Shopping in Helsinki is like nowhere else. The items for sale inside the city's covered market halls are unique as are the artistic or traditional handicrafts which you can buy from design houses in Unionkatu, Aleksanterinkatu and Pohjoisesplanadi.
The first shopping spot that catches your eyes on approaching Helsinki's busy south harbour is the Kauppatori, an open market square where locals look for a choice of fresh fish, organically grown vegetables, oven-fresh bread and top quality handicrafts. In summer, this daily market becomes one colourful venue of stalls covered with bright orange parasols. Walk amidst the crowds of buyers and discover for yourself the wide range of items offered for sale. In particular, don't fail inspecting the section dedicated to Finnish handicrafts. Expect to find an abundance of handmade articles in wood that are ideal to take back home as souvenirs.
From the Kauppatori, walk south for 100 metres along the pier in the direction of the Makasiini ferry terminal to reach the Kauppahalli or covered market hall. With a better display and a wider range of foodstuffs, the Kauppahalli is a top place for traditional specialties and Finnish delicacies. Seafood is abundant and various; you can buy it fresh or already cooked, smoked or fried, battered or marinated. Do not be put off if this is your first time in such an unusual food market. Everything is top quality, clean and tasty. Try marinated brown trout or fried whitefish. Those more adventurous should look for stuffed salmon steak, a unique Finnish delicacy with a peculiar taste.
For more foodstuffs, head to the Hakaniemi market hall north of the railway station or the open market next to it. More fresh fish and similar Finnish delicacies are displayed both in the open market and in the stalls on the ground floor of the market hall but the quality may not be as good as in the Kauppahalli. On the first floor however, the shops which deal in ceramics, textiles, handicrafts and souvenirs are much better, although the prices are far cheaper than those you have to pay if you buy from shops along Pohjoisesplanadi or Etelaesplanadi.
If you're a collector of anything, the Hietalahti daily flea market is the place to go for making interesting finds and good bargains. From Mannerheimintie, walk southwest along Lonnrotinkatu for about 500 metres until you reach the Hietalahti market on Hietalahdenkatu. Stamps, coins, badges, army memorabilia, wooden souvenirs and leather handicrafts are all found here. You may even come across a genuine Russian icon for which of course you have to pay dearly.
Besides markets, there are many shopping centres and department stores scattered around town. The world-renowned Stockman at Aleksanterinkatu 52 is the most versatile and perhaps the most exclusive department store in the Nordic countries. The Kiseleff Bazaar, a charming shopping gallery on Senate square at Aleksanterinkatu 28 is a treasure trove of gifts, Finnish handicrafts, toys by Fanny and Alexander, hand printed textiles, silk scarves, knitwear, Christmas decorations, jewellery of unique Finnish design and collectors' items. It is really worth a visit even if you don't intend to buy. The elegant shopping arcade Kamp Galleria at Aleksanterinkatu 42 or Pohjoisesplanadi 33 takes first prize for designer fashion and gift articles. Marimekko which has one outlet inside Kamp Galleria and others along Pohjoisesplanadi and Etelaesplanadi is the best known Finnish brand name for fabrics and gifts while Aarikka at Pohjoisesplanadi 27 is the top place for wooden and silver jewelry and unique wooden gifts of great artistic value. For unusual items of purely Finnish origin and design, visit the Kankurin Tupa at Pohjoisesplanadi 35, a unique shopping outlet which deals in traditional 'puukko' knives and handmade clothing. For artistic 'rya' rugs either of contemporary or traditional design to hang on the wall of your sitting room, go to Ryijypalvelu at Kasarmikatu 34A.
In Helsinki, shopping is made easier if you visit factory outlets which often double as exhibition centres and shops. Aarikka's factory shop where wooden gifts are manufactured and sold is located at Nokiantie 2 while Hackman Arabia factory shop at Hameentie 135 is the best place to see design products in china and glass in their final manufacturing stages. If you are ready to pay top prices for genuine antiques, visit the couple of excellent antiques shops along Mariankatu or the cluster of shops along Annankatu, Uudenmaankatu and Fredrikinkatu.
Enjoy shopping in Helsinki!