Yesterday we had the rare opportunity to visit the Presidential Palace in Helsinki during their open house celebrating Finland’s centennial. The Presidential Palace (Presidentinlinna) is very seldom open to the public, meaning that the whole of Finland and all tourists were on the move. And so was I, of course!We arrived at the palace 30 minutes before the opening time to find that there was a long queue lining round the block. So to the end of the line we went. After 1 hour and 45 minutes we finally entered the Presidential Palace overlooking Helsinki Market Square in the heart of the city.This neoclassical yellow building with three floors houses the study, official reception rooms and the Office of the President of Finland. I suppose that most official state visits, meetings, negotiations, functions and receptions including the annual Independence Day reception are all held in this building.At the entrance we went through security control (just like at the airport), headed upstairs and arrived at the Atrium with a white sculpture standing in the middle of the hall. Portraits of the spouses of the presidents of Finland are located on the upper balcony of the Atrium. I believe this is the place where journalists interview guests during the Independence Day reception.From the Atrium we continued to the majestic Hall of State with beautiful chandeliers, golden pillars and blue sofas. Friendly members of staff told lots of captivating stories and answered people’s questions. I was advised that events such as banquets for state visits as well as the Independence Day handshakes and dancing take place in this hall.I found out that official talks and coffee receptions are arranged in the Dining Hall next door. The ceiling in this room is decorated with beautiful empire style botanical paintings. During the Independence Day reception food stations are supposedly located in this hall.Out of all halls and rooms in the Presidential Palace, the Hall of Mirrors is the one I loved the most. It is very elegant and airy with lots of natural light flowing in from the windows on one side of the room and reflecting from mirrors on the other side. Large chandeliers and golden details and decorations add to the royal-like atmosphere. I heard that originally this room was the Emperor’s throne room and ballroom. And that today smaller state lunches, dinners and ceremonies are held in the Hall of Mirrors.Another striking room is the Gothic Hall with a large cupola and 22 decorative paintings of provincial and civic coats of arms bordering the ceiling. We were told that today events such as presidential press conferences are held in this hall.The President’s study is a simple blue room with a large sturdy desk and paintings on the wall. A picture of the 9th president of Finland, Mauno Koivisto, together with a candle and flowers were placed in the study to commemorate his accomplishments as he had passed away the night before.This Yellow Room with Empire style furniture is the place where the President of Finland receives small delegations etc.Our visit to the Presidential Palace was very interesting, definitely a once in a lifetime experience! In my opinion the palace itself is fairly modest and simple, nothing too grande or over the top, with lots of beautiful details and decorations. I think this describes fairly well the overall mentality of Finland and the Finnish people. However, I was surprised by the relatively small size of the halls and rooms, no wonder the thousands of guests at the Independence Day reception feel hot and claustrophobic here.
Presidential Palace | Mariankatu 2, 00170 Helsinki
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