Helsinki - Kauppatori

At Market Square, known locally in Helsinki as Kauppatori, visitors and natives alike can get everything from fresh salmon steak to reindeer meat. But there's much more than just great food.

The Market Square is located on the shoreline and offers great views, great food and outstanding atmosphere. The bright orange cloth-covered stalls are a pick-me-up in winter and an even greater delight under Helsinki's gentle summer sun.

On one side of the bay is the South Harbor, the other faces Katajanokka headland. Turn around and there's the Swedish Embassy and, to the left, the Presidential Palace. You can catch a ferry to the excellent Helsinki Zoo on Korkeasaari island. Or, you can stroll through the surrounding neighborhood to the indoor Hietalahden Tori marketplace.

Tourists here may go for the Russian fur hats or the reindeer skin, but locals may just as likely be after nothing more than a stylish wooden bowl. Someone on her way to work may be stopping in for a quick bunch of the superb fresh berries on sale.

Whatever your taste, literally, there's something for everyone at Kauppatori. You can find a Lapp hunting knive that will closely resemble one a shopper might have seen a hundred years ago. Or, you may just want an inexpensive but tasty lunch of reindeer salami or a little coffee and breakfast munkki, a type of Finnish doughnut.

While you have your food you can take in a view of many of Helsinki's finest historical buildings and do a little people watching. Everyone comes to Kauppatori! At some times of the day, you'll be overwhelmed with the hustle of the modern city which is Finland's capital.

Since the 18th century, visitors and locals both have enjoyed the sea air and the fine food. They traded goods and swapped stories. Near the obelisk (Keisarinnan kivi) commemorating the Russian Empress Alexandra's visit in 1833 you can easily imagine the scene during that time.

Only a few meters away you can take a boat trip to Suomenlinna (Finland Castle), or catch a cruise to St. Petersburg or Turku. Take a walk around and see the Town Hall (Kaupungintalo) constructed in the year of the Empress' visit. Or stroll over and see the Guard House near the Presidential Palace, the first neo-classical building in the city. Along the Esplanade you can find more shops, restaurants and historical buildings than you could visit in one vacation.

Among the highlights is the Kappeli restaurant, serving the finest food in Helsinki since 1837. But don't miss seeing the superb Havis Amanda fountain, or the old Market Hall (Wanha Kauppahalli, built in 1888) on the seaward side of the Eteläranta either. Not far away is Senate Square with many other stellar sights.