Photo: Helsingin kaupungin aineistopankki / Volker von Bonin

When travelling, one of my favourite things to do is to find the local markets, especially old market halls, and just stroll around and dream we’d have as cool places in Helsinki.

But actually we do, we've just simply gone terribly wrong with our grocery shopping culture. The massive hypermarkets, size of six football fields, and the two chains dominating the whole food retail sector have done great job alienating people from using small neighbourhood businesses and local suppliers.

There are three market halls in Helsinki, that all date back 100 years or more. Outside two of them you also find a market full of local produce and old school market cafés and in front of the third one, there’s the largest open-air flea market in the city. And what’s great about the halls is that they all have their own characters.


Due to it’s location, Old Market Hall is the flagship hall and the newly finished complete renovation only establishes that role. The oldest & definitely classiest one. Probably listed as a must-see on every Helsinki travel guide, but also a local grocery store for wealthier southern Helsinkians. And a great place for a lunch.

But if inside the Market Hall the touristic vibe and the real deal grocery shopping go successfully hand in hand, the Market Square outside is a classic tourist trap. You still find the season’s berries and potatoes, even some fresh fish sellers, but for the most part the Market Square is filled with souvenir sellers, weird fur hats and also food that doesn’t quite present the Finnish cuisine. And remember to watch out for the damn seagulls. The war has been going on for years now and still the birds seem to lead 6-0. So keep your eyes on the sky and hold tight to your ice cream.

My three favourites + one extra:
- Story, the new main restaurant of the hall. A beauty.
- Alko, worlds smallest and most sympathetic Alko. (Get the whole package for an extempore picnic!)
- Annan villiliha, Anna’s wild meat, specialized in game, poultry and organic meat.
- S-Maria, fresh Vietnamese rolls. You just don’t find enough of Vietnamese food in Helsinki.

Opening hours:
Old Market Hall: Mon-Sat 8.00-18.00
Market Square: Mon-Fri 6.30-18.00, Sat 6.30-16.00


Many tourists end up checking out the Old Market Hall, but I’d strongly recommend to take a half-day trip to Hakaniemi Market Hall. Easily reachable with public transportation, if not in the mood for a walk.

Of the three halls Hakaniemi Market Hall is the liveliest and the most authentic one, but also offers the widest selection. Downstairs you find tens of different food stalls and the upper floor is full of a bit weird and not so weird little stores selling design stuff, gift items, clothing, wooden toys, etc. I only hope the renovation they’re facing in 2016, won’t damage the perfect kind of rugged ambience.

Although the working-class neighbourhood status of the surrounding Kallio district has slowly turned into a hip place to live status, you still can see the distinctive combination of the clientele.

You can even spot the former Finnish president having a cup of coffee on the market, probably wearing an ill-fitting cap. If only you recognise her, since she so well blends in with the locals, being a local herself too.

My three favourites + one extra:
Reinin liha, when it comes to meat, they’ve got it all.
Lentävä Lehmä, flying cow, the cheese shop hard to beat.
Soppakeittiö, heartwarming soups (nowadays also in the two other halls but this is the original one).
Jukka Lavinto, and his small vegetable booth.

Opening hours:
Hakaniemi Market Hall: Mon-Fri 8.00-18.00, Sat 8.00-16.00
Hakaniemi Market Square: Mon-Sat 6.30-15.00


Hietalahti Market Hall is kind of the underdog within the three halls. Still looking for it's own personality. The past years haven’t been so beneficial: First the unsuccessful attempt being a completely organic market hall, followed by nearly 10 year period, when no food was sold in Hietalahti Market Hall, but antiques instead.

Then the city decided to redeem the hall’s grace as a functioning food hall and started the renovations. Grand opening was great and stalls and booths were full, since most of the sellers from the Old Market Hall moved to Hietalahti when their big renovations started 1,5 years ago.

Now however, since the Old Market Hall opened shiny new in the beginning of June, it has unfortunately left some empty stalls in Hietalahti. I’m definitely holding thumbs up high, that the hall’s great entrepreneurs soon find more colleagues next to their stalls, since this third hall, again on totally different direction, is a perfect reinforcement and a needed add-on to the city’s food selection.

Hietalahti even has it’s own competitive edge of having the city’s biggest regular outdoor flea market right outside.

My three favourites + one extra:
- Love to Meat Hki, French specialities like porc noir de Bigorre.
- Räkan, the best räksmörgåsar in town.
- Say Cheese, cheese português.
- Roslund, and their Rosburger.

Opening hours:
Hietalahti Market Hall: Mon-Fri 8.00-18.00, Sat 8.00-17.00, Sun 10.00-16.00
Hietalahti Flea Market: Mon-Fri 8.00-18.00, Sat 8.00-16.00, Sun 10.00-16.00
(Summer opening hours until 30.9.)

I hereby challenge all my fellow metropolitan area citizens to go to a market hall, at least once a month, and buy something. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive piece of black angus filet. Get the most perfect beetroot instead, or at least a cup of coffee.

And all my fellow stroll-around-market-hall-tourists, keep on strolling. Just go get the cup of coffee too.

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