Enjoy Helsinki, part 2: Museums of Helsinki 101

Welcome back! I hope you had a fabulous time perusing the beautiful streets of our city. This time I thought that we’d take an intellectually nourishing route through the more interesting museums. And to be sure, there are more than these, please do visit them all. Think of this as just a light snack.

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1. Ateneum Art Museum

A thing of beauty, this grand old lady sits right next to the railway station, smack in the center of Helsinki. The museum houses some of the most important Finnish art pieces across the ages. Currently it is running an exhibition called “Stories of Finnish art”.

The Ateneum Art Museum has the country’s oldest and largest art collection. It tells not only the story of Finnish art, but also how the art field was developed here. This narrative is recorded in acquisitions of work, documents, oral histories and accounts.

The food on offer in the immediate vicinity of Ateneum is surprisingly not the brightest in the city, although there are some gems around. Here are the best ones.

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Leonardo

A rather good italian restaurant with some of the best pizzas in town. This is right in the center of the heavy traffic area of Helsinki, so be prepared to wait at the bar for a bit if you are eating during the rush hours (11:30 – 12:30 and 17:00 – 19:00). This is right next to the museum, located in the street level of the infamous Makkaratalo (Sausage house) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City-Center, where you can also find many other restaurants, shops and boutiques.

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Vapiano

Another italian, but with a delish twist. You come in, get a card and then choose your dish(es) from a selection of cooks and you get to have a say so in the contents of your dish. The food is good and watching as it is made is magical. Eating below the old olive tree is also a lovely way to enjoy your meal. Just across the street from the exhibition, located in the “Fennia Quarter” with the International Cultural Center Caisa. You can also find the Casino Helsinki next door.

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Momotoko

Trendy ramen, tonkatsu and donburi on offer at this fast casual restaurant. The japanese dishes are tasty and it is just around the corner from Ateneum and next to the Kluuvi shopping center.

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Fratello

Inside the Kluuvi shopping center, but still just a small walking distance from Ateneum you can find the delightful cafe Fratello. Stay for the salads, pasta or risotto and admire the graffitti on the wall.

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Morrison’s

Right behind Ateneum you can find Morrison’s, with their big burgers and steaks. You can also get to this through the Ateneum shop. Just don’t eat at the Tablo Ateneum restaurant, you’ll thank me.

 

2. Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma

The cool kid, with the leaky roof and the big glass walls. Here are the biggest modern art exhibitions in Finland, such as the upcoming ARS17. This is just a short hop from Ateneum, just go past the Sokos and Postitalo and you’re golden.

Number one contemporary art museum in Finland. Kiasma is a home of contemporary art where everyone is welcome.

If you are still feeling peckish after consuming all that art, then head on over to one of these restaurants. Oh and sorry, no pictures for these restaurants. The originals are so horrible that I just cannot put them here.

 

Eatos

An excellent mexican restaurant right next to the Helsinki railway station. Classier street food in a restaurant environment with delicious tasting dishes.

Jufu

An above average chinese buffet, with some specialities on offer such as mantou and kimchi-like side dishes.

Red Apple

Another chinese buffet (the area is lacking in good restaurants), also pretty good, as the above Jufu. This is located in the Sanomatalo, the headquarters of Sanoma, a Finnish media company.

Casa Largo

Moving to the other side of the Postitalo (old head office of the Finnish Mail), you can find the spanish restaurant Casa Largo, on the first floor of the Sokos department store. Going back to Kiasma, if you go through the Postitalo, you can find one of the leading camera stores in Finland, Rajala Pro Shop.

Kiasma Café

And of course there is always the restaurant/cafe in Kiasma itself. Pretty good and most definitely a better that the one in Ateneum. Stay a while and watch the skateboarders outside. Also, in the front of the cafe (you can’t miss it) is the Mannerheim statue.

 

3. Helsinki Art Museum HAM

The renovated Tennispalatsi is a curious mix of the banal and the high-brow. HAM brings its own with their exhibitions of modern art and contemporary art. Get some popcorn and catch a movie after browsing through the wonders or visit some of the wonderful restaurants in and around the complex.

HAM draws attention to modern art and contemporary art in its exhibitions which are held principally at the Tennis Palace.

Getting here from Kiasma is very easy, just cross the road, sidle up next to Kamppi et voilà.

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Lumière

Fitting the atmosphere this french bistro mixes slow food with a fast delivery and a very casual environment. Located on the same second floor as HAM, right past the Steam Coffee.

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Steam Coffee

At first sight you would not necessarily believe it, but they have great Phở, in addition to the more normal cafe fare. This is also conveniently right next to the HAM entrance.

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BBQ House

Just a few steps from Tennispalatsi if the Kamppi shopping center with it’s carnal joys and fashionable shops. BBQ House certainly has beef, and suprisingly good salads also. But get a steak, that is what they are here for.

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Konnichiwa

Across the street (which is actually an old railway “canyon”) there is a sushi restaurant with an above average lunch buffet.

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Twisted Street Kitchen

Only a few image4. Natural History Museum, Kunsthalle Helsinki and National Museum of Finland

Had enough of contemporary art? Well know, do I have a spot for you. Just come down back from the Rock Church (wasn’t it just fantastic?) and clamber on towards the Natural History Museum. This was renovated in 2008 and the result was a resound success. The vivid dioramas on show in the permanent exhibitions are truly amazing and artfully created. Bring the kids, they’ll love it!

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Natural History Museum

When was the last time you paused at the feet of a dinosaur or listened to the sounds of the night under the starry sky of Africa?

After the Natural History Museum, have I got a suprise for you. More contemporary art! Bet you did not see that coming? Ha! But seriously, the Kunsthalle Helsinki has a variety of interesting exhibitions, rangind from the modern art to architecture and beyond. The building also has one of the top asian restaurants in Helsinki.

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Kunsthalle Helsinki

Kunsthalle Helsinki has been a central place for changing exhibitions since 1928. It was created because there were artists who needed a place to arrange changing contemporary art exhibitions in the Finnish capital.

And very close to the Kunsthalle, in fact just around the corner, after the Finnish Parliament House you will get to the National Museum of Finland, where you can learn about the history of this remote land and it’s strange people. In the top floor there is a workshop where you get to have a hands-on museum experience, which the kids just love.

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National Museum of Finland

National Museum illustrates Finnish history from medieval times to the 19th century. The museum’s unique exhibits tells of the life from a period of over 1000 years.

And the best restaurants close to these museums are:

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Farang

Perhaps the best asian restaurant in Helsinki, the fine-dining experience has some truly great tastes. But last time I checked in there, they had a fair few misses also. You have been warned.

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Manala

Straight up home meal lunches in a bar environment. This place serves up good value for money food and the operates at inhuman hours.

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Corretto Deli & Cafe

An italian style deli with an antipasto + soup lunch. Get a coffee and some snack to freshen up on your journey.

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Tanskalainen Voileipä

Smörgåsbord style sandwiches on offer at this incredibly small restaurant. You should go and check this out just for the sake of it.

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5. Sinebrychoff Art Museum

From the National Museum of Finland you will want to take a tram towards Bulevardi. Walking down this wonderful street will take you over towards the Hietalahti Market Hall and across the street is the Sinebrychoff Park and Art Museum.

The collections of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum include some of the most valuable and internationally important paintings by old European masters to be found in Finland.

After the museum, you will certainly want to check out the restaurants in this area, as the Hietsun Market Hall and surroundings has some real doozies.

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Trattoria Corretto

A top notch italian restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere and good service. Get the shrimp pasta (I loved it) or the lasagne, they are incredible.

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Southpark

Californian inspired food with a lovely view to the park. Come early to get a place in the sunny terace and enjoy the urban Helsinki parklife.

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Shubha Kamana

One of the best nepalese restaurants in Helsinki with just the fluffiest Naan-breads you can imagine. Next building to this is the famous Nosturi, that houses Fridathe Elmu-society which has for many years been one of the driving forces in Helsinki for more youthful (rock etc) music culture.

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Le Marché

A lovely french bistro in Hietalahti Market Hall, right next to Trattoria Corretto. And sometimes they have a very nice Fridays’ deal where you get the appetizers at Le Marché and the main course at Trattoria Corretto with a glass of wine.

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Kimchi Wagon

I bet you cannot guess what they offer? You get one guess. Kimchi? Yes indeed! I honestly don’t know how you do it. But yes, they do have Korean inspired dishes and many condiments (including kimchi) to add to your meal.

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6. Seurasaari Open-Air Museum and Suomenlinna Museum

After all those museums, you need to get a breath of fresh air. Some of the best places in Helsinki for that are the Suomenlinna fortress island and the Seurasaari island.

Seurasaari Open-Air Museum

Seurasaari is a lovely place to visit, with it’s ye olden buildings and rocky shores where you can go and have a swim or just bathe in the sun. Also, if you find yourself in Helsinki during the Midsummer (Juhannus) festivities and are wondering where everybody went, it’s not all cottages nowadays, there’s actually a bonfire and a party at Seurasaari and you are invited.

The open-air museum of Seurasaari is located on a beautiful green island just a few kilometres from the heart of Helsinki. The island is a tranquil oasis in the midst of the city and at the museum the traditional Finnish way of life is displayed in the cottages, farmsteads and manors of the past four centuries that have been relocated from all around Finland.

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Suomenlinna Museum

Suomenlinna is one of the have-to-see places when visiting Helsinki. The fortress is large and varied, with manu museums, restaurants and parks you can enjoy. For a very pleasent afternoon tea or coffee, head on over to Café Vanille that also makes picnic baskets on order.

The story of Suomenlinna, originally called Sveaborg or Viapori in Finnish, begun in 1748 when Sweden begun fortification work on the Susiluodot islands off Helsinki. Swedish era of the fortress continued for 60 years until 1808, when Viapori was besieged by the Russian forces in the Russo-Swedish war.

But what to eat at these islands? Well, you might be interested in these places that offer great foodstuff for picnics and other outdoorsy occasions.

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Hanoi Vietnam

Care for some Bánh mì thit or vietnamese summer rolls? Then look no further, this Old Market Hall merchant has you covered. Conveniently placed next to the Suomenlinna ferries, grap a meal or two and go. But if you decide to “eat in”, you will get a real street food sitting.

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Rulla

Another place to get some fantastic summer rolls, Rulla is a bit of a hop from the harbor, but most definitely a great place to pick up. If you have a bigger party, then call ahead.

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Picnic

You can find these cafes all over the city and for a good reason. They offer great food at reasonable prices and everything is ready to be packed up to go. Get the stuffed baquettes, they hold for long and a super tasty.

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Stockmann Deli

Stockmann is the biggest apartment store in Helsinki and you should visit them when in Helsinki. But to give you an even better incentive, the Stockmann Deli has a plethora of delicious things all ready to take away on that special picnic.

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7. Didrichsen Art Museum

Moving on from the open air, you should check out this interesting mix of a private home and a museum. This is close by to Seurasaari, so you could make a day of it.

The museum holds two to three exhibitions a year, varying from Finnish art to modern international art. Permanently on display are the Pre-Columbian and Asian collections and artwork in the sculpture park.

Unfortunately the area is packed with embassies and other high priced homes and is therefore rather sparren when it comes to eateries. But close by you can find a depressingly good example of an old, dilapidated Finnish mall. But behing that crubmling facade you can find a true gem of a restaurant.

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Old Jerusalem

This place offers some of the best Middle Eastern food in Helsinki. Get the “Sultan’s plate” for a delightful cross-cut of their offerings.

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8. Amos Anderson Art Museum

After seeing the Didrichsen collection, might I interest you in another great patron of the arts? Amos Anderson left behind quite a legacy, of which this museum is just a part of. The museum is conveniently located in the same block as Forum, one of the bigger shopping malls in Helsinki.

Amos Anderson Art Museum is known for its diverse and varying exhibition programme as well as for its extensive collection of modern art. Some rooms from Amos Anderson’s home as well as his private chapel are permanently on display.

And once again, the café of the museum is not really the place you want to dine. Luckily the area is packed (, packed I say!) with excellent restaurants that will entice you with their menus.

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Sinne

A truly wonderful restaurant with great service and delicious food, whether you want a gourmet burger or a three course meal.

KarlJohan

Finnish food made well and some lunch specialities using offal that are hard to find in Helsinki.

Kitch

A no nonsense kitchen with tasty salads, tapas and soups alongside burgers.

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Torni

This is a grand old lady amongst the Helsinki restaurants, having served food since 1931. Get a hearty lunch in a pleasant environment to get your strength up and then take the elevator up to the top floor to take a peek at one of the best views in Helsinki. The Ateljée Bar has good (but expensive) cocktails and a truly breathtaking view over the city skyline. Be sure to check out the restrooms, you’ll know why when you get there.

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Why join the navy when you can be a pirate

Once you get down from the Torni, why not get yourself a make-your-own-ramen at this restaurant run by an ad agency.

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9. Design Museum

From Kamppi you should take the number 10 tram to the Design Museum. The tram passes the Diana Park, which you might also be interested in. The design museum has changing exhibitions from legendary design heroes to design for children. If you are interested in Nordic design and want to look past IKEA, then you need to check this out.

Design Museum’s fundamental promise of a life that is designed in better ways derives from the core mission of all design. It is meant to improve life, making it more beautiful, more functional and appropriate to its purpose.

After all the exquisite objects, maybe you should enjoy some food that is on the same level? Fortunately the area has some of the best restaurants in town, here are just a few of them.

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Juuri

Don’t let the spartan design (see what I did there? Huh? Nudge nudge, wink wink) fool you, their intricately delicious menu is packed full of Finnish food that you just have to try. Take the Sapas (Suomi tapas) as an hors d’oeuvre.

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Vinkkeli

An old fashioned, this one, with a modern take on the Great Gatsby timeline. Sit back and relaxed as you are served by some of the best in Helsinki.

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OX

Flavours from the near-east, prepared with care and served with a professional touch. If you’re hungry and not in a hurry, get the never ending (fine dining) menu. And whatever else you do, get the tomato soup!

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El Rey

This mexican taqueria has a fresh take on street food and is perfect for a relaxed evening, going over your favorite designs.

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The Mess

Youthful and playful, they have a good selection of the basics, from The Bubba Gump Burger to the sirloin Steak with fries. And if you see Fish & Chips on the list? Don’t blink, just go for it.

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10. Helsinki City Museum

This is just a short walk from the Design Museum, just head on over to the harbour and make your way along the Kauppatori Market Square right on over to Senaatintori Senate Square. Here you can find the Helsinki City Museum, which obviously shows you a thing or two about the city and the people.

The Helsinki City Museum is the world’s only museum focusing on Helsinki. Personal experiences and everyday life of people in Helsinki are highlighted and reflected in the museum’s items and photographs.

I know, I know. You must be exhausted from all that culture. I feel you, I honestly do. That’s why I saved the best for last, because I care. Here you go, hope you enjoyed the journey.

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Olo

The best restaurant in Finland and an internationally known, with it’s two Michelin stars. This is the haute cuisine, please yourself.

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Finnjävel

A fresh newcomer to the Finnish restaurant scene, they have come out with a ruckus. To really get a feel what Finnish food can be, go here and enjoy some of the best food that you can find anywhere.

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Ask

A beautifully intimate dining experience and a lovely perspective on Finnish food, you will love the whole experience from the start to the finnish (ha!).

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Bystro

And another restaurant by the Finnjävel’s two successful restaurateurs, Henri Alén ja Tommi Tuominen, this one has a distinctly Russian motif. You should definitely go for the vodka and blinis.

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Salutorget

For the finale, you have the Salutorget, offering various classical dishes such as the Toast Skagen, Fried Baltic herrings with potato puré and Traditional salmon soup. Stay for a bit, they also have afternoon tea and Gentleman’s tea, if you feel like it.

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And once again, I bid you farewell. But we will meet again, I am sure. You know where I live, well, at least where I write. So feel free to come by anytime. Share and enjoy!

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