Most beautiful libraries in Finland

5 minute read
Books and reading area inside the library of Rovaniemi in Finland.

Credits: Rovaniemi Library, Alvar Aalto

To experience the life of the locals, head to the spots where Finns spend a lot of their time. Finnish libraries are communal living rooms that offer much more than books and knowledge. They are inviting architectonic playgrounds that represent the century and decade when they were designed. Many buildings draw inspiration from Finnish nature – even an entire city plan has been designed in the shape of a well-known Finnish animal head.

We've gathered a selection of the most stunning libraries across Finland. Some are serene havens for quiet contemplation, while others offer a wide range of activities for the whole family to enjoy. The best part? These libraries are open to everyone and free of charge.

Credits: Helsinki University Library

1. The National Library of Finland, Helsinki

As you step through the massive wooden doors, you will be welcomed by high vaulted ceilings, ornate chandeliers, and a sense of grandeur. The reading room bathes in soft, natural light – it feels like time stands still here.

The main building dates back to the 1840s, and the library is an integral part of the intact Neoclassical architecture of the Senate Square. While you are in Helsinki, visit the other landmark buildings by architect Carl Ludvig Engel, such as the Helsinki Cathedral, right across the street. Please familiarise yourself with the visitor guidelines ahead of your visit and be considerate of people who are preparing for their next big exam or scientific breakthrough. For opening hours, please visit the National Library's website.

Credits: Yiping Feng & Ling Ouyang, Helsinki Partners

2. Oodi Library, Helsinki

Since its opening in 2018, Oodi, the central library of Helsinki, has become a living room for locals. What sets Oodi apart is not just its stunning architectural design – Oodi rethinks what a library can be. Play chess with a stranger on the ground floor or find your way to the gaming room, where you can try board games, virtual reality, or retro console games. In the Urban Workshop area, you can work with laser cutters, 3-D printers and even partake in a range of workshops and events for all ages. If you are travelling with children in Helsinki, play with the interactive fairy-tale wall or get active in one of the playgrounds. Enjoy a coffee on the sun terrace overlooking the popular Töölönlahti Park.

Please visit Oodi's website for the latest information on opening hours, events, and how to book the different activities. The library is close to the main railway station and just a short walk away from the Musiikkitalo concert hall and Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Oodi was designed by ALA Architects, whose work you can also marvel at the new departures and arrivals building of the Helsinki Airport.

Credits : Tuomas Uusiheimo
Credits: Tuomas Uusiheimo

3. The Helsinki University Library Kaisa House

The Kaisa House was completed in 2012 in the central Kaisaniemi district in Helsinki. It is the Helsinki University's main library and a true gem of contemporary architecture. It commands attention with its strong, distinctive presence amidst its surroundings – the facade boasts expansive windows that flood the interior with natural light. The elliptical openings create well-lit, inviting spaces where most of the library's reading areas are thoughtfully arranged. The exterior is clad in dark, rugged bricks that connect the building to the surrounding historical architecture. 

The building was designed by Anttinen Oiva Architects, and it welcomes over a million visitors annually. As Helsinki is a compact and walkable city, you can easily combine a visit here if you visit Oodi, the National Library, and other architectural gems in Helsinki.

Credits: Team Finland

4. Fyyri Library, Kirkkonummi

Fyyri is situated in the Kirkkonummi municipality, which is part of the greater Helsinki region. From the Helsinki railway station, you can take a local train, and within an hour, you will arrive at Fyyri. Fyyri is yet another masterpiece designed by JKMM Architects. As you admire the expansive reading hall, cleverly concealed beneath a copper scale cladding on the exterior, you might not even notice that this building from 2020 has enveloped an older library structure from the 1980s.

The result is a completely new, multifunctional facility serving as a library, community centre, and restaurant. This internationally acclaimed construction complements the nearby Gothic Medieval Kirkkonummi stone church, which is also worth a visit. For Fyyri's opening hours, please refer to the library’s site.

Credits: Fyyri Library Kirkkonummi

5. Main Library Metso, Tampere

The main library of Tampere City draws inspiration from Finnish nature. From above, the shape of the building resembles a metso – a wood grouse – a large bird common in Finnish forests. The library is located on Hämeenpuisto, a long green boulevard spanning the western downtown of Tampere. Hämeenpuisto connects two popular parks: Näsinpuisto Park to the north and Eteläpuisto Park to the south. As you explore this side of Tampere, step into the library to admire the asymmetrical balance and curved shapes of the library.

You won't find many straight lines in this building designed by the architect couple Raili and Reima Pietilä. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, their architectural approach was nothing short of ground-breaking. Did you know that the same couple is also behind the design of the monumental presidential residence in Helsinki and the simple island hut for the creator of the Moomins, Tove Jansson? For more information about the library and its opening hours, please visit the Metso Library website.

Credits: Laura Vanzo, Visit Tampere

6. Turku City Library

The Turku City Library is a striking architectural masterpiece featuring a modern design that seamlessly coexists with its historic surroundings. The oldest part of the library, from 1903, drew its inspiration from the late Dutch Renaissance; it is ornate and grandiose. It stands in harmony with the sleek contemporary extension from 2007 by JMKK Architects, creating a peaceful courtyard space in the middle.

The library of Turku, Finland's oldest city, sits by the banks of the Aurajoki River, among other other quintessential Turku sights. The picturesque waterway is adorned with historic buildings, charming restaurants, museums, and cafes. The library is a great place to pause during your visit and let your feet rest from walking on the beautiful cobblestone streets of Turku. Find up-to-date opening hours on the Turku City Library’s website.

Credits: Jemina Sormunen

7. Apila & Aalto Libraries, Seinäjoki

Seinäjoki is located in the South Ostrobothnia region, around 80 kilometres inland from the coastal city of Vaasa. This is another Alvar Aalto architecture pilgrimage site – but there is more. First, the library is just one among many Aalto buildings and attractions at Seinäjoki, including his earlier work from the 1920s. Second, the Aalto library was extended in 2012 with the ambitious Apila Library by JKMM Architects.

The design of the Apila Library has drawn inspiration from Japanese origami art. The facade is covered with copper scales, and the massive reading room window wall brings the outdoor space into the library area, paying homage to the Aalto Library building beside it. In Apila, you'll find Finnish design classics such as Yrjö Kukkapuro armchairs, stools from Artek, and tables from Nikari. If travelling with children, they will enjoy the fairytale room and the reading nooks built into the walls. For opening hours and more information, please visit the library’s website

Credits: Mariia Kauppi

8. Rovaniemi City Library

Rovaniemi sits on the Artic Circle in Lapland, northern Finland. The city was mostly destroyed during the Second World War, and the rebuild was guided by architect Alvar Aalto's arctic vision: the shape of Rovaniemi's city plan represents the head of a reindeer.

Within the city, Aalto’s main work is known as the Aalto Centre, which consists of the Rovaniemi City Hall, theatre, congress centre Lappia House, and the Rovaniemi City Library. On the exterior, all the buildings of the Aalto Centre are bound together by light-coloured bricks and ceramic rod tiles. The interior spaces, materials, furnishings, and lighting fixtures were all carefully considered by Aalto. The library was completed in 1968, and the upper windows rise from the rhythmically folded solid facade, bringing natural light into the building. Venture out into the pristine arctic nature to understand where Aalto drew his inspiration and how he translated the Nordic nature – the fells, Northern Lights, and the Midnight sun – into the shapes and compositions of his work. 

Credits: Rovaniemi Library, Alvar Aalto

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