Advertisement with Visit Espoo. There are so many lovely places to visit in Helsinki and the surrounding area and one of my favourites is to spend a day in neighbouring Tapiola. With the opening of the western extension of the metro it’s now possible to reach Tapiola from the city centre in only 15 minutes. A one day ticket covering zones A and B costs just €8 with tickets for longer periods offering even better value. More details can be found here.
Tapiola was designed as a garden city and constructed during the 1950’s and 1960’s, it’s name being derived from Tapio, the forest God of Finnish mythology. The city’s architecture and landscaping combining urban living in natural surroundings brought worldwide fame for Finnish urban planning.
On exiting the orange metro train in Tapiola station we were greeted by a large white sculpture standing on the platform. It’s called “Emma leaves no trace” and was created by Kim Simonsson. This forms part of an installation of colourful handprints spread around the metro station and is linked to the EMMA museum of Modern Art which is one of the cluster of four Tapiola museums that we had come to visit.
Before heading to the museum quarter, we enjoyed a walk through the centre with its attractive central lake and fountains which are just five minutes walk from the metro station. It looked blissful during our autumnal visit and in winter the pool is transformed into a winter wonderland ice rink with a 330m skating track around the pool.
As Tapiola is home to several museums which are all close together, we’d planned a cultural day out in Espoo. It was only a 15 minute walk to the WeeGee Exhibition Centre which is home to two of these museums, a cafe and museum shop. Entrance is €20 (free each Friday after 5.00 p.m.) and covers admission to the Espoo Museum of Modern Art (EMMA) and Espoo City Museum KAMU. The WeeGee building was constructed in the 1960’s for the Finnish printing company Weilin and Göös as their new print works, now owned by Espoo City Council it has been a museum and exhibition centre since late 2005. From the photo above you can see the original logo above the door of the Weilin and Göös company.
The museums open at 11.00 a.m. and we decided to visit the Espoo City Museum KAMU first as it was on the ground floor.
It’s galleries document Espoo’s history and include a splendid exhibition entitled ‘A trip through time’ starting from Stone Age hunter gatherers through to bringing visitors up-to-date with the city’s ultra modern technology centres.
After finishing looking around the City Museum we went upstairs to explore EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art. This vast 5,000 square metre exhibition space is the largest of any museum in Finland and displays contemporary art from both Finland and overseas.
Temporary exhibitions taking place during our visit included ‘In search of the present’. This looks at the work of 16 contemporary artists who have been exploring the relationship between nature, technology and human thought.
Also exhibiting was Chiharu Shiota, a Japanese artist who has created an immersive installation consisting of crisscrossing threads. We were able to walk through the maze of yarn which encloses a sequence of old doors through the work.
From the large windows overlooking woodland we spotted a very strange yellow object that looked like something from outer space. It’s actually Futuro House, a plastic yellow house that was originally designed as a ski lodge in 1968. The house hit the headlines both in Finland and overseas but was thought too peculiar and expensive to go into mass production. Today around 65 space age Futuro houses remain in various corners of the world with one of them here in Tapiola. Futuro House is only open to the public during the summer months so we were unable to take a look inside on this occasion.
With more museums to visit later, we decided to take a break for some lunch and headed to Bistro O Mat restaurant located on the third floor of the Ainoa shopping centre. Don’t let the fact that this restaurant is housed within a shopping mall put you off dining there as it’s very stylish. It was just as well that we had made a reservation as even on a Tuesday lunchtime people without bookings were being turned away.
Lunch includes an appetising buffet salad and our mains of beef fillet and fried Muikku with new potatoes and dill sauce were beautifully presented and tasted just as good as they looked. Muikku are small fish commonly found in Finnish lakes and taste delicious served breaded with rye flour and fried in butter and oil creating a flavoursome crunchy texture.
We couldn’t resist a dessert and our crème brûlées accompanied by scoops of lemon sorbet were light and refreshing. Service was friendly and relaxed making it easy to see why it’s such a popular place to enjoy a meal in Tapiola.
We then had a look in some of the shops in the attractive Ainoa Shopping Centre including the Stockmann department store which has a sizeable branch there before heading back to the museum quarter to visit the other two museums.
Firstly we explored the Finnish Museum of Horology and Jewellery – Kruunu which is dedicated to timepieces and the history of measuring time. The museum’s collections have their origins in 1944 when the Finnish School of Watchmaking was founded.
The museum’s mission is to increase the appreciation of craftsmanship and crafts and to show what it takes to make a piece of jewellery or watch. The ‘Made in Helsinki’ exhibition displays approximately 40 mechanical watches of Sarpanevauhrenfabrik (S.U.F.) from two decades and offers an insight into the highly skilled Finnish watchmaking tradition.
Next door is the larger Leikki – Museum of Play dedicated to childhood, toys and play. This museum offers interesting, nostalgic experiences for all ages and is the only one in the country to focus on childhood and play. The main exhibition ‘Laboratory of Play’ centres on childhood over different eras and throughout this fun museum there are opportunities to feel like a child once again surrounded by the large collection of toys and games.
There’s a recreated toy shop with an old fashioned till, a dolls house made by a child living in the neighbourhood, cuddly toys, hands-on activities and lots of fun for all. We slipped off our shoes and knelt on the floor enjoying playing with some of the games and it was an enchanting way to end our visit to Tapiola.
I’d highly recommend planning a visit to this part of Espoo as, in addition to Tapiola’s cluster of museums there are scenic walking paths beside the sea to be enjoyed too.
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During our visit we were guests of Visit Espoo and as always, all views and opinions are entirely my own.