The city center of Helsinki and surrounding streets contain lots of undiscovered must-be-visited places. One of those Finnish gems, attracting not only tourists but locals as well, is Lapinlahti hospital area. All kinds of fascinating, unbelievable stories, from desperate to heartwarming, tragic to hilarious are part of its 176 year-old history. Nowadays, after incredible battles for the preservation of the site, the area offers everyone a possibility to relax, ease the mind and enjoy culture. Today it is possible to visit the site with a guided tour, a truly unique Helsinki experience.
The visionary purpose of the first psychiatric hospital of Finland was to cure mental illnesses, while previous facilities for mentally ill were designed to simply isolate them from the ‘ordinary’. Curious note on the matter: the principal doctors used to live with their families in the hospital premises. They had a huge separated apartment in the middle of the hospital building which is now used as the main art gallery of the premises.
The main architect of Helsinki, German born Carl Ludwig Engel, selected the location and designed the hospital. The original lot was vast and provided a considerable amount of farming land. In fact, the place used to be self-sufficient to an impressive extent. The stunningly beautiful garden environment of the hospital area is a product of century long work by the patients. From the beginning, gardening work was an important part of therapy as well as nature’s wonders stress relieving. Even today the famous garden is still very productive – divided to small patches for Helsinki citizens to take care of. Botanically the area is one the most extraordinary places in Helsinki, because of the two first principal doctors were enthusiastic botanists, and planted lots of unique trees, plants and bushes on the area.
As a psychiatric hospital and education facility, Lapinlahti operated until 2008, when its hospital functions were permanently ceased.
Who hasn’t heard about Finnish “Seven Brothers”? One of the first novels written in Finnish, which is nowadays considered to be an epic Finnish classic. Surprisingly, Aleksis Kivi, the father of “Seven Brothers” was taken to the hospital because of this novel, which after his death brought him a cult status. The novel was released in 1870, after years of intense and draining writing process. It introduced a fresh “rough-around-the edges” -type of way to write about the life in the Finnish countryside. The book was a big effort from Kivi but it was received very badly. All the main critics of the time destroyed the book with their reviews and Kivi took this very hard. Eventually his mental health collapsed and he was taken to Lapinlahti hospital in 1871. His illnesses were not unfortunately cured or even mitigated, and it has been later speculated he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.
Aleksis Kivi is not the only one in Lapinlahti hospital among outstanding characters of the times. Jean Sibelius, the Finnish composer, and all his siblings have spent their times in the hospital. And even the Finnish foreign minister Rudolf Holsti had an opportunity to spend a night behind the yellow walls. Lots of Finnish artists, musicians and actors have praised their time of “recharge” in the premises. An endless amount of very different life stories are linked with the hospital and that is what makes it such an inspiring place.
Culture, Arts & Events
Today Lapinlahti hospital is an oasis of mental wellness and overall peace, all in a beautiful setting. Organization called Lapinlahden Lähde has revived the Lapinlahti hospital area with multiple services for everybody. A café, second-hand and decoration boutique, art galleries, unique sauna and various projects and events are all in harmony to cater the locals and travelers who enjoy Helsinki. You can participate in specially organized events which create a unique atmosphere and gather people together. For example, last year there were Street Food Sunday during Helsinki-day, Full Moon Cafés, concerts and Full Moon Saunas.
The scene acts almost as a living room for the locals, but also a fascinating destination to experience something special during your stay in Helsinki. Every day is a good day to visit Lapinlahti – there is always something surprising and special going on.
Mental Walk – stories about the evolution of Lapinlahti hospital
Are you ready to hear more exciting stories about the building with yellow walls? Order your ‘Mental Walk’ – walking tour led by one of our professional guides to explore the rich history of the hospital, people behind the revolutionary development of psychiatric care and famous patients through the years. You will also hear more about the current functions and get to enjoy the surroundings! After the tour you can enjoy the art galleries, grab a bite in Loop – the food recycle restaurant, or simply stroll around the absolutely stunning parks surrounding the hospital. The City of Helsinki made a study of the flora of the area in 2004. It was discovered that the hospital area is one of the richest botanical spots in Helsinki. The main cemetery of Helsinki is situated on the adjoining lot and it add to creating a feeling of continuation and prestige of life. There is something healing about this place that can be felt. Come and sense the energy.
More information about Mental Walk.
Get to know Lapinlahden Lähde -organisation here.