Art, Architecture and Design Abound in the Baltic Sea Region

Design from Helsinki, museums in St. Petersburg, Art Nouveau in Riga, Hamburg’s Hafencity and Warsaw’s skyline continue to be enhanced by fresh attractions, new museums and urban projects that point to the future and position the region as a modern, exciting and forward thinking Northern and North-Eastern European destination.

See what these Baltic Sea Region cities have to offer this summer for art and design lovers.


Minna_Parikka_credit Musta&Valkoinen.jpg_WDCHELSINKI2012_250xHELSINKI – Design Capital

The poster child for minimalistic, functional and clean design, Helsinki was voted World Design Capital in 2012 and is “the” destination for high-end fashions and fabrics, home accessories, furniture and jewelry. The city’s Design District boasts some 200 attractions from shops to galleries, studios to museums which can be explored on your own or by joining an English language two-hour Design Walk.

Helsinki never stands still: visitors can witness the transformation of the industrial and harbor areas at Kalasatama, Jätkäsaari and Kruunuvuorenranta into new attractive districts.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2014, the Helsinki Design Week on 4-14 September, features exhibitions, seminars, fashion shows, parties and open studios.

Until 7 September, 2014, the exhibition Kiasma+Marimekko=Together presents top names of Finnish contemporary art, design and fashion at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma.

For design aficionados the centennial jubilee exhibition honoring Ilmari Tapiovaara at the Design Museum is a “must” from 6 June to 21 September.


ST. PETERSBURG – Art and More Art

St. Petersburg’s art galleries and museums are world renowned and include “must-visits” like the State Hermitage Museum, one of the world’s largest museums with some 3 million items, and the State Russian Museum, which features Russian art.

However, the city’s smaller and lesser-known museums should not be ignored. They include the Museum of Glass Art in the Orangery of Yelagin Palace and the little-known Stieglitz Applied Arts Museum with some 30,000 exhibits including decorative arts and crafts, furniture, porcelain, chandeliers, metalwork, bass relieves and more.

Art events in 2014 include the 20th European Biennial of Contemporary Art MANIFESTA 10 from 28 June until 10 October. Hosted this year by the State Hermitage Museum, the event was initiated in response to the new social, cultural and political reality after the Cold War. 2014’s emphasis will be on 25 years of changing realities and experiences as they transformed within this new global world order. Exhibitions are scheduled in some of St. Petersburg most prestigious museums and venues.


RIGA – Capital of Culture 2014

Riga_LIVE RīGA-Ikars Kublins-250xIn 2014, a trip to the Baltic Sea Region must include Riga. The 2014 European Capital of Culture is boasting a full calendar of international-scale events, including amber exhibitions, opera and music festivals.

Riga’s Old Town already is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and takes visitors back a century with its 800+ restored Art Nouveau buildings; the biggest collection of its kind in Europe.

The city’s Kalnciema Quarter, with its just recently renovated 19th century wooden buildings, has a historic atmosphere while at the same time featuring Latvian and European design venues, fairs, and arts and crafts shops in the quarter’s court-yards. On Saturdays residents frequent the traditional market, and Tuesday’s open-air concerts feature up-and-coming musicians from Latvia.

Riga’s new cultural highlights include the National Library of Latvia, which will open in 2014 on the left bank of the Daugava river. The new architectural symbol for Latvia was designed by Latvian architect Gunnar Birkerts, and with its glassy slopes mirrors the silhouette of Riga’s Old Town.


HAMBURG – Urban Development + Design

Hamburg-marketing-hafen_imagefoto-de_250xHamburg’s former docklands-turned urban hotspot HafenCity district continues to expand further into the harbor area and is now offering even more attractions for design and architecture aficionados. Stunning contemporary architecture, high-end retail and gastronomy already make the district a must-visit.

The city’s new Herzog & de Meuron-designed Elbe Philharmonic Hall will open in 2017. Situated on a former cocoa storage hall and appearing like a tall ship sailing up the Elbe river, it already is the city’s new symbol and most prestigious cultural development site in Europe.

Open since November 2013, the permanent IF Design Exhibition in HafenCity shows the world’s best in communication, product and packaging design.

Set to open in late 2014, Hamburg’s Designxport Design Center in HafenCity will be the central networking and communication site for the city’s 14,000 designers, academia, culture and technology. Design exhibitions and a “made in Hamburg” retail space will make the space attractive for visitors.


WARSAW – New Museums, Changing Cityscape

After its destruction in WWII and the Cold War, Warsaw is now well on its way to be an exciting European capital and major tourism destination. The city knows how to enjoy itself, and newly restored districts feature top hospitality, retail and culture. Museums keep opening in Warsaw, focusing on history, art and music.

The newest addition is the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Designed by Finnish architects Lahdelma & Mahlamäki and Polish Kuryłowicz & Associates, the symbolic building already opened to the public in April 2013. The permanent exhibition covering 1,000 years of Jewish life in Poland is scheduled to open on 28 October.

With its geometric simplicity and wood, stone, copper and brass materials, the museum’s exterior reflects the nearby Monument to the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto, while it’s open interior cuts across its entire length with an illuminated, sculptural space created by two waved walls.

Locatedzlota_architecture_a_0_157x in the trendy Soho Factory, Warsaw’s new Neon Museum displays Polish neon signs from the communist era.

Since 2013, Polish-born architect Daniel Libeskind‘s Złota44 Tower residential building rises high above Warsaw’s cityscape and features 54 floors and a sleek steel and glass design.

Photos: Minna Parikka / WDC Helsinki 2012, LIVE RīGA / Ikars Kublins, Hamburg Marketing GmbH, Zlota44

US Press Trip to the Baltic Sea Region: From Beatles-Tour to Latvian Cooking Classes

IMG_0002Six US journalists explored the five Baltic Sea metropoles Hamburg, Warsaw, Riga, Helsinki and St. Petersburg on 10–21 May. During their trip, the journalists, who were mainly from New York and the East Coast, got to know the highlights of the history and culture of each city. The trip was organized as part of the ONE BSR project.

– The journalists were very enthusiastic about the cities as well as the whole Baltic Sea Region that they could experience, says Nadja Biebow, ONE BSR project manager with Hamburg Tourist Board.

– The combination of the five cities worked very well and gave them a good overview of the region’s top highlights.

In Hamburg the program included for example a boat trip through the harbor and on the Alster lake as well as a Beatles-Tour around the city. In Warsaw the group visited the new Museum of History of Polish Jews and took a cruise at the Vistula river. In Riga they had in program a visit to the Latvian National Opera and the Old Town, and a Latvian cooking class. In Helsinki they got to know the Helsinki archipelago, Suomenlinna Sea Fortress and Finnish design. From Helsinki the group travelled to St. Petersburg by the Ferry “Princess Maria’. In St. Petersburg they took a city tour, tried out delicious Russian cuisine and visited the St. Isaac’s Cathedral with its panoramic view over the city.

Based on the experience, the journalists were very fascinated about the region.

– They felt that the cities can be highly recommended to American travelers, says Nadja Biebow.

– Everyone agreed that the Baltic Sea Region has a lot to offer for visitors in regards to culture, modern lifestyle and history.


More independent and younger travelers among cruise guests

Risteily_740costa-fortuna-224_2310_Noora Heino_Visit Helsinki Material Bank_300xThe City of Helsinki has cooperated with entrepreneurs in the field to produce a profile of cruise guests to improve the services offered to them. The study shows that there are group-formers, but also independent adventurers among international cruise guests in Helsinki.

– The estimate shows that there are many systematics and group-formers. However, spontaneous and independent are growing groups, whose wishes often differ from the mainstream. This means that cruise travellers can no longer be seen as a homogenous traveller group, who look only for a certain kind of services. The cruise travellers also become younger by the year and some shipping companies have younger clienteles, explains Cruise Manager Noora Heino from the City of Helsinki.

The results of the profile study and service design has now been utilised to develop the product range offered to the cruise guests.

A 2011 study conducted by Port of Helsinki shows that 96 per cent of the travellers disembark in Helsinki, which means that the attractiveness of the city as a cruise route object of the Baltic Sea is excellent. This year, Helsinki welcomes 390,000 cruise guests.

Further information

Image: Noora Heino / Visit Helsinki Material Bank

Enjoy the summer like the locals in the Baltic Sea Region

In Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Riga, Warsaw and Hamburg alike, residents enjoy their summers to the fullest, inviting visitors to join celebrations and laid-back summer activities.

Connected by the Baltic Sea, shared history and cultural traditions, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Riga, Warsaw and Hamburg have, above all, one thing in common: Locals worship their summer with warm winds and short nights when the sun barely sets. Sun-starved residents of these Northern/North-Eastern European cities spend every possible minute outside, enjoying picnics, festivals, and outdoor activities. There is no better way to experience life in the Baltic Sea Region than to join the locals in enjoying their summers.

Below some suggestions on how to make the most of your summertime visit to Warsaw, Hamburg, Riga, Helsinki and St. Petersburg.


Warsaw_jazznastarowce_255xMusic is a big part of Warsaw’s summer. Jazz fans come to the historic Old Town Square on Saturday evenings from 4 July to 30 August for the International Jazz at the Old Town Square Festival. One of Europe’s oldest jazz festivals, the event features big names of the international jazz scene.

On Sundays at 4 pm, locals relax at Łazienki Park and listen to free piano performances of pieces by Warsaw’s native son, Frederic Chopin at the Chopin Concerts in Łazienki Królewskie. The concerts are organized from 18 May to 28 September. Even more Chopin and other European composers are featured at the 10th International Music Festival ‘Chopin and his Europe’, on 15 – 31 August.

In the summer, the Vistula river is the place to be – that’s where young and old join the fun at the beach bars along the river. The lively, La Palya Music Bar and Temat Rzeka feature sunbathing, dancing and city light views.

A midsummer highlight on 21 June is the Wreath Celebration when pagan rituals come alive in celebrations of the elements of fire and water. Concerts, shows and cooking demonstrations lead up to the main event of Warsaw’s “virgins” placing wreaths lit with candles in the river and fireworks blazing above.


Hamburg-marketing_boot-Alster_255xThe people of Hamburg like to be active. Summer days start with a morning run or bike ride around the inner-city Alster lake or along the Elbe beaches in Altona district, with the first container ships passing towards the ocean.

Also popular are boat rides on the Alster or laid-back canoe tours of Hamburg’s canals which evoke a feeling of being away from the big city. Customarily, the boat ride is topped off with a cold beer and hearty meal at water front restaurants such as Bootshaus Dornheim, which also rents canoes.

A perfect place for picnics is Hamburg’s “Central Park”, Planten and Bloomen,  features a Japanese Garden and Tea House, rose gardens, performances, and nightly light and water shows at the park’s lake (at 10 pm in the summer).

In the evenings, locals will meet friends for stylish sun-downer cocktails in the many water-view restaurants along the Alster, notably at Alsterperle, Alstercliff or the harbor Blockbräu beer restaurant.

Popular summer events include Hamburg Cruise Days and Blue Port on 1 – 3 August, which draws thousands to the waterfront or onto the water for a celebration of cruise lines. Cruise ship parades, harbor illuminations, music and culinary stages make for a uniquely Hamburg experience.


Riga_Laide Rudolfa_255xJāņi, the summer solstice celebration, is Riga’s most popular holiday, when ancient customs come alive in the salutation of nature and fertility, traditional foods and dance, symbolic rituals and all-night festivities.

Jāņi kicks-off on 14/15 June at the Ethnographic open-air Museum of Latvia, where visitors learn about traditions and how to properly celebrate the summer solstice.

Riga’s historic Herb Market at Dome Square at old town is a must-visit on 20 June, when, in preparation of Jāņi, residents stock up on fresh flowers, garlands, smoked meats and fish, and the best Latvian cheeses.

The popular “Rise, Fair Sun Concert” on 21/22 June at the open air stage in Mežaparks is a contemporary interpretation of the traditional Jāņi celebration.

Ethnographic festivities start in the evening of on 23 June at Turaida Museum Reserve and Castle north of Riga, with folk dances and a music festival.

All culminates on Jāņi, on 23 June, the year’s shortest night, when locals will enjoy homemade beer and Jāņi cheese – symbolizing the midsummer sun – and stay awake all night.

Festivities continue until the morning hours of on 24 June with bonfires, beer and cheese, flower wreaths and songs in Riga’s city center along the banks of the Daugava river.

The Riga City Festival on 15 – 17 August is the city’s main summer event with music, dance, sports, an air show and a regatta.


mattolaituri_Visit-Finland_Juho-Kuva_255xHelsinki is not just about design, culinary experiences and urban culture. The city also celebrates nature and outdoor life. In the summer, residents are out enjoying their parks and waterfront. With 123 km of coastline, 315 islands and 30% of the city consisting of green spaces, Helsinki’s citizens are never far from nature.

To learn about the green surroundings of the Finnish capital, visitors should stop by the Nature Center Haltia at Nuuksio National Park. Open since 2013, and overlooking the Pitkäjärvi-lake, the center is entirely built of wood and designed by an internationally renowned Finnish architect Rainer Mahlamäki. Exhibits highlight local nature, sustainability, and mythology.

In summer, streets and parks are buzzing with locals, and with the sun hardly setting, Helsinki’s outdoor nightlife continues into the next morning. Esplanade Park is the place to relax or enjoy popular events, such as folk dancing and the Jazz-Espa concerts.

Helsinki’s best place for Midsummer Eve on 20 June 20 is Seurasaari Island, where traditions are alive with handicrafts, musicians, and folk dancing. The night culminates in dancing and bonfires.

Helsinki’s Flow Festival on 8 – 10 August features a weekend of music, art, and dining. Located in the historic Suvilahti power plant, it can easily be reached from the city center.


“Only” 300 years old, St Petersburg looks back at a turbulent history but today stands for palaces, grand culture, czarist history – and the magical “White Nights”, the endless days between early June and late July, when the sun barely sets. Residents sleep little and instead enjoy the cultural events and outdoor celebrations in parks or along the banks of the Neva river, where there’s music, street performers, food and all-night partying.

A cultural highlight is the prestigious Marjiinsky Theater’s Stars of the White Nights 2014 International Ballet and Opera Festival (28 May – 31 July 2014), which features a diverse program with world-renowned dancers and musicians.

For romantics, there is a lot to discover in St Petersburg, where the vast gardens of the imperial palaces offer inspiration, hidden corners, and elaborate landscaping. Most popular is the Peterhof Palace and Garden, where visitors explore the famous fountains, vistas, and ornate designs.

The Summer Garden at the Russian Museum is the oldest park in St. Petersburg and a local favorite. Known for its marble statues, the garden and palace evokes the time of Peter the Great. The palace is one of the very few that survived WWII undamaged.

For a different experience, St Petersburg’s boat companies offer late-night cruises of the “Venice of the North’s” 48 canals and 42 islands, passing grandiose sights along the way.


Pictures: JazzNastarowce.Pl, Hamburg Marketing GmbH, Laide Rudolfa, Visit Finland / Juho Kuva

Live like locals with the Japanese tourists

pic_Livelikelocals-reportThe final report of the Live Like Locals project sums up the transnational tourism product development carried out in two projects, BaltMet Promo from 2010 to 2011 and the ONE BSR in 2013.

The report gives a detailed description on the background of the pilot project and how it was carried out. It also provides useful tips how similar transnational projects should be organized, and what are their challenges.

Based on the extensive demand and supply researches conducted during the BaltMet Promo, the Live Like Locals concept was developed. It captured special features of the lifestyles of the Baltic Sea Region and showed how to enjoy these places “as the locals do”. It was targeted for small groups or individual female tourists of 20-40 years of age.

The marketing events organized in Japan as part of the BaltMet Promo, proved that the Baltic Sea Region is seen as an attractive destination. The ONE BSR project continued from here by activating the tourism operators of the BSR, organizing marketing campaigns in Japan and by developing the Live like locals concept further in product development workshops.

As a result, some tour operators have been inspired by the Live Like Locals theme and planned new catalog based on it. For example the tourism office of the City of Helsinki made a suggestion for a one week program to experience the Live Like Locals theme in Helsinki. Besides, thanks to the project, a co-operation network has been set up as well as new ideas for future projects and collaboration.

Futhermore, inspired by the familiriazation and press trips organized in 2013 for Japanese tour operators and journalists to the Baltic Sea Region, the region has gained visibility in Japan through blogging as well as printed publications, like the  Japan Airlines inflight magazine which published a reportage on the  cities of Helsinki, Warsaw, and Riga in its March 2014 issue.

See the report:

Picture: Familiarization trip to the Live Like Locals products for the Japanes travel trade

BSR promotion in the USA started successfully

ONEBSR-roadshow_kick-off-media-lunch_0314Five Baltic metropolises started their common promotion to the US travel trade and media on a common road show from 18-20 March. The cities of Hamburg, Helsinki, Riga, St. Petersburg and Warsaw were presented to travel professionals and media in New York, Boston and Chicago.

The road show was a success. US media and travel trade were highly interested in the Baltic Sea Region.

“By most of the tour operators who attended the roadshow the Baltic Sea Region is considered as a new and mostly underestimated destination to sell”, says Nadja Biebow, ONE BSR project manager with Hamburg Tourist Board.

The cities presented not only themselves but the larger Baltic Sea Region as an attractive and fascinating destination for city trips to Northern and North-Eastern Europe.

The attendees were very positive about the common promotion of the five cities. The city representatives had excellent discussions with tour operators and travel agents as well as media.

The Roadshow was sponsored by Air Berlin.


Picture 1: Kick-off of the BSR Roadshow in New York
Picture 2: Roadshow Team( from the left): Lev Kuznetsov (St. Petersburg), Sally Choi (Myriad Marketing), Nadja Biebow (Hamburg), Anna Przyluska (Warsaw), Jenny Taipale (Helsinki), Judith Kolakowski (Air Berlin), Anja Compton (Hamburg Airport), Julie Averay Cuesta (Myriad Marketing), Yalun Ho (Myriad Marketing), Aigars Smiltans (Riga)