Tourism for hockey fans in Helsinki
by Lucas Aykroyd|20 MAY 2022
Reijo Hukkanen's Laulupuut (Song Trees) sculpture, based on Finnish mythology, stands in central Helsinki near a Skoda video screen promoting the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
photo: Lucas Aykroyd
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Whether you’re visiting Helsinki for the first time or the 20th time, it’s a wonderful place to spend the month of May during the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

Naturally, most fans are hoping to follow their favourite Group A team to the semi-finals and medal games in Tampere. Yet beforehand, there are plenty of ways to amuse yourself in the Finnish capital when you’re not cheering or waving flags at Helsinki Ice Hall (Jaahalli).

It’s always pleasant to stroll past Helsinki Cathedral in Senate Square or down the tree-lined Esplanadi to the harbourfront Kauppatori (Market Square). That’s where wild celebrations take place – including jumping into the fountain – when Finland captures a World Championship (1995, 2011, 2019) or Olympic gold medal (2022).

How about some other interesting options on or off the beaten path?
Emil Wikstrom's Lantern Carrier sculptures (right) famously adorn the front of Helsinki's Central Railway Station.
photo: Lucas Aykroyd
One easy place to start is Helsinki’s Central Railway Station. You may have passed through it already en route to the hockey games, but the architecture merits a second look.

Designed by Eliel Saarinen in 1919, the Finnish granite building is a fusion of Art Nouveau and Art Deco influences, and the BBC named it one of the world’s most beautiful railway stations. Even more striking than the station’s clock tower are the four muscular “Lantern Carrier” statues – sculpted by Emil Wikstrom – that flank the main entrance. (Locals call them the “Ball Guys.”)

You can also grab a pizza in the former ticketing hall, converted into a cavernous Olivia restaurant, or bunk down at the new Scandic Grand Central Helsinki Hotel. It’s attached to the station and formerly housed the Saarinen-designed headquarters of VR, the Finnish national railway company.

The 491-room hotel is home to Finland’s longest hotel hallway (159 metres). Check out the inner courtyard terrace, or have a drink at the bar and admire interior designer Jaakko Puro’s nature-themed decor touches.
The Helsinki sign in Citizens' Square has become a popular place for visitors to snap photos.
photo: Lucas Aykroyd
Steps away lies Kansalaistori (Citizens Square), a huge plaza that boasts the iconic Helsinki sign and a variety of cool cultural institutions.
Oodi has become world-famous for its architecture and amenities since the Helsinki library made its debut in 2018.
photo: Lucas Aykroyd
Head to the space-age Oodi library. Its collection of 100,000 books includes plenty of Finnish hockey titles, from Harri Pirinen’s Kulta-Leijonien Tarina 2019 (about the last gold medal in Bratislava) to Kale, the autobiography of long-time IIHF Vice-President Kalervo Kummola co-written with Jari Korkki.

The 17,000-square-metre library, which opened in 2018, also includes a state-of-the-art recording studio, 3D printers, and an interactive “fairy tale wall” for children. Don’t miss the third-floor view from the Citizens’ Balcony.
El Autobus by Sol Calero is just one of the colourful works of modern art at Helsinki's Kiasma gallery.
photo: Lucas Aykroyd
If you’re fascinated by modern art, visit neighbouring Kiasma, which marks its 25th anniversary in 2023. It’s currently hosting the ARS 22 exhibition with 55 artists from 26 countries.

Surreal highlights include Finnish artist Jenna Sutela’s “I Magma,” featuring psychedelic glass heads that double as lava lamps that generate AI-based predictions via an app (got that?), and Venezuelan artist Sol Calero’s El Autobus, a full-sized orange-yellow bus that offers commentary on the privileges of tourists.
The surreal skylights above the underground Amos Rex modern art museum in Helsinki are an attraction in themselves.
photo: Lucas Aykroyd
Just across the central street of Mannerheimintie, the skylit domes atop Amos Rex – Finland’s largest private art museum – are as compelling to see as the rotating exhibitions in the subterranean galleries.  Amos Rex was built by publisher Amos Anderson for $60 million USD in 2018.

If you’re hungry for traditional fare after all this non-traditional cultural sustenance, head into the adjoining Restaurant Lasipalatsi.

It’s a beautiful example of 1930’s Functionalist architecture, part of a building originally constructed to provide transit and entertainment services for visitors during the 1940 Summer Olympics (cancelled due to World War II, with Helsinki getting the Games in 1952 instead).
Restaurant Lasipalatsi is an iconic Finnish dining destination overlooking Mannerheimintie in downtown Helsinki.
photo: Lucas Aykroyd
You can feast on dishes like lamb vorschmack with potato mash, picked gherkin, and beetroot and desserts like creme brulee with rhubarb sorbet. Sit window side and watch Helsinki’s iconic green-and-yellow streetcars go by.
Kamppi Chapel was constructed in 2012 for Helsinki's stint as the World Design Capital.
photo: Lucas Aykroyd
If the ups and downs of your favourite team are disquieting you, there’s always the nearby Kamppi Chapel. Built in 2012 when Helsinki was named the World Design Capital, it’s a space for silent contemplation or to chat with a professional if you feel you need help. The 11.5-metre-tall elliptical wooden structure is made out of spruce, alder, and ash.

And for a different kind of pick-me-up, coffee is never far away in Helsinki. Fun fact: Finns drink a world-leading 12 kilograms of coffee every year. There are great coffee shops all over downtown, from Andante to the Paulig Kulma Cafe to El Fant.
Kahvila is one of the many great Helsinki coffee shops that benefit from the Finnish passion for java consumption.
photo: Lucas Aykroyd