A Design Lover’s Guide to Helsinki in a Day

An example of Finnish design
An example of Finnish design | © Ilkka Jukarainen/Flickr
Jessica Wood

Helsinki is one of Northern Europe’s capitals for arts and culture and is particularly well-known for its distinct Art Nouveau architecture and minimalist design aesthetics. There is much in the city to be seen in a single day, and this guide will help you find some of the best design examples Helsinki has to offer.

Design District

Most of the top destinations for design lovers can be found in the Design District, which spreads across Southern Helsinki near the main town centre, meaning most places are in close proximity to each other and can be reached on foot. Just by walking around the area, you can take in the shops, fashion, and studios and visit the upper-class malls and galleries.

A scene from Helsinki’s design district

Marimekko Shop

The most obvious stop for design lovers are the fashion boutiques, and thankfully there are many to be found in Helsinki. Marimekko is the most popular and internationally famous Finnish fashion brand, known for its simplistic beauty. The best place to go is the new flagship store in the Galleria Espland, which displays the most diverse range of Marimekko products.

Marimekko, Galleria Espland, Mikonkatu 1, Helsinki, Finland, +358 96 860240

Selection at the Marimekko store


You will likely be worn out after so much shopping, so an ideal stop for a pick-me-up is Lokal. Run by photographer Katja Hagalstam to provide a space for Finnish artists to display their work, this combination café and art exhibition credits itself as being “72% art, 28% coffee”. The exhibits rotate every few months and the store carries many artistic products for sale.

Lokal, Annankatu 9, Helsinki, Finland, +358 96 849818

Design Museum

Another essential stop should be the Design Museum, which displays examples of Finnish art and design throughout different eras, and is itself housed in a beautiful historic building. Both the rotating exhibits and permanent collection explore and tell the history of Finnish design. During the summer, there are free guided tours in English every day at 2PM. If your feet start to hurt, there is a well-established café bar on-site.

Designmuseo, Korkeavuorenkatu 23, Helsinki, Finland, +358 96 220540

The design museum exterior


The student village area of Helsinki, Kallio is a hub for street art, indie galleries, and vintage clothing stores, as well as historic buildings such as the Kallio Church. It can be reached by taking the number 3 tram from outside the train station and getting off at the Linnamäki stop. A walk around the area will give a good glimpse into the arts and fashion scene, and up-and-coming artists of Helsinki’s younger generation. Be sure to visit the graffiti wall, the Made in Kallio store, Vintage Heaven, and Kalleria.

An art stand in Kallio

Architecture Tram Tour

Helsinki has some of the finest examples of both classic and modern architecture that Finland has to offer. The best and most affordable way to see it would be to purchase a day travel pass for 9 euros and take tram number 4, which passes by most of the main architecture sights, including the Cathedral, Finlandia Hall, the National Museum, the Opera House, and the Olympic Stadium. A great advantage to this method is that you can get on and off the tram as many times as you like, to get a closer look and take photos. If you have the time, use your travel pass to visit the Architecture Museum, as well as Suomenlinna, Käpylä, Temppeliaukio Church, and the University Library, for some more prime examples of Finnish architecture.

Viewing Helsinki’s architecture by tram

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