If you´re planning a weekend trip to the Finnish capital, make sure you don’t miss the Design District. Located in the city centre and its surrounding neighborhoods Punavuori, Kamppi and Ullanlinna, Design District Helsinki is a unique microcosm of inspiring fashion and antique shops, charming art galleries, individualistic cafes and restaurants, interesting museums, fancy jewelry stores, showrooms and art agencies.
Here you find the most interesting names in Finnish creativity, uniqueness and urban culture. We recently strolled around this place and captured some interesting sights. Get inspired! Have you been in the Design District in Helsinki? Tell us what you think of it in the comments below…
Cafe Aalto has an elegant atmosphere and old fashioned table service. Located on the second floor of the arresting Academic Bookstore, the interior is designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, often called “the father of modernism”. The delicious pies, salads, sandwiches and cakes are made in the cafe´s own kitchen according to the best European traditions.
Cafe Aalto, Pohjoisesplanadi 39
Cafe Aalto is next to Esplanade Park which consists of two active streets – Pohjoisesplanadi and Eteläesplanadi – and a boulevard-like park between them. Here you´ll find many of the most famous stores for Finnish design like Iittala, Artek and Marimekko – as well as some smaller ones which are no less interesting.
What started as a glass factory in the small Finnish town of Iittala, now celebrates generations of essential objects that are made to enrich people´s everyday lives. The philosophy of each product is to be distinctive, combinable and multi-functional, with a timeless design that will never be thrown away.
Iittala, Pohjoisesplanadi 25
The name Marimekko is a play on words, yet completely descriptive. “Mari” is an anagram of the first name of the company’s founder, Armi Ratia, while “mekko” means “dress” in Finnish. And it was indeed Mari´s dresses which started it all in 1951.
Marimekko, Pohjoisesplanadi 33
Artek was founded in 1935 by four young idealists, Alvar and Aino Aalto, Marie Gullichsen and Nils-Gustav Hahl. The business idea was “to sell furniture and to promote a modern culture of habitation through exhibitions and other educational means.” Still today, the cornerstones of Artek´s product development strategy are ethics, aesthetics and ecology. This translates into a combination of high quality, timeless classics and the archetypes of tomorrow´s humane design. Alvar Aalto´s Stool 60, which turned 80 last year, is a prime example of this.
Artek, Eteläesplanadi 18
Close to Esplanade Park, Design Laakso & Sundman is a nice little store selling handmade sterling silver, gold and gemstone jewelry made by master silversmith Heikki Laakso and silver artisan Mariia Sundman-Laakso. Being in the store you can watch one of them at work – upclose and personal.
Design Laakso & Sundman, Pieni Roobertinkatu 8
Ullanlinna, a city district dominated by Jugendstil architectural style synonymous with National Romanticism, is south of the Esplanade Park area. Here you´ll find Design Museum. Finland is known for high standard design which became an important aspect of national identity. A central actor in that sector is Design Museum which has established its position as an information bank of Finnish design.
Design Museum, Korkeavuorenkatu 23
Tikau is a Finnish company which combines Scandinavian design and Indian handicraft traditions. The word Tikau comes from Hindi and stands for sustainable and durable. The collection consists of handmade home décor and clothing accessories for everyday wear.
Tikau, Korkeavuorenkatu 9
Juhani Roininen offers high quality bookbinding services. The store sells among other things guest books, journals and photo albums. They also repair and restore antique books.
Bookbinder Juhani Roininen, Korkeavuorenkatu 5
The neighborhood of Punavuori went through a process of gentrification over the last few years. Punavuori, often called “Rööperi” in the old Helsinki slang, offers many trendy small shops, bars, nightclubs and restaurants.
Nounou Design concentrates on producing small series of decorative designs by hand. The owner Anu Penttinen also specializes in tailored solutions for companies in need of individual gift options for clients and personnel.
Nounou Design, Uudenmaankatu 2
Ivana Helsinki is an independent art, fashion and cinema brand, delicately mending Slavic rough melancholy and pure Scandinavian moods. Ivana Helsinki collections are like small ballads with charming, soulful and savvy tones.
Ivana Helsinki, Uudenmaankatu 15
At the lovely Pino, you´ll find small, decorative and functional items for home and office. The store is furnished with old stacked fruit crates and pinewood fixtures, making a fine complement to the 100 year old ceramic tiled flooring.
Pino, Fredrikinkatu 22
Punavuoren Peikko offers cool clothes, toys and accessories for kids. It mostly includes small labels from the Nordic countries. If you have children, don´t miss this lovely shop.
Punavuoren Peikko, Uudenmaankatu 15
Nou Nou Design
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Have you been in the Design District in Helsinki? Tell us what you think of it in the comments below…
Tags: finnish, nordic
Stephan fell in love with the Nordic countries, especially the Faroe Islands, when he was a teenager. The 34-year-old German is originally a health care editor and writes about Nordic culture on a freelance basis.
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