Helsinki is a beautiful and quirky city alongside the Baltic. Some may say it shrinks in comparison to Stockholm and other Scandinavian capitals flourishing with personality, but Helsinki has its own charm (especially in the summer months). With the sun rising at 4am and setting after 11pm, this city literally never sleeps at night. It has many pockets of history– beautiful cathedrals and churches and ornate buildings– that contrast its avant-garde design district. And Helsinki flaunts the well-preserved sea fortress and World Heritage Site, Suomenlinna, just a 15 minute ferry ride away. But to gluten-free eaters, Helsinki is more than just a city with a charming harbor, it is paradise. With all the menus labelling gluten-free options with a ‘G’, most cafés offering gluten-free breads and pastries and cakes, and all waiters and servers being extremely knowledgeable about Celiac Disease, Helsinki is a gluten-free haven.
When exploring Helsinki’s Esplanade, you can grab a bite at the renowned cafe and restaurant, Kappeli. Kappeli sits right in the heart of Helinski across from an outdoor music stage, making it a great summer venue. From their curry chicken salad to gluten-free sandwiches and raspberry macaron cake, there are plenty of yummy gluten-free options. Moreover, as you discover the city, be sure to stop in the cafe Karl Fazer— coined Finland’s most valued brand. There are many Karl Fazer cafes spread across the city, and they offer gluten-free open-faced sandwiches and a variety of desserts (a whole shelf was dedicated to gluten-free desserts!). Right along the water, you can find Old Market Hall– the Quincy Market or Reading Terminal Market of Helsinki. With more than twenty vendors, there are numerous gluten-free options. Be sure to check out Story which has a delicious gluten-free creamy salmon soup (salmon soup is local specialty!) and Mari’s Smoothie and Cafe which has a selection of gluten-free sandwiches and pastries. If you’re looking to try some traditional Finnish food, I’d recommend Aino, an upscale restaurant on the Esplanade. In its select menu, Aino does offers gluten-free entrees including sautéed reindeer with mashed potatoes and lingonberries (reindeer tastes a lot like mutton, for those who were wondering). Finally, if you choose to board a Viking cruise ship to take a day trip to Tallinn or visit St. Petersburg, even the ship’s restaurants have many gluten-free options!
With that, all I can say is that this beautiful city has been by far the most accommodating and knowledgeable city when it comes to eating gluten-free– even more so than any city the US. So if you visit, do indulge in the exquisite Finnish cuisine and gluten-free treats! Make the most of paradise!