I love you – & inanimate objects

While Finnish people do feel emotions, they don’t tend to express them as often as we do in New Zealand or other parts of the world.


Finnish Nightmares by Karoliina Korhonen

In fact, my Finnish friend told me she finds it over the top when foreigners express their love for inanimate objects like coffee, or a town they have only visited once.

sarjakuva matti finnish nightmares.jpg

Finnish Nightmares by Karoliina Korhonen

So, I’ve already told you that I love Kiasma and I’m sorry, but I’m going to say it again.


Miko and I visited Helsinki’s museum of contemporary art on a cool and wet summers day recently and really enjoyed (loved?) the interactive exhibitions.

IMG_5331Happy Together by Choi Jeong Hwa runs until September and features colourful, tactile pieces for adults and kids to enjoy.



The works of Brazilian artist Ernesto Noa are so big you are encouraged to move inside them and to lie down in his giant crocheted hammocks.


There’s also a room of scents, held in beautiful earthen jars. We had fun guessing and recoiling as we sniffed our way down the row.


We spent a couple of hours looking around, which is quite good for my four-year old companion, before descending to the cafe on level one.


I had my usual favourite, the Moroccan haloumi salad, but not before gushing to the waitress, ‘I love this salad. I think about it all the time when I’m not here.’


To which she returned a small polite smile and no doubt wondered at my over the top confession of feelings for these inanimate objects.


I was gifted a Museum Card a while back and recommend it for anyone interested in visiting museums. Pay 59€ once and receive free entry to 200 museums in Finland for one year. 



A Quick Guide to Helsinki

I get lots of emails from people visiting Helsinki, asking what to do while they are here. So here’s a list of ideas to get you started, which I will add to and update. You can also check out my City Guide to Helsinki, which I wrote for Design*Sponge.


Many museums in Helsinki have one day a month where entry is free. Many places also have different opening hours during summer and winter, so always visit the relevant website before you head out.

City walks

Katajanokka – a suburb of beautiful architecture and great coffee

Töölönlahti – frozen in winter and beautiful in summer, this bay has coffee shops dotted around it’s edge. More photos here.

Uunisaari – an island connected by bridge during winter

Lauttasaari – lovely coastal walk and summer cabins

Baana – a converted freight line is now a cycle and walking path

Five things to do on Fredrikinkatu

Five things to do on Korkeavuorenkatu

Places to visit – outdoors

Linnanmäki – amusement park, free entry, open during summer

Korkeasaari – Helsinki’s island zoo, ferry runs only in summer, bus access otherwise

Seurasaari – outdoor museum on an island, bus access

Pihlajasaari – summer island for swimming

Suomenlinna – fortress island and UNESCO World Heritage Site

Places to visit – indoors

Sea Life – great option for a rainy or cold day in Helsinki

Annantalo – arts centre with exhibitions for children with family friendly book cafe

Yrjönkatu Uimahalli – swimming hall with sauna, men & women separate, only open during winter

Natural History Museum – displays of Nordic and other animals over a few floors

Botanical Gardens – beautiful gardens in glasshouses, good option for a rainy day


The Rock Church

Chapel of Silence

Lokal – art gallery & cafe

Kiasma – Museum of Contemporary Art

Alvar Aalto House


Hietalahti Market Square – summer time flea market & antiques

Old Market Hall – Vanhakauppahalli is a great place for lunch

Christmas Markets

Market Square

Day Trips

Tallinn, Estonia

Porvoo, Finland

Tips for Visiting in Winter & Getting Around

How to walk on ice without dying

How to walk under ice without dying

How to dress a child for Finnish winter

Using Helsinki’s Metro

Cultural Events

Saint Lucia – December

Christmas Path – December

Vappu – May

Samba Carnival – June

Baltic Herring Festival – October

All Saint’s Day – November

Cleaning Day – a giant yard sale throughout the city, held various times a year

Restaurant Day – a street food carnival where anyone can open a restaurant for the day, held four times a year

Places to eat & drink

Cafe Regatta – traditional Finnish cafe by the water, for coffee and cinnamon buns

Mockbar – Soviet style bar specialising in vodka and bad service

Moko Market & Kaffa Roastery – cafe and homewares, great for buying gifts and very family friendly.

Freese – owned by Finnish barista champion Kalle Freese, check Facebook for opening times as can be closed if busy elsewhere

Good Life Coffee – great coffee and delicious almond croissants

Skiffer – pizza bar on an island, only open during summer months. City venue during winter

Fafa’s – good falafel and vegetarian takeaway

I heart Kiasma!

I don’t really like art galleries. Or Christmas fruit cake. And as a woman of a certain age I feel like I should –  but sometimes I stand in front of paintings wondering how long before I can move on to the gallery cafe or gift shop.

A giant rose made from soft jube sweets

A giant rose made from soft jube sweets

But I loved Kiasma, Helsinki’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibitions are tactile and interactive, offering inspiring representations of ideas, rather than classical depictions of iconic scenes.

Someone has been mucking around in the office

Slow day in the office?

In one room we were invited to wander through thousands of coloured ribbons, feeling our way blindly as we tried not to bump into each other. I later doubled back to go through again because I just felt so happy in there amongst all that colour.

Where's the entry/

I know the door is here somewhere….

I loved the glasshouse that was filled only with green items, like the work of a colour-blind bower bird or an OCD backyard hoarder.


It’s a very greenhouse

I wandered around big coloured blocks depicting the houses of an Italian village and large copper circles that spelled terve (welcome) in braille. I laughed with strangers as we tried to figure out why our images were not reflected in the mirror before us.


Holiday scenes depicted on perspex

I was deeply moved by the work of Alfredo Jaar, a Chilean artist who addresses political and humanitarian issues with his art. One Million Finnish Passports is a room of just that, showing how many people would have been permitted into Finland had they a more open immigration policy. The Silence of Nduwayezu is a room containing a million slides of the eyes of a boy who saw his parents killed in front of him. Many of Jaar’s works comment on the world’s failure to talk about issues happening in African nations.

The Silence of Nduwayezu, 1997 Alfredo Jaar

The Silence of Nduwayezu, 1997 Alfredo Jaar

I left Kiasma feeling informed and entertained and a bit better about myself for genuinely enjoying an art gallery experience. In fact I felt elated because I enjoyed it so much. And as it was raining outside I was happy there was still time to look around the art gallery gift shop.

I’d love to know – what have been your favourite art gallery experiences?

Kiasma – Helsinki’s Museum of Contemporary Art

Alfredo Jaar