Although Helsinki is a relatively small city, it is packed with cultural gems for visitors to explore and enjoy. In this post we look at some of the capital’s most impressive museums and the exhibitions showing this summer and autumn, as well as some other cultural attractions close enough to Helsinki to enjoy on a day trip or stop-over.
Ateneum Museum of Art
Finland’s best known museum, the Ateneum Museum of Art is the home of Finnish art, with extensive collections that date from the 19th century to the modern era. Currently showing, Ateneum’s “Stories of Finnish Art” exhibition celebrates these collections, documenting the development of Finnish art from 1809 until the 1970s. From the 18th of June until September 20th the museum’s 3rd floor will host the “Inspiration – Contemporary Art & Classics” exhibition, which explores how international contemporary artists have been inspired by the classics of European art. Later in the autumn, on October 23rd, Ateneum opens a Magnus Enckell exhibition, will be the first one of the key artists of the golden age of Finnish art in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This will be the first comprehensive display of the artist’s entire oeuvre, from the early works he created when studying at a drawing school to the mythological subjects of the 1920s.
Sinebrychoff Art Museum
Situated opposite Hietalahti Market on Helsinki’s leafy Bulevardi, Sinebrychoff Art Museum specialises in old European art from the 14th century until the 1850s. The building was once home to Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff family, and today visitors can explore their private collection, for free, on the 2nd floor. Fashioned like the stately homes of European collectors, this section of the museum is packed with carefully hung paintings, art objects, porcelain, silver and furniture. The bottom floor is devoted to changing temporary exhibitions, which this summer features the exhibition “Life Under Threat” until August 23rd, which presents visions of animals and nature from the 16th century to today, conveying the changing relationship humans have had with animals and with nature through the ages. From the 17th of September, the “Tiepolo − Venice in the North” exhibition will explore the legacy of Venetian artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, along with his sons Giovanni Domenico and Lorenzo. Tiepolo was described by the renowned English art historian Michael Levey as “the greatest decorative painter of eighteenth-century Europe, as well as its most able craftsman.” His art will be presented for the first time in Finland through 23 oil paintings, sketches and graphics, and includes the Museum’s own two works as part of the story.
Didrichsen Art Museum
This delightful private museum is located on the island of Kuusisaari, which connects Helsinki and Espoo, and is a unique combination of an art museum and private villa by the sea. The museum has attracted visitors from around the world for over half a century, charmed by its excellent exhibitions, modern Finnish architecture, and beautiful island location. The Didrichsen Art Museum is surrounded by a public sculpture park, the only one in the Helsinki metropolitan area, which was completely renewed between 2013 and 2014. Until August 23rd the museum celebrates Kuutti Lavonen’s 60th anniversary with an exhibition presenting new works by the artist alongside other important works from over the years, combining cultural, personal, and artistic history. In the autumn the Didrichsen will celebrate its own 55th anniversary with an exhibition of works by Vincent van Gogh (1853 –1890). The “Becoming Van Gogh” exhibition is centred around a selection of drawings from the beginning of Van Gogh’s artist career, on loan from the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands. The exhibition will feature 39 drawings and one graphic from 1881–1886 as well as two oil paintings from 1887 and 1890. Van Gogh’s works have seldom been seen in Finland, and “Becoming Van Gogh” is the first exhibition in Finland exclusively of Van Gogh’s art.
The National Museum of Finland
Operated by the Finnish Heritage Agency, which preserves Finland’s material cultural heritage, the National Museum of Finland presents the history of Finnish life from prehistoric times to the present through three permanent exhibitions and changing temporary exhibitions. “The Story of Finland” takes a bold new look at the wounds left by wars and the struggle for independence; the “Prehistory” Exhibition examines who the Finns are and where they came from. The current temporary exhibition, showing until July 26th, “Ingrians – the Forgotten Finns” tells a story about identity and the importance of collective memory.
Beginning in July, a new guided tour “Kansallismuseo the Pearl of Architecture” will take visitors to the unique architecture of the iconic building and tell the history of the National Museum. The tour will last 45-60 minutes and accommodate up to 15 people, and departs from the museum’s Central Hall. The tour will be in Finnish on Wednesdays at 3pm and 5pm, and on Saturday at 3pm, and in English on Saturdays at 1pm on the 11th, 18th, and 25th of July, and on August 8th.
The National Museum will also host the Helsinki Photo Festival from July 7th to September 30th. The museum will become the main hub of this year’s festival, hosting the main outdoor exhibition, the Nordic Village and event venues.
Opening on August 14th, “Courage, love, freedom! Moomin 75”, will celebrate Tove Jansson’s immensely popular Moomins. The exhibition will take visitors on a magical journey into the values and philosophy – friendship, love, respect for nature, love of adventure, equality, tolerance, freedom and courage.
The Finnish Heritage Agency also operates Seurasaari, the largest open air museum in Finland, and Hvitträsk, the studio home of the architecture firm Gesellius, Lindgren and Saarinen. Seurasaari is an island that showcases all of Finland’s folk history by recreating its traditional way of life through cottages, manors, farmsteads and churches, representing four centuries of rural life. Seurasaari’s historic Antin Kaffeliiteri café was recently renovated and offers coffee, refreshments and snacks during the museum’s opening hours. Hvitträsk is a completely unique comprehensive work of art that attracts design and architecture enthusiasts from near and abroad. The architect trio Gesellius, Lindgren and Saarinen fell in love with the scenery at Lake Vitträsk and built their own studio home there, in the National Romantic style in 1903. This summer the “House of Love and Rebellion – Handicrafts at Hvitträsk” exhibition runs from June 24th until September 30th. The unique works of the textile art, glass and ceramics multitalent Hanna-Kaisa Korolainen and three young Finnish designers Saija Halko, Nikolo Kerimov and Tuuli Saarelainen are inspired by the national romantic milieu of Hvitträsk and the atmosphere of the liveliest years of the studio home.
Culture Beyond Helsinki
A little over two hours from Helsinki lies the city of Tampere, home to the Vapriikki Museum Centre and the only Moomin Museum in the world. Idyllically located next to the Tammerkoski rapids, Vapriikki hosts around a dozen new exhibitions every year, covering various subjects from history to technology and natural sciences. The centre is home to the Natural History Museum of Tampere, the Media Museum Rupriikki, the Mineral Museum, the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame, the Doll Museum, Postal Museum and The Finnish Museum of Games. Visitors to the centre will also find the Valssi restaurant and a museum shop offering a wide selection of gifts, souvenirs, and books.
The world’s only Moomin Museum moved into Tampere’s iconic Tampere-talo a couple of year’s ago, where its first permanent exhibition retells the entire story of the Moomins. It features original artwork by Tove Jansson as well as fascinating three-dimensional tableaux made by Tove Jansson and Tuulikki Pietilä. The Moomins and the Sea exhibition takes a look at the Moomins’ nature-loving lifestyle through a selection of Jansson’s original illustrations.
A little over an hour from Tampere lies the town of Mänttä-Vilppula, known as the art town thanks to the twin museums of Serlachius Museums Gösta and Gustaf. At the Serlachius Museum Gösta old masters meet new artists in the midst of a beautiful lake landscape, while Serlachius Museum Gustaf and its exhibitions tell stories about the legends of industry as well as about art. The exhibitions that can be enjoyed there this summer and autumn include: Classic Works of Fine Art at the Manor, a new collection hanging at Gösta; The Quest for Happiness – Italian Art Now at Gösta until September 29th; Procedural Memory – Petri Eskelinen’s interactive sculptures at Gösta until March 2021; How About the Future? A retrospective of Nanna Hänninen at Gösta until March 2021; Artists and Models – Disguise Self-Portraits at Gösta until April 2021; Olli and Bucklan – The Life and Art of the Ehrströms at Gustaf until August 20th; Apotheckary’s Trade House – a hands-on chance to experience history at Gustaf; Paper Devil – The life and business affairs of G. A. Serlachius at Gustaf; and Glamour – Famous Gowns on the Silver Screen at Gustaf until January 10th 2021.
A day in Tampere is rarely enough. There is a wide range of hotels to choose from. Stay over night and enjoy your stay! https://visittampere.fi/en/accommodation/
Approximately one hour from Helsinki, Finland’s 2nd oldest town is Porvoo, and justifiably considered by most visitors to be the most beautiful in the country. The section known as Old Porvoo is known for its delightful waterfront of red ochre sheds, its medieval cobblestoned streets and alleys. Visitors are invited to stroll around Old Porvoo to best experience its charms, admiring the delightful artisanal shops and boutiques along the way, and discover beautiful Porvoo Cathedral, and the small market place in front of the old town hall. It is also home to the house museum of Finland’s national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg and his wife Fredrika Runeberg who lived there with their children. The works of art on display, Runeberg’s hunting weapons in the ‘fox skin room’, and the porcelain in the cupboards all serve as reminders of both everyday and social life of the family.
Known for its friendly personnel, great breakfast, good service and value for money, the private and cosy Hotel Arthur is located in Helsinki city centre just 200m the Central Railway Station. Hotel Arthur’s location is ideal for public transport: The Helsinki University metro station and tram stops for tram lines 3, 6, 6T and 9 are next to the hotel. Helsinki’s most prominent sights, museums, theaters, restaurants, parks, marketplaces and churches are all within walking distance of the hotel. Hotel Arthur has 203 unique rooms which are divided to 14 room categories, including single economy rooms, Deluxe rooms for couples, family rooms for 4-5 people, and two suites with private saunas – all rooms come with free wifi. During Autumn 2020, renovated Bistro Arthur will be opened serving breakfast, lunch, Bistro menu and á la carte Dinner during weekdays.