Restaurants bring variety to their menus with typically Finnish dishes, many of which marry Scandinavian recipes (especially Swedish) with influences from Russia and the Baltic. Although Scandinavian-style smorgasbords are increasingly rare, a worthy replacement is the "Helsinki Menus." Offered by about 15 of the city's most visible restaurants, they tend to focus on traditional Finnish food that's composed of fresh and usually Finnish ingredients, compiled into flavorful and often nostalgic combinations that really reflect the nation's traditions and bounty. As the economic fortunes of Finland have increased in recent years, chefs from other parts of Europe, especially France, have rushed in to fill the need for sophisticated culinary products.

Perfect Picnics -- To buy all the foods you want for a picnic, head for the delicatessen on the street level of Stockmann department store, Aleksanterinkatu 52 (tel. 09/1211; tram: 3B, 3T, 4, 6, or 10). At this deli, you'll find several types of smoked or marinated carp, whitefish, perch, or salmon along with marinated terrines of reindeer, and perhaps cloudberry or lingonberry preserves (sold in small jars), which can be thickly spread on fresh-baked herb bread. You'll also find little bottles of wine and Arctic liqueurs. The deli is open Monday to Friday 9am to 9pm and Saturday 9am to 6pm. With your picnic basket, you can head for the national park on the island of Seurasaari, the best spot in Helsinki for a family outing.

Midsummer Dining Above the Ramparts of 18th-Century Helsinki -- Dining at Särkänlinna Restaurant requires a 12-minute transit by ferryboat from Helsinki's "mainland," a walk across an otherwise barren island in the middle of Helsinki's harbor, and a wobbly climb up a winding flight of 18th-century stairs.


The configuration of the dining room is more than a bit bizarre. In 1924, a well-known architect, Oiva Kallio, designed a wood-sided simulation of a long and narrow railway car, and perched it atop the defensive 18th-century ramparts of an island, Särkkä, that functioned as a military outpost. Today, between mid-May and mid-September, you catch a ferryboat that departs at 20-minute intervals every day between 4 and 9pm. The 5€ ($8.80) per person round-trip cost of the boat is billed along with the cost of your meal.

Menu items reflect the best of Finland and include a tartare of salmon with potato cakes and roe mousse, a ceviche of whitefish with tomato consommé and basil-flavored sorbet, fried filets of reindeer with deep-fried blue cheese, and a starter platter of Baltic delicacies.

The sloping floor reflects the floor plan of the original ramparts: sailors and soldiers had to roll cannonballs from their storage area down to the waiting cannon. Main courses cost 21€ to 36€ ($34-$58). American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, and Visa are accepted. Open mid-May to mid-September nightly from 5:30pm to midnight. Advance reservations required at tel. 09/1345-6756.


Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.