The most popular sweet in Finland is an odd choice. It is literally salty licorice. It may seem strange, but Finns can’t get enough of it, and put it in everything from liquor to ice cream. If you’re brave enough to try it or want to test your friends, it is worth picking up a few salmiakki items from the supermarket or sweet shop while in Finland.
Finland is famous for its glassware, and one of the most iconic and valuable brands is Iittala, which has been making glass since 1881 and now has filled practically every Finnish home with glass items. They last so long that it is common for people to inherit Iittala items from their relatives. The designs are simple but straightforward and they hire some of the best artists in Finland. This means they look good in any home, either for everyday use or for dinner parties.
You can buy Moomin books and merchandise throughout the world, and there are a fair number of Moomin shops cropping up. But it is only in Finland, the home country of the Moomins, that you can find the best selection of Moomin items, including toys, towels, homeware, school bags, stationery, baby items, jewelry, and collectibles. Many of these can be found not only in the Moomin shops but even in regular supermarkets and corner shops.
This is a traditional wooden stringed musical instrument from the Karelia region, which is similar to a ukulele, but longer. Making a kantele is a common craft exercise for students and they are still used in Finnish folk music. A small kantele not only sounds great but it makes for a nice decoration.
Saunas may be used across the world, but it is only in Finland that they have mainstream popularity. Almost every home in Finland has its own sauna, and as such, sauna items such as buckets, ladles, and cloths for sitting on can be found at many Finnish stores. Most unusual of all are artificial birch leaves, which are traditionally beat against the skin whilst in the sauna to improve circulation.
A puukko is a traditional Finnish hunting knife, which is usually sold in a handmade sheath that can be attached to a belt. It may sound unusual, but it is legal to sell these at street markets in Finland. They are good not only for hunting but also for general purposes, including preparing fish, leatherworking, and wood carving. It is considered a great honor to receive a puukko as a gift, similar to receiving a Swiss army knife.
The Fazer company has been selling confections and other food items in Finland since 1891, and you can still find a huge variety of Fazer sweets and chocolates in the country. These range from regular candy bars for snacks, most commonly the “Fazer blue” milk chocolate bars, to specialty gift boxes.
Another staple of the Karelia region, Karelian pastries are oval-shaped pastries filled with rice, potato, or carrot and usually topped with egg butter. While it’s possible to replicate them at home, local Finnish bakeries are the best places to try authentic Karelian pastries warm from the oven and topped with gooey egg butter. They are so iconic that Karelian craft shops even sell homemade items shaped like Karelian pastries.
Sima is a type of mead with a low alcohol content. It is traditionally served on May Day, the Finnish labor day, alongside funnel cake. Sima is usually sold as a carbonated sparkling beverage and can include honey, lemon rind, or even raisins. It is only sold in Finnish shops right before May Day, so it is worth using the brief window to try it.
The most popular designer brand in Finland can also be found worldwide, but the biggest and best selection is in Finland. Every city shopping mall has a Marimekko store and practically every woman in Finland has at least one Marimekko shirt, dress, bag, or purse. You can even find items with Marimekko designs in supermarkets, such as wrapping paper, napkins, or mugs.
Finns had to find a way to keep themselves warm before central heating, and traditional Finnish knitwear still keeps them warm during the freezing winters. You can find traditional and somewhat kitsch patterns in artisan shops and usually a few in secondhand shops as well, although modern designers use more up-to-date patterns too.