Helsinki 2021

Helsinki, my heart. I am back again for a very few days to just check up on how the Finnish capital has managed since the pandemic. Is it thriving? Is anything cool happening? Here is a short update on Helsinki for last days of 2021.

I have a long relationship with Helsinki. Was I seven the first time I got here? All my family is from Stockholm but my grandma and granddad had a keen eye for Finland in general (also Turku and Åland). In my contemporary life I go here for the design week, Habitare and every now and then for like a press thing. Helsinki is of course full of design being a host for Design Capital of the World (2012) and heritage like Iittala, Artek and Aalto. And Moomin…

Technology is always around the corner with brands like Nokia and Angry Birds (Rovio) but the city prides itself by being a very sustainable design city.

The public space of Helsinki is changing. Facilities like Chapel of Silence is a space right in the busiest section of town. Here you can go inside and meet a social worker or a priest. Or just be silent. Equally secular to religious.

The enormous city library. I have been here before but this time I got a full tour. It is amaaaazing. The library hosts not only books but almost everything you need in life. Free of charge. Board games? Yes. A studio for your teenage rock music dream? Yes. Any kind of repair equipment such as sawing machines, electric drills and 3D printer? Yes. Musical notes, DVDs, video games (or play here for free). There is even a section for elderly to get updated on how to use Facebook and other things.

From inside. I was thinking long and hard to see if I could find any areas they had missed. Flower seed library? There is a public kitchen here so you don’t have to think about that. But what about a recharge area for when you have been in the city all day and just want to freshen up for the evening? Blowdryer and just a good mirror?? We’ll see, maybe my suggestions will come to life. This is a very generous and open space.

Helsinki is a great city for just strolling and looking a architecture. Really wonderful.

This is a fire station…

And sauna… I had two opportunities to go to sauna. One at the hotel and one a fairly new Löyly. This time I learned that “löyly” is the Finnish word for when you pour water on the hot stones and it vaporates. The steam, basically.

We were doing the bear sauna…

When I got here I texted my friends from Poland, Italy, the Netherlands and US/Germany. This is a place you have to visit when you come to Helsinki. Sauna or not. The space is nice.

Same stairs, but give years later.

One of the newer things I saw this trip was Amos Rex. Enter through the playground. Or ordinary… But who wants to be normal?

Amos Rex is the new privately owned art hall. They have a super small permanent collection but the main stage is all about one artist at a time.

The art space is actually in something called similar to “crystal palace” and is a remain from the Olympic Games 1952.

Art in general. Helsinki has a good art seen. Absolutely. Modern Art Museum Kiasma is closed for renovation but you have plenty of nice places. I always like Ateneum but didn’t go there this time. Here Ai WeiWei at the hotel I was staying at, the St George.

They have a lot of stuff to see at the hotel, like the wallpaper by Klaus Haapaniemi at the bar.

And ceramicist Kim Simonsson.

And these lovely cocktail glasses. Loved these.

Speaking of putting things in your mouth…

Helsinki has a great food scene. I have been on dedicated food trips here. Expect a lot of sustainable, vegetarian new solutions. It must have been about ten years ago when I was on one of these trips and EVERYONE talked about foraging and collecting your own ingredients. And vegatarian cuisine is huge. All public state dinners are vegetarian and I think they want the schools to be all vegetarian.

None the less. Food. I think Helsinki has eight or nine Michelin Star restaurants and one of them is Finnjävel. Swedes love it since it is in Swedish and translates to “Bastard Finn”.

Here at Nolla a zero-waste restaurant. Very up to date on all aspects. Super nice.

At this time of year you should of course also visit the Christmas market and drink “glögi” or mulled wine.


This report now moves forward to the design scene in Helsinki. One of my absolute favourite stops is this. The world’s smallest design shop??? It is a kiosk run by the couple Johan and Aamu at Com-Pa-Ny. They are so talented and without spoiling anything – this is a great destination for Christmas gifts.

From the store above.

Finnish lifestyle and sportsbrand Karhu has it’s own fairly new concept store. Karhu means bear. And was extremely important during last century. Goolge “Flying Finns”.

Bears everywhere…

Above I talked about the wallpaper by Klaus Haapaniemi. He has his own brand and a concept store at Kämp Galleria. Definately worth a look.

It is strange, fun and unusual.

A new destination from this year is Glasshouse Helsinki. We all know about pop up shops… But how about pop up department store??? This is soooooooo big and only with local and sustainable design. And yes, a bit of Christmas gift shopping here too. But you can also just look at the wonderful art installations.

Glasshouse Helsinki.

More objects.

And huge installation in dried sea weed by Julia Lohmann.

Here I also found one of my new favourite storytelling brands. Myssy. They have 80 grandmas knitting pieces. Love this.

“No grandmas were harmed in this production…” Sort of.

When in Helsinki I try to pass by the Arabia and Iittala store. I know they are present in most countries but this store almost always carry something that is uniquely local. Like this tableware.

And of course their whole new vintage line.

Speaking of vintage… I had a talk and made an interview with the guys behind Arteks 2nd Cycle. Did you know that they have been around for ten or fifteen years (depending on if you count the concept or actual store).

Artek was absolutely among the first in the world to talk about slowing consumerism down, repair and vintage. They have done it for more then ten years!!! See the interview later…

It’s so interesting to find pieces where people have left their mark. This chair have stayed in the family for four generations. Bought in 1939…

It’s not cheap but things here obviously last for generations.

2nd Cycle is just in the Design District and three minute walk from this you find Lokal. This is a gallery/shop with nice Finnish talents. I even found my favourite Antrei Hartikainen.

Besides Iittala you can find flagship stores for Finlayson, Aarikka, Marimekko, Hakola, Johanna Gullichsen, etc, etc. And of course the flagship store by Artek.

The guys at 2nd Cycle pointed out that the staircase was unique in the building. Designed by architect Eliel Saarinen – just before he moved to the US (and build Dulles Airport, the arch of St Louis, etc).

Almost like heaps of snow…

Artek shop is of course nice to see in general.

Looking or more Scandi design…

And one of the few places where you can actually see and buy from the new Finnish brand Vaarni.

I did have time to make a second interview. I met with new company Woodio. They make things for the bathroom in woop chips. Here a ash basin made of the needles from a Christmas tree.

I would say that Helsinki right now seem to go through something interesting. There are a lot of start ups in design here. You can above Woodio, Vaarni but also people like Made by Choice. Perhaps you could include the people from Helsingö here as well.

It is really buzzing here right now.

More from Woodio.

Last two pictures. Of course I went to Designmuseo. I almost always do. It is really nice and well curated. This time they had an exhibition about fashion, And without going into details – I kind of disagree on their conclusion. But, hey, that happens. It is a lively museum with lots to see.


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