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Helsinki Turns Square into Culinary Oasis


Cities are places where people come together and the COVID-19 pandemic has created a need for new, safe spaces to enable people to meet. In Helsinki, the city has taken an active role in helping the businesses that have suffered economical losses due to the pandemic and simultaneously animating the city centre.

Helsinki’s main square, the Senate Square, has been transformed into an urban culinary oasis; a vast garden-like terrace area where savours of the city’s ambitious culinary culture can be enjoyed.

“If there’s anything good about the coronavirus, it just might be the fact that we have been forced to rethink our ways of doing things in a new way. Good ideas and an innovative culture of experimenting are now truly welcome,” says Jan Vapaavuori, Mayor of Helsinki.

One of the essential new openings is the new extensive terrace and meeting point created at the city’s main square, the Senate Square. The terrace is located in front of Helsinki’s landmark, the Helsinki Cathedral, and the city hopes it will help revive the city centre that is recovering from the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. New and increasingly vast terrace areas have been opened in different parts of Helsinki as the city has eased the processing of permits to support the businesses recover and regain their actions.


“This summer is a critical time for many entrepreneurs in Helsinki. The Senate Square terrace experiment does not only serve the businesses that will operate in the area but also acts as a refreshing shot for the whole city centre, the entrepreneurs, domestic travel and for the international travel that is slowly starting to resume,” Mayor Jan Vapaavuori says.

The Senate Square restaurateurs were chosen to represent an exclusive and diverse set of high quality Helsinki restaurants. The selection contains, for instance, refreshing breakfasts, summery lunches, pizza, Baltic herring, tapas, fine dining, premium hot dogs, cocktails and craft beers from local microbreweries.

Safety and the area’s cultural and historical values have been at the core of the terrace area planning. The visual image of the area has been inspired by allotment gardens with their cottages and plots. Allotment gardens have been a part of the urban culture in Helsinki for a hundred years. The plots at the Senate Square are separated by circa 200 boxes, which have been planted with different flowers and useful plants. They help form clear paths on the area and guide the safe circulation of the customers. The planting boxes are also used to create a distance between the seating areas in order to respect safety regulations, while keeping the area pleasant at the same.

“Helsinki has a fine culinary and restaurant culture and a wonderful tradition of allotment gardens. Senate Square has become a culinary oasis and a showcase of quality restaurants in Helsinki. We believe that those who travel in the future will be looking for local experiences just like this. Even if we may travel less in the future, we want to invest more in it and enjoy local services together with the locals,” states Laura Aalto, CEO of Helsinki Marketing.

Helsinki seeks to actively develop its urban culture and create new interesting urban spaces. Novelties from the recent years, Amos Rex Art Museum and Oodi Central Library, have created new open spaces that have been quickly adopted by the city’s residents. Senate Square is the heart of Helsinki’s historical centre that adapts to many things: on the first of May a virtual concert was organised on the square and this summer it becomes a meeting place with genuine encounters and first-class culinary experiences.

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Mark Bibby Jackson

Mark Bibby Jackson

Before setting up Travel Begins at 40, Mark was the publisher of AsiaLIFE Cambodia and a freelance travel writer. When he is not packing and unpacking his travelling bag, Mark writes novels, including To Cook A Spider and Peppered Justice. He loves walking, eating, tasting beer, isolation and arthouse movies, as well as talking to strangers on planes, buses and trains whenever possible. Most at home when not at home.

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