The National Library of Finland – Helsinki, Finland - Atlas Obscura

The National Library of Finland

Architecturally stunning library serves as the hub of Finnish scholarly life and culture. 


Within the vast halls of this architecturally eclectic library sits a treasure of Finnish cultural knowledge, gathered from every source available and preserved by Finnish law.

Assigned by the state the prestigious responsibility of preserving any and all printed and audiovisual material produced within Finland’s borders, the library is the gatekeeper to the country’s cultural heritage. The largest library collection in the country, the main building and annex of the complex contain over 109 kilometers of shelf space, home to over 3 million books and periodicals. 

Built to replace the Library of Academy of Turku after a devastating fire all but destroyed its 40,000 volume collection in 1827, the National Library of Finland has dedicated itself to collecting a vast array of heritage, its longevity allowing it to be the only scientific library whose collection includes material pre-1917, when Finland gained independence, and it has the largest, most comprehensive collection chronicling the Russian Empire existing in the world.

Made up of two buildings, the Fabiania building and the Rotunda annex, the design shares influences that spread throughout the ages. The Rotunda is made up of typical Art Nouveau accents, while the main building follows the guidelines of Empire stylings. With vaulted ceilings and classical staircases throughout, each hall has its own color scheme, each lined with Greek and Roman plaster casts. 

The library was redesigned in 2001, but not everything is new or redone. The original iron fence in the library yard still stands, and by the south wall there sits a bronze bust of Czar Alexander I which has made the library its home since 1814.

The main building of the Helsinki National Library was renovated in 2015 and opened again to the public in the spring of 2016.

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