Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hakaniemi Market Square in Helsinki

Hakaniemi is an old unofficial district in Helsinki but is nevertheless a part of the city center. The place was historically known as a working glass district back in the days. The rising cost of daily living has risen through the years that today; Hakaniemi is now at equal to the rest of Helsinki.

What is there to see in Hakaniemi? The market square is the most dominant area of Hakaniemi. The market square is where the head offices of the Social Democratic Party of Finland and the headquarters of numerous other trade unions in Helsinki. The marketplace is colorful and lively and has the animation and aroma of Oriental food stores complete with a modest number of Asian imported products. To date there are only less than 2,500 Southeast Asians living in Helsinki and most of them are of Indian-descent. Asian food have strong taste which is a pure departure from the generally bland Finnish cooking.

The Hakaniemi market square
Photo by Jisis, Wikimedia Commons

The Hakaniemi Market Square is quite large and has a direct access to the water. There is a variety stalls in the Market Square. The stalls offer traditional treats and foods, handicrafts and other types of souvenirs. In the summer the market square teems with locals and tourists sipping coffee in open air cafés. During the winter, heated café tents are put up in the square for those who would like to seep steaming cup of coffee. Best paired with hot coffee is sugared donut or a meat pie. In the month of October, the Hakaniemi Market Square is host to the Herring Market, a traditional event in Helsinki as old as time.

If you happen to be travelling in a motorhome, what a great adventure would it be if you could go to a market hall, buy the ingredients for a spectacular meal and cook in the comforts of your motorhome.

Also at the Hakaniemi Market Square are the head office of the Left Alliance Party and the famous Helsinki Hilton. Another famous building is the Ympyrätalo designed by Heikki and Kaila Kaija Sirén. The Hakaniemi Market Hall that was designed by Karl Hård af Segerstad, sometime in 1914 is a two-storey brick building in the market square. The Market Hall is a popular place to get organic food such as vegetables and fresh fish. The atmosphere is not that of a regular supermarket but more of that old brick building with that “old time” ambiance -with its fish smell et al. However, the market hall is clean and really a delight to visit. The Market Hall has over 50 stores in its two floors where you can almost anything under the Finnish skies. There is a shoe repair shop, a book store, a handicraft shop and a high fashion store and around 28 more specialty stores. There are six cafeterias in the Market Hall and there’s one on the first floor that offers affordable traditional Finnish food.

The area is still in the middle of a gentrification process and its clientele is diverse. Nevertheless, a trip to Hakaniemi Market Square is worth the trouble.

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