3 ways to explore Helsinki's art scene

Silvia Rodríguez Bernal walking across the top of one of Amos Rex's skylight domes, the tower of Lasipalatsi standing to the left in front of a mostly cloudy sky.
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Are you an art fiend? Well then plan a trip to Helsinki, the city is littered with art and culture, from contemporary to classics.

If you’ve got a free afternoon…

Kick start your afternoon at Helsinki Contemporary, a trendy art gallery with a focus on young and contemporary artists. Take your time wandering around the exhibition space before walking through Old Church Park to Galerie Forsblom. This delightful gallery exhibits works by both Finnish and international artists and is well worth checking out.

Once you’re feeling peckish, head to Putte’s Bar & Pizza for a late lunch. As you munch on a delicious pizza, check out all the art on display. Antto Melasniemi, the restaurant’s owner, has been collecting contemporary Finnish art for years – and it’s all on display in his restaurant. On the walls, you’ll find works by artists including Rauha Mäkilä, Otto Karvonen, Jouko Lehtola, EGS, Sami Lukkarinen and Klaus Haapaniemi.

View of a mostly white walled exhibition space inside Helsinki Contemporary gallery, a brick wall can just be seen to the left next to an open doorway leading to another room in the gallery. Paintings are widely spaced along the walls.
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After lunch, walk 10-minutes to Baana, a disused railway line that has been converted into pedestrian and cycle lanes. Baana is home to some of Helsinki’s most innovative graffiti. Look out for artworks by OsGemos, EGS, Blade, and Mickey as you walk. Don’t forget to take a picture of Love Helsinki, an iconic sculpture by Janne Siltanen. Pop into Café Java, La Torrefazione, or Villa Hakasalmi for a coffee and a bun before walking 5-minutes, to Kunsthalle Helsinki, one of Helsinki’s loveliest contemporary art museums.

For dinner, walk 10-minutes down the road to Restaurant Elite, a much loved Finnish restaurant that has been popular with actors, musicians, authors, dancers, and other artists since its establishment in 1932. Admire the artworks on the walls by Elite’s patrons as you enjoy your delicious food.

If you’re spending the day in the city…

Start your day in the heart of Helsinki’s Design District with brunch at Green Hippo. A word to the wise: their Nutella pancakes are to die for.

After breakfast, spend your morning getting to know Finnish design as you wander around the Design District. Check out art galleries Sinne and Galleria Bronda – and make it a point to go to Papershop and Lokal. Once you’re done, make sure you pop into the Design Museum, where you’ll learn more about traditional Finnish design as well as work by up-and-coming designers. If you’re feeling peckish, the museum houses a delightful coffee shop. While you’re in the area, check out Tom of Finland’s old stomping grounds – he used to live at Ratakatu 1. 

Next, walk ten minutes to Kämp Galleria, a shopping centre in the heart of Helsinki which is home to a lovely selection of Scandinavian design and international fashion. While you’re there, grab a delicious lunch at Waffdaddy and pop into the Finnish Museum of Photography in the basement. If you still have time, check out the newly opened GlassHouse Helsinki, a meeting space for creatives.

A grey walled corridor inside the Ateneum art museum stretches to the left of the photo. It is covered by a variety of framed paintings, large and small.
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After lunch, it’s time to learn more about one of Helsinki’s most internationally loved artists: Tove Jansson. Best known as the creator of the Moomins, Tove was also an artist, sculptor, and short story writer. Visit the street of her childhood home in Katajanokka (Luotsikatu 4) and catch your breath in Tove Jansson Park next door before walking along Esplanade Park. Look out for the water fountain Water Nympths/Play, which was made by Tove’s father Viktor, for which Tove served as the model. Next, walk 15-minutes to HAM Helsinki Art Museum, where you’ll find two of her most loved works: the frescoes Party in the City and Party in the Countryside. If you’ve still got plenty of energy, walk 15-minutes back to Ateneum, Finland’s national art gallery where Tove studied and met her life partner Tuulikki Pietilä. Look out for works by Finnish artists including Helene Schjerfbeck, Eero Järnefelt, and Akseli Gallen-Kallela. The Ateneum Art Museum is closed to the public due to ventilation renovation starting 28 March 2022 and will reopen in early 2023

For dinner, walk 5-minutes to Restaurant Lasipalatsi, an elegant functionalist landmark with a fascinating history. The Lasipalatsi area originally housed Russian barracks before being transformed into a cinema, dining room, winter garden, and business space. Enjoy your food as you look out over the hustle and bustle of Mannerheimintie and watch the sun set.

If you’re staycationing for the weekend…

Wake up at Hotel St. George, where you can admire Tianwu, an impressive sculpture by Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei. Kick off the day with an 8km run, passing ten public sculptures including Havis Amanda, the Statue of Peace, and Olo n:o 22. Click here for a more detailed description of your route.  

Once you’ve had time to freshen up, walk 5-minutes to Dylan Marmoripiha for a typical Finnish buffet lunch. The restaurant is located in the stunning Rautatalo building, which was designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. If you start to get chilly, you can always pop into The Cock to warm up with a glass of wine.

Alicja Kwade's: Big Be-Hide 2019 art installation on Vallisaari island. Two large rocks, one silver, one ordinary, stand either side of a large mirror on a rocky shoreline under a grey and cloudy sky.
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After breakfast the following day, walk 10-minutes to Oodi, the city’s central library. Oodi is an architecturally striking building that combines elements of both traditional and contemporary design. Visit one of the library’s cafes or head out onto the terrace to relax with lovely views over Töölönlahti Bay. See if you can spot Armour, an amazing sculpture by Antti Laitinen. Once you’re feeling refreshed, wander across the road to Amos Rex. This relatively new museum houses everything from experimental and contemporary art to 20th century modernism in a fabulously unique space.

Later, hop on a bike and cycle 10-minutes to Itä-Pasila, an area of Helsinki that’s famous for its graffiti scene. Check out the graffiti and murals in the area’s old stairwells and pop into Pasila Urban Art Centre, which hosts urban art exhibitions and workshops. Guided street tours of the area are sometimes available.

A half-hour tram ride, or a 15-minute cycle, will take you back into town to Restaurant Savoy for dinner. The restaurant’s interior was designed by Aino and Alvar Aalto. Enjoy your dinner as you look out over the sunset.  

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Are you an art friend? Well then plan a trip to Helsinki, the city is littered with art and culture, from contemporary to classics.