Ateneum Art Museum: A Must-See Cultural Destination in Helsinki

Situated in the vibrant heart of Helsinki, just opposite the main railway station and surrounded by numerous hotels and shopping malls, the Ateneum Art Museum is the most visited museum in Finland. Ateneum is a revered institution both nationally and internationally, captivating hundreds of thousands of visitors each year with its enriching exhibitions.

Designed by the visionary architect Theodor Höijer, the Ateneum building itself is an iconic landmark, steeped in history and architectural splendour since its inauguration in 1888. Today, it continues to enchant patrons with its three floors of captivating exhibitions, inviting cafes, and a charming museum shop, encouraging visitors to immerse themselves fully in the artistic experience and spend as much time as they like exploring the museum. Tickets can be purchased online in advance in the website ticket shop, saving 2€ per ticket.

Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Aleks Talve
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Aleks Talve

Explore Finland’s Largest Art Collection

As part of the esteemed Finnish National Gallery, Ateneum proudly houses Finland’s oldest and most extensive collection of art, spanning from the 18th century to the Modernist era. With nearly 30 000 national treasures in its collection, the museum offers a profound journey through Finnish artistic evolution.

The museum’s current collection, ‘A Question of Time,’ unveiled in April 2023, offers a thought-provoking exploration through four thematic lenses: The Age of Nature asks how nature is changing; Images of a People explores how Finnishness is portrayed; Modern Life delves into the experience of living in our modern era; and Art and Power scrutinises the dynamics of power within the realm of art.

Diving deeper into the artistic realm, visitors have the opportunity to explore various interactive experiences within Ateneum. From the informative self-guided Ateneum Audio Guide to the engaging Ateneum Game and the illuminating “Flow of Time” interactive timeline, there’s something to captivate every curiosity.

A Question of Time - Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Aleks Talve
Pirkko Lepistö: Skipping Rope in Summer (1972), Photo: Kansallisgalleria / Jenni Nurminen

Discover Exhibitions at the Ateneum

In addition to the museum’s collection exhibition, the Ateneum hosts two significant temporary exhibitions annually. The first of these in 2024 is the Eero Järnefelt retrospective, open from April 5th to August 25th. One of the biggest names in Finnish art of the end of the 19th century and of the beginning of the 20th century, Eero Järnefelt was known for the exquisite details of the natural environments he captured on canvas, and for his portraits of prominent figures of his time, and there will be a total of over 200 works on display. Visitors can visit the Ateneum to experience Finnish nature in his paintings: landscapes from Koli in Eastern Finland, as well as delicate details of flowers, plants and animals.

Later in the year, from October 4th to January 26th, 2025, the ‘Gothic Modern’ exhibition presents modern art from the 19th and 20th centuries that is inspired by European medieval and Northern Renaissance art. The themes of the diverse exhibition include death and rituals, but also sexuality and enlightenment.

Also this year, from August 27th to November 24th, Ateneum celebrates 100 years since the birth of Lars-Gunnar “Nubben” Nordström, a pioneer and trailblazer in Finnish concrete art, focusing his early work; works from the 1940s and 1950s; and the development of his full-on abstract expression. The one-room exhibition is on display at the Fokus Gallery.

Eero Järnefelt: Under the Yoke / Burning the Brushwood (1893) - Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis.
Eero Järnefelt: Landscape from Koli (1928) - Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis
Edvard Munch: By the Death-Bed (1896). Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Aleks Talve
Lars-Gunnar Nordström, Photo: Petri Virtanen

A cultural journey for visitors spanning all ages

The Ateneum goes beyond showcasing art; it fosters a dynamic cultural experience for visitors of all ages. Throughout the year, especially tailored events for children add an extra dimension to the museum’s offerings. Moreover, to promote accessibility, the Ateneum extends free entry days during the summer, allowing everyone to partake in the cultural richness it has to offer. On the first Sunday of every month, visitors can join exhibition introductions specifically tailored to to the temporary exhibition, followed by guided tours of the collection exhibition, all available in Finnish, Swedish, English, and Russian, ensuring a truly immersive experience for all.

Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Aleks Talve
Eero Järnefelt: Saimi in the Meadow(1892). Photo: Järvenpään taidemuseo / Matias Uusikylä

Indulge in Finnish Cuisine at Ateneum

​​Visitors who get peckish during their visit will find the Ateneum Bistro on the ground floor, serving Finnish delicacies, as well as lunch, à la carte and a very popular afternoon tea. On the third floor, Café Höijer is open during the temporary exhibitions staged there. Café Höijer offers classic café products served to table. In addition to small savoury and sweet items, the café offers a diverse selection of wines and coffees, and is open during museum hours from April 5th to August 25th, and from October 4th to January 26th 2025. On the ground floor, and in the courtyard, the Ateneum Museum shop features a wide range of souvenirs and products related to the Ateneum’s art collections and temporary exhibitions as well as publications, postcards, cards, and gifts.

Café Höijer. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Aleks Talve
Photo: Samuel Ashcroft
Photo: Samuel Ashcroft

Family-Friendly Atmosphere – Engaging Activities for Children

The Ateneum Museum is especially for families and children, with free admission for all under 18 years. Located on the second floor, the Studio is for visitors of all ages to draw, rest, read, do puzzles, or simply hang out in the space. Next to the Studio, there are four different options for the Ateneum Game, a museum game console that features a series of cross-device multiplayer games and activities related to the A Question of Time exhibition, where participants can approach a tablet in the museum, select a game, and play with other museum visitors using their mobile device. On the third floor, in the Eero Järnefelt exhibition, there is a ‘Follow the frog’ path for kids to explore. And when they get hungry the Ateneum Bistro serves drinks, snacks, ice-cream, and more for all the family.

Whether you’re a seasoned art aficionado or a curious explorer, a visit to Ateneum promises an unforgettable journey through the rich tapestry of Finnish art and culture, right in the heart of Helsinki.

Photo: Kansallisgalleria / Jenni Nurminen
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Aleks Talve
Photo: Ville Malja