10 Best Museums To Visit in Helsinki

The Finnish National Gallery in spring/ Ninara/ Flickr
The Finnish National Gallery in spring/ Ninara/ Flickr
Photo of Jessica Wood
8 May 2017

The museums located throughout the city of Helsinki suit every taste and teach every aspect of Finnish history, culture, and arts. Here are just a few of the best ones to visit:

National Museum of Finland

Located next door to the Parliament House, every part of this museum seep with Finnish history. Attractions include Civil War-era bullet holes in the door to the ceiling murals of the Kalevela epic poem. As well as being a prime example of Helsinki’s architecture, this museum holds numerous artifacts, paintings, and antiques ranging from pre-history to the modern period which provide a snapshot of Finland’s history and cultural heritage.

Part of the Kalevela mural at the National Museum/ Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/ Flickr

Military Museum’s Manege

Fittingly located on the Suomenlinna island fortress, once an important military base, this compact museum is filled with military antiques. It covers all parts of Finland’s proud military heritage, ranging from World War Two to the lesser-known conflicts such as The Great Northern War. Of particular note are the fine displays of military uniforms.

The Finnish Museum of Photography

With the amount of beautiful landscapes have provided Finland with many well-regarded photographers, the over 3.7 million images in the Museum of Photography is the best place to see them all. It provides examples of both professional and amateur photography from every part of Finnish society, ranging from historical photos by famous photographers to recent photos taken by asylum seekers.

Exhibit at the Museum of Photography/ Wikimedia Finland/ Flickr

Design Museum

Located in the fashionable Design District of Southern Helsinki, The Design Museum displays some of the best examples of Finnish fashion, art, and even household objects that Scandinavia is well known for. The rotating exhibits provide commentary on modern society and often provide an opportunity for rising artists to display their work to the public. It is an essential stop for any lover of art and design.

Museum of Finnish Architecture

Helsinki’s distinct art-nouveau architecture provides another unique feature to the city. This museum, located in a neo-renaissance building, is an ideal place to learn more about the history of Finland’s architecture. It covers the modernisation of the country’s architecture from the classic wooden structures to the modern architecture seen today and also hosts numerous workshops and lectures.

Suomenlinna Museum

Suomenlinna is home to more than a half a dozen museums and multiple sights to see on the island. The Suomenlinna Museum offers the best place to learn the general history of all 260 years of the fortress. Located in the centre of Suomenlinna, visitors see photos of the fortress through different seasons and eras, see artifacts uncovered by excavations, and watch a short film which covers all of this history. Combined with the guided tour, guests can learn practically all there is to know about the fortress’s background.

Inside the Suomenlinna Museum/ Ewa Rozkosz/ Flickr

Ateneum Art Museum

Finland’s state-owned National Gallery contains over 35,000 pieces spread across multiple buildings. But the most distinctive location is the palace-like Ateneum Art Museum, easily identifiable from opposite the central train station. As the oldest building of the gallery, it has a long history of developing new artists and preserving older works which persists to this day. Those unfamiliar with Finnish art can learn and see work created the country’s best artists.

The Ateneum building in 1890/ Finnish National Gallery/ Flickr

Museum of Contemporary Art Museum Kiasma

For those who prefer contemporary art, the National Gallery’s Kiasma building combines a beautiful modern building that masterfully utelises natural light with powerful and thought-provoking work by some of Finland’s best modern artists. Located next to the statue of Mannerheim, it is also a family-friendly museum, offering multiple workshops, events, and live performances suitable for all ages.

An art piece at Kiasma/ Régine Debatty/ Flickr

Seurassari Open Air Museum

A little more out of the way and only open during the summer, the Seurassari Open Air Museum is still definitely worth a visit for a taste of old Finland. Spread across Seurassi Island in Western Helsinki, it still holds many old buildings saved from the modernisation of the mainland. The island provides a glimpse into how Finnish people used to live in previous centuries with water mills, churches, stables, and many other old buildings which all have a unique history of their own.

Building interior at Seurassari/ Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/ Flickr

Finnish Museum of Natural History

Identifiable by its life-sized moose statue outside and two figures of giraffes having coffee on the balcony, this museum covers the biological side of Finland’s history and landscape and is a central location of Finland’s scientific research. The exhibits contain dinosaur bones, dioramas of Finnish and worldwide nature, and an immersive experience into the natural world that makes it particularly popular with children.

The giraffes outside the Natural History Museum/ William/ Flickr

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