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Last updated : Nov 2009
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Food & Drink

fish, potatoes, meat, milk, butter and rye bread are the traditional mainstays of the Finnish diet, but food in Finland has been greatly influenced both by Western (French and Swedish) and Eastern (Russian) cooking.

Visitors can expect excellent fresh fish dishes on most menus and include fine examples of pike, trout, perch, whitefish, salmon and Baltic herring. All are in abundance through most of the year. Crayfish (a Finnish speciality) is available from July - August.

One should also try reindeer meat, smoked or cooked in other forms. Regional dishes include kalakukko, a kind of fish and pork pie, baked in a rye flour crust, and karjalan piirakat, a pasty of rye flour stuffed with rice pudding or potato and eaten with egg butter. Thick soups are also very popular.

In restaurants (ravintola), the menu is mainly continental with several Finnish specialities. Restaurant prices are moderate if the set menu is chosen and most restaurants have a special menu for the children, or other half-price meals. Inexpensive lunches are served at places called kahvila and baari (the latter is not necessarily a licensed bar).

Information about gourmet trails may be obtained from Finnish Tourist Board offices, 2 are planned one for the east and west Finland. The trails have been designed so that both can be covered in 2 to 4 days. Visitors on the trails will visit a variety of eating places from large chain hotels to inns and farmhouses, with the emphasis on the smaller, more intimate places. Additionally in Lapland, Lappi à la carte consists of 3 gourmet routes and an English route map with details is available from the Tourist Board.

Restaurants are divided into 2 classes, those serving all kinds of alcohol and those serving only beers and wines. Waiter service is popular although there are many self-service snack bars. Bars and cafes may have table and/or counter service.

The Finnish berry liqueurs, mesimarja (arctic bramble), lakka (cloudberry) and polar (cranberry), as well as the Finnish vodka, are well worth trying. Finnish beer is of a high quality and mild beers are served in most coffee bars. There are strict laws against drinking and driving. In restaurants, beer is served from 0900hrs and other liquor from 1100hrs and all alcohol is served until half an hour before the restaurant closes. Nightclubs are open to serve drinks until 0200hrs or 0400hrs. Service begins at 1100hrs and continues until the restaurant closes. The age limit for drinking is 18 years, but consumers must be 20 before they can buy the stronger alcoholic beverages.

Restaurant classification

Prices for alcohol vary according to the restaurant’s classification.

E - Elite price category.
G - General price category.
S - Self-service price category.
A - Fully licensed.
B - Licensed for beer and wine.


Finnish handicrafts, handwoven ryijy rugs, jewellery, furniture, glassware, porcelain, ceramics, furs and textiles are amongst the many Finnish specialities. Excellent supermarkets and self-service shops can be found all Finland.

Helsinki railway station has the first underground shopping centre in the country, where shops are open 0800-2200 hrs (Sunday and public holidays 1200-2200hrs).

At the Katajanokka boat harbour, there is a shop selling glass, china, wooden articles and textiles.

Duty free

Anyone permanently resident outside the European Union can claim back purchase tax at the time of departure. Repayment can be made on presentation of a special cheque provided by the retailer at the following gateways:

Helsinki, Turku, Tampere, Mariehamn, Vaasa and Rovaniemi airports; onboard ferries and ships operated by Polferries, Silja Line, Vaasaferries and Viking Line, and at the main checkpoints on the land borders with Sweden, Norway and the Russian Federation.

Shopping opening hours: Monday-Friday 0900-1800hrs, Saturday 0900-1500hrs. Shops are generally open on Sunday from June to August. Many shops are also open 0900-2100hrs during the week and Saturday 0900-1800hrs.

Special Events

For a full list of special events, contact the Finnish Tourist Board (see Contact section).

The following is a selection of special events occurring in Finland in 2005:
February 21-27th Oulu Children's Theatre Festival.
March 4th-12th Musica nova Helsinki
April 20th-24th April Jazz Espoo
June 28th-July 7th Kimito Island Music Festival.
July 27th-31st Eteläpohjalaiset Spelit at Suupohja (folk music festival), Teuva
August 19th-September 9th Helsinki Festival.
October 18th-23rd Espoo International Piano Festival
November 3rd-6th Tampere Jazz Happening
Social Conventions

Handshaking is customary in Finland. Normal courtesies should be observed. It is customary for the guest to refrain from drinking until the host or hostess toasts their health with a ‘kippis’ or a ‘skol’. Casual dress is acceptable in Finland. Black tie will be specified when required. Finns appear sometimes to be rather reserved and one should not feel alarmed if there is a lack of small talk during the first half hour or so. Shoes must usually be removed when entering someone’s house.


A 15 per cent service charge is included in the bill at hotels. Restaurants and bars have a 14 per cent service charge weekdays and a 15 per cent at the weekends and holidays. The obligatory doorman or cloakroom fee is usually clearly indicated. Taxi drivers, washroom attendants and hairdressers are also generally tipped.
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