A visit to any city, or even any village, in Finland will provide plenty of museums to visit and an opportunity to learn about every aspect of Finnish society and history. We’ve narrowed down some of the best museums in the country in a diverse range of areas, which will make any visit to Finland even more fascinating.
Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova
The elephant outside the museum | Discovering Finland / Flickr
This museum on the Turku riverbank is recognisable for the stone elephant sculpture outside. There are three sections to the museum. First is the remains of the medieval town and artefacts discovered from archaeological excavations, which take visitors back to old Turku when it was still called Abo. Second is the temporary exhibit space, which explores the work of different artists. Third is the collection of contemporary art, which includes paintings by Picasso and Warhol among others.
A highly unique war museum in Tuusula, which documents and displays photos and information about the Lotta Svärd organisation; a women’s volunteer group in World War II that took up the responsibilities of men who were away fighting, providing medical and military support. It tells personal and highly moving stories of members of the Lotta Svärd and how they supported Finland through one of the darkest periods of history.
In the tiny village of Kompero in North Karelia you can find this open-air museum on a lake island, consisting of wooden buildings surviving the Swedish period, which includes a smoke sauna, cow shed, and barn. There are many such open air museums throughout Finland, but seeing one in such a picturesque, remote location provides the best insight into rural, pre-industrial life. The museum is only open for a brief period during the summer and is run by volunteers, but it is a good alternative day-trip and a way to support the local economy and heritage.
While children can personally meet with the Moomin characters at the Moominworld theme park, those more interested in the history of the series and the art of Moomin creator, Tove Jansson, should visit the Moomin Museum in Tampere as well. The museum is moving to a new home in Tampere Hall in the summer of 2017 and will exhibit a huge art collection that Jansson and her partner Tuulikki Pietilä donated to the Tampere Art Museum, including original Moomin sketches. It is not only an essential stop for any Moomin fans but rather a place to learn more about one of Finland’s best and most beloved artists.
The Helsinki City Museum, just off Senate Square, actually comprises five different buildings from different eras, all of which offer a glimpse into a different era of Helsinki’s history, and all with free admission. It includes a Time Machine exhibit using virtual reality technology, a Children’s Town with activities, and temporary exhibits, such as the highly unusual Museum of Broken Relationships.
While you are in Lapland seeing the Northern Lights, take some time to visit this museum in Rovaniemi to learn a bit more about the science behind the lights and the natural history of the Lappish landscape. The accompanying Reginal Museum of Lapland also has a lot of information about Lappish culture and heritage. The Arctic Garden is a perfect spot for viewing the Northern Lights.
A fascinating collection of over two million photos showcasing the best Finnish photographers both past and present, and offering a first-hand look at some key parts of Finnish history and lifestyle. This includes many enchanting nature photos and stunning landscapes. Past exhibits have also examined cultural trends, such as advertisements and propaganda. It’s a great museum, not only for photography lovers but those in need of a nostalgia hit.
Winner of the 2016 Museum of the Year award, this fun and informative museum on the southwestern Åland Islands explores the area’s maritime heritage. Much of the collection comes from a ship captain named Carl Holmqvist, who gathered nautical objects. It also includes the barque ship Pommern, which is closed for repairs until 2018. It is a particularly popular museum for children due to the special activity room.
Far in Northern Lapland you can find Siida, a museum and cultural centre for the Arctic region and the Sàmi natives. The name Siida comes from the old Lappish word for a reindeer herding village. At the museum you can see examples of Sàmi art and learn more about their cultural heritage and role in Finland. The restaurant also serves fresh, traditional pastries that are baked on site.
The Kallio district of Helsinki may now be known for hipsters, but back in the day it was a regular working class neighbourhood and home to industrial workers. At The Worker Housing Museum you can see how people once lived, and a building which was once used as accommodation for city workers. The museum shop is also a great place to buy home-made food and nostalgic gifts.