If silence is golden, then it’s at its most valuable in Finland. From walking in the quiet of a forest, to going about your business without the pressure to engage in small talk – Finland is a country where you can unplug from the noise of modern life.
Hiljaisuus Festivaali (“Silence Festival”) is a celebration of this essential feature of Finnish culture. Held some 120 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle in the heart of Lapland, the 4-day festival is a meeting of contemporary circus and classical music in a setting that inspires calm, collaboration and re-connecting with nature.
Despite its name, the festival is not a silent meditation retreat! It’s just a chance to slow down and get to know your fellow festival goers, which may be easier in the river-side village atmosphere of Kaukonen than at larger festivals.
Silence Festival 2019 takes place from June 5th to 8th.
Photo: Silence Festival, Jouni Ihalainen
The Baltic Sea around Finland has one of the world’s most extensive archipelagos, including many islands in the capital region itself. Ferries run regularly from multiple
points around the city, making Helsinki the ideal base for day trips to explore the archipelago.
A must-see is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Suomenlinna – an 18-century fortress on a group of islands just outside the city. Accessible year round by ferry, Suomenlinna offers cultural attractions, cafés, restaurants and even has its own brewery.
Next to Suomenlinna is the island of Vallisaari, which can be reached by water bus from Helsinki’s main market square during the summer months. In addition to its old fortifications, Vallisaari is known for the diversity of its animal and plant life, including more than 1,000 species of butterfly.
In the summer of 2020, the island will play host to the first edition of the new Helsinki Biennial. With Vallisaari as the backdrop, a program of contemporary art, architecture, design and urban culture will highlight Helsinki’s character and relationship with the surrounding archipelago. It promises to be a defining moment for Helsinki and is not to be missed!
Fiskars – the brand famous for its scissors – is also a village in Finland. Home to artists, designers and other artisans, Fiskars Village has been rated as Finland’s best domestic travel destination, and has also received a Culture EDEN award. It’s a taste of Finnish craftsmanship in a traditional rural setting – less than an hour from Helsinki.
The village has a variety of options for accommodation and dining, and plays host to several food-related events each year. Fiskars is a haven for shopping too – from candles and leather goods to ceramics, furniture and more.
For almost 50 years, the late Veijo Rönkkönen designed and built concrete statues reflecting a range of themes. Today, some 560 of these works are on display in the Parikkala Sculpture Park, established on the site where the reclusive artist lived and worked in the town of Koitsanlahti, near Finland’s border with Russia.
The park features more than 255 figures in different yoga positions, animal and plant sculptures, alien characters, and more – all in a wonderful garden setting of nearly half a hectare. Many pieces are thinly disguised self-portraits of the artist, who rarely ventured outside of the world he’d built around himself.
Trains from Helsinki to Joensuu stop at the Parikkala railway station.
Photos by Kimmo Heikkilä
For a glimpse into the future of sustainable urban living, visit the city of Tampere – some 180 kilometres north of Helsinki – and its real-life laboratory suburb: Hiedenranta.
Located on the site of an old industrial area, Hiedenranta brings together everything from an Olympic-standard skateboarding hall and a floating sauna, to closed-cycle farming and nutrient recycling.
An innovative model for collaboration between residents, businesses and organizations is central to the progressive ethos of Hiedenranta. The city plans to build some 25,000 homes in the area, as well as to create 10,000 jobs – all with the underlying goal of more sustainable living.
Photo by Laura Vanzo, Visit Tampere
It’s impossible to miss the distinctive architecture of Kiasma in downtown Helsinki. Located opposite the Finnish Parliament, the museum is one of the Nordic region’s leading resources for contemporary art.
Between April 2019 and March 2020, Kiasma will host an exhibition called Coexistence, which looks at the relationship between humans, animals and nature. The exhibition explores how nature is portrayed in contemporary art, and also how the human relationship with other species is depicted.
Coexistence forms part of an overall 2019 theme for Kiasma around what it means to live a good life.
Since 1993, the Mänttä Art Festival has been one of Finland’s leading summer contemporary art exhibits. With a new curator each year, the festival always presents a fresh perspective on the Finnish art scene.
The theme for the 2019 edition is The Human Era. Through the work of more than 50 artists, the exhibition looks at the impact humans are having on nature and its resources, with religious, political and other perspectives presented.
The festival is held at the Pekilo Exhibition Centre, which is easy to reach by bus from the Tampere railway station.
Mänttä is also the home of Serlachius Museums. The roots of the museums reflect the history of the Finnish forest industry and the small mill town of Mänttä, as well as the Serlachius family. Read more about the Serlachius Museums here.
Epic. This is the word to describe the work of Finland’s most famous painter: Aleksi Gallen-Kallela (1865-1931). He brought the canvas to life with paintings depicting the poems of the Kalevala, the 19th-century work of myths and folklore at the heart of the Finnish national identity.
Gallen-Kallela was also a prolific traveller, photographer and collector of artefacts, with many of these items on display along with his paintings at the Gallen-Kallela Museum. Located in the city of Espoo – one of the three cities that make up Greater Helsinki – the museum is housed in the castle-like Tarvaspää studio and residence built by the artist himself.
The Gallen-Kallela Museum is open daily (with a few exceptions) and can easily be reached by car, bus or bike from central Helsinki.
World-renowned Finnish designer and architect Alvar Aalto designed Villa Mairea together with his wife, Aino, as a rural retreat for their friends Maire and Harry Gullichsen.
Completed in 1939, the house is a timeless collage of wood, stone, glass and steel in the village of Noormarkku, near the town of Pori. Villa Mairea is significant because Aalto
was given free rein to experiment, and thus brought together many of the architectural themes he was passionate about at the time.
As the house is still partly in private use, it can only be visited by prior reservation. Villa Mairea celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2019 – and visitor numbers may
swell as a result – so be sure to book early!
Noormarkku is just 20 minutes by bus from Pori, which has excellent connections to Helsinki.