any hassle. The card offers free entry to more than 30 top Helsinki attractions and guided tours. In particular, this card includes free public transportation in the city, the Suomenlinna ferry, discounted price on the airport shuttle, and cruises to Tallinn and Saint Petersburg!

Prices: 1-day pass (24-hour) (€44), 2-day pass (48-hour) (€52), 3-day pass(72-hour) (€59)

As you can see the saving is so much more when you have the card for 72-hour because it’s only €20 per day as compared to the 1-day pass which costs €44; that’s why I have designed a 4-day itinerary in Helsinki’s winter so you could make the most of this card with its great value. Besides, there is the option of topping it with free city transportation (€51/€63/€69 in total). I would also suggest you getting it because if it gets too cold that you probably don’t want to travel from one place to another on foot (all the time), and at this point, it is really about the city travel pass that saves the hassle of you buying tickets at every stop.

Get your Helsinki Card here.

The Helsinki tram network forms part of the Helsinki public transport system.

Top 10 Attractions include Suomenlinna Sea Fortress (That saves you €38 for just this one!), National Museum of Finland, Beautiful Canal Route Cruise (May to September), Temppeliaukion Church (Rock Church), Sea Life Helsinki, Finnish Nature Centre Haltia, Ateneum Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, HAM Helsinki Art Museum, and Exhibition Centre WeeGee.

One more piece of advice, the museum opening hours are shorter during wintertime, so check their opening hours, plot your route wisely and list out locations that open in the evening; then do not go there during the day. Visit those places in the evening so you could visit as many as places you can with the card.

Website: http://www.helsinkicard.com

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. 🙂

Website: http://www.helsinginkaupunginmuseo.fi/en/

Design Museum

IMG_6674The 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. Founded in 1873, the Design Museum is one of the oldest design museums in the world, a celebration of Finnish design in different aspects, and a tribute to a century of Finland’s independence.

The museum is separated into two floors – the ground floor is a permanent exhibition of its selected 75,000 art objects, 45,000 drawings, and 125,000 photographs from its impressive collections, made by over 1,000 different designers. 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.

The museum is located in the Design District of Helsinki, with close proximity to St John’s Church, and the Museum of Finnish Architecture, and Mannerheim Museum

Website: http://www.designmuseum.fi/en/

There are many churches in Europe, as well as Museums. When it’s time to eat, I recommend the museum cafés! Often you find these places clean, good value, not crowded with a superb view J. The café in Helsinki National Museum had this 10 Euros buffet with soup and bread, a salad bar, 1-2 main courses, and coffee; For that money, you might get a Big Mac Combo in McDonald’s… #travel #helsinki #design #museum #finland #national museum #fashion

Museum of Finnish Architecture

It is a few-story 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!

Website: http://www.mfa.fi/

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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. In particular, the Story of Finland and Prehistory are some of the most interesting showcases as they take visitors on a journey about the development of Finland. The third part of the permanent exhibition is newly opened and focuses on the history of Finland from the Middle Ages up until the country’s first steps towards independence.

Do not miss the Kalevala cupola fresco painted by Akseli Gallen-Kallela at the hall; 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.

Jakkarila Manor drawing-room

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 the 2000s.

Website: http://www.kansallismuseo.fi/fi/kansallismuseo

The Throne Room

HAM Helsinki Art Museum (Tennis Palace)

Unluckily the Helsinki Art Museum (HAM) was closed for the installation of arts during my visit – this is a museum venue that doesn’t have a permanent exhibition, but temporary art exhibitions in the modern eras and the showpieces are displayed all over Helsinki.

HAM’s collection includes over 9,000 artworks exhibited in parks, streets, offices, health centers, libraries… HAM is a unique museum collecting art that truly belongs to the city’s people. The flagship location is 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.

Website: http://www.hel.fi/hki/Taimu/sv/Framsidan

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Ateneum Art Museum

The Ateneum is where the classics are – it’s the Finnish National Gallery just a stone’s throw away from Helsinki’s train station. Ateneum has been founded in the same building since the year of 1888. Over the years, this historic building houses an abundance of classical European arts from the 1750s to the modern age. The Stories of Finnish Art collections exhibition showcases art pieces created by Finnish and international artists. On top of that, it has temporary exhibitions that feature artists of specific celebrity artists or genres, workshops, lectures, guided tours, and clubs, too.

The star paintings in the museum include The Convalescent by Helene Schjerfbeck (1888), The Wounded Angel by Hugo Simberg (1903), and Under the Yoke (Burning the Brushwood) by Eero Järnefelt (1893). However, photography within the museum is not allowed.

After the walk in the museum, warm up with a cup of coffee in Ateneum Bistro, but it could get quite crowded sometimes. 😛

Website: http://www.ateneum.fi/

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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 at 8:30 pm from Wed to Fri, so save it as the finale of your day trip 🙂

Website: http://www.kiasma.fi/en/

A delicious buffet lunch @ Cafe Kansallismuseo

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…

Other Museums in Helsinki that offers free entry with Helsinki Card:

  • Finnish Nature Centre Haltia
  • Hotel and Restaurant Museum
  • Mannerheim Museum
  • Villa Hakasalmi
  • The Finnish Museum of Photography
  • Museum of Finnish Architecture
  • Museum of Technology
  • Seurasaari Open-Air Museum
  • Sinebrychoff Art Museum
  • Theatre Museum

15 comments

  1. Thanks for this tour! I agree with you on the Helsinki card, saved me a fortune too. I loved my time in Helsinki during winter, and definitely appreciated that there was a lot to do indoors! It’s not technically a museum, but one of the most fascinating buildings for me was the rock church, which I highly recommend 🙂

    1. You are welcome Kellly! I hope you would enjoy the city as much as I do. It was fun to visit there in Winter time somehow. 😛

  2. The Kiasma and the two design museums sounds really interesting to me. I have always loved Nordic-style architecture- those clean lines and simple finishes are just beautiful. How much does the Helsinki card cost and does it get you into other attractions?

  3. I didn’t realize how many museums could be visited in Finland. Definitely a great alternative to being outside when the weather is too cold. Great tip about the cafes. I wouldn’t have thought they would be good value.

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