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Food & Dining in Finland


As the 21st century is well under way, museums, galleries, cafes and restaurants have multiplied and spread throughout the centre of Helsinki like a virus. What many foreigners don't quite understand is the size of Helsinki. The truth is that there are only just over five million Finns, leaving only about 500,000 in the Helsinki area. Therefore, when you compare Helsinki to Europe's other capital cities, it might seem very small and dull. This might have been the general opinion a decade ago, but the effort and work done in the past few years have left their mark. Today, Helsinki's wining and dining scene is remarkably diverse, with enough bars and restaurants within a 3 kilometre radius of the Central Railway Station to satisfy anyone from anywhere.

Helsinki's centre has its own districts, which helps in finding your way around the city. Even the young low-budget traveller will find many places to start. Kaisaniemi Park is a beautiful little spot for enjoying the summer sun, located next to the railway station. After visiting the Botanical Gardens, enjoy the veranda seats at the historic and much loved Restaurant Kaisaniemi for a light lunch or just a drink to kill your thirst.

Continue on towards the Hakaniemi-Kallio area around the beautiful Eläintarhanlahti Bay, where everything seems to be one notch cheaper. The Kallio neighbourhood is situated on quite a high spot topographically, and the Kallio Church at the top of this hill is also a useful landmark. This area is marked by cheap pubs and bars on every other street corner. Ethnic restaurants are also a popular sight, but are not always of the best possible quality.

Coming back towards town from Hakaniemi over Hakaniemi Bridge, there's Kruununhaka. This area is popular for that peaceful lunch or dinner, and quite a few restaurants have opened around these few blocks. Stroll to Meritullinkatu to find Zinnkeller, a western European kitchen serving original German Bratwurst and beer. Two or three blocks south you will find many more restaurants, including the Russian Kasakka.

Continuing this circle around the centre of Helsinki, stroll the Pohjoisranta to get to the beautiful part of town that is Katajanokka. Full of buildings from the beginning of the 1900s, this area is full of desirable apartments and houses. Dining here is enjoyable. If you are looking for ethnic food in the area, the Nepalese restaurant Everest on Luotsinkatu is the place to go. The Grand Marina Congress Centre is definitely stylish. Instead of staying straight through Esplanadi Park, (which contains numerous cafes as well as Samrat, the best Indian in town) keep going south, staying by the sea. Pass by the Silja Line boat terminals and you will soon reach the more expensive area of Kaivopuisto.

Kaivopuisto Park is a lovely place to spend some time, after which you can stop for a cappuccino at the peaceful Cafe Ursula. Stroll to the opening at the corner of Neitsytpolku and Merisatamanranta, take a ferry to the nearby Uunisaari island and enjoy a modern lunch here. Another cafe down by the shore is Cafe Carusel, where the interior decor and style are as post-modern as they come. Come back towards town through the Eira neighbourhood and take pleasure in the beautiful houses all around you. Glance at the tall Agricola Church, and then have the steak or pizza at Nerone located on Perämiehenkatu. Sepänkatu, Merimiehenkatu and Punavuorenkatu all have pubs and small restaurants scattered here and there. Saslik is the most respected and most expensive Russian restaurant in town, situated on Neitsytpolku.

A famous street for drinking and dining has always been Iso Roobertinkatu; practically the whole street is covered with pubs and restaurants. Nearby KynsilaukkaGarlic is for garlic lovers.

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