Gluten Free Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki Cathedral

Who are you and where are you?
I am Henn. My city is beautiful Helsinki, which has been home for 24 years. I now live in Ireland but Helsinki has and always will have a special place in my heart. I  still visit Helsinki a few times a year.

Tell me about your relationship with gluten..
About 8 years ago I was diagnosed with gluten inolerance. Changing my diet to totally gluten free  was the best thing that happened, for the first time in years I felt good and healthy. I wasnt sick every second week and tired the whole time. The change was really hard but the better I felt the more I accepted it. At times I still miss gluten like crazy but I  know I would get sick straight away. In the beginning I used to hate going to parties, because there was never anything for me. But funnily enough I dont care anymore. I just eat before we go.

Why should gluten free travellers visit your town?
Helsinki is great for gluten free travellers. Most menus tells you what dishes are gluten free. Most sauces and soups are made gluten free. When you tell the staff you need it gluten free they make sure its prepered in a gluten free area. Even 15 years ago when I studied to become a chef we learnt how to prepare food for different allergies.

Most restaurants have a area where they prepare gluten free food. Even places like McDonalds can serve all their burgers gluten free. In the summer, most ice cream shops have gluten free waffles. Shops in Helsinki have a great selection of gluten free food. What I find lovely is that people really understand the condition.

Tell me something fun about your town..
My favorite season in Finland is the summer, the whole city comes alive. You can have picnics in parks, sit for a drink on the many outdoor cafes or take the ferry over to the fort island, Suomenlinna and explore the tunnels and caves, go for a swim or just take in the stunning views. In the summer, most Helsinki locals escape to summer houses over the weekend so you might see more tourists than locals at the weekends.

In the winter you can take your sleigh and go out to Kaivopuisto. Afterwards, enjoy a hot chocolate in one of te cafes around Kaivopuisto or go iceskating on the sea in Munkiniemi. In the winter you will find a underground walkway between the main places in Helsinki, which is great if you dont want to go from one place to another in the freezing cold.

Beach at Suomenlinna

Where is your favourite place to eat out in your town and why?

  • I always go to Boulverd Social when back in Helsinki. The serice and food are great and I always find they really look after me as a gluten free person. Their brunch is one of the best in town.
  • Farang is another favorite. Their food is beautiful and they really look after you as a gluten free customer.
  • A must is one of Stockmanns many restaurangs and cafes. Stockmann is a department store. They always look after you and you are sure to find something for everyone.
  • Keliapuoti is a bakery and gluten free shop in Hakaniemi’s food hall. The food hall is great to stroll through and you will be delighted to find some gluten free goodies! They are great and you can get cakes and freshly baked bread a few times a week.
  • Santa Fe on Aleksanterinkatu is an other great restaurant. It’s a Mexican and it has been there as long as I can remember. Their nachos supreme and cajun chicken avocado salad are another must every time I visit.
  • Cafe Strindberg on Esplanadi does lovely gluten free open sandwiches.
  • Ravintola Amigo on Tehtaankatu is a lovely Spanish restaurant. Its always worth calling them first to make sure they have gluten free bread available for you.
  • Cafe Ekberg on Bulevardi is a bakery and cafe. You can get gluten free bread and cakes here. Their breakfast is worth a try!

Most restaurants I have been to in Helsinki really go the extra mile to make you feel safe. If they dont have a separate gluten free area for preparing gluten free options, they will always tell you. Always ask for gluten free option even if they dont have any on display or on the menu. Many places keep gluten free bread and cakes in the freezer for gluten free customers.

Do you live in Helsinki or Finland or have you travelled there? Where is your favourite place to eat gluten free?

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  • I was in Finland last summer and saw lots of things labelled gluten-free in cafes and bakeries but was always afraid to try them. The reason was that the gluten-free items were always sitting right next to the gluten items and it looked to me like cross contamination would be a given. I was really disappointed as I’d always heard that Finland was a Celiac’s paradise and so I expected that there was more knowledge about keeping things separate. i.e. not having the gluten-free cake right next to the gluten cake with only one serving utensil for both!

  • Sorry, should have added that I was in Helsinki specifically.

  • Yes, I’ve been to Finland also (also in Helsinki for a few days), but I think this is the best place for a celiac in the world. There are many products, everyone knows many things about gluten-free living and they are very helpful. (Actually I was going to visit a National Park – Oulanka to test it whether they can really cook gluten-free and I was amazed… it was brilliant)