Called the “Daughter of the Baltic”, Helsinki is on the tip of a peninsula and on 315 islands.
Helsinki, is the world’s northernmost metropolitan area with over one million people as well as the northernmost capital of an EU member state. After Stockholm and Oslo, Helsinki is the third largest city in the Nordic countries.
Helsinki has one of the highest urban standards of living in the world. In 2011, the British magazine Monocle ranked Helsinki the world’s most liveable city in its liveable cities index. In the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2016 liveability survey, Helsinki was ranked ninth among 140 cities. In 2018, Finland is the happiest country in the world, according to a report by the United Nations.
Swedes colonized the coastline of the Helsinki region in the late 13th century after the successful Second Crusade to Finland.
It was not until Russia defeated Sweden in the Finnish War and annexed Finland as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland in 1809 that the town began to develop into a substantial city. The Russian Emperor Alexander I of Russia moved the Finnish capital from Turku to Helsinki in 1812 to reduce Swedish influence in Finland, and to bring the capital closer to Saint Petersburg.
Music is the answer at Temmpeliaukio Church
Built into the bedrock, Temmpeliaukio Church is Helsinki’s favourite attraction and an important architecture – based destination. Its impressive atmosphere, splendid architecture and excellent acoustics have made the church popular not only with travellers but also with local inhabitants and concert arrangers.
Seurasaari island's open air museum
The first open-air museum (1909) in Finland is a tranquil oasis in the midst of the city and at the museum the traditional Finnish way of life is displayed in the cottages, farmsteads and manors of the past four centuries that have been relocated from all around Finland. It is a comprehensive review of traditional housing and architecture.
Walked the place in fast forward, see the results in pictures.
The brilliant architect's Aalto House
In 1934, Aino and Alvar Aalto acquired a site in almost completely untouched surroundings at Riihitie in Helsinki’s Munkkiniemi. They started designing their own house which was completed in August 1936.
The house was designed as both a family home and an office and these two functions can clearly be seen from the outside. The slender mass of the office wing is in white-painted, lightly rendered brickwork. There are still clear references to Functionalism in the location of the windows. The cladding material of the residential part is slender, dark-stained timber battens. The building has a flat roof and a large south-facing terrace.
Although the street side elevation of the house is severe and closed-off, it is softened by climbing plants and a slate path leading up to the front door. There are already signs of the ‘new’ Aalto in the Aalto House, of the Romantic Functionalist. The plentiful use of wood as a finishing material and four open hearts built in brick also point to this.
The Aalto House is a cosy, intimate building for living and working, designed by two architects for themselves, using simple uncluttered materials.
Kiasma Museum for contemporary art
Kiasma is Finnish for chiasma, a term that describes the crossing of nerves or tendons or the intertwining of two chromatids, the thread-like strands of a chromosome. The name is a fitting symbol for a museum of contemporary art: Kiasma is a place of encounters. It is an arena for the exchange of opinions and the redefinition of art and culture.
The Old Market Hall
In 19th century Helsinki, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland, groceries were mainly sold in outdoor marketplaces. The idea that trade could take place in covered halls only came to light in the last decades of the century. A new consciousness about food hygiene was the main reason for this, but it was also hoped that the occasionally disorderly market trade would become better organized if moved indoors.
The construction of the first indoor hall in Helsinki, the Old Market Hall, was started at Eteläranta near the Market Square in 1888. This is the year written above the southern entrance of the building, but because of problems with cement delivery, the hall was not opened to the public until 1889. The building was designed by Gustaf Nyström who had studied how market halls were built in large European cities.
At the time of opening the hall had 120 stalls as well as 6 shops in the central gallery. Regulations stated that vendors were allowed to sell meat products, eggs, butter, cheese and garden produce. At the turn of the century, some of the fish trade from the outdoor marketplace was also moved into the hall.
Sauna is, and has always been, a significant part of everyday life in Finland.
It is a warm and sterile place where you could wash off the dirt from a days work. It was a space to wash laundry, smoke and dry meat or treat the sick people, give birth and wash the dead ones. Therefore Sauna is present in every step of the Finnish people’s circle of life.
While Sauna had such an important role in the physical life in Finland, it also has a strong spiritual side. There are hundreds of tales about the sauna spirits, the elves and gnomes that live in Sauna and the ways people had to keep them happy, so they don’t harm the Sauna or the people using it.
The fact that Finland has about 3 million saunas and 5,5 million people, means that almost every family in Finland owns their own sauna. In the cities, where there were no private saunas, people used to go to public saunas. A very strong culture developed around these public saunas, as there was very little other places to get clean. Finnish people get used to sauna as little babies and are, so to speak, born into the culture.
In the 50’s the bathrooms in apartments became more common and the public sauna culture started to fade. Since beginning of 2010 the public sauna culture has gone through a facelift and has again become a more and more wanted thing. People are now seeking for places to gather, relax and enjoy the beautiful, unique and sacred atmosphere Sauna can offer.
Nowadays saunas are not anymore used for giving birth or treat sick people, but the mental healing, relaxing, talking about difficult and important things in life, has not changed. Public saunas have always been places to meet people, a place where your status has no meaning and everyone is welcome.
The Kaurilan Sauna building dates from the early 19th century. It was located in Tuusula, a city near Helsinki. This traditional log cabin was moved into a historic Meilahti Villa area in 1995 and has served as a sauna building ever since. The private sauna was opened to the public in 2009.
Kaurilan Sauna’s owner, Saara Lehtonen, has always had a strong love for sauna and it’s culture. Her dream was running a public sauna as in her opinion everybody should have a possibility to experience the special and authentic atmosphere of the beautiful Kaurilan Sauna.
While the everyday life around us gets busier the importance of having a real break every now and then has become significant. When you are in the sauna, you are far away from the hectic social media, stress and the everyday life. Saara loves giving the visitors a chance to hear their own thoughts, breathe and first and foremost have a space to pause.
When Saara started her sauna business she made all the linen towels and seat covers herself. Because the Sauna does not have any electric lights she also produced the lace candles. As visitors started buying the towels and candles she made, she started to expand the assortment into nature cosmetics which can be tested and bought at the sauna.
Despite its location in the middle of the nature, in 20minutes you are in the centre of Helsinki.