Fiskars Village – the versatile gem of south-western Finland
By Katariina Benedetti
Just over an hour’s drive west of Helsinki, there is a village that has become a hub for Finnish art and design – a community based on the foundation of what used to be a thriving industrial centre: Fiskars Village. In a relatively short time, the village has become a multi-awarded, hip design and cultural centre – a place with an urban feel in the middle of a historically significant setting.
Fiskars Village was the most significant iron manufacturing centre in the 17th century in Finland, which was part of the Swedish crown at the time. Founded in 1649, the village experienced dramatic ups and downs due to social and historical events, from the golden era of industrialisation to the decadence following the closure of the foundry. But Fiskars Village has been able to reinvent itself and has experienced a new renaissance from the early ‘90s, when a visionary man, Ingmar Lindberg, re-imagined the village as a community of craftspeople, artists and designers that could revive the sleepy town.
Lindberg, an executive at Fiskars – a world-famous metal tool company, producing, among other things, scissors, axes, and gardening tools – envisaged a place that could attract a variety of people, who could work together and once again make the village a flourishing destination, by preserving and stimulating art in all its forms. He could see the potential of the area, thanks to the dreamy location and its buildings, and the vibrant surrounding nature.
The village has been featured in the domestic and international press for the attentive restoration of its buildings. Developers from all over the world have flocked here to try to grasp the secrets of Fiskars Village. Today, a lively community of about 600 people live in Fiskars Village; tourists and residents alike can enjoy the perfect mix of old and new, thanks to careful restoration projects and new buildings following established design rules.
In 2018, Fiskars Village became the top emerging cultural tourism destination in the Culture EDEN in Finland competition. Organised by the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment in cooperation with Culture Finland, a programme by Business Finland and Visit Finland, the competition set out to reward a location where innovative thinking blends with tradition to create a diverse cultural tourism destination. In October 2019, for the second time in its history, Fiskars Village emerged as the best domestic travel destination at the 2019 Finnish Travel Gala.
En route for new discoveries
When driving to Fiskars Village from Pohja, the winding road opens up to a peaceful valley, where for parts of the year, cows graze the fields surrounding a tranquil lake. Behind a bend, a tunnel gracefully blends in the surroundings and invites travellers to discover what is hiding on the other side. Passing through the tunnel, gorgeous buildings begin to appear. On the left is Stenhuset, the Stone House, which was the administrative centre of Fiskars in the past and is these days used for official events. On the right is the granary, which hosts various exhibitions and events throughout the year. The most notable events are the Christmas and spring markets, with local producers from the area and beyond.
Right after the granary come the old mill and the clock tower, the heart of the village today. Constructed in 1849, the clock tower building now hosts Café Antique, where customers can sit among hundreds of books and enjoy home-baked goods, and the Fiskars Shop, which stocks famous Finnish design brands such as Iittala, Fiskars, Arabia and Hackman. On the other side of the building is ONOMA, Fiskars’ artist cooperative. ONOMA is home to the work of more than 100 artists and designers. The inspiring and innovative products are a testament to the long history and high quality of the craftsmanship in the area. Along the Fiskars river is the Copper Smithy, built in the 19th century and now home to an exhibition hall, a shop and a restaurant.
While the main street represents the core of the precinct, Fiskars Village still stretches out beside the Fiskars river to the east, along a dirt road, with more venues to discover and marvel at. For instance, you’ll find Ägras Distillery and Fiskars Brewery here, both must-sees, as is the Fiskars Museum, which brings you back in time to the 17th century beautifully. A recent addition to the cultural offering is KWUM, Karin Widnäs Museum, designed by Tuomo Siitonen. Karin Widnäs, a famous Finnish ceramicist and designer and one of the first artists to settle in Fiskars in the mid-‘90s, opened the doors in the summer of 2019 to a flawlessly crafted wooden mecca for ceramic enthusiasts. Her aim to keep the ceramic tradition alive, combined with a cutting-edge idea of a place that could enshrine the art, won her the Audience Choice Award at the Helsinki Design Week Design Awards 2019.
A day – or two – in Fiskars Village
Fiskars Village is different from any other place in Finland. For a first-timer, it might come as a surprise that there are so many things to do. The village is like a pearl in an oyster, a hidden treasure, guaranteed to awe all its visitors. A weekend in Fiskars Village is always a good idea, as it combines art, culture and design with incredible outdoor possibilities. And foodies will be satisfied after a visit, too, thanks to the excellent dining options. So take your time to soak up the rich heritage, and the nature surrounding the village.
Sculptors, jewellery makers, glassblowers, blacksmiths, ceramicists, painters and restorers all call Fiskars Village their home today. With all that to offer, it is no wonder that Fiskars Village has become a delightful, romantic getaway destination, also highly appreciated by art connoisseurs. The small boutiques, ONOMA, the KWUM Museum, the smithies and the galleries are open all through the year. In 2019, Fiskars Village launched its first Art and Design Biennale, with more than 60 participating artists from around the world. The Biennale, as the name suggests, will be held every two years, gathering in Fiskars the top of international and domestic designers and artists.
Fiskars Village offers a wide range of outdoor activities. For every season, there is something to do, including diverse walking trails, such as the tree species path: along a stretch of just a few kilometres, 23 different kinds of trees can be spotted. In the late summer and autumn season, the Finnish woods are ripe with delicacies. Nothing beats a walk in the peace and quiet of a forest, spotting berries and mushrooms on the way.
Mountain bikes are one of the best alternatives for getting around in and out of the village. Marked trails of varying lengths and levels, totalling more than 60 kilometres, are among the essential outdoor features of Fiskars Village. There are also three lakes in the area, around each of which you can go for a lovely walk. In the winter, when the waterways freeze, it is like diving into the most magical winter wonderland atmosphere. For golf enthusiasts, there are a couple of excellent golf courses just a short drive away, as well. Last but not least, there are fantastic horse-riding treks around the village.
Restaurants and accommodation
With two hotels and plenty of B&Bs in the area, it is a real treat to spend a couple of days in Fiskars Village. Make sure to book early though, especially during peak season or in the case of special events, as accommodation can be difficult to find. Hotel Tegel and Fiskars Wärdshus are located in elegant, old buildings, a short stroll away from the village centre.
Spending a weekend soaking up the lush ironworks milieu, you can browse the crafts or antiques, take a walk along the Fiskars river and dine in one of the restaurants. Among the dining options, check out Fiskars Wärdshus for a more upscale option, or Café and Bar Pesula, or restaurant Kuparipaja. And of course, the day is not complete without a drink at the tap room at Ägras Distillery, offering award-winning gin and akvavit in addition to locally brewed beers from Fiskars Brewery and Kuura Cider, a locally produced cider.
After everything you have read here, you may well be curious to come and visit Fiskars Village. We recommend that you plan ahead, to make sure the places you want to see and the restaurants you would like to dine in are open, particularly if you are planning for an off-season weekend getaway.
Fiskars Village – dates for your diary: 9 May Fiskars Village Bike Expo 2020, Fiskars Bruk Try out all the best and latest MTB and E-MTB at Finland’s biggest MTB Expo. fiskarsvillagetrailcenter.fi 9–12 July Fiskars Antique Fair, Fiskars Village One of Finland’s best events for finding treasures in design and historic artefacts. fiskarsinantiikkipaivat.fi 3-4 October Slow Food Festival, Tröskhuset, Fiskars Bruk Enjoy all the local delicacies by producers from southern Finland at this magnificent culinary event in the lovely surroundings of the Fiskars ironworks. fiskarsvillage.fi Web: www.fiskarsvillage.fi/en Facebook: FiskarsVillage Instagram: @fiskars_village
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