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  • Writer's pictureTupur Chakrabarty

An Island Named Seura

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

Our Helsinki Airbnb host said there was an island less than a kilometre from the house where locals went for a walk or a run - it was called Tervasaari. The zoo is on an island called Korkeasaari. So it becomes quite obvious quite quickly that the Finnish word for island is saari. And the one saari you must visit if you are in Helsinki is Seura. You must visit the open-air museum in Seurasaari!

We were very lucky to visit Seurasaari on 4 September (2022) because the museum is open only from mid-May to mid-September. The easiest way to get there, for us, was walking to Kamppi bus station, and then taking Bus 24 from Platform 47. Two buses depart each hour between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm - e.g. the 2022 timetable was 9:03, 9:33, 10:03, and so on, and the timetable for December 2023 was 9:12, 9:42, 10:12 etc.. The bus takes 17-18 minutes to get to the stop Seurasaari. You will then cross a beautiful footbridge to reach the island. There are several other bus and tram services to Seurasaari, but they involve a longer walk, from Meilahdentie. Two adult and one child day tickets cost us €‎22.50. Do download the HSL app for planning your journey, checking timetables, and buying tickets. The app, as well as the website, is pretty intuitive and user-friendly.

So, what is in the open-air museum? If you like to read up on places before you visit, then Seurasaari has a well-maintained, informative website, which tells you about the history of the museum. But in a nutshell, established in 1909, Seurasaari showcases authentic and original buildings from all over Finland, with the oldest ones being from the end of the 17th century. It is modelled on the Skansen Open-Air Museum in Stockholm, but we kind of liked Seurasaari more, perhaps because we visited there first...

When you buy your tickets (€10 for adults and under 18s visit for free), make sure you pick up a map of the museum. The trail is very easy to follow if you have the map and it also has the same brief descriptions of the exhibits that you read on the trail.

Seurasaari Map
Download PDF • 1.03MB

We spent about three hours in Seurasaari, but a couple might be enough if you don't linger at every house for as long as we did! We loved going into the huts and farmsteads, looking at the interesting objects, and imagining how life was in rural Finland hundreds of years ago.

As recommended by the map, our journey started at the Tar Boat from the 1800s. When loaded with 25 barrels of tar, this 14-metre-long boat (image: left/top) would weigh over four tonnes. The other boat you can see is the Church Boat. This church boat was called Virrat and could carry up to 100 people. A boat like this would often be shared by the entire village to travel to church in summer. What fascinated me more than the size of the Church Boat was its name. Virrat looks and sounds like a variation of the Bengali word বিরাট (biraat), which means colossal. I couldn't help but wonder if the Finnish word for currents had something to do with size!

Another word that tingled my fascination for language was the name of the church - Karuna. While 'karuna' might mean barren in Finnish, in Bengali, and in Sanskrit and Hindi, 'karuna' means empathy and mercy, virtues you'd expect a religious institute such as a church to show! Here's a bit of trivia! Karuna Church is the oldest building in the museum. It was built in 1685-86.

Situated in the Bell Tower was a 'poor man' statue. The description reads: "Poor man statues are a part of Western Finnish traditions, used to collect money for helping the poor. The statues were usually placed outside churches along pathways or near the western doors of the church to remind people of those less fortunate in society." This statue must be from the Finnish town of Haapavesi because it was called the Haapavesi Poor Man statue.

Most of the buildings in the museum, whether they are water mills, granaries, cottages or farmsteads, are wooden, and several of them are open to visitors. Climbing the narrow, semi-dark stairs, walking across the creaking floors, peeping into the sauna or the smoking room, or seeing the clever placement of the fireplace, which also served as a baking oven, gave us goosebumps.

Kurssi Farmstead. The loft actually comes from a different building.

The contents of the buildings we visited were even more goosebump-worthy! A bench that uses the natural shape of the tree trunk? A wooden walker from centuries ago? A swing that we've seen plastic variations of in the 21st century? A bunk bed? We were blown away by the innovative designs of the rural Finnish folk!

The buildings we didn't expect to see in the outdoor museum were the two windmills. The first one is called the 'magpie' mill. The map explains, "The name comes from the protruding beam resembling a magpie's tail that rotates the upper section of the mill around its axis." And the other one is called the 'lady' mill. You're right - it's called so because the bottom section resembles the dresses gentry women would wear. We love a bit of good trivia, don't we?

And last but not least, the bear cache. These were built on a tall tree stump to store food, especially game, so bears and wolverines could not get to it. Humans would access it via a ladder. Had we not seen one in Rovaniemi when we visited Irene and Ari Kangasniemi, we would've thought that this was a gigantic, somewhat over-the-top, letterbox!

Seurasaari was added to our itinerary at the very last minute and we thank our stars for that! Do not skip this gem of a place if you are in Helsinki. Half a day is all you need for an authentic taste of rural Finland from centuries ago.


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Jan 14

Very well written!

As if I was there with you guys in the whole journey!


Dec 27, 2023

Very interesting read and to know the church was called ‘Karuna’ - what was fascinating were all the names that sounded so sub- continental! Was there some place where you could buy food?

Anita M

Tupur Chakrabarty
Tupur Chakrabarty
Dec 31, 2023
Replying to

No cafes or restaurants, but the museum shop sold sweets, biscuits etc. along with souvenirs. We bought this coffee-flavoured bar - just one, but then returned within minutes to buy a second one!


Dec 20, 2023

Good read


Tanmoy Hossain
Tanmoy Hossain
Dec 16, 2023

Well written madam, Nice place.


Dec 16, 2023

Interesting destination

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