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Famous Museums Tour of Helsinki (Self Guided), Helsinki

Helsinki is the cultural capital of Finland. The city hosts some of the most famous museums in Europe, including the Ateneum, Kiasma, and the National Museum of Finland. This tour of Helsinki museums will help you learn more about Finnish culture and history.
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Famous Museums Tour of Helsinki Map

Guide Name: Famous Museums Tour of Helsinki
Guide Location: Finland » Helsinki (See other walking tours in Helsinki)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
Author: naomi
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • National Museum of Finland
  • Kiasma
  • Natural History Museum
  • Ateneum
  • Arppeanum
  • Sofiankatu Street Museum
  • Helsinki City Museum
  • Bank of Finland Museum
  • Military Museum of Finland
National Museum of Finland

1) 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

2) 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.

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
Natural History Museum

3) Natural History Museum (must see)

The building that houses the Natural History Museum of Helsinki was built in 1913 and has a very interesting history in its own right. Originally built to house a Russian school for boys, after Finland gained her independence, the building was then transformed into army headquarters and a cadet school. The University of Helsinki purchased the building in the late 1920s, and it became a repository for its zoological collections.

Over the years several changes were made to the building, walls added, and decorative features boarded up. In 2005 the museum was closed and a major refurbishing of the building occurred. The result is a beautifully restored building that has both modern conveniences as well as the original grandeur such as the oak parquet floor. The building is handicapped accessible.

The museum is home to four permanent exhibits that include the Story of Bones, The History of Life, Finnish and World Nature. The exhibits are well worth seeing and are very educational. Allow at least half a day here to see all the exhibits without being rushed.

Why You Should Visit:
Fascinating museum experience for any nature-lovers of all ages – or anyone interested in Finnish fauna.
The rooms are filled with beautifully put together displays, whether they're animal skeletons or taxidermy.

From the balcony on the uppermost floor, you get a nice view of the dinosaur exhibition one floor down.
The free WiFi allows access to an audio guide from your device so consider bringing some earphones.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Wed, Fri: 9am-4pm; Thu: 9am-6 pm; Sat: 10am-5pm; Sun: 10am-4pm (Jan 1-May 31; Sep 1-Dec 31); Tue, Wed, Fri-Sun: 10am-5pm; Thu: 10am-6pm (Jun 1-Aug 31)

In 2019, free entry to the NHS during the first Friday of Feb, Apr, Jun, Aug, and Oct. Also, free entrance in Dec, but then on the second Friday.

4) Ateneum (must see)

Ateneum is an art museum in Helsinki and one of the three museums forming the Finnish National Gallery. The bulk of the works contained here are by Finnish artists, all the way from 18th-century rococo portraiture to the experimental art movements of the 20th century. The collections also include some 650 international works of art, with pieces by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cèzanne, Rodin, and Edvard Munch.

The building itself is quite beautiful and the façade is decorated with statues and reliefs which contain a lot of symbols. Above the main entrance, on the second floor, are busts of three famous classical artists: architect Bramante, painter Raphael, and sculptor Phidias. Above the busts, on the third floor, four caryatids support the pediment. These symbolize the four classical art forms: sculpture, painting, geometry, and architecture. The façade culminates in a collage of sculptures in which the Goddess of Art, Pallas Athene, blesses the products of the different art forms. The façade is also adorned with several other relief works, making the front of the building truly a beautiful site.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the best art museums in the Nordics, and certainly recommendable if you want to have a look at the most famous Finnish pieces of art.
The well-stocked shop is an excellent place for postcards and tasteful gifts from Helsinki. The bistro serves excellent Finnish food in an inspiring setting.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Fri: 10am-6pm; Wed, Thu: 10am-8pm; Sat, Sun: 10am-5pm
Ticket sale ends 30 minutes before closing time
Entry is free with the Helsinki Card

5) Arppeanum

The Arppeanum is the name of the Helsinki University Museum. This museum opened in 2009 when separate collections of the University were brought together under one roof. Collections include objects from the schools of medicine, veterinary science, pharmacy, dentistry, and also objects of handicraft science.

In addition to the permanent collections, there are also traveling exhibits that are changed out throughout the year. Two permanent collections that are fascinating are those involving the history of Finland while under the control of Sweden and Russia. An extensive art collection is shown. Among these are full length paintings of the Russian emperors from the 19th century that ruled over Finland.

This is a must see museum for anyone who is interested in the healing sciences. The various collections are a wonderful look into the progression of medicine over the years. The pharmacy collection shows the different glass vials used in compounding and dispensing medications before the advent of plastics. Exhibits also include a look at typical patient treatment rooms in the late 19th century.

Exquisite works of hand crafted art works are also displayed. One particular favorite is a work of embroidery on silk that covered a box that was part of the World’s Fair in 1900. The mineral cabinet has also been moved here from another museum in town. It is a collection of rocks, minerals and meteorites from around Finland.

Operation hours: Monday - Thursday: 12am - 5pm.
Sofiankatu Street Museum

6) Sofiankatu Street Museum

The Sofiankatu Street Museum is a wonderful piece of living history in an open air setting. This street is located in the center of the city and is one of the oldest streets there. On the 450th anniversary of Helsinki the street was refurbished in sections to show how street lighting has improved over the centuries.

At the beginning of the open air museum, the streets are unlit and the streets are cobblestone. Lighting of the streets progresses to gas lamps and then finally the electric lights that circa 1930. The paving of the street also improves as the lamps improve. There are also a few other items that would have been found in the normal city streets of the time such as mail drop boxes and water fountains. Pay phone boxes are also present and the phone even works.

It is unfortunate that not many items have survived over the centuries, but the items that are there are fun to see. This is not the usual museum; it is interesting to see the progress in a real environment. The Sofiankatu Street museum is located at number 4 and is a part of the Helsinki City Museum.
Helsinki City Museum

7) Helsinki City Museum (must see)

Helsinki City Museum is located next to the Senate Square in the oldest blocks of the city. It also operates four other museums around Helsinki: Hakasalmi Villa, Burgher's House, Worker Housing Museum and Tram Museum. Entrance to all museums is free of charge.

Inside the museum, the exhibits give an excellent overview of the 450 years of Helsinki history. More recently, the 'Time Machine' exhibition makes the photographs of famous Helsinki photographer Signe Brander come to life with a little bit of help from new technology. Time travelers can also visit the courtyards and streets of 1960s, 1970s and 1980s Helsinki. Historical VR experience!

Elsewhere, in Children’s Town, Helsinki’s past is illustrated by means of play and joint activities, access to which is always free of charge. There's also a movie theater in the building that shows short films about the history of Helsinki. Additionally, there is a gift shop on the first floor and very good bathrooms.

Why You Should Visit:
Free and relaxing, with exhibits that are presented in a fun, engaging manner.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am-7pm; Sat, Sun: 11am-5pm
Free admission
Bank of Finland Museum

8) Bank of Finland Museum

The Bank of Finland Museum is a must see for anyone who is not an expert on the world’s money system. The exhibits bring into focus the global banking environment and how each country plays an important role. Finland’s part in the European system of Central Banking is also explained.

In addition there are wonderful exhibits on the artwork involved in making bank notes and interactive workstations that explain the policies surrounding the banking industry. The history of money is also showcased. The exchange of a piece of paper or a metal that is called precious for a product or service is a fascinating process. The museum even has special tours designed for school aged children to help them understand this complex world of finance at an early age.

Located at Snellmaninkatu 2 the museum is just a block away from the Bank of Finland making it a very convenient to visit when doing any business with the bank.

Operation hours: Tuesday - Friday: 11 am - 5 pm; Saturday - Sunday: 11 am - 4 pm
Military Museum of Finland

9) Military Museum of Finland

The Military Museum of Finland is also known as Sotamuseo is an archive of military history in Finland since the 1600s. The building that houses the museum was built in 1883. The place opened in this location in 1929 and formally was dedicated in 1933. That was not especially good timing as the museum was closed in 1939 when the winter war started. The museum remained closed during WWII and finally reopened again in 1948.

During the time that the museum was closed the artifacts were moved out of the museum and stored in various locations around Finland. Exhibits did occur and the funds were used to help veterans who were severely injured in the war, as well as their loved ones.

The majority of the exhibits involve artifacts from the Winter War and WWII. Exhibits include weapons and uniforms from this time period as well as medals, insignias’, flags and other memorabilia. Films and pictures serve to bring that period of time to life. The museum has almost 250,000 items although not all of them are on display at one time.

Walking Tours in Helsinki, Finland

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Cultural Tour of Helsinki

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles

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