Visit the American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis

minneapolis american swedish institute main hall
The main hall of the American Swedish Institute, decorated for Christmas.

A little history of the American Swedish Institute

The American Swedish Institute is primarily housed in the home built by Swan and Lillian Turnblad on Park Avenue in Minneapolis between 1904 and 1908. Swan had made a fortune as publisher of a Swedish language newspaper, the Svenska Amerikanska Posten, for the substantial Swedish immigrant population. The Turnblad Mansion is one of only eight remaining structures built during Park Avenue’s heyday from 1885 to 1921.

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minneapolis american swedish institute painted glass
The painted “Visby” window at the top of the grand stairway.

The Mansion displays the work of master craftsmen on the stone exterior stone and in the woodwork and decorative plaster throughout the interior. The Mansion has 33 rooms and each has a distinct style. One of the spectacular features, along with the carved wood, are the 11 tile stoves imported from Sweden. There is also a painted glass Visby window at the top of the Grand Hall stairway.

minneapolis american swedish institute fireplace
One of the beautifully decorated ceramic stoves that heated the huge house. Each one is different.

The Turnblads only lived in the residence for a short time. Their main residence was in an apartment above the newspaper offices in downtown Minneapolis. In 1929, the Mansion was donated to become what is now the American Swedish Institute.

minneapolis american swedish institute carving
One of the flanking carvings on the fireplace in the main hall.

The Institute is not just a museum, but also a learning center for Swedish culture. The Institute has a learning center in the new Nelson Cultural Center annex to the mansion that offers ongoing classes in everything Sweden – from the language, to the culture, to handcrafts, to cooking.

minneapolis american swedish institute fika cafe
The Fika Café. Imaginative food, beautifully presented.

The annex also features the Fika Café, where you can get authentic Nordic foods including elk sausage, herring on rye bread, and my personal favorite item of distinctly Swedish cuisine, sweet cardamom rolls. Come hungry.

minneapolis american swedish institute socks
Socks always make a nice gift, or personal memory.

Finally, there is a gift shop that features plenty of mementos of Scandinavia. Hundreds of books, hand crafts, and beautiful items of exemplary Swedish design populate the shelves. And, socks. You can’t go wrong with fun socks.

Holidays at the American Swedish Institute

minneapolis american swedish institute christmas place setting
The main Christmas exhibit this year is a large table set with 20 artistic place settings from 20 different Scandinavian (and Hmong) designers. This setting is by Josef Frank, one of Sweden’s iconic modern interior designers.

This year, the main holiday exhibit is “From Our House to Yours”, a table set on the mansion’s third level with 20 different holiday place settings from the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, of course, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland. Also featured are two displays representing the Sami culture of northern Scandinavia, and the Hmong, who, while certainly not Scandinavian, are intimately connected with Minnesota.

minneapolis american swedish institute magazine covers
A couple of the lovely Christmas magazines from the Institute’s collection.

Also, of particular delight this year is an exhibit of early 20th Century Christmas magazine covers from the Nordic countries on the lower level. And, continuing the Hmong theme, some Hmong holiday costumes in the Artist’s Studio on the third level.

minneapolis american swedish institute gift shop santas
You need some Santa fun from the Swedish Institute gift shop.

And, at this time of year, you can count on the gift shop being full of fun, hand made Santas and his elves from Scandinavia.

Opening hours and admission

The Institute is currently open the following times: Wednesdays 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Thursdays 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; and Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Admission for adults is $12; children and students are $6, and Seniors are $8. If you become a member, admission is free, and you’ll get a discount on classes and in the gift shops.

More info from MNTrips

See the list of all Minnesota State Parks, including basic permit information. We also have a list of all Minnesota Historical Society sites. We’re adding our commentary for the park and historical sites as we visit them.

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Also, if you’re planning on camping at Minnesota State Parks, you’ll need a reservation. Here’s the online reservation form.

Check out our recommendations for what to carry in your hiking day pack when you check out the extensive Minnesota State Park and National Park system.

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Tom Bartel
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4 thoughts on “Visit the American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis”

  1. That dish from the Fika Café looks incredible! Sweet cardamom rolls sound absolutely mouthwatering, too. I’d love to learn more about Swedish culture and cuisine, so I’ll keep visiting the American Swedish Institute in mind for a future trip to the Twin Cities.

    • Fika is a Swedish tradition that we gladly partook in when we were in Sweden, so the addition of the restaurant at the Swedish Institute was a great find for us. Next time, I’m trying the elk sausage.


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