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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

Indulge Your Inner Design Hawk in Helsinki

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3. What to Do


Indoor and outdoor private spaces are treated like art galleries during Open House Helsinki.  

Peruse the plethora of shops – just under 200 – on 25 streets that constitute Helsinki’s Design District, established in 2005. Take a guided walk ($22; Mondays and Fridays at 1:30 p.m., June 6 to August 29, or by request year-round) that makes pit stops at some of the stars of the strip, like shoe boutique Minna Parikka, which has designed footwear for Lady Gaga, and IVANAhelsinki. Time your visit to coincide with Helsinki’s Design Week in September to take in exhibits, shows, and markets, as well as the simultaneous Open House Helsinki, which offers a one-off glimpse at around 30 otherwise private spaces like homes, courtyards, tunnels, embassies, and rooftops.

Explore Finnish design in its many incarnations at the Design Museum ($12), a cultural powerhouse with a 75,000-object-strong collection, about 1 percent of which is on display on its three floors. Permanent displays include Alvar Aalto’s glass and furniture collections, such as vases blown in wooden molds made for World Fairs in Paris (1937) and New York (1939), and Nokia devices made by Panu Johansson in the mid-nineties.

Indulge your design-hawk tendencies at Design Forum Finland, a stylish storefront and café maintained by the Finnish Society of Crafts & Design, which was founded back in 1875. Pick up anything from handmade items like milk-carton-shaped porcelain jars by Jatta Lavi ($68), designer clothing like the Jolier ONE one-garment, which can be worn in 60 different ways ($126 to $155, depending on the fabric), and funky hats by Costo ($92 to $103).

For a younger and hipper version of the Design District walk, book an outing around Helsinki’s outlying districts with Inspirations Tours, led by the young, clued-in designers at Musta Design. These 2.5-hour walks ($70) just launched in May and cover private studios of up-and-coming designers and small creative businesses.


Published on Jun 29, 2011 as a web exclusive.

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