A movie theater. A place that you visit when you want to be cheered up or if you’re looking for cinematographic experiences. Helsinki’s Tennis Palace is however so much more than just that. It’s not merely a cinema, but a place where films meet an art collection that consists out of 9 000 modern and contemporary art pieces. The Tennis Palace hosts events, guidances, workshops, sculpture tours and movie screenings. It’s also a place where you can enjoy a tasty meal in the middle of the city surrounded by urban views. Here are my five reasons to visit and fall in love with the renewed Tennis Palace.
Art – HAM
My first encounter with the Helsinki Art Museum, among friends HAM, began when I stepped into the Tennis Palace from its Northern entrance on Eteläinen Rautatiekatu. I immediately noticed that something had changed in the building when I was greeted by Kari Cavén’s artwork UHO (Unidentified hanging object). Above the escalators, there is a hanging sculpture made out of steel that indicates that the Tennis Palace is a meeting point for arts. During my first visit, I was recommended to share my art experiences by using the hashtag #hamhelsinki. How refreshing! Finally, Helsinki has another truly social art museum, where one is allowed to take photos and share them on social media networks! So I entered the museum with my camera ready and was excited about what was about to come.
First, I was met by the exhibition named “100 years of Taidesalonki” (25.9.2015-10.1.2016) that celebrates the centenary of the oldest still operating art gallery in Finland, which was originally established by Leonard Bäcksbacka. The exhibition collects one hundred works that have passed through the halls of Taidesalonki, representing some of the most unique visual works of their time. The exhibition had many interesting pieces, but my personal favorites, the two paintings by Tove Jansson, pulled me closer and I must say that later on, I couldn’t even remember how much time I spent in front of them as they were so mesmerizing.
Out of all of HAM’s features, my personal favorites were the fun tips on how to experience the museum itself. I also enjoyed the exhibitions’ versatility, use of space, the museum photo booth and Ai Weiwei’s exciting exhibition (25.9.2015-28.2.2016).
The works of Chinese Ai Weiwei are all exhibited for the first time in Finland and two of the pieces have their world premiere. The Ai Weiwei @ Helsinki exhibition fills the large galleries on the upper floor of HAM with installations, sculptures, and photographs. I liked the fact that this exhibition showcased the unique form of the Tennis Palace. Many times I found myself admiring its round curved ceiling.
Food – Brasserie Lumiére
Besides art, the renewed Tennis Palace also offer other forms of eye candy – good food that is. The French restaurant Lumiére offers everyday cuisine and quality wines in a spacious corner on the second floor of the building. Actually, the restaurant has no walls at all, so a visit to this brasserie includes the soundscape of the Tennis Palace: downstairs cinema goers are buying tickets and treats. The restaurant offers a stunning urban view of Helsinki, facing the city’s commercial district. At Lumiére, you can enjoy lunch, dinner and Sunday brunches. I tried the delicious barley with beetroot, fried mushrooms, and goat cheese.
Films – Finnkino’s cinema
I’ve always been childishly excited about movies. Through films, we get to experience different eras and living surroundings and expand our own ideologies. Storytelling as its best! Finnkino’s cinema in the Tennis Palace is said to be Finland’s most modern cinema, and it offers high standards of comfort to cinema-goers. It has 14 halls for film screenings and hosts 2 697 customer seats so you won’t be left without a seat in this cinema! The cinema is also one of Helsinki’s most popular spots for date nights.
In my opinion, there is a unique atmosphere in multifunctional buildings like the Tennis Palace. The scent of popcorns adds to the carnival feeling, whereas you at HAM can travel in time and space – right now to China. Through the movies at the cinema, you can find yourself anywhere in the world, and thanks to Lumiére you can feel like you’re in France. So the building actually functions as a teleporter of the mind, if you ask me.
The Tennis Palace’s history adds to its charm. The functionalistic building was designed by Helge Lundström back in 1937. It was originally meant to be a repair and maintenance house for cars. However, already one year later, four tennis courts were built into the building, hence its name. In the Olympic games in 1952, the Tennis Palace was the host of the international basketball games. How interesting! So both sports and cars are also present in this culture center if you believe in the fact that history always leaves its mark on places.
The Tennis Palace could not be located any more central than it is. That is why many locals, and visitors alike, meet up here. When you can find this many different activities under the same roof, there is something to do for everyone at the Tennis Palace.
The Tennis Palace, main entrances: Salomonkatu 15 and Eteläinen Rautatiekatu 8 (the building comprises a complete block between Salomonkatu, Fredrikinkatu, Eteläinen Rautatiekatu and Jaakonkatu)
- HAM, http://www.hamhelsinki.fi/
- Lumiére, http://www.brasserielumiere.fi/
- Finnkino – Tennis Palace, http://www.finnkino.fi/eng/cinemas/helsinki_tennispalatsi/
What do you like the most about the Tennis Palace? What are its best/worst features?