If you live in Helsinki or are a tourist visiting the city, you will be bound to stroll through the Esplanade Park at one time or another. But alas – don’t settle for a quick walkthrough. While the park isn’t huge, it certainly makes up in the details. Take a moment to look around you and spot the special features of this beautiful park.
The Esplanade Park has been a popular spot for urban promenades for over 200 years. The design partly follows architect Carl Ludvig Engel’s plans from 1826. The park can be found in between the Eteläesplanadi and Pohjoisesplanadi streets in the very heart of Helsinki.
On the Western side of the park, you can find the restaurant Teatteri. The terrace is very popular in summer, especially when the sun shines!
This part of the park has more shade than further along. You will be happy to take a breather here on hot days and admire the memorial to storyteller Zacharias Topelius by Gunnar Finne – Fact and Fable.
Fact holds the flame of truth on her palm, and Fable a storytelling bird. It is said that the statues used to face the other way but when returned in 1945 from it’s safe place during the bombings, it was placed back the wrong way. So now Fact and Fable have a different view to look at than originally.
Next, you will come upon the noble looking statue of Eino Leino by Lauri Leppänen, Leino’s good friend. Leino was a Finnish poet and journalist. The legend tells us that Leppänen placed a coin in Leino’s hand which is still there!
The Esplanade has large areas of grass which will be filled with urbanites enjoying the sun on summery days and evenings.
“Do not walk on grass” is not applicable here!
Now if you were to look a little further, you would notice that the Pohjoisesplanadi street bordering the park is lined with cafes. These are a good idea if you want to spend some time people watching and are not prepared to sit on the damp ground.
However, the park does have many benches for you to do the same!
The most known statue in the park has to be the memorial for the Finnish national poet, Johan Ludvig Runeberg. Interestingly, the sculptor was Runeberg’s own son, Walter Runeberg. The sculpture has no mention of Runeberg’s name, as the figure was seen as self evident. He looks like he’s about to give a speech. Note the Maiden of Finland below him, cloaked in bearskin. To see the statue in winter, take a look here.
The park is often busy with performances, so there’s always a lot to observe or photograph.
As you walk, take a moment to savour the trees and flowers.
The symmetry of the park pleases the eye.
Espan Lava is a stage from the 1930s where free concerts are held in the afternoons and Saturdays from May till August. In fall and winter it’s often a stage for installations.
On both sides of the stage, you will find very unique fountains. Water Nymphs by Viktor Jansson is two mermaids playing in the waves with a fish. The bigger mermaid’s model was the artist’s own daughter – Tove Jansson. You may well know her for being the creator of the Moomins.
On the other side is a fountain funnily called Hi, also by Jansson. Some know it as Free Ride. Quite modern names, don’t you agree?
Opposite these fountains and the stage is Kappeli – a historical restaurant designed by Hampus Dahlström and built in 1867. At the time of it’s opening, it quickly became the place to be seen.
Kappeli was known for being one of the first places to serve cold beer. These days it’s open all year round and you can still sense the history around you when you enter. Naturally, cold beer is still served.
Let’s not forget the four historical kiosks found at the park. These come in handy if you want a quick ice cream. But beware of the seagulls, they are quick – you have been warned! The kiosks on the side of the Pohjoisesplanadi street look like reels of thread.
These quirky kiosks were designed by Gunnar Taucher back in 1928.
On the side of the Eteläesplanadi street, you will find two wooden and decorated kiosks from 1893 and 1909.
On the very Eastern side of the park, you will stumble upon the statue Havis Amanda by Ville Vallgren. He completed the sculpture in Paris in 1906. Yearly, on May Day Eve there is an elaborate ceremony to put a graduate student’s cap upon her head. You’ll have to experience it to know what I mean.
Oh how I long for long summer days! Have you been to the Esplanade park? What is your favourite statue there?