Lenin and the Moomins in Tampere
One thing that a visitor to Tampere never suffers is boredom. There are so many things to see and do, and to suit every taste from culture to nature. Even better, nearly all of the attractions are within comfortable walking distance of the city centre. The museums there include a few quite unusual ones, and even the world's only remaining Lenin Museum. Another museum devoted to those charming cartoon characters the Moomins delights visitors of any age.
As good a place as any to begin getting to know Tampere is the panoramic viewing tower on the Pyynikki moraine ridge. At 150 metres above sea level, the ridge is the world's highest esker. The view from the tower gives an excellent general picture of the city's location between two large lakes. The café there is famous for its doughnuts.
Just beside Pyynikki is Pispala, a unique urban milieu that is absolutely a must to see. You can test your fitness by climbing the 365 wooden steps up the ridge. The charming old wooden houses in Pispala stand on such a steep slope that some of them have their entrances on the third floor. Built to house workers in the 19th century, Pispala is now a desirable and expensive residential district, the old houses renovated with piety.
In Lenin's footsteps
More or less at the foot of the Pispala ridge is a world-class rarity, the Lenin Museum. Once one of many, it is now the only one on the planet. It has been there since 1946 and is housed in the Tampere Workers' House, in the same room where Russian revolutionaries held their 1905 and 1906 conferences during the turbulent days of the earliest attempts at revolution. Both were attended by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, who spent nearly two years in the then Grand Duchy of Finland in 1905-07.
Instead of mediating an ideological message, the museum concentrates on presenting Lenin's lifework in general and his connections with Finland. The interesting material on display consists mainly of photographs and documents. In addition to the permanent exhibition, the museum also arranges special ones from time to time.
From cloaks and daggers to Moomin trolls
The Finnish Spy Museum, the first of its kind in the Nordic countries and so far the only, is fascinating if only because of its unusual theme. Its exhibits include everything from sword sticks to sophisticated electronic eavesdropping devices. Many of the devices are in working order and visitors can try them out, even a lie detector.
One of the most popular attractions in Tampere is Moominvalley, a real treasure ground for all who love the Moomin trolls. Located in the lower floor of the Metso library building, it is not a theme park in any ordinary sense of the word. The objects on display there include original sketches done by Tove Jansson in the 1940s and which show the characters that were the precursors of her later cartoon figures. The beloved trolls that populate her books are also to be seen there, together with a scale model of the Moomin house and small tableaux depicting events in the books.
The area along the Tammerkoski rapids with its old industrial buildings is a protected national landscape. In the middle of it is the new museum centre Vapriikki, housed in the old Tampella mill. It has provided a new home for collections earlier displayed in five separate museums, all in all about 700,000 objects, pictures and samples. The exhibits describe life and phenomena in Tampere and the surrounding Pirkanmaa region from prehistoric times to the present day. The forecourt of the museum centre contains old locomotives and other large objects and serves as a venue for many kinds of events and happenings.
The charming Museums of Dolls and Costumes is also well-worth a visit. It is in Hatanpää Manor and contains thousands of dolls, toys and old costumes. The rose garden that surrounds the building is a riot of colours and fragrances in summer.
Incomparable collection of modern art
The most interesting of the art museums in Tampere is the Sara Hildén, which is right beside the Särkänniemi amusement park. Sara Hildén (1903-93) was a Tampere businesswoman and art collector, who in 1962 made a gift of her considerable collection to the foundation that bears her name.
Pablo Picasso "A glass and a violin" (1913)
The collection comprises more than 3,000 items and is being added to all the time. It contains some magnificent works of modern art, including both classic greats from Picasso to Bonnard and also representatives of a newer realism from Segal to Christo. Contemporary Finnish art is likewise well represented in the collection.
To supplement its permanent exhibitions, the museum also arranges special ones from time to time, including reviews of international modern and contemporary art.
National Romanticism and modern architecture
The City Library building is called Metso (Finnish for "capercaillie", a large grouse) and, in addition to housing Moominvalley, is an attraction in its own right thanks to its impressive architecture. The man-and-wife team who designed it, Reima and Raili Pietilä, also created several other of the landmark modern buildings in Tampere. The name Metso was inspired by the shape of the building, which is reminiscent of the fanned-out tail of a capercaillie during its courtship ritual.
Other interesting buildings in the city include the Lutheran Cathedral, completed in 1907. A massive granite temple, it is a fine example of Lars Sonck's National Romantic style. The rich interior decoration is the handiwork of Hugo Simberg, one of the most renowned artists of his era. The best-known individual decoration is the Wounded Angel fresco on the south gallery, a work that many Finns know and love.
A day on an island in a blue lake
Surrounded as it is by lakes, Tampere is an ideal starting point for a cruise lasting anything from a few hours to a couple of days and taking in the most interesting sights in the region.
Only twenty minutes or so away by boat is the city's own summer oasis Viikinsaari, an island with bathing beaches, nature trails and many activities. There is a romantic old restaurant and a lakeside sauna that you can rent. At weekends in summer there is dancing to the strains of music by a live band on an outdoor floor in an idyllic setting. Also worth a visit is the island's unique ecumenical chapel, which is housed in a building that served as a lock-up in the 19th century. Besides being a good place for silent reflection, it is also a handsome piece of art.