• At the market hall. Photo: Juho Kuva/Visit Finland Media Bank

Helsinki’s lively markets and market halls

There are three market halls in Helsinki: the Old Market Hall, Hietalahti Market Hall and Hakaniemi Market Hall that serve visitors and locals alike throughout the year.

The Old Market Hall is situated right in the heart of the city, beside the sea and next to the Market Square, making it especially popular among tourists. The Old Market Hall is currently undergoing a major renovation so that it can continue serving customers for the next hundred years.

Hietalahti Market Hall is situated slightly further from the city centre but is still easy to reach by public transport or on foot. Hietalahti Market Hall is specialised in food and delicacies.

Hakaniemi Market Hall is also situated a little further from the city centre but is well worth a visit. The first floor is specialised in food and delicacies, while the second floor sells handicrafts and Finnish design. There is even a charming Marimekko boutique!

Markets big and small

The biggest open-air markets in Helsinki are situated next to the above-mentioned market halls, and they are all open just about year round. In summertime the market stalls sell seasonal vegetables and berries, bit even in wintertime there are several stalls open. When it gets really cold you can warm up and enjoy delicious snacks in one of the orange coffee tents. Hietalahti Market is famous for its open-air flea market, which has been popular for decades.

In addition to the three big open-air markets, there are also several smaller markets in Helsinki. Fredrikintori on Fredrikinkatu is particular worth a visit. Situated close to the city centre among the Art Nouveau buildings in the Punavuori district, the market is so small that has only one flower stall, one vegetable stall and one café!

Stall full of superfood!

For visitors to Helsinki, the city’s markets and market halls offer a great way to discover the local food culture and shopping habits. The indoor market halls are particularly popular among tourists, who love the charming and attractive stalls. The stall keepers usually speak several languages, and they are happy to provide small tasters to let you try out their products.

Finland has four very distinct seasons, which is reflected in the seasonal products sold in the markets and market halls. The berries especially, such as blueberries, lingonberries, sea buckthorn, cranberries and cloudberries, represent Finnish superfood at its best. Finnish mushrooms are also great for preparing tasty dishes, and many stalls in the market halls also sell dried and conserved mushrooms that can be taken back home with you. In summertime the stalls are overflowing with fresh Finnish produce. New potatoes served with herring is a delicious combination!

Strange Finnish bread cheese

Tuula Paalanen sells cheese inside Hietalahti Market Hall and knows what the tourists like. She has been a stall keeper for decades.

“They love all the Finnish fish, which is different from what is available elsewhere. The raw fish is particularly exotic, and they buy lots of salmon and whitefish sandwiches,” Paalanen tells us.

“Finnish bread is also popular, especially all the varieties of dark bread. And Finnish berries are also very popular, since they don’t need to be cooked before eating,” she adds.

And what kinds of cheese are tourists interested in? “I have noticed that people from different countries prefer different kinds of cheeses. Italians prefer only their own cheeses and Russians like mild cheeses, but visitors from Spain and South America are more open-minded and like trying new things,” Paalanen says.

She also tells us how foreign tourists are astonished by the strange Finnish bread cheese. They usually are not very impressed by the flavour when she offers them a taste, but they become more interested when told about all the different ways in which bread cheese can be used.

“I once warmed up some bread cheese in the microwave for an American journalist and served it with cloudberry jam. He was totally blown away!” Paalanen laughs.

Updated 09/06/2015