January Jazz in Helsinki

One could quickly mistake Helsinki as a place to avoid during the deepest months of winter. Darkness, snow, population that is prone to depression during the cold period. Not very enticing. However, I dare to say that January is actually a good and refreshing time to visit my motherland. I spent a long weekend there at the end of last month and realised that as the climate drops and the streets get slippery, Finnish creativity flourishes and one can find fantastic things to do there – indoors.

Musiikkitalo – Helsinki Music Centre

Helsinki has a got a fabulous new concert hall, ‘Helsinki Music Centre’. It’s a beautiful, glass building with an airy feel and world class acoustics, designed by the leading, Japanese acoustic designer, Yasuhisa Toyota. The centre aims to be a meeting point, not just a place to spectate. That’s why it has a comfortable cafe, library for musical studies and line ups that both surprise and impress.

In the evening that we visited the Music Centre, the venue was holding a gala evening. A special event where two choirs, one was the Academic Female Choir from the Helsinki Business School, the other was Polytech Male Choir from the Helsinki University of Technology, were accompanied by a leading Finnish soprano, Helena Juntunen, and in the second half by Johanna Forsti, a solo female jazz artist.

The gala evening concert was stupendous. First half was classical with great classics from Franz Schubert and some more experimental ones from Finnish Toivo Kuula. The second half was dedicated to jazz. Johanna Forsti’s jazzy voice was beautiful when mixed with the two choirs and jazz artists playing saxophone and bass guitar. I just wasn’t sure about Iiro Rantala’s compose, Four Seasons, which lyrics were utter meaningless nonsense. Although to be fair, that may well be what Finnish sounds like to the most foreigners.

Helsinki Music Centre

Helsinki Music Centre

Crowds are filling the Helsinki Music Centre before the gala evening performance starts

Crowds are filling the Helsinki Music Centre before the gala evening performance starts

Airy concert hall with world class acoustics

Airy concert hall with world class acoustics

Stage ready for the classical part of the performance

Stage ready for the classical part of the performance

Stage ready for the jazzy part of the performance

Stage ready for the jazzy part of the performance

Academic Female Choir dressed in Marimekko

Academic Female Choir dressed in Marimekko

Ateneum – Finnish National Gallery

The second cultural experience was a visit to Ateneum, which is Finland’s National Art Gallery. The gallery presents an exhibition called 52 Souls which combines works from 52 artists from Vincent van Gogh and Wassily Kandinsky to less known painters like Finnish Hugo Simberg and Akseli Gallen-Kallela. What links all the paintings together is Symbolism, an art trend which presents poetic and mystical art works.

I really enjoyed the exhibition partly thanks to the curator who gave an insightful presentation of the show but also due to learning about Symbolism. The paintings which depicted dreams, visions and sometimes horror, gave a lot space for one’s own imagination to fill in the missing pieces, or the missing story.

Ateneum, Finland's National Gallery

Ateneum, Finland’s National Gallery

Brunssi – Finnish Brunch

I cannot visit Finland and not have brunssi, a.k.a Finnish brunch. Brunch is of course not invented by the Finns but we have definitely added our own flair to it. In Scandi style, brunch is typically served in an all you can eat buffet, and oh my, you do want to eat all you can! Warm bread rolls, a cheese table, ham slices, salads, porridge, eggs, yoghurt, fruit salad. Not to mention the sweets including pastries, cakes, crumbles and crepes with whipped cream and jam. Mmmm….

My long weekend in Helsinki included visits to Cafe Fazer and Moko Market which both serve fabulous brunch. They are also nice for browsing even outside brunch time. Moko Market is a cool, boho decoration shop that sells great soft furnishing like quilts and pillows. Cafe Fazer is the flagship store for the iconic Finnish chocolate brand and great for picking up souvenirs like Karl Fazer blue chocolate and Geisha chocolate.

Moko Market cafe+interior shop combo

Moko Market cafe+interior shop combo

Delicious brunch table at Moko Market

Delicious brunch table at Moko Market

Interior finds from Moko Market

Interior finds from Moko Market

Cafe Fazer is also the flagship store for the iconic Finnish chocolate brand, Fazer

Cafe Fazer is also the flagship store for the iconic Finnish chocolate brand, Fazer

Beautiful interior at Cafe Fazer

Beautiful interiors at Cafe Fazer

Brunch plate at Cafe Fazer

Brunch plate at Cafe Fazer

Crepese, whipped cream, jam and chocolate cake to finish off Finnish brussi

Crepes, whipped cream, jam and chocolate cake to finish off the Finnish brussi

Souvenir picking from Cafe Fazer

Souvenir picking from Cafe Fazer

Hotel Hellsten Helsinki Parliament

My family lives 3 hour drive from Helsinki so we decided to stay in an apartment hotel Hellsten Helsinki Parliament. Like many apartment hotels, this one was functional and clean but nothing more to write about or to remember for. We chose it merely for the location which was a few minutes from the Music Centre.

Hellsten Helsinki Parliament apartment hotel was clean and practical but nothing special

Hellsten Helsinki Parliament apartment hotel was clean and practical but nothing special

View from Hellsten Parliament hotel window

View from Hellsten Parliament hotel window

Doesn’t sound so bad, does it then? All the above with beautiful views which I hope you agree from the below photos.

Wintery views of Helsinki

Wintery views of Helsinki

IMG_4302 IMG_4292

IMG_4301 IMG_4294 IMG_4298 IMG_4295

Contacts:

Ateneum
Kaivokatu 2
00100 Helsinki
Tel: +358 9 6122 5510

Helsinki Music Centre
Mannerheimintie 13a
00100 Helsinki
Tel: +358 20 707 0400

Cafe Fazer
Kluuvikatu 3
00100 Helsinki
Tel: +358 20 7296702

Moko Market
Peramiehenkatu 10
00150 Helsinki
Tel: +358 9 4150 4500

Hotel Hellsten Helsinki Parliament
Museokatu 18
00100 Helsinki
Tel: +358 9 2511 050

(c) Nordic Odyssey, 2013. All rights reserved.

4 responses to “January Jazz in Helsinki

  1. Looks like another fabulous trip Kristiina!! There’s so much incredible design in these images – the contemporary Concert Hall and Cafe Fazer especially, not to mention those delectable goodies in Moko Market. I’ve never been to Helsinki, think this might have to change very soon!!

    • You should definitely try Helsinki and I’m sure you’d love all the design shops there. Let me know if you do go and I’ve got a much bigger list of recommendations on best things to do, see and eat!

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