Join us for a visit to the Finnish National Museum and see how the happiest country in the world evolved over the millennia.
The National Museum, Kansallismuseo, tells us the story of the Finns from the Stone Ages to the present day. Located in the main street in the centre of Helsinki just a few minutes from the main railway station, the museum building is a fantastic example of the national romanticism in the Finnish architecture. It was designed by three leading architects of the Fin de Siècle, Gesellius, Lindgren and Saarinen. Interestingly, they made a great Art Nouveau interior. The museum itself was opened in 1916, just a year before Finland gained its independence.
When you come in, have a look at the ceiling of the entrance hall where you will see four Kalevala-themed frescoes by Akseli Gallen-Kallela: Ilmarinen plowing the viper field, Forging Sampo, Sampo's defence and the Great Pike. Based on the Finnish national epic, they were originally painted for Finland's pavilion at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900.
Check also the glass of the inner doors at the entrance and you will see where a stray shot from the Reds came in on 13 April 1918. In the Finnish civil war, the reds fired white and German troops from the barracks close by when the Germans occupied Helsinki.
The museum is a national cultural history museum reviewing the country and its people over the centuries. It contains the oldest and most comprehensive cultural history collections in the country with approximately half a million objects telling us the story of the formal history, folk culture and more largely, also the culture of Finno-Ugric peoples. (Mind you, a huge part of collection of the folk culture was collected in the 19th century by members of Wiipurilainen Osakunta, a student club that I was a member somewhat later towards the end of the 20th century!)
There is an accessible entrance at the street level on Mannerheimintie under the main staircase although a bit complicated. Use the phone there to contact the museum staff to open the door. From there onwards, you can take a lift to all floors. There is a wheelchair lift on the ground floor between the museum shop and the medieval church room.
There is an accessible loo on the ground floor near the entrance.
The museum shop next to the entrance is a fantastic place to buy a few truly Finnish mementos in addition to you coffee table books and toys for the kids.
There is a very nice café in the basement serving lunches and an interesting selection of Finnish delicacies, including some vegan choices. On weekdays you can have a full-fledged lunch from a buffet and should you come on a weekend day, you can enjoy a soup.
The National Museum of Finland
Mannerheimintie 34, 00100 Helsinki