Handicrafts & souvenirs

photo © Discovering Finland

Finland has long had a reputation for fine craftsmanship and its traditional handicrafts are known throughout the world, particularly that of the indigenous Sámi people whose jewelry is much coveted. The country produces excellent hunting and fishing knives, handwoven ryijy rugs, and some of the most delightful pieces of ceramics and glassware you’ll ever see.

The Sámi’s long tradition of craftsmanship has usually is based on antler, bone, wood, outer birch bark, pewter and leather. Visitors are also charmed by the traditional cups carved from birch wood, known as kuksa. Genuine handicrafts from Lapland can be identified by the Duodji label which shows that the item has been produced in a regional craft workshop.

There are numerous handicraft shops in Helsinki, most notably in the Kiseleff House located just across Senate Square from the cathedral, and in the nearby Bock House. The Kiseleff focuses mostly on Finnish design, such as Globe Hope, Tiia Vanhatapio and Lumi Accessories, whereas the Bock House sells only handicrafts, souvenirs, jewelry and collectibles, almost everything handmade and therefore unique. Just around the corner is the Helsinki market square or Kauppatori on the waterfront where you can find lots of stalls selling local and Sámi handicrafts and souvenirs.

Of course, most towns in Finland feature shops where local handicrafts are sold, it’s a good idea to visit the local market hall and square, and the streets that lead on them. However, some towns are known in particular. Turku, for example, boasts the beautiful Luostarinmäki handicrafts museum, converted from a large number of residential buildings that survived the Great Fire of Turku in 1827, and today is one of the cities most popular attractions. Rauma, on the west coast, features Old Rauma, one of the five UNESCO World Heritage sights in Finland. Here the craft of bobbin lace making still flourishes, and is celebrated annually with the Rauma Lace Festival. East of Helsinki lies Porvoo, the second oldest town in Finland, famous for its charming old warehouses, cobblestoned streets, handicraft shops, and Christmas markets where local stallholders dress in traditional costume.

Finally, between the 18th and 20th of November 2011, the city of Tampere will host the Finnish Handicraft expo which will showcase a wide range of handicrafts, gift products and accessories under one roof, at the Tampereen Messu.