Take a tour of the Design District in Helsinki

Pauliina Flam | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Did you know that Helsinki is a city of design? Proofs of this you can find anywhere around the city, but the design concentration is for sure in the pretty Design District. It is part of a city center, and it stretches over many streets. The area covers hundreds of boutiques, ateliers, galleries, and cafes which all have something in common: a passion for design.* Touring the Design District in Helsinki city is a very popular activity. There is so much to see that you can tour** it for several days. You can even find a specific map* of the area produced by the city of Helsinki. Let me spotlight for you my favourite bits of the Design District. 

© istock/bruev

Start from a design center

A good place to start touring the streets of the design district is the Design Museum. It introduces visitors to the development of design in Finland with an interesting concept - touring the halls where each one represents different decades. Here, you can learn why Finns like to collect local design glass objects and who Alvar Aalto is. The Design Museum also entertains the visitors with workshops and different events. 

Opposite the Design Museum is a park area with a beautiful St. John's Church, an attraction of its own. The church was built in the 19th century, the same as the Design Museum, which served as a school back then. So, even though it is not a modern building, I like how it fits the streets, bringing history and charm to the Design District. From here, you can wander in any direction: there are boutiques, galleries, and design cafes waiting for you on every corner. As long as you notice a Design District sticker on the windows and doors - you are still here, in the center of the design. 

Discover the versatile concepts

The coolest thing about the Design District is that every place that opened its doors here has a concept, combining interesting ideas and practicality. Sounds very Nordic, doesn't it? Take, for example, a great place called "Common" - a shop run by a Japanese immigrant who noticed that Japan and Finland have a lot in common and opened a boutique to prove that. Here, you can find long-lasting and simple design things for your everyday life. 

© istock/Artjafara

Another great place to understand the concept of the Design District is "Local". It is a cafe, a shop, and a museum. Most places in Design District are multifunctioning art spaces, so is "Local". The idea of this place is to bring more art into life and appreciate everything around you as an art object. Everything inside the gallery, including hangout space and cafe, chair your sit on, spoon you use to stir your coffee, are design items. In the museum, there are things you can admire, things you can buy to bring some of those concepts home, and things you can use while inside "Local". It is quite a unique experience.

A culture of second-hand shops and galleries

Another great way to spend time in the Design District is visiting second-hand shops. The second hand is a very popular concept in the Nordics. Here, it is an appreciated place, saving nature and giving new life to things. No wonder that second hands found their way into the popular Design District. 

© istock/Plateresca

You can visit "Fargo Vintage" for some 1950s vibes in terms of furniture or "Momono" for endless shelves of interior design, clothes, and fabrics.  In terms of art, step into a small cozy "Galleria 4-kuus", the exhibitions change seasonally, and the worker inside is glad to tell you more about the paintings. Also, once I met a famous local artist inside the gallery, just saying.

"Exhibition Laboratory" is a peculiar place for non-boring art. Young students from the Arts Academy fill the place with unique art pieces. For more contemporary art, visit "tm-gallery". It is known for surprises.  Strolling the beautiful Design District can get exhausted, but there are some unique places to get a bite and relax for a while until a new gallery round.** **

© istock/SeventyFour

"Relove" is a famous place for its awesome brunches, great breakfasts and also, a designer's second-hand. Of course, what else would you expect? Another place situated on the Uudenmaankatu, between many great places I already mentioned, is a "Cafe bar NO 9". Keeping up with the Design District, it is a bar, a cafe, a restaurant, and also a museum. 

Overall, the Design District has a diverse culture, attractions, fashion, and peculiar cafes and eateries. You can tour around the Design District in Helsinki for a whole day or even a few days since the area stretches to many city regions. Living in Helsinki, I have never visited each place the Design District offers because there are so many of them. I still find something new and surprising every time I stroll the streets of the  Design District, and so should you. 

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