A New Home for Hakaniemi Market Hall
Perhaps the best collection of fresh foods and delicacies in Helsinki can be found in the Hakaniemi Market Hall. Now the new indoor-market can be found in the Hakaniemi Market Square while the original Market Hall is being renovated.
The softly-spoken man from Morrocco gave me another olive. “This one,” he said, “has garlic.” I scoff it happily, it’s perhaps even better than the two before. They all look beautiful, bright and glistening. And so does the cut of beef across the way I spot an expert hand slicing carefully into steaks. “Black Angus from Australia. The best in the world.” Marbled white and ruby red, it looks magnificent. As does everything here, perhaps the finest collection of fresh foods and delicatessens in Helsinki, all proudly and lovingly displayed in the new Kauppahalli indoor-market in Hakaniemi.
Bright, bustling marketplace
Directly opposite the Hakaniemi metro, the modest building with its dark vertical beams hides the exciting deliciousness inside like a passion fruit. However, once you heave open the heavy doors, you’re dropped into the middle of a bright, bustling marketplace with smells of breads, smokes and spices mixed with the chatter of customers and clinking of coffee cups.
Finland’s climate doesn’t usually permit the same opulent fresh fruit and vegetable markets that you might find in warmer climes, but the Market Hall is a secret portal to another world. Here you’ll find cuts of reindeer, beef and lamb, all carved by the same skilled hands that sell them, traditional Finnish sausages as well as cured versions imported from Italy. There are neatly ordered pyramids of all the fresh fruit and vegetables you can imagine, and next to them, shiny bottles of Finnish apple juice, grown to the west in Lohja, bottled to the east in Sipoo.
There’s fish too. The cured salmon, Gravalax, a Nordic speciality, in a range of mouth-watering flavours including lingonberry, lemon pepper and cumin with dill. There are huge bowls of caviar and roe and the soft Russian pancakes, blini, to accompany them. The fresh fish looks so clean and bright-eyed it’s hard to believe it’s been out of the water more than a few hours. Beautiful salmon, zander, whitefish and pike lie next to stranger sea-creatures with huge mouths and bulging eyes. Next to them, the golds and bronzes of the smoked fish, perhaps the highlight of the aroma tour.
“It’s been a good experience moving to the new market hall”, Eric Hietaniemi, co-owner of the Saippuakauppias soap-shop explained. “It’s much lighter here and there’s more of a market atmosphere.”
Delicacies and handmade goods
As well as the fresh foods, there are several delicatessens selling dried foods; pastas, spices, huge tins of tea, perfect for sticking a nose or face into, along with bottles of oils racked like fine wines and probably just as tasty. There are several bakeries selling traditional Finnish pastries such as karjalanpiirakka – a savoury rice or egg pasty.
There are also more uncommon prepared foods to be found such as goats’ cheese bedouin breads and stuffed vine leaves. This place is a food lover’s dream. Top quality, an excellent range and all served by experts who know and care about their product. They’ll tell you where the food is from, how to prep. it and how to cook it.
And, there’s more. The kauppahalli also has a great collection of craft shops selling a huge range of handmade goods and souvenirs, from high-quality cork products, handmade soaps and carved-wood butter knives and honey dippers, to homemade fridge magnets, zips and tassels and, of course, a key-cutter. There’s a stall that sells a hundred necklaces with perhaps a thousand individual beads should you wish to make your own, and a kitchen ceramic shop which also sells animal dolls with long gangly legs that work as draught excluders.
“It’s been a good experience moving to the new market hall.” Eric Hietaniemi, co-owner of the Saippuakauppias soap-shop explained. “It’s much lighter here and there’s more of a market atmosphere.” He’s right. It is a great place to visit and when you do, make sure you also stay for lunch. Bouillabaisse seafood soup and then a coffee and pastry. Finally, back out to the snowy streets, probably dark by now, with your pockets full of fruit. And tea. And soaps.