early 1900s. The landmark station—characterized by massive male sculptures flank-
ing its entrance, ornate glass and metalwork, and a soaring clock tower—presently
welcomes over 300,000 travelers each day.
In the early 1920s, Saarinen and his family emigrated to the US where his son,
Eero, would become the architect of such iconic projects as the Gateway Arch in St.
Louis and the main terminal at Dulles International Airport near Washington, DC.
Alvar Aalto (1898-1976)
Alvar Aalto was a celebrated Finnish architect and designer working in the Modernist
tradition; his buildings used abstract forms and innovative materials without sacri-
ficing functionality. Finlandia Hall in Helsinki, undoubtedly Aalto's most famous
structure, employs geometric shapes and sweeping lines to create a striking concert
hall, seating up to 1,700 guests. Aalto designed an inclined roof to try to maximize
the hall's acoustics, with marginal success.
A Finnish Frank Lloyd Wright, Aalto concerned himself with nearly every aspect
of design, from furniture to light fixtures. Perhaps most notable of these creations was
his sinuous Savoy Vase, a masterpiece of simplicity and sophistication that is emblem-
atic of the Aalto style. His designs became so popular that in 1935 he and his wife
opened Artek, a company that manufactures and sells his furniture, lamps, and textiles
Stockmann's entrance on Aleksanterinkatu, facing the Three Blacksmiths, is one of the
city's most popular meeting points. Everyone in Finland knows exactly what it means when
you say: “Let's meet under the Stockmann's clock.” Tram #2 also makes a stop right at the
clock (see “Tram #2/#3 Tour”). Across the street from the clock, the Old Student Hall is
decorated with mythic Finnish heroes.
TrainStation: Just past the Three Blacksmiths, look for a passageway to your right
through a shopping arcade. Walking through it, you'll emerge in front of the harsh (but se-
rene) architecture of the train station (by Eliel Saarinen; see sidebar). The four people on
the facade symbolize peasant farmers with lamps coming into the Finnish capital. Duck in-
to the main hall and the Eliel Restaurant inside to catch the building's ambience.
Continuing past the post office and the equestrian statue of Mannerheim, return to Man-
nerheimintie, which passes the Kiasma Museum, Parliament, and Helsinki Music Center
on the way to the large, white Finlandia Hall, another Aalto masterpiece. Across the
street is the excellent little National Museum of Finland (looks like a château with
a steeple), and a few blocks behind that is the sit-down-and-wipe-a-tear beautiful “Church
in the Rock,”
Temppeliaukio. Sit. Enjoy the music. It's a wonderful place to end this
If you want to continue on to the Sibelius Monument, located in a lovely park setting,
take bus #24 (direction: Seurasaari) from nearby Arkadiankatu street. The same ticket is
good for your return trip (within one hour), or ride it to the end of the line for the bridge to