Yksinkertaisuus — it’s not a word that’s easy to pronounce, but it is one that’s fairly easy to understand. It means, simply, “simplicity.”
A focus on chic minimalism and an emphasis on less, rather than more, lies at the heart of Finnish design. With just one glance at Helsinki — Finland’s capital city — you’ll notice its proclivity toward sleek lines, modern curves, and unrivaled yksinkertaisuus. For architecture enthusiasts and photographers, it’s a wonderland.
Planning to visit and enjoy the Finnish city’s most remarkable feats of design? We’re here to show you a few of Helsinki’s most photogenic locations.
If you’re naturally drawn to pink hues, we know just where to send you. Head to Kallio, a vibrant neighborhood in eastern Helsinki that features an array of cafés, restaurants, bars, and boutiques. It’s also home to a Victorian-style building called the Ihantola 1907, which is easy to spot, as it’s a towering pink masterpiece. Use a wide-angle lens to capture the enormity of the building, and don’t be afraid to get creative with your photography — experiment with long exposure to capture the crowds moving past the building’s facade or the changing sky.
Not just a haven for bibliophiles, Kaisa Library invites a host of architecture-enthused photographers every day. And it’s no wonder — the structure is stunning. Housed within Helsinki University, the library is a hallmark of new Finnish design. Incorporating a curved brick facade, a lattice-work front, and a dizzying series of curved staircases within, the building is a photographer’s wonderland. Capture the facade before heading inside and aiming your camera up to photograph the fascinating architectural angles within the interior.
Deriving from the Greek word “chiasma,” or “crossing,” Kiasma is a contemporary art museum that doubles as Finland’s luckiest — it almost wasn’t built in the first place. The museum’s striking exterior was part of a design by Steven Holl, who submitted the proposal to a Finnish architectural competition in 1992.
Holl’s innovative layout was chosen out of 516 submissions, meaning that the now iconic Kiasma Library may have looked entirely different had Holl decided against entering the competition. Because Kiasma is so unique and reflective, it’s best to capture it at different hours of the day. When photographing the museum’s exterior, focus on the way the light catches the mirrored surfaces and reflects the bustling city around it. You can also photograph from afar to capture the building’s unique silhouette against Helsinki’s traditional skyline.
Leave the bustling streets of Helsinki behind and hop on a 15-minute ferry to Suomenlinna, a maritime fortress and naval base that dates back to the mid-1700s. Aside from the site’s historical intrigue, the island structure is awash with photo opportunities.
Traipse through high grasses and use your wide angle lens to photograph the rugged coastline, the mossy fortress walls, and the tiny mossy-topped cottages nearby. Visit during the early morning or evening to photograph at blue or golden hour for the softest-hued photos. The area offers a unique perspective of Finland’s wilder side.
Head to Helsinki’s Kamppi neighborhood in time for sunset and make a beeline for the Hotel Torni. Once there, settle in for a drink at Ateljee Bar, which offers an incredible array of delicious cocktails and an unparalleled view of Helsinki’s city sprawl. While the hotel bar is worth a visit during the afternoon or evening, watching the sun sink below the skyline is a truly special event. Bring a wide-angle lens to photograph the quaint roofs of Helsinki juxtaposed against the clear-blue Finnish sky.
Though Helsinki has an abundance of churches, Uspenski Cathedral is one of its most beautiful, and also the largest Orthodox Church in western Europe. The building itself is spectacular — upon arrival, you’ll notice that the approach is a perfect place from which to take a panoramic shot of the holy building. Ogle the dark exterior and bright-blue copper trim, and then head inside for a wealth of spectacular scenes. Uspenski’s enormous central dome is its crowning glory, though — so be sure to stand underneath it and photograph upward, or use the dome to frame your shots of the stunning golden grillwork on the church’s walls.
Header photo by Carlos “Grury” Santos