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The top 10 museums in Helsinki

Finland’s capital city is home to approximately 80 museums covering a wide range of topics and art forms. From art and design to architecture and open air museums, there is something for everyone. Many of the museums have cafés or restaurants where you can get off your feet for a bit and absorb all you’ve seen on your visit to Helsinki. These are some of Helsinki's best museums, which are definitely worth a visit.

National Museum of Finland

The aim of the National Museum of Finland is to provide a sounding board for Finnish culture and the changes it has gone through and will go through. This means that here you can discover thousands of years of Finnish history The building was built in the National Romantic Art Nouveau style and looks a little like a Gothic church with its heavy stonework and tall, square tower.

The museum has two permanent exhibitions, Prehistory and Story of Finland, as well as temporary exhibitions. The Prehistory exhibit takes a look at what life was like in Finland 10,000 years ago when it was first settled. While the Story of Finland explores Finland's more recent independent years and some of the country's national quirks.

Kiasma MuseumArtwork inside Kiasma

Helsinki's Museum of Contemporary Art, Kiasma, is located near Parliament in downtown Helsinki. The museum's mission is to server as a place for crossings and perspectives of the most varied kind by showcasing the best of Finnish contemporary art.

Kiasma is home to over 8000 works of art and approximately 100 new works are added each year. The museum's collection is part of the collections of the Finnish National Gallery and as such represents a significant element of Finnish cultural heritage.

Design Museum

Also known as Designmuseo in Finnish, the Design Museum is dedicated to both Finnish and foreign design, with exhibitions ranging between industrial, fashion and graphic design. The museum usually has multiple exhibitions on display at the same time. Only one of the exhibitions is permanent.

The exhibition of the museum’s permanent collection is called Utopia Now – The story of Finnish Design. This exhibition includes everything from iconic pieces from the golden age of Finnish design of the 1950s, such as designs by Alvar Aalto, to Nokia mobile phones and the Angry Birds game. The exhibition explains the central role of design in the emergence of the Finnish welfare state, and it is divided into five themes in which the history of design is presented through living narratives.

Ateneum Art Museum

Like some of the other museums on this list, the Ateneum is part of the Finnish National Gallery. It is the home of Finnish art, with over 20,000 pieces dating from the 19th century to present day. The Ateneum has been the home of art since 1888. Many of Finland’s great artists have studied in the building, which housed an art school until the 1980s.

The collection includes works by Finnish artists such as Albert Edelfelt, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Helene Schjerfbeck, Hugo Simberg and Ellen Thesleff. International artists are also represented in the collection, with works on display from Paul  Cézanne, Marc Chagall, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Vilhelm Hammershøi and Fernand Léger.

Seurasaari Open-Air MuseumSeurasaari open-air museum

While only open in the summer months, Seurasaari Open-Air Museum is a unique place within the city of Helsinki. When you arrive on the island, you are immediately transported to a rural landscape from days gone by, making the hustle and bustle of the city a distant memory. It is a retreat popular both with locals and tourists.

The Open-Air Museum consists of old, mainly wooden buildings transplanted from elsewhere in Finland to provide a look into the country’s way of life as it used to be. You can take a peek inside smoke cabins, crofts and manors , participate in a guided tour, have a closer look at the renovated parsonage and its garden, and immerse yourself in history with a hands-on approach.

Museum of Finnish Architecture

The Suomen arkkitehtuurimuseo or Museum of Finnish Architecture is the second oldest of its kind in the world, dating back to 1956. It is an ideal place to learn more about the history of Finland’s architecture as it covers the modernisation of the country’s architecture from the classic wooden structures to the modern architecture seen today.

The museum is housed in a neo-classical building, designed by architect Magnes Schjerfbeck and completed in 1899. Though the museum did not take over use of the building until 1981, before which it was housed in a former wooden pavilion. The museum has large collections of drawings, photographs and architectural scale models. The museum organises exhibitions on both Finnish and foreign architecture as well as exhibitions on Finnish architecture which can be seen in other countries.

Amos RexAmos Rex

This art museum, named after publisher and arts patron Amos Anderson, focuses primarily on 20th century art, with some of the oldest works once belonging to Amon Anderson’s personal collection. The collection covers 7,000 artworks, mostly paintings, sculptures, drawings, graphics and photographs.

When it makes new acquisitions, the museum concentrates on contemporary art. The majority of artworks in the Amos Rex collection have been purchased after Amos Anderson’s death. The works include pieces by William Lönnberg, Ragnar Ekelund and Alvar Cawén from the November Group, art from the 1930s and 1940s by Sulho Sipilä and Rabbe and Torger Enckell as well as artists of the Prisma Group, including Yngve Bäck, Sigrid Schaumann and Sam Vanni.

Helsinki Art Museum

Best known as HAM, the Helsinki Art Museum looks after the art collection that belongs to the people of Helsinki, including the many statues found throughout the city. HAM is strongly involved in the everyday life of Helsinkians, and together they find new ways of looking at life in Helsinki and beyond.

In its domestic and international exhibitions held at Tennis Palace, HAM showcases modern and contemporary art. Some of the art galleries at HAM are also dedicated to an exhibition of Tove Jansson's (1914-2001) life and works. The works of the artist are amongst the most cherished pieces in the HAM collection.

Sinebrychoff Art Museum

Located on Bulevardi, the Sinebrychoff Art Museum in Helsinki displays works by European masters from the 14th to the 19th century. Though this is no ordinary museum as it was once the home of the Sinebrychoff family. The home has been preserved and restored and functions as the background for the art work on display.

The art collections on display are a combination of Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff’s art collections and the collections of old European art that was once on display at the Ateneum Art Museum. The museum's paintings are divided among 10 collections, including The "Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff Collection", the "Collection of the Friends of the Ateneum Art Museum", and the "Carl von Haartman Collection". In addition to paintings, the museum also hosts about 4,000 prints and drawings.

Kunsthalle Helsinki

While the main focus of the exhibition programme is on contemporary art, Kunsthalle Helsinki also exhibits design and architecture, producing between five and seven exhibitions per year. Unlike the other museums on this list, Kunsthalle does not have a permanent collection, which means no two visits are alike.

The Kunsthalle is a non-profit exhibition space founded by various Finnish artists and art associations in 1928 and is located inside a building that is a prime example of Nordic Classicism in Finland. The gallery takes part in cross-disciplinary collaborations and engages the community with a high-quality education outreach programme.