A Local Sommelier's Guide to the Best Wine Bars in Helsinki

Explore the wine bars of Helsinki with our insider's guide
Explore the wine bars of Helsinki with our insider's guide | © Jaakko Kemppainen / Unsplash
Photo of Siobhan Grogan
9 July 2020

With new wine bars opening up, a fast-growing natural wine movement and an increase in knowledgeable sommeliers in its restaurants, there has never been a better time for wine lovers to visit the Finnish capital. Helsinki sommelier Taneli Lehtonen suggests the best places in the city to enjoy a good glass.

“Though we do not produce wine ourselves, the wine scene in Helsinki has really improved in the past 10 years,” says Taneli Lehtonen, head sommelier at the Muru restaurant and Star Wine List’s Helsinki ambassador, who has been named Best Sommelier in Finland three times. Although alcohol has traditionally been expensive in Finland, wine has become more affordable as privately owned bars and restaurants keep their margins low to offer variety to customers.

There are also more places to enjoy wine in Helsinki than ever before, with new wine bars and wine-focused restaurants springing up across the city, alongside a handful of popular bars that specialise in natural wine. “People are more willing than ever to try new wines here,” says Lehtonen. “That’s helped by the new generation of sommeliers in Finland and the fact it’s become much more common to ask them what wine to choose.”

BasBas and Staff

Bar, Finnish, $$$
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Open until 2am and a favourite with off-duty sommeliers and chefs, BasBas is an intimate restaurant and wine bar with vintage decor, candles in wine bottles and a buzzing atmosphere. Twenty minutes’ walk from the city centre, in Tehtaankatu, it serves natural wine produced without chemicals or additives. “Natural wines are a little different from classic wines, so it’s important to drink it somewhere that has a really good reputation for choosing wine, like BasBas,” says Lehtonen. “They also have one of the best chefs in Finland working there, so it’s good to order small plates of finger food to go with your wine. On Sunday especially, you’ll see lots of people from other restaurants here, eating and drinking wine.”

Muru

Wine Bar, Finnish
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“Although this is a restaurant, there is also a small wine bar that is worth going to for a drink,” says Lehtonen, who is head sommelier at the restaurant. “We have more than 550 wines on the list, so there should be something for everyone on there.” Decorated in a classic bistro style, Muru focuses on quality ingredients and world-class wine, with decor featuring a bar made from old wine boxes, a wine-bottle chandelier and even a lamp made from a wine crate. “We change wines by the glass on an almost daily basis, so it’s a good place to discover something new. Definitely ask advice on what to try – that’s why we’re here. Then you can sit and drink your wine by the big windows and watch the world go by outside.”

Way Bakery and Wine Bar

Bakery, Wine Bar, Finnish
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“This spot is very interesting as it’s not common to have a bakery that is also a wine bar. You can start your morning with freshly baked bread and continue with wine – it’s an awesome business idea!” says Lehtonen. Located in a former dentist’s surgery in the bohemian Kallio district, Way Bakery opened in 2018 and is renowned for its delicious sourdough bread and all-day breakfast plates. After 5pm, it becomes a natural wine bar and serves a small dinner menu. “They also run a wine importing company so the wine they serve is quite unique and they offer bottles you won’t find anywhere else,” Lehtonen adds. “I’d definitely recommend walking around Kallio while you’re there, too. It’s one of the best-known suburbs in Helsinki and is a really lively, popular place with lots of parks and open-air events.”

Palace Restaurant

Restaurant, Finnish
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“This is a Michelin-starred restaurant,” says Lehtonen, “so it’s not cheap. But there’s a great terrace where you can just go and have a glass of wine. It’s also quite expensive, but the view over Helsinki is stunning.” Established in 1952, the sleek bar, on the 10th floor of the Palace hotel, offers mainly wines from classic regions and vintages, and is one of the only places in Finland to allow cigar smoking on the balcony. “It’s a stylish, beautiful place, and their sommeliers are very talented,” says Lehtonen. “If you have extra money in your pocket, I’d recommend the old bordeaux and burgundy vintages, which you don’t normally get in Finland.”

Carelia

Wine Bar, Finnish
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Across the road from Helsinki’s National Opera House, Carelia is a contemporary French brasserie and wine bar established in 1995 on the site of an old pharmacy. The restaurant also has its own wine-importing company so serves an impressive array of quality wines from independent family-owned wineries. “You can get a really decent glass of wine for €8, or you can spend €20 if you want,” says Lehtonen. “It has a really great wine list, though, especially when it comes to burgundy wines. It is best known for those.”

Pastis

Restaurant, French, $$$
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“If you like French wine, I would really recommend this place,” says Lehtonen. “It has almost 200 wines on the list and they are nearly all French. The sommelier is always looking for wines that are less well-known, so it’s a great place to try something from different regions.” This elegant French bistro will make you feel as if you’re dining in Paris. Pastis also has a small bar for drinks, a distinctive wine attic, rather than a cellar, and a pretty, flower-filled terrace in summer. “It’s a good place to go for a glass of wine if you’re by yourself. It has a high bar you can sit at and chat to the sommeliers working behind it. They’re really nice people here.”

Vin Vin

Wine Bar, Finnish, $$$
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In the heart of the city centre, on Kalevankatu, Vin Vin is a super-stylish wine bar popular with after-work drinkers who love its plush red-velvet seats, dramatic black walls and luxe art-deco styling. Serving mainly organic wines from small producers, Vin Vin also runs its own importing company so can offer rare and unusual wines at reasonable prices. “Each week it opens really nice bottles at good price points so you can try new wines by the glass,” says Lehtonen. “It has about 40 wines by the glass, and the sommelier is a very talented guy. Wine bars are quite new here and this is very good, so it’s always busy, but you can pop in any time.”

Wino

Bistro, Wine Bar, European, Finnish, $$$
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Best Restaurants In Kallio
Courtesy of Wino

Head to the trendy suburb of Kallio if you have something to celebrate, where Wino is the city’s best place to treat yourself to a glass of champagne. “It has a lot of natural and organic wine but also a huge selection of champagnes,” says Lehtonen. “The sommelier, Toni Aikasalo, is very knowledgeable about champagnes especially, so I’d recommend speaking to him.” The menu features weekly Old World wine specials and a limited menu of great dishes. “It only has 20 or 30 seats, so it’s always packed and can be hard to get in,” Lehtonen says. “I’d recommend booking a table or going as soon as it opens.”

Bricco

Bar, Finnish, $$$
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“This is a small piece of Italy in the middle of Helsinki,” says Lehtonen. Bricco’s owners fell in love with Tuscany on regular holidays to Italy and began importing wines from the region. Eventually they opened this wine bar, with its grand bay window, where they could serve them. “There’s a lot of sangiovese and chianti classico, but also great wine from super-small producers and family-owned wineries. They often host wine tastings.” Go hungry so you can indulge in Bricco’s delicious selection of antipasto and Italian cheeses as you sip.

These recommendations were updated on July 9, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.