Hanging Around in Helsinki – Part I

“So what’s Helsinki like?” I am often asked, when people know that I’ve visited Finland.


“Well, there are loads of great things about Helsinki, itself, ” I usually tell them, “…not the least of which is great design in clothing, architecture, romantic historical sites and a great summertime atmosphere.” [N.B. Most Australians only travel to the Arctic in summer!]

“But first up,” I then say, “you need to know that the people of Helsinki eat a good deal of fish, freshwater fish, that is. Even sometimes three times in a day. So when I think of Helsinki, I think of Salmon, and lots of it.”

And I remember it is not just ordinary salmon, because the thing that struck me about Finns, was that they had taken Salmon to a whole new level, like as in Heinz 52 different varieties.

Now I love Salmon, so I was pretty happy with this, until I realized how hard it would be be to choose which one to buy! I needed help to choose between Tsar’s salmon, Cold Smoked Salmon, Flamed Salmon, Lemon Salmon and Rose Pepper Salmon, etc. and in the end, feeling rather befuddled, I settled on Cured Salmon with Basilic??


“But freshwater fish? Why only freshwater fish?” –  my Australian friends might continue to ask.

Apparently the waters surrounding Helsinki are extremely low in salt, due to the existence perhaps of only one, narrow channel entering the Baltic sea from the open ocean, (and that is around Denmark, for the geographically challenged). Therefore, the Baltic waters contain a multitude of freshwater fish varieties, but almost no prawns, (read: shrimp), or mussels, as those are the species that need salt water to flourish.

On a perhaps unsurprising side note: fishing or angling, in Finland is free and does not require a special permit, as it is considered every man’s basic right.  – Yay for Finland!!


“But, surely there is not just fish to eat in Helsinki?” they continue to ask me.

“Certainly not!! There are many other indigenous styled foods, such as ‘Bear’ pate and ‘Reindeer Snacks.’ ” I venture.

If truth be told, when I first saw the reindeer ‘chips,’ I started to wonder if the Finns were chewing on Rudolph’s antlers for morning tea??? Feeling slightly bilious at that thought, I opted for a tin of reindeer pâté instead. But then I thought of home. And how I would explain a tin of reindeer/bear meat to Customs officials? I mean, Customs officers in Australia, take CITES and moreover, bio-security, very seriously: just ask Johnny Depp and Amber – if you haven’t – Heard. (apologies –  bad pun!!).  Thus, I ended up buying neither….. window shopping was the mantra at this store.


I digress. We were discussing Helsinki, itself, weren’t we?

If you do want to try any of the aforementioned foods of Helsinki, the place to go is definitely the covered and historic Market Hall, located right on the main square, adjacent to Helsinki’s harbor. It’s usually crammed full with locals, but is truly the best ‘old world-foodie’- style atmosphere, you can find in the 21st century and the food is good, seriously good.


From 8 am, visitors cram like sardines, into the deli stalls, micro-cafes, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, (well: gourmet soap and candle stalls), for candles, seafood or cheese supplies or, they do as I did, they just hang out there for a delicious lunch.


Outdoors, I found more food and craft markets on the harbor square, selling both hot and cold foods, fruit and vegetables, fresh berries to die for and a variety of furs and traditional handicrafts of the kind that seem to fascinate cruise ship tourists, but few others!

Once I’d  filled up on Finnish food, I decided to work off the extra calories with a stroll uptown, through both the Helsinki Botanic and Observatory gardens. In early summer, the gardens are lined with the omnipresent Birch trees.


That made me muse romantically that their delicate branches hang like the braided locks of a long-haired girl, lazily swaying in the cool breeze.  I was also besotted with the tulips naturally peppering the garden verges and bare spots in the grass, almost like weeds, whilst the local squirrel population delighted me with their frivolous antics in the lower treetops.


I wanted to tell you about Suomenlinna and the marvelous architecture that you find in Helsinki, but that will have to wait for the next post.

Find my earlier post Finding my Feet in Finland here

Something to Ponder About











16 thoughts on “Hanging Around in Helsinki – Part I”

  1. Helsinki looks lovely in the summer. I too think you’d have a lot of issue passing Australian immigration with the tinned reindeer meat. First I’ve heard of, then again I’m not surprised such meat exists. You can literally eat about any kind of animal these days…

    Market Hall sounds like some of the markets that we have here in Australia. Just that here in Oz there aren’t that many kinds of salmon to chose from. Or that many kind of meat and veggie for that matter. Perhaps cheese. Then again, most markets everywhere have a good assortment of cheese.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheese is understandably a universal food. I do like the markets here but the Helsinki market hall felt more like a step back in time, a different feel to say the outdoor or semi-outdoor Victoria’s markets or Brisbane’s farmer’s markets. The Finnish range of salmon is something I would love to see introduced here.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A very interesting and informative post, Amanda, and your photos are stunning. Helsinki looks and sounds like a fabulous city to visit – full of olde-worlde charm and so bright and so bright and cheerful-looking in spring/summer. Like you, I’d prefer to visit in the summertime as I’m not one to cope with too much cold! The markets look amazing, too, and as someone who adores salmon (and most other fish, too) I’d be in my element.
    We had the opportunity to go to Finland a few years ago, but decided to go to the Caribbean instead. Much as I love the Caribbean, I still really want to go to Finland, especially after seeing your post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Millie (fellow salmon lover), you definitely need to go to Helsinki. It would only be a couple of hours in a plane and you could feast on salmon all weekend!!! And I think you would like the city too. But do take a jumper or coat at this time of year!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We’re off to Iceland for five days next weekend, so Helsinki won’t be this year. Summer would be good for us to go to Finland. Your posts have convinced me it’s somewhere we should see – if only for the salmon. 😃

        Liked by 1 person

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