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Things to Do in Helsinki - page 2

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Mannerheim Museum
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The Mannerheim Museum is dedicated to the life and times of Finland’s national hero, Gustaf Mannerheim. As the country’s commander-in-chief during World War II, Mannerheim saved Finland from the clutches of Russia, and as the post-war president, he also managed to successfully negotiate Finland’s peace agreements with the United Kingdom and Soviet Union. Also on his impressive resume is the fact that during this lifetime, he managed to traverse 14,000 kilometers along the Silk Road from Samarkand to Beijing.

The Mannerheim Museum is housed in what was once honoree’s home, which he rented from chocolate magnate Karl Fazer from 1924 until his death in 1951. The home has been preserved in its original state, and most of the furnishings date back to the 1940s. A great place to visit for anyone interested in 20th-century European history and the Finnish psyche, the museum houses Mannerheim’s basic bedroom, a collection of hundreds of medals and other honors he received from different countries, his prized book collection, Asian art and portraits of his ancestors.

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Urho Kekkonen Museum (Tamminiemi)
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Found in the Meilahti district of Helsinki, Tamminiemi is a villa that served as the official residences for former Fininsh president Urho Kekkonen between 1940 and 1981. The house was originally designed by Sigurd Frosterus and Gustaf Strengell for a Danish man by the name of Jorgen Nissen. The building was completed in 1903 and housed a number of residents before finally becoming the home of Urho Kekkonen. Today, the villa is open to the eyes of the public as a museum. It's located next to Seurasaari Museum Island within a beautiful park.

Kekkonen held the office of president in Finland from 1956 to 1981, and Tamminiemi was the official residence, the center of political affairs, and was often used to entertain foreign guests and dignitaries. It is said that Kekkonen would often treat his important guest to a visit to his personal Turkish baths found within the complex. After Kekkonen left office in 1981, it remained his personal home until his death in 1986. Much of the residence has been left as it was during the years it was occupied by the Finnish President. Visitors can step back in time and wander through the house via guided tours. Guests also have the chance to see the living quarters, various art works, and the kitchen area. There is also a cafe and shop on site.

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Finnish Museum of Photography
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Located in the Cable Factory building in Helsinki, the Finnish Museum of Photography is the largest collection of photographic art material in Finland. The museum, which is operated and maintained by The Foundation for the Finnish Museum of Photography, holds a collection of some 3.7 million photographs submitted by artists over several decades. Established in 1969, the museum has a floor space of 900 square meters and is constantly showcasing an array of photographer's works – past and present. The museum's oldest displayed images date back as far as the 1840s.

At any given time, at the Finnish Museum of Photography, there can be a variety of different exhibitions on display. There is no necessary genre that the museum focuses on and works come from both Finnish and international sources. There are exhibitions relating to fine art, photojournalism, as well as the history of photography. Moreover, the museum contains a massive collection of achieves that include newspaper clippings, videos, posters, and recordings. There is also a 350-plus piece collection of historical photography materials such as old cameras, film, and other photography instruments.

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Sinebrychoff Art Museum (Sinebrychoffin Taidemuseo)
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Specializing in European art from the 14th to the 19th century, Sinebrychoff Art Museum (Sinebrychoffin Taidemuseo) is the only museum of its kind in Finland. Part of the Finnish National Gallery together with Ateneum Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Sinebrychoff displays an important collection of paintings by Old Masters including Rembrandt and Goyen.

Housed in a mansion dating back to 1842, much of the furnishings are original and give an insight into the lives of Finland’s upper classes during the 19th century.

A popular place to spend a morning or an afternoon, Sinebrychoff has a good collection of Dutch and Flemish artworks from before 1830. Sinebrychoff also has a large display of miniatures, porcelains, and sculptures dating back to classical antiquity.

The museum hosts a rolling collection of temporary exhibitions, generally at no extra charge. Often, the temporary exhibitions are dedicated to modern art, providing an interesting juxtaposition of old and new in the 19th-century house.

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Sports Museum of Finland
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Located in a wing of the 1952 Olympic Stadium in Helsinki, the Sports Museum of Finland is an extensive collection of historical artifacts, memorabilia, posters, and photos documenting the country's sport history. The museum itself was founded in 1938 as a simple collection of historic skis. The original plan was to place the museum in the Olympic Stadium during the 1940 Olympics which had been awarded to Helsinki. However, the games were canceled due to The Second World War, and plans for the museum were also put on hold. Despite the war, the museum was still opened in 1943. And, eventually, the world got a glimpse when the games finally came to Helsinki in 1952.

Today, there are both permanent and temporary exhibitions at the museum. The permanent exhibitions focus on Finnish sports history and culture. There are exhibitions documenting people like Matti Nykanen, who was one of the world's most successful ski jumpers. There is also a section documenting some of Finland's more obscure sports such as Pesapallo. The temporary exhibits are more interactive in nature and focus on getting children involved.

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Submarine Vesikko
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What is a German type-II U-boat doing as a museum on the shores of Helsinki’s Suomenlinna Sea Fortress? Here’s the story. Built by the Dutch in 1931, Vesikko was a secret submarine built for experimental purposes for the German Navy. It was built in secret in Finland because, after World War I, the Treaty of Versailles officially banned Germany from making armaments.

In 1935, however, the Finnish Defence Forces bought Vesikko submarine, and its navy successfully used the sub to protect Finland against encroaching Russia during World War II. After the second world war, under the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947, Finland was banned from keeping submarines and was ordered to sell its little fleet of five to Belgium for scraps in 1953. The only submarine left in the country was Vesikko. But what does “Vesikko” mean? It’s the Finnish name for the European mink. After all, both submarine and animal are small predators.

One of the most advanced submarine designs of its time, a visit inside is quite a shock to the modern visitor. By today’s standards, the submarine is tiny, and it’s fascinating to be able to go inside to see and touch everything, imagining just how a 20-man crew would have fit in its claustrophobic walls at the time. One of Suomenlinna’s main attractions, Vesikko submarine receives nearly 30,000 visitors a year.

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Military Museum's Manege
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Take a tour of Finland’s military history from the 17th century to the present day at the Military Museum's Manege, housed in a former artillery storehouse at Suomenlinna fortress. Inside, the main exhibition ‘From Autonomy to Atalanta’ offers a fascinating insight into the Finnish defense forces, Finland’s WWI history, and the life of a Finnish soldier.

Highlights include an impressive collection of military uniforms, historic weapons and other equipment; artillery including 16th-century field canyons and a modern army tank; and some more unusual exhibits including a Soviet T-46 torpedo, a Somali pirate boat, and a torpedo tube from a Finnish S2-torpedo boat.

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Helsinki Museum of Technology (Tekniikan Museo)
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Established in 1969, the Helsinki Museum of Technology, also called Tekiniikan Museo, is the only technology museum in Finland. The museum is operated privately by the Museum Technology Foundation which was established by a variety of engineering and industrial organizations within the city. The Museum of Technology focuses on the history of invention and innovation within the technology sector in Finland. It seeks to preserve the history of industrialization in Finland, and creates a historical lineage of industrialization in Finland dating back to its days as an agrarian society.

The museum is located on a small island in the middle of the Vantaanjoki River. The island itself is incredibly important historically. It was here that the Swedish King Gustav Vasa built an administrative center and established the city of Helsinki itself in the 1500s. As the city industrialized, the shores of the river became the life-blood of the various factories and industries in the city. Thus, the riverfront location makes great sense as the host of the Museum of Technology.

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Iittala & Arabia Design Centre
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Once one of the biggest ceramics factories in Europe, dating back to 1874, Helsinki’s Iittala & Arabia Design Centre is a unique spot for lovers of art, design, and handicrafts. Part shop, part gallery, part museum, the center is at the heart of Helsinki’s Arabianranta design district, and sells an impressive array of Arabia, Iittala and Hackman products.

Visitors can shop for hand-crafted porcelain, earthenware, and ceramics at the factory shop; learn more about Finland’s fascinating glass and pottery making heritage at the Design Museum Arabia; admire the exquisite creations on display in the showroom; or enjoy the temporary exhibitions and events held in the Design Lab event space.

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Ehrensvärd Museum
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Step back into 18th century Finland at the Ehrensvärd Museum, housed in the original Commander’s House of the Suomenlinna fortress. Named after castle founder and former occupant, Augustin Ehrensvärd, the museum offers a fascinating insight into the era.

Inside, visitors can explore the many rooms, decorated in period style and adorned with historic art, personal items, and other curiosities. Highlights include oil paintings of Suomenlinna dating back to the 1760s; scale models of the archipelago’s naval fleet; an impressive weapons collection; and some exquisite Gustavian furniture.

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More Things to Do in Helsinki

Hotel and Restaurant Museum

Hotel and Restaurant Museum

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If you’ve ever wanted to know what goes on behind-the-scenes of your favorite hotels and restaurants, Finland’s Hotel and Restaurant Museum offers a unique insight into the national hospitality industry. Learn about the history of tourism in Finland; discover the daily lives of restaurant and hotel staff; and admire furnishings, photographs, menus, and other items taken from restaurants, bars, diners, spas and hotels all around the country.

The museum also has plenty of fun interactive exhibitions and visitors can peek inside a 1950's-style hotel room, a 1970's-style bar, and a 1930’s-style Alko store; play at being a receptionist; sing at a karaoke bar; and smell different cooking ingredients.

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Suomenlinna Toy Museum

Suomenlinna Toy Museum

Suomenlinna Toy Museum has a great collection of old toys and dolls, teddy bears, toy cars and games, some of which date back to the 1800s. A little museum showcasing the long history of toys, visiting is a unique way to get acquainted with Finnish culture and tradition. No furbies or tamagotchis here, even Suomenlinna’s newest toys are over 50 years old.

Housed in a wooden villa on Iso Mustasaari Island, the cozy museum’s private collection is large and well displayed, and has over 100 antique teddy bears on show. Suomenlinna Toy Museum is interesting for both kids and adults, and there are guidebooks available so you can read about the toys’ stories and their previous lives. The house itself was originally built in 1911 by a captain who manned the headquarters of Viapori fortress. Aptly, one of the museum’s specialities is wartime toys and games.

The museum cafe and its outdoor terrace is almost as popular as the toys The cafe sells home-made pastries, coffees and teas. There’s also a toy store where you can buy authentic Steiff teddy bears.

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Café Ursula

Café Ursula

Founded in 1952, Kaivopuisto Park’s Café Ursula quickly grew from tiny kiosk to bustling cafe by the Baltic Sea. A summertime favorite among Helsinki locals, Café Ursula’s outdoor terrace is a popular place to sit in the fresh air with a coffee, beer or glass of wine and watch the boats ply the glittering waves to Tallinn and St. Petersburg. Summertime evening events at Café Ursula include live jazz and full moon celebrations.

The self-service cafe has a popular salad buffet and also sells sandwiches, with the open-faced shrimp sandwich being especially noteworthy. Soups, cakes, pastries and ice cream are also on sale. When it’s not warm enough to sit outside on a blanket with a drink, Café Ursula is a popular place for sitting cozily indoors, looking out to the islands across the sea.

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Tennis Palace (Tennispalatsi)

Tennis Palace (Tennispalatsi)

Helsinki’s Tennis Palace (Tennispalatsi), named for its former courts, has served many purposes since its construction in 1937. The building has been a car showroom, an Olympic venue, and a museum. Today it is a recreational center home to the Helsinki Art Museum, Finland’s largest cinema complex, and a range of restaurants and bars.

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Amos Rex

Amos Rex

Reopened beneath Lasipalatsi Plaza in 2018, Amos Rex is one of Helsinki’s most notable art museums. Specializing in Finnish art from the 20th and 21st century, the museum is renowned for its boundary-pushing contemporary art and unique architecture, which features futuristic dome-like portals.

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Gallen-Kallela Museum

Gallen-Kallela Museum

Akseli Gallen-Kallela was a Finnish painter who is especially well known for his illustrations of the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala. The Gallen-Kallela Museum was once his private atelier and home, and was later converted to fit Gallen-Kallela’s personal use perfectly. The studio is open, spacious and allows a lot of light to come in, but the outside of the building and the surrounding area fit in perfectly with the romantic style of the artist as well. What is today the Gallen-Kallela Museum looks a bit like a castle and sits in the midst of green gardens and quiet nature.

The Gallen-Kallela Museum presents both well-known and lesser known works of the artist and also includes works from his friends. Additionally, it features contemporary art that relates to the paintings of Gallen-Kallela. Exhibitions change frequently and the museum also hosts a variety of events, such as concerts, special guided visits and even tattoo showcases and sauna sessions.

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Military Museum of Finland

Military Museum of Finland

Finland has plenty of wartime history and it’s the job of the Military Museum in Helsinki to preserve the collection of over 200,000 artifacts, including equipment, medals, flags, uniforms, photographs and more. The red brick building, which was used as barracks in the 1880s, not only honors the defense forces of Finland, but is also part of the Finnish National Defence University.

While the museum’s permanent exhibition displays military history from the 15th century to the present day, the focus lies on the 19th century. During that time, just after a bloody war between Sweden and Russia over control of the Baltic, Finland ended up as a Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire. Other interesting parts of the exhibition are the occupation by Sweden, the war of independence as well as Finland’s involvement in the Second World War. Apart from the main museum in Helsinki, the Military Museum also supervises the operation of a number of smaller special arms museums throughout Finland, such as the Tank Museum, the Aviation Museum or the Infantry Museum.

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Sederholm House (Sederholmin Talo)

Sederholm House (Sederholmin Talo)

Sederholm House (or Sederholmin Talo) dates from 1757 and was the house of Helsinki's then-richest merchant, Johan Sederholm. A two-story stone building with a mustard-colored roof, it was the most luxurious house in the city. Business was done on the ground floor, with storage cellars below, and the family lived in the apartments on the floor above. Apart from the windows, which were enlarged in 1866, the house is as it was when built.

These days Sederholm House is part of the Helsinki City Museum which traces the history of the city. The historic Sederholm House is used for special exhibitions. The museum has a number of other sites also including the main location atSofiankatu 4, the Tram Museum, the Power Station Museum, the School Museum,Hakasalmi Villa, the Burgher's House and the Worker Housing Museum. Each hosts exhibitions and together they form an excellent picture of life in Helsinki over the centuries.

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Villa Gyllenberg

Villa Gyllenberg

Set amid the idyllic greenery of Kuusisaari Island, the magnificent Villa Gyllenberg is one of Helsinki’s most beautifully situated museums. The historic 20th-century villa is the home of art collectors Signe and Ane Gyllenberg, and their impressive private art collection opens it doors to the public two days a week.

Inside, the gallery boasts around 400 pieces, mostly from Finnish artists and including everything from 16th century works by the old masters to modern art dating back to the 1970s. Highlights include Isak Wacklin’s Portrait of a Man, a selection of surrealist paintings by Juhani Linnovara, and a collection of around 30 Helen Schjerfbeck works. The Villa also hosts temporary exhibitions and classic music concerts.

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Linnanmaki Amusement Park

Linnanmaki Amusement Park

Famous for its 1950s wooden roller coaster—the Vuoristorata— Finland’s oldest amusement park still packs a punch today. Popular with adults and children alike, Linnanmäki Amusement Park has over 40 rides, from gravity-defying roller coasters to nostalgic carnival rides, along with games arcades and a concert stage.

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Port of Helsinki

Port of Helsinki

Once just a small fishing port, Helsinki has been the capital of Finland since 1812 and played host to the Olympic Games in 1952. Today, the port welcomes more than 300 cruise ships carrying nearly half a million passengers annually. It is also a departure point for ferries to Tallinn, Estonia; Stockholm, Sweden; and St. Petersburg, Russia.

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