Helsinki’s oldest traditional festival has rolled around once again – the Baltic Herring Fair has been held annually since 1743, making this year’s festival the 271st time it has taken over the Market Square in the city centre. Every autumn at the beginning of October, fishermen from around Finland’s southern coast gather to sell their wares, packing the market with salted, pickled and marinated fish. During the fair there are also a number of other special events (including live music performances) the most important of which are the competitions to find the best seasoned fish and the herring surprise. The panel of ten that judges includes both experts and laymen, with the best entries being awarded a traditional trophy and a certificate on the performance stage.


Baltic Herring Sellers in Helsinki

In addition to the traditional marinades, there are always exotic options to try, from rowan berry and lemon to cayenne pepper and garlic, with new delicacies being offered every year. Although herring is the star of the show, there are also stalls selling woolen wear made from the wool of sheep bred in the archipelago, and also the famous black bread that is so popular in that area.

Saturday sees traditional sailing ships compete in a race around the islands in the bays around Helsinki, with crowds gathering at vantage points to enjoy the spectacle. Once the race has been completed, the sailors gather to attend the Sailing Ship Meet, held on Sunday. The ships themselves are then open to the public, and can be explored as they lie docked in the harbour.

Sailing ship in Helsinki harbour

All images used courtesy of Helsingin Satama