We met under the clock at Stockmann department store in the Helsinki city centre. The spot is a common meeting place for locals. A friendly smile followed by a familiar Aussie twang and we made some brief introductions with Heather, our guide for our Helsinki food tour. Heather is originally from Tasmania, Australia but has called Helsinki home for more than 14 years. It soon became clear she knows Helsinki’s history and the culinary scene as well, if not better than any Helsinki-born local.
The Must-Do Helsinki Food Tour
Our first stop on our Helsinki food tour was an unexpected one; the food hall at Stockmann, on the lower level of the department store.
It’s there Heather showed us the basics of the typical Finnish weekly shop. From heavy rye bread to Karelian pasties (a traditional Finnish dish made with a rye base and filled with rice or other fillings), Muikkukukko (bread filled with small smoked whitefish) to the prepackaged horse and reindeer meat (we’re told both are only eaten on occasion).
Of course, there are staples we would expect in any supermarket like fresh fruit and vegetables and a small organic foods section.
Our first tasting for the day felt appropriately fishy, given we were in a part of the world-famous for its fishing waters. We tried prawns and salmon with a hint of dill. It was a great way to whet the palate for two people who often start the day with fresh salmon, as we do.
Like its Scandinavian neighbours, the Finnish government controls the sale of alcohol, so it’s not as easy as heading to your local liquor shop or convenience store to pick up a bottle of wine. The Finnish have to buy their alcohol from Alko and it comes at a heavier cost than you might be used to. We wandered through the immaculately ordered Alko store in the city centre. It was great to see some Australian wines on the shelves (albeit at very high prices) and to have a little break from food before we rolled on to lunch.
A brewery seemed an appropriate lunch stop for our Helsinki food tour. We found ourselves sitting in a beautifully sunny beer garden at Bryggeri Helsinki. A rosemary sausage with sauerkraut, mustard and a flight of local craft beers? Yes, please! We worked our way through the board of beers with the help of the breweries tasting notes.
Vanha Kauppahalli, the Old Market Hall first opened its doors in 1889. The facade looks as it would have all those years ago, but inside no doubt, the choice is much more varied. Whatever your stomach desires, you can find it in the Old Food Hall.
We tried a few local kinds of cheese served with cloudberries from Juustokauppa Tuula Paalanen as we wandered past all the beautiful stalls. Colourful displays jumped out at us as we passed. There were fresh produce displays, fish stalls, vegan and vegetarian food, organic options, chocolate indulgence and a very popular soup store and tins of canned elk, reindeer and bear for those in the market.
Just as my pants were beginning to protest all the eating it was time for coffee and cake at Hymy. The raw foods cafe was a lovely afternoon finale with a cosy feel, guilt-free treats and coffee.
We strolled through the famous waterfront market, Market Square at the South Harbour via the esplanade, on the way.
A popular market with tourists, particularly those who only have one day in Helsinki (many from cruise ships), this is a place to pick up anything from a punnet of berries or to dive a little deeper and try some reindeer stew. If you don’t have time to sit down at a cafe or you want to sit by the water to eat, this is the perfect lunch pit-stop.
The Fork in Hand Food Tour was about four hours long and was a stand out as one of the best culinary experiences we’ve had. It is clear why it is considered one of the best Helsinki food tours.
This is not just a straight tasting tour. Heather covers a little of the history, important Helsinki landmarks in between tasting stops as you walk, which we really enjoyed.
Thank you to Visit Helsinki and Heather’s Helsinki for hosting The Fit Traveller on The Fork in Hand Food Tour Helsinki
The Fork in Hand Food Tour Helsinki
Skye is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Fit Traveller. She is a journalist, writer, photographer, intrepid traveller and a former personal trainer with a passion for helping others reach optimal health. As a TV journalist and producer, Skye has worked for household names such as 60 Minutes, Sunrise, TODAY and Nine News. She has also written for Women’s Health, Fodor’s Travel and Yahoo7 Travel, among many others.
Skye created The Fit Traveller as a beautiful online space and community where people feel inspired to escape the desk to move and explore more.
Equally comfortable in a 5-star resort or hiking a far-off mountain, Skye loves the unexpected and enriching life experiences that each trip brings and can often be found in a backstreet chatting to locals with her camera in hand.
Skye is based in Sydney, working to master the balance between motherhood and her insatiable appetite for adventure.