Architecture Tour of Helsinki (Self Guided), Helsinki

There are many examples of great architecture in Helsinki. The predominant styles are Art Nouveau (Jugend in Finnish) and Neo-Clasical. Much of the city's architecture has social and cultural significance, particularly buildings such as the Academic Bookshop, Finlandia Hall, Helsinki Central Railway Station and Erottaja Fire Station. This tour presents some of the most beautiful buildings of Helsinki.
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Architecture Tour of Helsinki Map

Guide Name: Architecture Tour of Helsinki
Guide Location: Finland » Helsinki (See other walking tours in Helsinki)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 km
Author: naomi
1
Finlandia Hall

1) Finlandia Hall (must see)

Located in central Helsinki, Finlandia Hall is the proverbial Las Vegas Show Center of Finland as it is host to many of the finest conferences, concerts and art exhibits you will find anywhere in town. If you plan on coming to Helsinki, you will want to get a list of what is happening there right away. Thousands of people visit it each year. The largest hall can seat 1700 people.

Designed to be similar to the concert hall in Essen, the building is an architectural thing of beauty. Asymmetry is prominently featured not only for beauty but for the acoustics. The marble used in the floors is also quite striking against the cobalt blue walls. The exterior is done in curved slabs of marble.

The interior design of the building is a tribute to detail. The design of each lamp, piece of furniture, panel, flooring material and decorative board reflects the mature approach resulting from Alvar Aalto’s long career as an architect. All the materials speak the language of nature, simply without technically artificial tones. This is because Aalto’s basic view was that architecture should create a frame for human beings. In the Finlandia Hall, the focus is not on extraordinary forms or ostentatious interior, but on the audience and on the performers. According to Aalto, the audience at the Finlandia Hall need not dress up like people used to in the opera foyers and gilded concert halls of the old days. What people wear should be as genuine and natural as the environment in the building.

Why You Should Visit:
The architecture is fantastic, the location by the lake is superb, and the café downstairs – Veranda – is worth a visit.
Inside, the space is not really set up for self-guided tourists to enjoy, but there are guided tours during the week.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am-7pm
2
National Museum of Finland

2) National Museum of Finland (must see)

The National Museum of Finland is a must see. The collections are divided into several different areas of focus and have something to interest everyone. The building was completed in the early 1900s in a National Romantic style and opened to the public in 1916.

Coin collectors will be enamored with the Treasure Trove section comprised of coins, medals, and decorations. 'The Prehistory of Finland' is an amazing collection of antiquity, with – as the name implies – artifacts that date back to the Stone Age. There is also a section on the history of Finland and her people before the age of the industrial revolution. There is even some weaponry displayed here.

One of the favorite exhibits of the Museum is the hands-on, interactive section VINTTI. It encourages visitors to become totally engaged in the museum and gives a preview to all six sections of the exhibits there. The whole family can participate, although younger guests must be accompanied by an adult.

Located at Mannerheimintie 34, the exhibits are extensive, so allow a minimum of 3-4 hours to see them. It would be easy to just spend the entire day at the museum, as there is a restaurant on site.

Why You Should Visit:
The entire museum is very engaging. This engagement will keep you there for a while as you go through the different periods of Finland rising from the bottom of a sea to what it is now.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Thu-Sun: 11am-6pm; Wed: 11am-8pm
3
Parliament House

3) Parliament House (must see)

The Parliament House is the official location of the governing body of Finland. It is located in Helsinki, in the Toolo District. Completed in 1931, this is where the history of the country has been made. You can almost feel that as you enter. Moreover, the place houses one of the best art collections in town.

From an architectural point of view, the building is a hybrid mix of neoclassical and 20th Century modernistic style design. Note the simple design of the columns and balusters; yet, the fourteen columns on the outside are topped with Corinthian capitals. The marble staircases are also quite lovely... so, you get a bit of both visual worlds.

There is also a visitor’s center that has been built in the annex to the house. It is the first such office opened to the public. If you would like to see the whole building, however, you are able to book a guided tour.

Why You Should Visit:
The cubic style and towering pink columns are probably like no other building you have ever seen and it is well worth taking a stroll to admire all the little features.
4
Pikkuparlamentti

4) Pikkuparlamentti

The Pikkuparlamentti is an annex to the official governmental building of Finland. It is a fairly new structure, as far as buildings go in town, having been completed in June of 2004. Pekka Helin & Co did the design.

It is 11 stories tall and contains a total of 295 offices. From an architectural point of view, you will want to visit the atrium and the small meeting rooms that surround it. Each of the little spaces is done in a different kind of native wood, which is really striking. Finnish bedrock was also used in the construction of the floor.

You will also want to visit the restaurant that is located on the first floor. It has some of the best food in town, and is fairly reasonable in price for a slightly upscale location. So it is worth a stop.

There is also a new Visitor’s Center located in the new annex. You can see a very good informative video here about the workings of the Finnish Government, as well as receive info on the MP’s. It is open on Monday–Friday 9 a.m.–4 p.m
5
Kiasma

5) Kiasma (must see)

Kiasma is Helsinki’s museum of contemporary art. The name refers to the part of the eye, called the chiasma, where the optic nerves curves in the brain. This apparently inspired the interesting shape of the building, which was built in the late 1990s. It is a perfect shape for a museum that holds works by contemporary artists.

The galleries within the building are all of different sizes, with each room having a gently curved wall. The angular nature of the ambient light available in the northern latitudes also adds to the ambiance and makes for a wonderful backdrop to view the artwork. In 2016, Kiasma attracted over 310,000 visitors.

In addition to collected works of art, there are also traveling exhibits, lectures, theater, music and all sorts of adventures into contemporary art. It is truly an adventure for the senses. There is also a gift store, café, and a research library.

Why You Should Visit:
While it's worth going to this great museum for its exquisite architecture alone, the exhibitions can be quite interesting and it feels like the curators do try to bring in many different artists/storytellers.
Some exhibits are more confronting than others but overall a unique way to experience the art culture in Helsinki. As a bonus, the shop has some great souvenirs and gift ideas on offer.

Tip:
The museum has no permanent collection, so be sure to check what's actually on show.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Sat: 10am-6pm; Wed-Fri: 10am-8:30pm; Sun: 10am-5pm
6
Helsinki Central Railway Station

6) Helsinki Central Railway Station (must see)

The Central Railway Station is one of the most visited and well-known sites in the city. There are over two hundred thousand passengers that pass through this place every day. On that basis, it is the single busiest building in the whole country.

The place was renamed in June of 2010 to the "Helsingin päärautatieasema" in Finnish. The whole complex of rails in the country was started in 1860 when the first track was opened for business between Helsinki and Hameenlinna. The first station here was designed by Carl Edelfelt. The station's popularity grew through the years, and so the location had to be renovated multiple times. The last such addition was completed in 2003 when a shopping center was added to the complex.

One little known tidbit about this station is the Presidential Lounge. This private 50-square-metre waiting lounge is available for exclusive use of the President of Finland and his/her official guests. It was first built for the Emperor of Russia in 1911. After a short stint as a military hospital, it has been the private lounge for the President ever since. It is the only such structure known in the world.

Tip:
Underneath the station, there is a multitude of shops, including supermarkets, and also there's a walkway over to the other side of Kaivokatu street, which gets you into downtown.
7
Uusi Ylioppilastalo

7) Uusi Ylioppilastalo

In English, this place is called the New Student House. The locals, however, often call this house just Uusi for short. So, it just means “new one.” It currently serves as the Student House for the Student Union of the Univ. of Helsinki. It is centrally located in town.

In addition to being a home for new students, it has the headquarters for the Student Union, and is also a dwelling for many national and students organizations. It was completed in 1910. The design was done by Armas Lindgren and Wivi Lonn. Five of the fifteen nations of the University still maintain an active presence in the location. Needless to say, it is a quite busy place.

There are three parts to the structure. The A side is completely used for student activities, as well as half the space in the B building. The rest is used by private business.

Since the location is really at the true center of the city now, the buildings owned by the Student Union have become quite valuable. So, the local group is among the richest such institutional groups in the world.
8
Hotel Torni

8) Hotel Torni

Hotel Torni is a very famous place to stay in Helsinki. It is a part of the Sokos chain, which is quite well known in Finland. It was constructed in 1931. At that point in history, it became the tallest structure in Finland. It held on to that title until 1976, when the Fortum Headquarters took that honor.

The location was designed by the architectural firm of Jung and Jung three years before the opening. It was built with fourteen stories. There have been many famous people stay here, and was even once the place where the murder of Minna Craucher was planned. During the Second World War, it was also the home of the Air Defense Command for Finland.

On a different note, the hotel has been known as a place to get great food for a long time. Fine dining is at its best at the Ravintola Torni. There is also a beautiful bar at the very top, the Ateljee, which will give you a splendid view of the city. It also sponsors art work from many locals, which makes this a kind of trendy place to see.
9
Academic Bookshop

9) Academic Bookshop

The Academic Bookshop was designed in 1962 by the famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. Construction on the building was finished in 1969. The exterior has a plain copper facade and large windows. The window frames from the Esplanadi side are lined with strips of white marble. Inside you will unexpectedly find a large, bright interior, a great contrast to the dark exterior. The geometrical shapes and cuts of the interior are lightened by two big glass skylights.

Operation hours: Monday - Friday: 9 am - 9 pm; Saturday: 9 am - 7 pm; Sunday: 11 am- 6 pm.
10
Erottaja Fire Station

10) Erottaja Fire Station

Helsinki has a fire station that also happens to be the home of a museum also. The Erottaja Station has a maintenance department, risk management group, and is also home to the rescue diving team. It was designed by Theodor Holler and was put into commission in 1891. The firemen that work there provide ongoing support for the Kaivopulsto and Sueomentinna Rescue Stations.

The Fire Museum was opened to the public in February of 1986. At that time, there was a celebration for the 125th Anniversary of the fire department. In the beginning, no full time staff was needed, because the people who worked in the department took turns running the place.

The overall size is a little over 400 square meters, so it is the type of museum that can be seen in a short time. One of the most fascinating items on display here is an old water tank, which dates from the 18th Century. Intriguingly enough, it was still in use until World War II. The museum is free of charge. Currently, the location is closed for renovation, so call ahead before visiting.

Walking Tours in Helsinki, Finland

Create Your Own Walk in Helsinki

Create Your Own Walk in Helsinki

Creating your own self-guided walk in Helsinki is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
City Orientation Walk

City Orientation Walk

Helsinki, the capital and the largest city of Finland, is a multi-faceted place unique in many ways with much to offer to any visitor. While the greater Helsinki comprises peninsulas and large bays, the city center is very symmetrical with well-organized streets and straight boulevards. On this orientation walk you can visit some of Helsinki's not-to-be-missed attractions.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.4 km
Tour of Helsinki's Ullanlinna District

Tour of Helsinki's Ullanlinna District

Ullanlinna is a district in the south part of Helsinki. The name of the district comes from the town fortifications that were standing in this place during the 1700s. During the 19th century the residential wooden houses were replaced by stone buildings, mainly designed in the Jugendstil style. This tour will show you the most interesting places of this area.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 km
Souvenir Shopping

Souvenir Shopping

It would be a pity to leave Helsinki without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Helsinki, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 km
Tour of Helsinki's Seurasaari District

Tour of Helsinki's Seurasaari District

Seurasaari is a district in Helsinki that is located on an island. The island is home to the Seurasaari Open-Air Museum. The museum provides an overview of life in the Finnish countryside by showcasing houses from different parts of the country. This tour will show you some of the most interesting buildings in Seurasaari.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 km
Cultural Tour of Helsinki

Cultural Tour of Helsinki

As the capital, Helsinki is the cultural center of Finland. The city is famous for its concerts and shows. It is also home to some internationally-known artists. There are three major theaters in the city and a couple of cultural centers. Take this tour to find out more about Finnish culture.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.9 km
Religious Buildings Tour of Helsinki, Part 1

Religious Buildings Tour of Helsinki, Part 1

Helsinki features many impressive places of worship where you can enjoy a peaceful moment and admire the beauty of the religious buildings. Helsinki has two main religious denominations: Lutheran and Orthodox, but there are also some beautiful Anglican and German churches. Take this tour to see the most interesting religious buildings in the city.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.3 km

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