Following on from my first ‘Cedges Travels’ post I have continued
to bore you with excessive details of my 5 days holiday with my musings on some of Helsinki’s tourist attractions. This is by no mean a comprehensive guide but incorporates some of my favourite places to visit. And a random picture of a wooden carved seagull. Naturally!
There is a surprising amount to see and do in such a small city. Despite four visits to date, there are still a bunch of things that I haven’t got around to seeing.
The Kaampi Chapel of Silence located in the middle of the main shopping district might just be my favourite building in the world. And for an ardent atheist for that to be a religious building is no insurmountable feat. It was built as part of Helsinki being named design capital of the year in 2012 and I happened to be there the day it opened. Its a non denominational chapel with no scheduled services with free entry to all. I ran ahead of my tour group to take some more snaps to add to my collection of the chapel empty. The smooth wood and organic curves just speak to me. I’m increasingly coming to terms with the fact that I just really like things made of smooth planed wood. Being a little haven of silence in the middle of the city does it no harm. Whenever I hear someone is visiting Helsinki I tell them to come here, even if they only have a hour and this is the only thing they see – I think its worth it.
Whilst on the subject, the ‘Rock Church’, whilst not a primarily a purveyor of heavy metal church services like the name suggests (‘Metal Mass’ services do exist tho!), it is hewn out of the rocks and the architecture is just stunning. Make sure to check the opening times for visiting however as I’ve been stung on a few occasions when services are taking place and its closed, not just on Sunday mornings either.
Rounding off the churches of Helsinki are the beautifully ornate former Russian orthodox Uspenski Cathedral and the main Lutheran Helsinki Cathedral with its white domes located in the main square. Both are worth a visit just to ooh and ah at the architecture if nothing else.
On this trip I finally made it to the Design Museum in Helsinki’s design district and found an exhibition of Eero Aarnio who even if you think you aren’t familiar with his work, you probably are….you know that hanging ball chair? Yup thats him. The curating of the exhibition was excellent with the furniture items on moving platforms with sensors. I also had a little go in the colouring room – this might have been my favourite 10 minutes of the day actually! There is also an exhibition of the history of Finnish design and there is a further exhibition space which was being rehung during my visit. Everything is uber cool here but totally down to earth with it.
Seurasaari Open Air Museum was a new experience for me, a short bus ride away from the town centre, the whole island is a museum. Its totally free in the winter and it turns out that its also free in the summer unless you want to go into the various houses and buildings that they have scattered around. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful morning to wander around a lush forest island but I probably wouldn’t bother paying to go inside the structures again although I’m pleased I did it the once.
There was some sort of exhibition on when i was there but I didn’t quite understand the concept. I certainly didn’t understand this….
Answers on a post card please!
On previous visits I’ve taken the municipal ferry over to Suomenlinna and wandered around the island. There are walking tours to take and several restaurants and cafes to visit around what is essentially a fortress island. You can go into the old fortress tunnels and see how the soldiers there lived and there are several little museums if you fancy them. You can spend a good afternoon here, longer if you like to just wander around. Whats odd is that a number of people actually live there permanently. Not as odd as families actually living at the Tower of London but still weird!
There are a multitude of other attractions such as Kiasma, the contemporary art gallery which I will one day visit without a horrendous hangover, the Olympic Stadium with its observation tower to get an amzing view over the city and out to sea or the free Botanical Gardens near the stadium. The Sibelius Monument is a stunning moving sculpture dedicated to Finland’s most famous composer (handy nugget of knowledge for any University Challenge questions starting “Which nordic composer”…!). I have been to Helsinki Zoo but I wouldn’t recommend it really, there are much better zoos and much better things to do in Helsinki.
I haven’t yet made it to the Amusement Park, the National Art Museum or National Museum of Finland. There is also a random food service history museum that sounds totally bonkers but I’d love to go – all the reviews I’ve read are excellent!
Coming up next time…..Coffee and Booze