Helsinki museums: a hip way… to shop and lunch

There is one thing that I always do when I go to museum (apart from an actual contemplating, wandering and taking notes). Ok, there are two things: 1. I get seriously stuck in the museum shop and 2. have a coffee.

Consider it a travel hack: the museum shops are the treasury and the ultimate alternative to those cheesy souvenirs that none of your friends wants to get. Ever.

And the museum cafes are known for very creative lunches at a reasonable price.

Now, my Helsinki top-3 

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Cards from Helsinki Design museum Photo: Ksenia Kosheleva


The Museum of contemporary art Kiasma

 Attention: products may contain Contemporary Art

Kiasma is really not just about exhibitions. In fact, the gorgeously curved and light-catching building by Steven Holl is a showpiece on its own. Now add to it the ideal central location, the most popular artsy shop in the town and a café with an exceptional view – you are up to some quality non-conventional museum time.

In the beginning and in the end there is Chaos aka Kiasma philosophy Photo: Ksenia Kosheleva

To shop

Art, illusion, robots, superheroes, photography, graffiti and illustrations – the number of possible hashtags in Kiasma is limitless. It is, arguably, the most-visited museum shop in Helsinki: as curious as Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland and as bold as the museum itself, the shop slowly escalates from the innocent mint pastels to something bizarre, like the collection of the “Hairy underwear”.

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Photo: Ksenia Kosheleva
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Photo: Ksenia Kosheleva

Shop’s bookshelves offer the impressive selection of albums and tutorials that will help anyone, who ever wondered how to write/talk/argue or fake an insightful opinion (underline as appropriate) about art. Take your time to browse through arty souvenirs: temporary art tattoos, piles of colorful stationary or the most non-trivial postcards. The price range is from 2€ to 200€ (if you opt for a design birch bag – the most Nordic haute couture possible).

One of my fav Helsinki views from Kiasma shop and cafe Photo: Ksenia Kosheleva

To lunch

It is long time proven that trying to understand the contemporary art takes too much mental and physical power – that is why lunch in Café Kiasma (11-14) is never a bad idea. The menu changes weekly but there will always be filling soup and the main course, often as Finnish, as it can get – elk entrecôte, grilled salmon or beetroot risotto with blue cheese.

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Creamy mushroom soup with a toast Photo: Ksenia Kosheleva

My personal tip is to complete the experience with a glass of organic Kiasma wine, accompanied with the postcard view from the café window: the imposing Parliament, the tower of the National museum and the equestrian monument to Marshall Mannerheim. In summer move to the terrace. Bingo.

Kiasma Visitors info 

Ateneum Art museum

Classics to take-away

Ateneum is the museum at its core: the atmospheric permanent collection, engaging exhibitions, and the respectful quietness of look, don’t touch halls. Also, perfectly located a few steps away from Helsinki Central railway station and the Airport bus stop, Ateneum can be the ultimate choice for the last minute gifts.

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Just before all the visitors came Photo: Ksenia Kosheleva

To shop

Ateneum museum shop offers you the serenity and beautiful melancholy of Finland to “take-away”. The paintings by Hugo Simberg, Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Albert Edelfelt come in all shapes: magnets, pill boxes, cards, notepads, puzzles, canvas bags (of course, there is a share of Modigliani and Munch, but they are not why you come to Helsinki at first place).

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Notepads featuring one of my favourite Finnish painters – Helene Schjerfbeck (the first two) Photo: Ksenia Kosheleva


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Green tea with a refreshing cranberry note. Blended exclusively for Ateneum
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The Wounded Angel by Hugo Simberg on pill boxes Photo: Ksenia Kosheleva
Kaleidoscopes with Carl Larsson paintings – a bitter Sweedish artist who created the most utopic watercolours scenes. Photo: Ksenia Kosheleva

And, quite predictably, the “old school” artists and hip design are nicely mixed with Moomin-related souvenirs – the cutest and the most inevitable of Finnish essentials. How about a mouse mat, recreating one of Tove Jansson’s famous frescos? You just can’t say “no” to that.

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Moomins can be found in every second Helsinki museum shop Photo: Ksenia Kosheleva

To lunch

Ateneum’s food hub, Café Tablo, gets quite packed during the lunch times (11-15), and not without reason. Firstly, the place is cozy: the full-wall mosaic panel (copy of Italian artwork), and framed paintings on the walls – mostly, Helsinki viewed by contemporary artists. Secondly, with the right seat, you can see the impressive façade of the National theatre and a busy skate ring during the winter season.

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Ideal coffee break in Tablo, Ateneum Photo: Ksenia Kosheleva

Thirdly, Tablo offers quite a selection of cakes, buns, quiches, savoury sandwiches and homemade smoothies (apple-ginger one is an energy bomb). As for the lunch options, you can go for the soup buffet or order one of the main courses. Fried herrings with smetana? Traditional meatballs in chili sauce? Beetroot lasagna? Fish-bake with mashed cowberry? Those are kind of life choices we all enjoy…

 Ateneum Visitors info

Design museum

Helsinki in style

Design museum shop is located in the heart of the Design District and offers charmingly weird items designed in Finland. Too many “design” words in one sentence? Well, it is Helsinki we are talking about 😉


To shop

If it is not your first day in Helsinki – think of all those beautiful lake-shaped vases, poppy-pattern purses and gracious glass birds that you surely spotted during your stay in Helsinki – in this tiny chamber of treasures you can either buy them or learn more about the people behind the idea.

The rows of books on Finnish urban architecture, functional design and the history of fashion share the space with the tableware, textile and souvenirs. Some were created by unquestionable gurus, like Alvar Aalto, Oiva Toikka, or Tapio Wirkkala, others – by young gurus-to-be. Take your time to explore the birch key rings, stylish reflectors (okay, in this shop “stylish” is a default definition, as you can even buy a fire alarm in a shape of a raspberry pink moth), games and pieces of very Nordic silver jewelry: the necklace with a cunning fox or “No Diamond” ring.

Birch key ring. Photo: Ksenia Kosheleva

In my humble opinion, two absolute marvels of Finnish souvenir industry in Design museum shop are crunchy “Snowball” (10€) and a wooden “Hug puzzle” (22€). Both have stunningly simple ideas behind them, but at instant fill your heart with warmth and some kind of unexplainable childhood euphoria.

Medals of general valpur by Katariina Guthwert, made in Helsinki. Photo: Ksenia Kosheleva

To lunch

Luomus is a cozy cafeteria with stylish wooden stools and a smell of freshly baked croissants.

Depending on the season you can try the most typical Finnish pastries. This time – laskiaspulla Photo: Ksenia Kosheleva

You can choose from nearly twenty tea varieties or have a cup of coffee with – oh, so Finnish – blueberry pie (vanilla custard on top) and even more Finnish rye bread sandwich. They also serve a light lunch with house quiche, salad on the side and wine. All goes perfectly with the history of Nordic design book opened at random.

Design museum Visitors info

Want to know how to visit all those museums for free? Find out here.

#helsinki #finland #хельсинки #финляндия





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