Finland

Bike & Design in Helsinki

On board, on board! We arrived in Helsinki by boat crossing the bay on the Baltic sea! Lots of people buying alcohol in Tallinn’s harbor duty free shops; we only understood the reason after, when we paid 7€ for our first bear in Helsinki!

We stood in a very quiet apartment 25 minutes walking far from the Downtown, so we decided to go out immediately after leaving our luggage. The surroundings of the Railway Station and Esplanadin Street (that goes straight to the Harbor area) were plenty of people chilling out on Saturday night. We also passed in front of the Cathedral and the Government Palace in the Senate Square which was built at the time of Russian occupation is neoclassic style. We were already getting used with long days but it’s always stunning to see some light in the sky after 11 pm.

Without a guidebook, we counted on Tripadvisor website where we read that one of the best things to do in Helsinki is to rent a bike. We spent all Sunday afternoon biking on coastlines, crossing bridges and green islands to arrive in the Alvar Aalto University. For those who do not know (don’t be afraid, is normal if you are not married with an architect), Alvar Aalto is the most famous architect and design in Finland. With projects, as the University of Technology and the Finlandia Hall and objects as the Savoy Vase, he contributed to give to Finland the leadership in the world of design in the 50’s and the 60’s. By the way, Finland design still lives of the benefits of that golden age; an important part of tourists come here to buy glass and wooden art crafts and visit the Museum of Design.

We tried to avoid traps for tourists with the visit of Alvar Aalto Studio which is not in the center and does not attract a lot of people also because of the price of the 17 € of the entry. The Studio was built in 1955, it was designed to be used as A.A. own new office (the old one was his house in close to the Studio). On the ground floor are located the kitchen and the living room for the staff, but the legend says that A.A. himself used to sit in the smallest corner of the room drawing and meeting clients. In the upper floor there are the office, the showroom and a small meeting room with a white wall to stitch projects, very original windows provide natural light. The guide of the Museum could really be more precise and we recommended the visit only if you are really interested on the subject. We continued our A.A. circuit passing beside his house, the Finland Hall and the Book Shop Downtown.

We went also in the Design Museum. It shows objects and furniture to explain the history of design in Finland. It was interesting but the museum that we really recommend if you go to Helsinki is the Ateneum Art Museum. It exposes Finnish paintings, drawings and sculptures from the 18th-century rococo portraiture to the experimental art movements of the 20th century. It’s a probably the only occasion that we have had to learn something about history and art of Finland.

Another walk that we suggest is the one who take to Temppliaukion Kirkko, known also as Rock Church. It’s a Lutheran Church in the Töölö neighborhood, it’s remains 20 minutes walking from downtown.  you will enjoy a different area of the city. The church was designed by architects Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and inaugurated in 1969. The interior was excavated and built directly out of solid rock and is bathed in natural light which enters through the glazed dome. The church is often used as concert hall because of its excellent acoustic.

And if you want to have Helsinki at your feet: Ateljee Bar it’s in the top of the Hotel Torni Tower. It’s known especially for its toilets which have scenic glass walls to the outside. They’re amazing, but the best view still remains the ones from the two terraces at the top floor; they’re not so big so you may wait a little bit to have a nice place to sit! History time: the Torni Tower opened in 1931 and remained the tallest building of Finland till 1976 when the Fortum (then Neste) headquarters were built.

Helsinki is a rich city, elegant from a certain point of view, where everything seems to turn around the design; it’s only leaving the path and taking a bike that we really enjoyed the seaside and the splendid nature.

FOR THE VIEW: Hotel Torni, Atelijee Bar: Yrjönkatu 26
CULTURE: Alvar Aalto Studio, Tiilimäki 20
MORE CULTURE:  Ateneum Art Museum, Kaivokatu 2

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