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.
Helsinki is a modern, pocket-sized European city known for design and high technology. Helsinki’s attractive and unique character comes from its proximity to the sea, as well as its location between the East and the West.
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.
The station is mostly clad in Finnish granite, and its distinguishing features are its clock tower and the two pairs of statues holding the spherical lamps, lit at night-time, on either side of the main entrance. The station is used by approximately 200,000 passengers per day, making it Finland’s most-visited building.
One of the first and still most impressive public Art Nouveau buildings in Helsinki is 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.
Nice neighbourhoods for a stroll
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.
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.
Swimming in style since the 1920’s
Yrjönkatu swimming hall built in 1920′s is a unique environment for relaxation in the heart of Helsinki.
Old Porvoo is one of Finland’s most idyllic districts. The cobbled streets are lined with old, doll-house-like houses and on top of the hill a white stone church looks over the river valley. Wonderful in the summer, magical during wintertime. Only one hour East of Helsinki.