A short walk from Market Square is Helsinki’s old dame of market halls – Vanhakauppahalli.
Built in 1888,Vanhakauppahalli (Old Market Hall) was recently closed for renovations and reopened in June 2014. The building is a cultural heritage site and protected by the National Board of Antiquities.
On a cold winter’s day, with the wind coming in off the Baltic Sea, it’s a relief to get inside those heavy front doors. Inside, a walkway circles the hall, shouldered on either side by cafes, bakeries and fishmongers.
There are also greengrocers selling seasonal produce from Finland and overseas. It’s a great place to go for specialty mushrooms and berries, as well as big suolakurkku (gherkins) you scoop out of an open bucket.
For lunch I usually head straight for Soppakeittiö (Soup Kitchen) where the menu always consists of one meat soup, one vegetarian and their delicious seafood boullabaisse, served with lemon-infused sour cream.
On my most recent visit however I stopped at Story, where the food counter is sure to whet your appetite. I had a cappuccino (equivalent of a NZ flat white) and lohileipa (smoked salmon on bread).
After lunch I walked the circuit, marvelling at the number of things you can do with salmon. In my mind I always hear the southern drawl of Bubba from the movie Forrest Gump (salmon bbq, salmon cocktail, salmon pie…..).
There are other forms of protein on offer for the more adventurous too, like Russian King Crab and Spanish jamon.
As well as traditional Finnish offerings there is also a vegetarian cafe and a stall selling Vietnamese filled-rolls, spring rolls and salads.
And there’s an Alko, the only store in Finland selling wine and spirits. This one is touted as being ‘the world’s smallest Alko’ (which is a little bit like American teams winning the ‘World Series’ in a competition only open to American teams).
There are other Market Halls in Helsinki but this is one of my favourites. If you get a table by the window you can watch the ferry to Suomenlinna making it’s way past the huge cruise ships churning up the frozen sea.
Go with a friend or go on your own – just make sure you go. I’ll be the one making my way from coffee, to soup to dessert and back as I make my way around Old Market Hall.
Vanhakauppahalli – Eteläranta, Helsinki
Note: I was approached by Meetings Booker to write about my favourite meeting place in Helsinki. This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own (as was that open salmon sandwich, which I cannot stop thinking about). www.meetingsbooker.com