The Ultimate Nordic Food Festival: Helsinki Baltic Herring Market

Something fishy is going on in Helsinki.

Dozens of fishermen from around Finland have docked their boats at the Market Square for the 272nd annual Helsinki Baltic Herring Market. Held since 1743, it is one of the oldest ongoing events in Finland.

The festive market is a seafood lover’s dream, providing a unique opportunity to buy directly from local fishermen’s moored fishing boats. Stock up on all the herring – salted, pickled, fried, you name it – that you could possibly want before turning your attention to the other fresh fish, traditional Finnish specialties, and handicrafts that are available. Definitely get your hands on a few loaves of saaristoleipä, a delicious and dense black bread native to Finland’s archipelago that is made with rye, malt, and molasses.

Even if herring isn’t quite your thing, the market is still well worth a visit. While the star of the show is the eponymous fish, the market is a broader celebration of Finnish food that offers tremendous insight into Finnish culture and traditions.

Climb aboard one of the gorgeous, traditional wooden boats for a bowl of salmon soup or a heaping pile of fried muikku, a freshwater whitefish. Clap along to the lively music drifting up from the docks. Admire the beautifully decorated fishing boats-turned-market stalls (and the fishermen’s serious sweater game). Or strike up a conversation and get to know the fishermen themselves.

The City of Helsinki has an extensive programme of events throughout the week to satiate your curiosity about these tasty little fish, the fishing industry in Finland, and Finland’s food culture strategy (because obviously Finland has a food culture strategy). In addition to a special Children’s Day and a dance on Friday night, you can watch cooking demonstrations, hear about the daily life of fishermen, sample a local school lunch, and learn about efforts to protect the Baltic Sea.

Like it has for over a hundred years, the market opened on the first Sunday of October and will remain open through October 10. Bring cash and come hungry! 

Are you one of the 10,000 people who will visit the Helsinki Baltic Herring Market this year? What are your must-have market items? Let me know in the comments!