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23 July, 2019

Art meets nature on Helsinki’s islands

Helsinki’s beautiful islands captivate nature lovers and city dwellers alike. In 2020 the Helsinki Biennale festival will bring contemporary art to the archipelago, adding a new dimension to the local island experience.

Helsingin upea saaristo: Isosaari, Harakka, Kaunissaari, Lammassaari, Liuskasaari, Pihlajasaari, Vartiosaari ja kymmenet muut saaret. Lue vinkkimme!

Helsinki Biennale electrifies the Helsinki art scene

Helsinki is just as much a city of the arts as it is a city of the sea. By combining these two elements, Helsinki Biennale hopes to highlight the seaside city's unique charm.

— It’s wonderful to see this happening, as the Helsinki art scene has been a well-kept secret for too long already, says Maija Tanninen-Mattila, the director of Helsinki Art Museum HAM.

Helsinki Biennale, which will be organised biannually from May to October, will bring a selection of work from 30–60 Finnish and international contemporary artists to the islands of Vallisaari and Kuninkaansaari. The artwork will mainly be showcased outdoors, in public spaces that are accessible to everyone.

The archipelago will host the first Helsinki Biennale in 2020.

Together with the new Amos Rex museum, which will host exhibitions ranging from the art of ancient cultures to experimental contemporary art, Helsinki Biennale will raise Helsinki’s reputation as a city of arts to the next level. One of the key principles of the Biennale is to keep the Helsinki archipelago open to all city residents and visitors.

300 islands to choose from

Every Helsinki resident lives within 10 kilometres of the sea. The city is also home to over 130 kilometres of shoreline and more than 300 islands.

Seaside development is a current trend in cities around the globe, including Helsinki. The Finnish capital now has a dedicated maritime strategy that aims to incorporate it into the city in useful, enjoyable ways as well as improve the accessibility of the archipelago for everyone. The strategy outlines a plan from now through 2050, and one of its main objectives is to bring water taxis under the local public transport umbrella.

Vallisaari has a fascinating nature

Lonna, Vallisaari, Kuninkaansaari - from the army to the public

In just the last few years alone, Helsinki has accomplished a great deal. There are more public boat services, and the Finnish army has given up many of its islands for public use. In summer these islands are regularly served by water taxis.

Four years ago, the tiny Lonna, just 150 metres long, was owned by the army. Now it’s a stylish day trip destination with a high-quality restaurant, which champions organic and local ingredients accompanied by DJ-spun beats.

Vallisaari and Kuninkaansaari were reclaimed for recreational use in 2016, and both found instant popularity. These islands, which once served as the allotments of the nearby Suomenlinna fortress, combine layers of history with unique natural diversity.

In summer 2018 Helsinki residents and visitors could finally visit Isosaari, too. “Big Island” by name, Isosaari covers 76 hectares and takes half an hour to reach by water taxi. It boasts an old officers’ club turned restaurant, a fabulous beach, a free sauna, and plenty of seaside spots perfect for sunbathing.

Grab the rudder and go

For those who have access to their own boat, Helsinki offers even more island adventures. The islands with no public boat connections often include camping facilities, toilets, barbecues, or picnic tables.

Helsinki residents’ love for the sea can be found in the city’s dozens of boat clubs and roughly 12 000 boat harbours. What’s more, following the huge success of the Helsinki city bikes, plans are in the works for shared city boats – which is great news for all of Helsinki’s aspiring seafarers!

Helsinki archipelago has it all:

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