Munkkiniemi has everything that a good city should have: neighbourhood shops lining the streets, a beach, a tram line, people of all ages and great basketball clubs.

Antti Ahlava
architect and professor at Aalto University
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Munkkiniemi may seem like a very calm, traditional neighbourhood to contemporary eyes, but its history is filled with wild visions.

The lands belonged to the Munkkiniemi Manor in the 17th century.

For centuries, different families ruled the lands until the visionary architect Eliel Saarinen started to examine the district on his drawing board. Saarinen's big plan for the Munkkiniemi-Haaga axis of the city would have transformed the area into a Central European style district for tens of thousands of inhabitants with landmark buildings and boulevards.

Saarinen's plan was only partly realised, and this can be seen as a crucial step in making Munkkiniemi into what it is today. As urban planners started envisaging the future of Munkkiniemi as a legitimate urban district, they also considered the area’s social makeup and pushed for diversity. The streets Munkkiniemen puistotie and Huopalahdentie follow the boulevard lines set by star architect Saarinen. A funny ripple of history can be seen in the fact that the current plans for extending Huopalahdentie to the north chime with the boulevard ideas set by Saarinen back in the day. 

Saarinen designed the townhouses found on Hollantilaisentie – the first of their kind in Finland – as well as the Military Academy. Many other notable architectural sites in the district stem from the pen of another architect superstar, Alvar Aalto. Aalto built both his private residence and studio in Munkkiniemi. Both are now protected landmark buildings and popular tourist attractions and centres for all things Aalto. Aalto also designed apartment buildings for employees of the National Social Insurance Institution Kela. A historical event took place in Munkkiniemi's Hotel Kalastajatorppa designed by Einari Teräsvirta: the reception for the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe was held there in 1975.

The heart of Munkkiniemi is the old part of the district. The wider definition of Munkkiniemi includes Niemenmäki and Munkkivuori – areas mainly constructed in the 1960s – and Talinranta, which is known for its sports facilities, as well as the island communities of Lehtisaari and Kuusisaari, which are linked also to Lauttasaari and the City of Espoo via bridges.

Lehtisaari has a typically suburban shopping centre with cafés and offices. Kuusisaari's prime attraction is the Didrichsen Art Museum, where top Modernist names from around the world merge with the refined architecture of Viljo Revell

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Munkkiniemi may seem like a very calm, traditional neighbourhood to contemporary eyes, but its history is filled with wild visions.