Planning a one-day trip to the city of Helsinki? Here are some recommendations*. To view all the photographs (with the captions in full) of each city, click on any image and navigate using the left and right keys.
1. I have stayed in Helsinki for almost three months, and while I have had little excursions around parts of the capital city there were still sights and museums to visit. Even with discounts for students the entry into the locations can be expensive, so I purchased the Helsinki Card for a weekend trip. Pictured here (in winter) is the Helsinki Cathedral, a distinctive landmark built as a tribute to Russian Tsar Nicholas I, as well as the Helsinki Senate Square with a statue of Emperor Alexander II in the centre.
2. A cemetery might seem like an odd place to visit, but the Hietaniemi cemetery is the location for state funeral services and the final resting place of many famous Finns: architect and designer Alvar Aalto, novelist and illustrator Tove Jansson, sculptor Walter Runeberg for instance. There is a large military section to honour soldiers who had fallen in wars, and it houses the tombs of the unknown soldier and Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim.
3. The statue of Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, voted in 2004 as the greatest Finn of all time for commanding forces to preserve Finland’s independence from Russia. The statue is located on Mannerheimintie, the prominent eponymous boulevard in Helsinki.
4. In the heart of Helsinki is the Temppeliaukio Church. It is also known as the Church of the Rock, because the interior was excavated and built directly out of rock. The design is a reminder of the relationship Finns have with nature and their natural surroundings, since the church is often filled with natural light and the rock walls are left exposed. In addition to its popularity as a tourist attraction the good acoustics mean concerts are regularly organised.
5. Kiasma is the museum of contemporary art, with over 8,000 works of art from Finland and the region. Periodically modern art refers to visual forms of expression – in the forms of paintings or sculptures – up till the 1960s or 70s, whereas contemporary art is the collection of art from that rough cut-off period to the present moment. There is a common perception that art is interpreted subjectively, and if so contemporary art is perhaps even more subjective. There will be more on my superficial comprehension of art later (or another post).
6. “The artist wants to undermine the mysticism associated with non-figurative art and to show how easy it is to approach abstract art through everyday objects and experiences”.
7. The National Museum of Finland.
8. The National Museum of Finland presents Finnish life and history from the prehistoric times to the present, with a collection of archaeological finds such as metals, weapons, coins and currencies. The permanent exhibitions are – quite naturally – organised chronologically, and the interactivity gives visitors a good sense of how life was like in the past.
9. At the Helsinki Art Museum in the Tennis Palace (named as such because the Tennispalatsi housed four tennis courts for the 1940 Summer Olympics, which was eventually cancelled) arranges changing Finnish and international art exhibitions, and “Chaplin in Pictures” and “Alone” were the showcases on display. Finns – anecdotally – are known to have a predilection for silence, to be more reserved, so the “Alone” exhibition which explored varying states of loneliness and exclusion was particularly fascinating.
10. “Some of us are truly alone, completely”: in this installation you stand in the spotlight in a dark room, and you hear a cacophony of sounds and random conversations around you.
11. Of all the art museums of the day the Ateneum Art Museum was probably the most interesting for me. There was an extension collection of Finnish paintings, sculptures, and drawings from the 1750s to the 1950s (which makes sense, since Kiasma would handle works from the 1950s onwards), and for a layman they were exquisite. I am not at all conversant with art and art history, and I was visiting these art museums in preparation for a presentation for my Finnish language and culture class, but I tried to take in as much as I could.
12. The painting on the top, “The Wounded Angel” by Hugo Simberg, was voted the most loved work in Ateneum in a Finnish poll (2007).
13. Ateneum is hosting a centenary exhibition of the works and career of Tove Jansson. While Tove Jansson was known widely as the author and illustrator of the Moomin book series, she had wonderful paintings and compositions meant for display in public spaces. Photography was not allowed in the exhibition (image from the Visit Finland webpage).
14. Having seen the tomb and statue of Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, the Mannerheim Museum shows his medals and decorations, uniforms, and military documents. The guided tour was very informative, which explained how the items related to his life.
15. Finland’s Design Museum collects and displays objects related to the country’s design and industrial art, and the objects show how design and architecture have featured prominently in the country from the nineteenth century to the present. Finnish design is well-recognised globally, and with famous names such as Alvar Aalto as well as established brands such as Iittala and Marimekko the Design Museum is a must-see to understand the development and progress of different designs and innovations across the decades.
16. The Uspenski Cathedral, designed by Russian architect Aleksey Gornostayev.
* Not an advertisement, and also not sponsored (unfortunately).
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