Finland is quickly earning a reputation among foodies as the new food capital of Europe. As well as a rich variety of regional dishes for you to try, there are a growing number of Nordic twists on international favourites. Here are some of the best towns and cities in Finland to partake in the country’s burgeoning gastronomic scene and enjoy a memorable dining experience.
Known as the food capital of Finland, Turku holds a number of Finland’s oldest and best restaurants, including the country’s top-rated Indian restaurant, and a famous fish market held twice a year. As a student town, there is a wide variety of affordable food available, from American-style diners to sushi bars.
Finland’s actual capital city is also full of top-quality restaurants and cafés, more that can be experienced in a single trip. Helsinki is the best city in Finland for international cuisine, as the various restaurants sell everything from Russian blinis to Syrian kebabs. In fact, you can find everything from fine-dining restaurants to roadside kiosks in Helsinki.
The islands making up the southwest archipelago contain the largest concentration of Swedish speakers and culture in Finland, and the local food also has a strong Swedish influence. As this is one of the southernmost parts of Finland, there are more fresh local fruits and vegetables to try, especially potatoes, asparagus, apples and strawberries. The fish from the archipelago is not to be missed, especially the freshly caught Baltic herring and zander.
Over in Eastern Finland is the home city of Finland’s most popular pastry – the Karelian pastry. In Joensuu and its surrounding villages, you can find a number of cafés and kiosks selling handmade Karelian pastries with egg butter, as well as specialist bakeries.
The capital city of Finnish Lapland offers visitors a full taste of traditional Lappish cuisine, especially the staple of the region – reindeer. The most popular dish is sautéed reindeer with mashed potatoes, topped with lingonberry jam. It can be tasted both at the fine-dining restaurants and cooked on an open campfire, perhaps while watching the Northern Lights. Rovaniemi also hosts the annual Reindeer Chef of the Year competition.
This idyllic small town on the west coast is known for its beautiful old buildings and its charming restaurants and coffee shops. The town’s nautical heritage is also felt, with restaurant ships and beach kiosks. The fine-dining restaurants serve local flavours along with relaxing views of the canal and ruins. There are also international restaurants for American, Italian, Nepalese and Chinese cuisine.
Finland’s second-largest city also has a lot of restaurants to choose from and local ingredients sold from the market hall, the largest covered market in the Nordics. Particular local favourites are the black sausage sold from the market kiosks and the doughnuts from the café at the Pyynikki observation tower.
One of the most internationally famous restaurants in Finland is Kemi’s Snow Restaurant, a restaurant that is constructed from ice, even down to the tables and drinking glasses. Other seaside hut restaurants serve freshly caught fish cooked on an open fire, while the Icebreaker Sampo has a restaurant that you can dine in while taking a cruise through the Arctic sea ice.
Kuopio is the best place in Finland to try the local staple dish – the kalakukko pastry. It is baked in a rye bread crust and contains a mixture of fish and pork, and makes for a tasty and filling midday meal. The city hosts an annual baking contest for kalakukko, as well as a food festival where all the local restaurants offer samples of their dishes at cheap prices.
Lapland’s northernmost ski resort and aurora viewing spot has plenty of fine-dining restaurants for the best of northern Finnish cuisine, restaurants inside traditional log cabins and hearty dishes for warming up on a winter’s day. Despite its remote location, there are also a good number of international restaurants here.
This small municipality in southeast Finland has a unique food culture inspired by its proximity to Russia. A particularly popular dish is hapanvelli or ‘sour gruel’, which sounds disgusting but is actually a unique version of pea soup. It can be tasted during the annual Virolahti week in which the best chef of the dish is dubbed ‘Miss Hapanvelli’.