An afternoon at the Kaapelitehdas (Helsinki)

Three museums under one roof – each very different yet all of them top notch by international standards. I strongly advice to enjoy these particular museums in company of someone you feel comfortable with – including the children who will have a great time.

Kaapelitehdas – the Cable factory – is a complex of event venues, a theatre, cafés and museums with a modern urban twist. Located at Salmisaari and easily reachable by tram number 8 (Länsisatamankatu) and a number of buses (pretty much any bus to Lauttasaari is calling at Salmisaari stop) in a former cable factory (duh), Kaapelitehdas had become one of the most important hubs of modern urban culture in Finland. The atmosphere is not completely unlike Tate Modern (for example), yet it feels much more welcoming and much less intimidating. It is family friendly, but in a right way, meaning that children whose parents pay attention to them are present at the venue (and welcome to it), and that kids and adults alike can and will have a good time there.  For the wide array of events – recycling fairs, exhibitions, festivals, food events, alternative wedding fairs, etc. etc. –  please do check out their website or Facebook page. I guarantee that you will soon find something of your liking…

… and if you don’t, or if you fancy a museum visit, let’s get wild in the museum wing! As I mentioned before, all three museums are under one roof, and I believe that one tickets takes you to all three museums (if there is a chance I have not convinced you yet to purchase your very own Museokortti, aka the Key to Unexpected Finnish Adventures). Unlike many Finnish museums Kaapelitehdas museums have generous opening times: 11-18 on weekdays plus lates once a month. Compared to closing time of 16 this leaves you with a chance to pop in to the museums after work, a privilege otherwise unknown to the Finnish folk 😉

Let’s begin with the ground floor: the reception, the shop (WAY TOO SMALL and a bit disappointing to be honest. Just the usual array of postcards, some books – some of them pretty dated – and catalogues and a few generic museum gifts…) and the Museum of Photography. I read a very unflattering review of this very museum in the recent Lonely Planet guide to Finland, it was so unjust! The Museum is spacious and the exhibitions going on right now, Festival of Political Photography and Boys (young men feeling that they somehow lost grip of their lives), were class. Very current, very edgy, and very supportive of young artists.

On the second floor you will find a children’s paradise, the Theatre Museum. Probably the most interactive museum in Finland, a must-go for families visiting Helsinki (why is it not on any Helsinki for Kids map?!). While adults enjoy the history of Theatre, kids are allowed and encouraged to try out costumes, express their feelings, explore various theatre sound/light devices, have a go at dubbing – yes, pretty much like London Science or Natural History Museums 🙂 Well. Unfortunately I did not have any kids with me yet I still liked the atmosphere a lot. And I liked the fact that you can rent the venue for birthday celebrations, weddings and other events – there was a kids’ birthday party going on, and the kids sounded really really happy. No wonder.

The third floor = Hotel and Restaurant Museum. I know right, sounds thrilling, but believe me, it is pretty damn awesome. The history of hospitality in Finland equals history of international influence (on culture, food, etc.) in Finland, and that is pretty cool. You will see very clearly (and with many of your senses) how rapid the process of Finland opening up to foreign influence has been! The museum’s layout is a bit more traditional and slightly less interactive and children-orientated compared to the Theatre Museum, however, visitors are again encouraged to be more active: gues herbs and flavours by their smell, enjoy the oh-so-90s ball bubblegum, fiddle with the jukebox and piss off the nearby guided tour and some random seminar (apparently Alko, Finnish alcohol monopoly, uses the seminar rooms in this museum) by using the superloud Karaoke machine. I loved the latter, and I did not even have to sing (although if some of my beloved friends would have been with me, I would).

I also learned from this experience that you can book a guided tour at the museum. It costs a few extra euros, but it seems that you will actually get to try some food as well. Those who read between the lines know by now that if you are lucky you can treat yourself to free food tasting even without paying and listening to the guided tour, but should you be less lucky, the museum is still sweet (pun intended): restaurant menus throughout the time, some statistics (on among others Finns’ preferences in food!), some beautiful crockery from the finest Helsinki hotels – and a mockup of the first Alko store (opened on 543210, that is April 4th 1932 at 10:00), the beginning of the reverse marketing, or the marketing of not marketing, or the schizophrenic marketing, in other words, how to sell goods and make profit and at the same time try to convince people not to buy our goods. Blast.

And if you are attentive enough, fill out the customer satisfaction form downstairs! If you do so, you will get a free set of postcards with Alco bottle labels from… err… long time ago. White wine called White wine existed a long time before IT crowd😉

… that’s all for today. I’m off to a special museum thing tomorrow, and I won’t spare you from that!

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