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The Tailor-Made Top 15 Museums and Galleries to Visit in Helsinki

**Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Regardless of this, please be advised that all opinions expressed in this blog post are genuine and authentically my own.**

Author: Barry Pickard

Helsinki is a city that boasts an eclectic mix of culture and history, and its museums and art galleries are no exception. From contemporary art exhibitions to traditional Finnish heritage displays, there's something for everyone in the city's cultural scene. Whether you're an art aficionado, a history buff, or simply looking for a new experience, a visit to Helsinki's museums and art galleries is a must.

Don’t forget that Tailor-Made Itineraries delights in creating bespoke self-guided tours. So, if visiting any of these museums 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 these fascinating of museums, or indeed, a general tour of the wonderful city of Helsinki.

It is difficult to create a list of the best museums in Helsinki and is sure to be a little controversial with some, but here are our top fifteen.

15. The Finnish Museum of Photography K1

The Finnish Museum of Photography has opened a satellite gallery, K1, in the Kämp Galleria city-centre shopping mall, making it easy to combine inspiring art with delicious food and store browsing. K1 presents the most interesting international artists and the boldest Finnish artists, offering both aesthetic experiences and thought-provoking art.

An exhibition by Penelope Umbrico was being displayed during my visit. The exhibition focused on images from eBay of porcelain cats and of reflections off tv screens which were being sold on Craigslist. I appreciate that this does not sound exciting the way I described it, but it actually was quite interesting to see!

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Combine your culture trip with a meal or a drink at the sophisticated restaurant bar, The Glass, which is located beside the photo gallery.

14. Museum of Finnish Architecture

The Museum of Finnish Architecture offers Finnish and international touring exhibitions and a permanent exhibition on 19th Century Finnish Architecture.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: The museum has a well-stocked book shop for lovers of architecture.

13. Tram Museum

Helsinki's oldest tram depot (from 1900) houses the small, but interesting Tram Museum, as part of the Korjaamo culture centre. The museum presents the history of trams in Helsinki from a passenger's point of view. At the Tram Museum, you can have a seat in an old tram that instantly transports you to the Helsinki of yesteryear.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: The museum is a short walk from the Sibelius Monument, which is one of the capital’s must-see attractions.

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12. Design Museum

The Design Museum is an internationally recognized national specialist museum of Finnish design. The history of Finnish design is presented in the museum's collection exhibition through living narratives, using today's technology and digital applications.

Being a big Star Wars fan, I was fascinated to see the display of Princess Leia’s stunning jewellery that was featured at the end of the first movie, New Hope, which was designed by the Finn Björn Weckström.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: You can buy a joint ticket for the Museum of Finnish Architecture, which is next door, and save a little on ticket price.

11. Suomenlinna Museum

Suomenlinna Museum, located in the fortress island of Suomenlinna, showcases the eventful history of this unsinkable stronghold from the 18th century to the present day. It also depicts the restoration process of the fortress that is part of the history of three different countries - Sweden, Russia and Finland - and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991. The wide-screen presentation "Suomenlinna Experience" offers the visitors an excursion to the fascinating history of Suomenlinna.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Ferries leave the central Kauppatori dock every half hour or so during the day, taking only 15-minutes to get to the island.

Read on to find out which museums are in our top ten.

10. Bank of Finland Museum

The Bank of Finland Museum's displays include the history of money in Finland and abroad. The permanent exhibition is constructed around three themes. The main focus is on the operation of the Bank of Finland and the European System of Central Banks and monetary policy. The history section presents the history of cash in Finland and around the world as well as monetary policy developments as part of Finnish society. In the banknotes section, the emphasis is on developments in banknote art and banknote graphics since the early 19th century.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Ironically for a museum about money, it is actually free to enter!

9. Helsinki City Museum

Helsinki City Museum documents and displays the history of Helsinki, the capital of Finland. Its mission is to record and uphold Helsinki's spiritual, material, and architectural heritage. The museum features personal memories and everyday life of the city's residents.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: The museum seems very popular with the locals and can get quite busy, so it is a good idea to go early or late to avoid the crowds.

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8. Amos Rex

Amos Rex is an art museum where the past, present and future meet. Located within the functionalist landmark of Lasipalatsi, the newly built domed exhibition spaces lie under the distinctively undulating Lasipalatsi square. Amos Rex presents site-sensitive, experiential, and often technologically experimental exhibitions by contemporary artists and their Modernist predecessors. A permanent exhibition with Sigurd Frosterus's post-impressionist art collection is also on display.

‘The Quiet Parade’ by Belgian artist Hans Op de Beeck was the exhibition being held during my visit and what a visual treat it was! The monochromatic sculptures really were an eye-catcher.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: This is another popular destination in Helsinki, so an early visit might be required to beat the rush.

Read on to find out which museum tops the list.

7. The Cable Factory

Cable Factory is one of the largest cultural centres in Finland. Once an industrial complex producing marine cables, the centre houses three museums (Finnish Museum of Photography, Theatre Museum and Hotel and Restaurant Museum), galleries, dance theatres, restaurants and cafés, art schools, artists, bands, and companies active in the creative industry. The rented spaces are used for festivals, seminars, fairs, concerts, and exhibitions all year round.

The Finnish Museum of Photography is devoted to the art and practice of photography. The museum's exhibitions present Finnish and international contemporary photography by both established and emerging talents, as well as the diverse history of the craft (unfortunately it was closed during my visit, as it was preparing a new exhibition). Meanwhile the Theatre Museum presents exhibitions on the performing arts, such as theatre, dance, opera, circus, and live art, while the Hotel and Restaurant Museum concentrates on the food and drink culture of Finland.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: The Cable Factory has a number of excellent eating options, so time your museum visits with having a spot of lunch.

6. Military Museum's Manege

The exhibition at the Military Museum's Manege, on the island of Suomenlinna, focuses on the Finnish Defence Forces 100 Years at War and Peace. Portrayals of the wars Finland has fought during its independence: the Civil War in 1918, the Winter War in 1939-1940, the Continuation War in 1941-1944 and the Lapland War in 1944-1945 are all covered. The exhibition continues in the adjacent building Artillery Manege, telling the story of the Finnish Defence Forces in the post-war period up to the present day.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Don’t forget that the museum is spread across two buildings – you don’t want to miss one of them.

5. Sinebrychoff Art Museum

The Sinebrychoff Art Museum houses Finland's most significant collection of paintings by old foreign masters from the 14th to 19th centuries. This house museum of Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff illustrates Finland's connections to the centuries of tradition in European art and antiquities.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: My favourite restaurant in Helsinki – Saaga – is just two doors down from the museum and is an excellent place to sample Finnish delicacies for dinner.

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4. Helsinki Art Museum

You can’t miss The Helsinki Art Museum, HAM, since there is a giant seagull head above the entrance, making it the most striking and curious approaches to any museum I know of! Inside, HAM looks after an art collection which includes over 9,000 works of art. Presenting frequent modern art and contemporary art exhibitions in its main galleries, there is always something new to pique your interest.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: One of the galleries is dedicated to an exhibition of Tove Jansson – the wonderful artist behind the Moomins. Check it out to enjoy a slice of classic Finnish culture.

3. Natural History Museum

The Finnish Natural History Museum's exhibitions show the diversity of nature. The "Finnish Nature" exhibition offers a fascinating journey through Finland from the southern coast to the northern fells. The "History of Life" exhibition presents the course of the evolution from the Big Bang to dinosaurs and larger mammals of the Ice Age. Through the exhibition "World Nature" the visitor is taken on an exploration excursion that begins from the polar areas and ends in the tropical warmth. The secrets of the bones are introduced in the exhibition "Story of the Bones". The "Change in the Air" exhibition presents the research on climate change conducted at the University of Helsinki.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Audio guides in English, French and Russian are available.

Have you guessed yet which museum tops the list?

2. National Museum of Finland

The National Museum of Finland illustrates Finnish history from prehistoric times to the 19th century. The museum's unique exhibits tell of life from a period of over 10 000 years. The National Museum building was designed by the Finnish architects Herman Gesellius, Armas Lindgren and Eliel Saarinen. With its granite façade and steatite decoration, the building is one of Finland's most significant national-romantic works of architecture. The museum was opened to the public in 1916.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Look out for the portraits of the Finnish presidents. There is a photo booth next to them where you can get you picture taken and then your image magically appears in the portrait gallery!

1. Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma

Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma presents the very latest works in contemporary art. There are currently about 8,000 works in the collections. Kiasma focuses mainly on works by Finnish artists and that of artists living in nearby countries. The museum also adds to its collections by commissioning new work. Works in the collections extend from those by artists who began their work in the 1970s to those made in the present.