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The Tailor-Made Guide on Where to Find Helsinki's Art Nouveau Architecture

Updated: Nov 3, 2023


Where to Find Helsinki's Art Nouveau Architecture

Author: Barry Pickard

If you're a lover of architecture and design, a visit to Helsinki is a must. This stunning city is renowned for its Art Nouveau architecture, which can be seen in many of its buildings and structures. From the ornate facades to the beautiful interiors, these structures are a testament to the city's rich cultural heritage and its commitment to preserving its historical roots.


Where to Find Helsinki's Art Nouveau Architecture
Kunsthalle Helsinki

Art Nouveau is a decorative style that emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, characterized by its intricate, organic lines and its use of natural elements such as flowers and plants. This style was popular across Europe, but it's particularly well-represented in Helsinki, where it was used extensively in the construction of residential, commercial, and public buildings. The city's Art Nouveau structures are some of the best examples of this architectural style, showcasing its beauty and versatility. The abundance of Art Nouveau buildings in Helsinki is due to the city's rapid growth during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when architects and designers sought to create a unique, modern identity for the city through their use of innovative architectural styles.


Where to Find Helsinki's Art Nouveau Architecture
Kruununhaka District

The particular stye of Art Nouveau that flourished In Germany and Scandinavia was called Reformstil ("Reform style"), or Jugendstil ("Youth style"), after the popular German art magazine of that name. In Finland, this was shortened to Jugend and is now considered a defining element of Finnish architecture and cultural heritage.


Where to Find Helsinki's Art Nouveau Architecture
Kruununhaka District

A second, more Finnish style of architecture that developed from the wider Art Nouveau movement was Finnish National Romantic architecture. As the name suggests, this was a more nationalistic style that was inspired by the beauty of the Finnish landscape and by the rich history and mythology of Finland. Finnish National Romantic architects sought to create buildings that were both beautiful and functional, and that reflected the unique character of the country. Natural materials such as wood and stone tended to be used, while mainstream Art Nouveau architects often used more decorative materials, such as metal and glass.

Where to Find Helsinki's Art Nouveau Architecture
Helsinki Central Railway Station

Don’t forget that Tailor-Made Itineraries delights in creating bespoke self-guided tours. So, if seeing this stunning architecture appeals to you, reach out to me by email. I would be more than happy to design a self-guided tour around your requirements incorporating the beautiful Art Nouveau architecture of Helsinki, or indeed, a general tour of this engaging city.


There are many examples of great Art Nouveau architecture throughout Helsinki, and this is not an exhaustive list, but I hope that you enjoy the many eye-catching designs that I enjoyed during my trip to Helsinki.


Where to Find Helsinki's Art Nouveau Architecture


Kallio Church


Kallio Church is a Lutheran church in the charming Kallio district of Helsinki, located on a hilltop, making it visible from many parts of the city. It was designed by Lars Sonck and completed in 1912. The church is a stunning example of Art Nouveau architecture, with its distinctive red brick and granite exterior and its soaring interior.


Where to Find Helsinki's Art Nouveau Architecture
Kallio Church

The interior of the church is just as impressive as the exterior. The walls are decorated with murals by Hugo Simberg, one of Finland’s most famous artists. The murals depict scenes from the Bible and from Finnish mythology.


Tailor-Made Top Tip: The church is open daily, and admission is free.



Helsinki Congress Paasitorni


Paasitorni was designed by the architect Karl Lindahl. At the time of its completion in 1908, it served as Helsinki Workers’ House. The extension to the building was completed in 1925.

In terms of its architectural style, the oldest part of Paasitorni represents late Art Nouveau. The extension represents the Nordic Classicism of the 1920s. Paasitorni houses nearly 30 characterful and adaptable meeting, party, and event spaces for 8–800 participants, complemented by restaurants and hotel rooms.


, Where to Find Helsinki's Art Nouveau Architecture
Helsinki Congress Paasitorni

Tours of the Paasitorni can be organised, giving a fascinating insight into this stunning Art Nouveau masterpiece. On the tour, you can also get access to the roof and get panoramic views of Helsinki.



Tailor-Made Top Tip: The Juttutupa Bar is connected to the Paasitorni building and apart from being one of the city’s oldest restaurants, this bohemian bar hosted Vladimir Lenin and his fellow conspirators and you can still see the "revolutionary table," at which they plotted Russia's Revolution.



There are also a number of other buildings in the immediate vacinity that are equally as beautiful.


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Stock Exchange Building, Pörssitalo


Pörssitalo was built between 1903 and 1904 by architect Lars Sonck and is a fine example of Finnish National Romantic architecture. The building is home to the Helsinki Stock Exchange, which is one of the oldest stock exchanges in the world.


Where to Find Helsinki's Art Nouveau Architecture
Stock Exchange Building, Pörssitalo

Pörssitalo is a seven-story building with a red brick exterior. The façade is decorated with statues and reliefs depicting various financial symbols, such as a bull and a bear. The interior of the building is also decorated with beautiful murals and sculptures



Jugend Hall (Robert’s Coffee)


Jugend Hall was built in 1904 as the headquarters of the Kansallis-Osake-Pankki (KOP), Finland’s largest bank at the time. The building was another Lars Sonck design and again proved that he was a master of the Art Nouveau movement. The interior is impressive, with the walls being decorated with murals by Valter Jung.


Where to Find Helsinki's Art Nouveau Architecture
Jugend Hall

Tailor-Made Top Tip: The bank moved out of the building in the 1980’s and it is now home to café. Make sure to set aside some time to enjoy a coffee and cake, while taking in the stunning surroundings.



Havis Amanda


Havis Amanda is a fountain and statue by the sculptor Ville Vallgren. The work was modelled in 1906 in Paris and erected at its present location at the Market Square in 1908. This impressive Art Nouveau piece is now one of the most beloved works of art in Helsinki, although at the time of its unveiling, it was seen as controversial and too risqué.


Where to Find Helsinki's Art Nouveau Architecture
Havis Amanda

The statue is of a female figure rising from the sea, with four fish spouting waters at her feet, surrounded by four sea lions. Vallgren’s intention was to symbolise the rebirth of Helsinki. According to Vallgren’s letters the model for the statue was a then 19-year-old Parisian woman, Marcelle Delquini.



Tailor-Made Top Tip: Take note of the buildings around the statue, since there are a number of beautiful examples of Art Nouveau, especially at numbers 2 and 4 Eteläesplanadi. Number 2 was originally built for an insurance company, while number 4 was once the highest and most modern building in Helsinki.


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Katajanokka


Katajanokka is a charming district of Helsinki, located on a peninsula, and is known for its beautiful Art Nouveau architecture and the impressive Uspenski Cathedral. Katajanokka was originally a working-class neighbourhood and is a great place to wander around and explore.



Tailor-Made Top Tip: If you are looking for a unique place to stay in Helsinki, book into the Hotel Katajonakka. This building used to be Helsinki’s prison!



Kruununhaka


Another impressive district of Helsinki, part of the heart of the city, is Kruununhaka. There are multiple buildings created in the Jugend style. These buildings are a testament to the skill and creativity of the Finnish architects who designed them. They are also a reminder of the important role that Jugend played in the development of Finnish architecture.


Where to Find Helsinki's Art Nouveau Architecture
Kruununhaka District

Tailor-Made Top Tip: The main streets to concentrate on would be Lissankatu and Mariankatu.



Ullanlinna

The district of Ullanlinna, especially along Tehtaankatu, has some lovely examples of Jugend Style buildings, with the most striking example being Schalin House (the first two images in the carousel). Its walls are like a natural landscape: freely designed granite, winding plaster reliefs, fern reliefs and windows framed with red brickwork.


Helsinki Central Railway Station


The first railway station in Helsinki was built in 1862 and was located on the current site of the Central Railway Station. However, the station was soon found to be too small to handle the growing number of passengers. In 1902, a competition was held to design a new station, and the winning design was submitted by Eliel Saarinen.


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Where to Find Helsinki's Art Nouveau Architecture
Helsinki Central Railway Station

Saarinen’s design was inspired by the Art Nouveau movement and became a great example of the Finnish National Romantic style. Decorated with beautiful sculptures and mosaics, the main entrance is impressively flanked by two statues of Torch Bearers, and the roof is topped by a clock tower. The interior is just as awe inspiring, with its high ceilings, marble floors, and stained-glass windows.


Where to Find Helsinki's Art Nouveau Architecture
Helsinki Central Railway Station

Construction on the new station began in 1904, and it was completed in 1919, being immediately hailed as a masterpiece. The station has been used as a major transportation hub for Finland ever since.


Tailor-Made Top Tip: Visit the station both during the day and at night, since the Torch Bearers really come into their own after dark when lit up.


Read on to find out more of Helsinki’s Art Nouveau masterpieces.



Rautatientori


Rautatientori was originally a market square, but it was transformed into a plaza surrounding by Art Nouveau buildings in the early 20th century. As well as the Central Railway Station previously mentioned, the National Theatre of Finland and the Atenueum buildings are of particular note.


Where to Find Helsinki's Art Nouveau Architecture
National Theatre of Finland

Kluuvi

The Helsinki Central Railway Station and Rautatientori are within the Kluuvi district, and Helsinki's primary shopping area has other Art Nouveau gems. It is easy to get distracted by the shop fronts, but if you gaze up, you will see numerous examples of stunning architecture.



The National Museum of Finland


The National Museum of Finland is a stunning example of Art Nouveau architecture. It was designed by Eliel Saarinen and was completed in 1916. A major cultural institution, the museum houses a vast collection of artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of Finland from the Stone Age to the present day.


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Where to Find Helsinki's Art Nouveau Architecture
National Museum of Finland

Tailor-Made Top Tip: As well as the exhibits, the museum is famous for the painted ceiling in the entrance hall. The frescoes of artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela offer a stunning depiction of the Finnish epic poem, the Kalevala. The Kalevala tells the story of the creation of the world and the adventures of the heroes of Finnish mythology.


Where to Find Helsinki's Art Nouveau Architecture
National Museum of Finland

Etu-Töölö

As well as boasting the National Museum of Finland, the Etu-Töölö district has a number of buildings of distinction, particularly the Kunsthalle Helsinki and along the Eteläinen Rautatiekatu street.



Conclusion


Whether you're a history buff, an architecture aficionado, or just looking for a unique travel experience, Helsinki offers a wealth of Art Nouveau gems to explore. With its stunning designs and rich cultural heritage, this city is truly a treasure trove of architectural wonders waiting to be discovered.


Related Blog Posts

If you are interested in architecture, please view the Tailor-Made Itineraries posts below:


If you would like more information on the beautiful city of Helsinki, please view the Tailor-Made Itineraries posts below:


Comment below and let us know what your favourite Art Nouveau design was is in Helsinki or elsewhere.


Don’t forget that Tailor-Made Itineraries delights in creating bespoke self-guided tours. So, if seeing this stunning architecture appeals to you, reach out to me by email. I would be more than happy to design a self-guided tour around your requirements incorporating the beautiful Art Nouveau architecture of Helsinki, or indeed, a general tour of this engaging city.


Join us next time on our family adventures when we take a closer look at Helsinki’s city centre street art. Tailor-Made Itineraries posts every two weeks, and you can subscribe to the latest blog and newsletter here. Until then, happy reading and safe travels.

Barry

Tailor-Made Itineraries creates one-of-a-kind bespoke self-guided travel itineraries for adventurous and curious travellers.

These self-guided tours deliver a personalised and exciting holiday experience that takes the effort out of trip planning.

Where to Find Helsinki's Art Nouveau Architecture



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