The Charm of Old Helsinki
Influenced by Classicism and modernised by Functionalism, Helsinki is also known for its Art Nouveau architecture.
The Finnish National Romantic movement flourished in the early years of the 20th century. Finnish Art Nouveau drew a great deal of inspiration and influences from the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. This style is also referred to as Karelianism, after the region where the tales in the Kalevala originated.
The main railway station in Helsinki is impossible to miss. It is considered to be the most significant creation in the National Romantic style. Completed in 1919, it was designed by Eliel Saarinen, the most important member of this movement.
Adjacent to the railway station is one of the first and still most impressive public Art Nouveau buildings in Helsinki: the Finnish National Theatre. Constructed in grey Finnish granite and red roof tiles, the theatre looks as if it has been standing in the same spot for hundreds of years – even though it was designed in 1902 by the architect Onni Tarjanne.
Not far from the railway station and the National Theatre is the Finnish National Museum. Bears carved from stone greet visitors outside, and there are frescoes in the foyer depicting scenes from the Kalevala. Akseli Gallen-Kallela, renowned for his Kalevala paintings, designed the frescoes for the architects Armas Lindgren, Herman Gesellius and Eliel Saarinen.
Worth visiting neighborhoods
Katajanokka, Kruunuhaka and Eira are the neighbourhoods where visitors who want to see Art Nouveau apartment buildings should take a stroll. Kallio Church is a bit further away, but it is definitely worth a visit if you’re not in a hurry.
The old town always offers something new
An expert on Helsinki’s Art Nouveau architecture is the local chimneysweep, Isto Rantanen. Even though he’s spent over 30 years on the rooftops of Helsinki, the old architecture still makes a big impression on him.
– The best thing about the old buildings is that you can always find something new. The new buildings these days are more or less dull and disposable,” Isto claims.
Helsinki is a modern pocket-sized European city of culture that is known for its design and high technology. Helsinki’s attractive and unique character comes from its proximity to the sea, which offers an endless number of exciting opportunities in summer and winter alike.