The Pihlajamäki district of Helsinki is a combination of bold architecture and parks with memories of the past at the World War I trenches and modern-day action at the skateboard ramps.
Located in Northern Helsinki, Pihlajamäki is a hidden gem among the city’s districts. If it was to be described with one word, ’underrated’ might be pretty accurate. People stay put in Pihlajamäki, with many of those who moved into the brand-new buildings in the 1960s still living in the area.
Things you didn’t know: The lion’s share of the Pihlajamäki’s buildings were constructed for SATO, including the landmark tower blocks as well as the part of the shopping centre area that is now protected. Following a period under other ownership, the tower blocks of Graniittitie 8 and 13 with their rental homes have been re-acquired by SATO.
See our six tips on how to get to know Helsinki’s hidden gem – Pihlajamäki.
The Lähiöasema community centre run by people working under various subsidised employment schemes as well as volunteers is a local meeting place and events venue. This is where you can do crafts, study languages or computing or improve your music skills. The community centre also has a residents’ cafe with newspapers to read.
Lähiöasema community centre, Liusketie 3 A
Black and white surfaces with a touch of futuristic abstraction, creating a strong contrast to the surrounding woodland area. Pihlajamäki has Helsinki’s first architecture path, an internationally renowned area for 1960s residential architecture and urban design. When the construction of Pihlajamäki began in the 1950s, the area was divided between the construction companies SATO and Haka. The signposts along the architecture path will tell you a lot about local construction history and the ideas behind the solutions.
On the Rapakivenkuja plots you can grow potatoes, cucumbers, courgettes and many other vegetables and herbs. The gardening season begins in mid-May when the tractor arrives to turn the soil. Soil quality is good on these plots each sized 100 square metres, holding just the right amount of moisture but no being too high in clay content. There is also a composter and water tap by the plots.
Pihlajamäki-seura residents’ association allotment plots at the end of Rapakivenkuja street by Ring Road I
Graffiti and stunning stunts on the ramps – there is loads going on at Pihlajamäki Youth Park, which was opened in summer 2016. The cafe serves sweet and savoury snacks and, of course, ice cream in the summer! The indoor area is open daily for you to play table tennis or read books or comics. On weekdays there are all types of programme from football to parkour and street art to crafts club. You can borrow skateboards, scooters, BMXs and protective gear from the skatepark. The varied programme will guarantee a good time no matter what age you are.
Pihlajamäki Youth Park, Jengipolku 8
Feeling hungry? Get in touch with the salad sisters. Salaattisiskot has been operating in Pihlajamäki for ten years. In addition to filling salads and a small cafe, the company’s most important service is delivering their salads and rolls to workplaces for lunches and meetings. The cafe is also getting increasingly popular for cups of coffee and lunches.
Salaattisiskot, Rapakiventie 2
When the weather is nice it is time for a local adventure on Aarnikanmäki hill. This is where you will find hundreds of metres of concrete-reinforced trenches built by the Russian army during World War I. Today the trenches can be used for more peaceful activities, such as graffiti art.
At the bottom of the hill you will find nature’s own works of art, the giant’s kettles called Aarninpata and Arauninmalja. These giant’s kettles with rugged beauty are the oldest in Finland and unique sights in a city.
Aarninkallio, giant’s kettles by Rapakiventie road