photo © City of Helsinki / Royal Restaurants
The choices for diners in Finland is extensive, with a wide range of restaurants serving ethnic and local cuisine. Visitors can also enjoy meals in the elegant surroundings of manor houses or while enjoying a relaxing cruise through the coastal archipelagos or around the beautiful lakes. To fully enjoy the natural flavours of Finland be sure to check out any of the restaurants with the Taste of Finland’s ‘Fork of Plenty’ symbol.
That Finnish cuisine is growing in international stature can be best observed by the fact that four different restaurants in Helsinki were selected to the prestigious Michelin Guide in 2010, and another was added in 2011. One of these, Chez Dominique, was awarded two Michelin stars, the other four with a star beside their name are Luomo, Postres, Demo and Olo.
The popularity of international cuisine has been growing steadily in Finland. In Helsinki alone you can choose from well over 100 ethnic restaurants, including 13 Japanese, 26 Indian, 43 Chinese, 8 Nepalese, and 6 Thai restaurants, and there are numerous others where you can enjoy the cuisine of neighbouring Russia.
Restaurant Ships and Dinner cruises
Most of the main population centres in Finland are situated by water, either by the sea or by the banks of lakes and rivers, and as a result there is a variety of dining opportunities to be had on the water, on restaurant ships or by enjoying a relaxing dinner cruise. The following are chosen as a sample of what is available, you will be able to discover more options by checking on the listings for the town or city you happen to be visiting.
In Helsinki the Royal Line (winner of the Best of Helsinki Awards – Best City Break Service in 2009) operate the m/s King and Naantali, offering the ‘Smuggler’s’ and ‘Imperial’ dinner cruises every evening between May and September.
In Porvoo the Restaurant Ship Glückauf is a steam sailing ship which was built at the end of the 19th century where meals can be enjoyed onboard or in an open air pavilion next to the ship. The Glückauf is open every day of the summer, and open by prior arrangement during the rest of the year.
In Turku the M/S Rudolfina runs 90-minute lunch and dinner cruises, including a buffet meal, or the more leisurely 3 hour round trip evening cruises to Nantaali and back through the archipelago, which leave every Monday to Saturday at 7pm.
In the heart of Finland, from Kuopio to Lahti and by the numerous large lakes that make up the Saimaa lake system, busy harbours are a feature of Finnish life. Most of these lakeside harbours have busy restaurants and bars, and you’ll find delightful vessels moored that have been converted into restaurants, cafés, cruise ships making trips around the nearby islands and skerries, and ferries travelling from town to town. These cruises and ferries usually offer buffets, lunches or dinners, and provide the perfect way to combine your enjoyment of Finland’s natural beauty and appreciation of its regional delicacies. During summer months lakeside harbours are traditionally locations for summer festivals and festivities, and you can find some of the busiest bars and terraces here, which make them ideal locations for meeting locals and enjoying whatever entertainments happen to be on offer when you arrive.
There are around 200 manor houses in Finland, the vast majority of which are located in the southern and central regions of Finland. Although most of these remain in private use, others have been preserved as museums or converted into conference centres, golf clubs or hotels and restaurants. These latter manors presents visitors, especially those who have rented a car and exploring the region, with unique opportunities to dine in the some of the most elegant surroundings in the country. These include Alberga, Bodom and Pakankyla in Espoo; Rastila and Viikki in Helsinki; Haikko and Kiiala in Porvoo; Katajisto and Vanajanlinna in Hameenlinna; Eerikinkartano and Rauhala in Kirkkonummi; Sininen Helmi in Kiuruvesi; Backas in Vantaa; Hirvihaara in Mantsala; Mukkula in Lahti; and Olkkala in Vihti.
Dining on a budget
Most restaurants in Finland provide affordable lunch specials (Lounas), usually between 11am and 2pm, where you can have an excellent meal for between 8 to 11 euros. If you are in Helsinki, the Perhorestaurant is always worth trying for lunch on weekdays as it functions as the training restaurant of Finland’s premier restaurant school. Finland also has its own fast food outlets; Carrolls and Hesburger provide similar to the american burger joints, and Kotipizza outlets are found everywhere.
If you’re dining in the evening or at the weekend it is worth walking a little distance from the main streets in city centres as the more central the restaurant, the more expensive the menu is likely to be.