• The Old Poly on Lönnrotinkatu (Helsinki)

    The Old Poly building, currently Hotel Glo Art, is home to a wealth of symbols, both droll and heroic.

  • The Pohjola building on Aleksanterinkatu (Helsinki)

    Urban legend has it that kissing Kullervo’s curvaceous lips at the strangely delicious Pohjola building is good accident prevention.

  • The National Museum of Finland (Helsinki)

    Gaze up at the fabulous Kalevala frescoes in the foyer of the National Museum to get a hit of what inspired J. R. Tolkien to write the Ring series.

  • A staircase on Unioninkatu (Helsinki)

    Have a local cider or a good salad in Café Jugend on one side of the Tourist Information Office and pop into the wildest staircase (that’s open anyway) in Helsinki on the other side.

  • Villa Johanna on Laivurinkatu (Helsinki)

    Take Tram 3B in a circuit of the city but get off (and back on) at Eira Hospital, unlike any other, and Villa Johanna, the most iconic house in the North, in a neighborhood full of the style.

  • A staircase on Luotsikatu (Helsinki)

    Walk the Katajanokka area where you’ll see odd creatures, fabulous entrances and occasional glimpses into the painted staircases of old.

  • Helsinki Central Railway Station

    The Railway Station of 1909 designed by Eliel Saarinen is one of the earliest and purest examples of what would later become known as Art Deco.

  • Kallio Church (Helsinki)

    Kallio Church has lovely details throughout and the seven-bell carillon rings at noon and at six in a melody by Sibelius.

  • Hvitträsk museum (Kirkkonummi, near Helsinki)

    Hvitträsk where architect Eero Saarinen grew up among romantic and creative triangles is a National Romantic jewel.

  • Visavuori museum (Valkeakoski, near Tampere)

    Visavuori is the former home and studio of the great sculptor, Emil Wickström.

  • Tuomiokirkko Cathedral (Tampere)

    Tampere Cathedral is a sublime masterpiece of National Romantic mysticism.

  • Mikaelinkirkko Church (Turku)

    Mikaelinkirkko (Michael’s Church) was designed by Lars Sonck when he was only 23 and the youthful joy of the place is well worth the pilgrimage.

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Storybook Helsinki and Beyond

When the architecture of Helsinki or Finland is being discussed, most people think of the clean simple lines of Alvar Aalto’s modernist creations. Yet the wealth of Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, Arts-and-Crafts and even Art Deco period buildings and landmarks around the country is just as remarkable.

Cody Oreck, wife of the American Ambassador to Finland, noticed this soon after settling in Helsinki. “The Finns don’t always see it but to those of us who visit this place, it’s quirky and exuberant—a hugely appealing, totally Finnish take on Jugendstil and Art Nouveau that you simply won’t find anyplace else,” she says.

Inspired by what she saw, Cody put together a big picture book with young Romanian photographer Octavian Bâlea. Their creation is called Storybook Helsinki and Beyond – “something we wanted to find as outsiders but couldn’t.” The book’s photographs – all shot on real film – reveal a darkly colorful and eccentric side of Finland’s capital ‘and beyond’ that is little known abroad but well worth exploring.

‘The story’ is the one this public art and architecture told the world, and even Finns themselves. The story of what it meant to be Finnish instead of Swedish or Russian in the chapter leading to Finnish independence declared in 1917, still speaks to visitors today.


Helsinki is a modern European city, where more than 450 years of history and tradition blend seamlessly with contemporary design and trends. Cosy and compact in size, exploring the Finnish capital is stress free.

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