It’s interesting that somehow one always ends up in Malmi, although I’m afraid it is no one’s destination of choice. But we all have some errands in Malmi. Visiting people. Institutions. Shopping. Doing sports. Feeling multicultural. Passing by on the way to Ikea in Vantaa.
Yet there is a hidden gem in Malmi – well it is not THAT hidden after all, everyone is aware of it, but it is currently widely underrated: Helsinki Malmi airport. It opened in 1938 and back then it was, well, a big deal. The airport was among the first in the world designed as and international airport – oh and it is the airport which was meant to serve the Helsinki Olympics in 1940. However, by the time the Olympics actually took place in Helsinki in 1952 the airport has been moved to Vantaa as we all know (now when I think about it, Malmi and Vantaa have a lot in common: located a bit further away to the north from the city, providing affordable accommodation to middle class and lower class families alike, boasting with ghettos, shopping malls and random depots… and a fancy airport each).
Nowadays the airport serves for general civilian purposes, and that is why most mortals are not aware of the actual airport buildings. One never simply has a reason for a visit – and that is a big shame, because the main building is gorgeous. The airport complex consists of a round functionalist main building with two belts of rectangular windows encircling the barrel-like building. There is a check-in hall downstairs and a number of offices (or ex-travel agents’ I can imagine), a roofed viewing terrace and a café upstairs, an adjacent control tower and a few non-public inconspicuous sheds.
The main building is generally open to public (the control tower is obviously not) during Finnish working hours (9am-4pm). Well, the truth is that there is rarely anybody around, so you get enough time to enjoy the atmosphere undisturbed. I’m not sure about café’s opening times, but knowing Finland, something between 11am and 3pm would be “safe” time to visit (meaning you would not be sent away in ) and enjoy yet another disappointing cup of Finnish coffee. This time it is all forgiven.
The round hall is silent, lit through roof windows… it is lovely during the golden hour, so if you would like to experience what travelling must have felt like AND get some glorious pictures of modern atmosphere 60 years ago (and entertain your girlfriend with a bit different plane-spotting), HEM is the place to visit on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
In today’s scale everything seems so small and cosy, so naïve. This was the future of air travel nearly hundred years ago. Actually there are many places around Helsinki w
here one can experience what the nature and scope of public events in the 1940/50s Finland was. The accessibility of events to general public and the sheer number of visitors. The security and health&safety measures. The queue management barriers. The materials. The proximity of the centre of action. The trust. The nostalgia.
… and the rumours that the main building will be torn down and the whole airport area converted into a housing estate, so please do hurry and pay the Finnish aviation monument a visit!
EDIT: Other rumours mention the weekend brunch served at the cafeteria (aka GATE 1)! More information here – it is in Finnish but pretty straightforward.
Contact: Helsinki-Malmin lentoasema, 00700 Helsinki (Tattariharjuntie)