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Old Market Hall Tour

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In 19th century Helsinki, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland, groceries were mainly sold in outdoor marketplaces. The idea that trade could take place in covered halls only came to light in the . .
Country: Finland
City: Helsinki
Duration: 1 Hour(s) - 0 Minute(s)
Tour Category: Place Of Interest
Package Itinerary

In 19th century Helsinki, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland, groceries were mainly sold in outdoor marketplaces. The idea that trade could take place in covered halls only came to light in the last decades of the century. A new consciousness about food hygiene was the main reason for this, but it was also hoped that the occasionally disorderly market trade would become better organized if moved indoors.

The construction of the first indoor hall in Helsinki, the Old Market Hall, was started at Eteläranta near the Market Square in 1888. This is the year written above the southern entrance of the building, but because of problems with cement delivery, the hall was not opened to the public until 1889. The building was designed by Gustaf Nyström who had studied how market halls were built in large European cities.
At the time of opening the hall had 120 stalls as well as 6 shops in the central gallery. Regulations stated that vendors were allowed to sell meat products, eggs, butter, cheese and garden produce. At the turn of the century, some of the fish trade from the outdoor marketplace was also moved into the hall.

The first period of prosperity and dynamic construction for Helsinki’s market halls ended with the First World War in 1914-18 and Finland’s independence and civil war in 1917-1918. After a few years of extreme scarcity, trade started to blossom again at the start of the 1920s, and market halls were enthusiastically built in other Finnish towns as well. In the early 1930s, the global recession hit the trade at the Old Market Hall. Although trade recovered towards the end of the decade, the Finnish Winter War broke out in 1939, resulting in six harsh years that threatened the operations of the Old Market Hall in several ways. Due to general scarcity, the access to raw materials was strictly rationed, while black market trade was a further menace to hall merchants. At times, the winters of the war years caused many impoverished Helsinki residents, such as single parent families and pensioners, to be pushed to the verge of famine. Rationing continued in Finland for another 10 years after the war, until the availability and trade of raw materials picked up again soon after 1945.

Rationing came to an end in post-war Finland in 1954, and the decades that followed saw food trade recover and expand year by year. Finland joining the EU in 1995 meant significant changes for the many Market Hall merchants selling foreign delicacies. For example, the cheese shops of the Old Market Hall could start selling unpasteurized cheese from France and other Central European countries, the import of which was forbidden in Finland before EU membership. The cheese merchant Tuula Paalanen remembers the event well: - The arrival of these cheese novelties on our counters started a whole new cheese culture in Finland, which in turn led into Finnish dairy companies learning new skills in cheese production. Meat trade in the Market Hall’s butcher shops was also transformed by the arrival of cold cuts, sausages and cured hams from countries such as Italy, Spain and France. Today, 20 years after Finland joined the EU, the product selection at the Old Market Hall is better and more varied than ever before.

The Old Market Hall is located at Eteläranta, next to the Market Square, and served by excellent transport connections. Though only a short walk away from the city centre, it can also be reached by trams 2, 3, 1A and 1. There is abundant parking space right by the Market Hall for those arriving by private car.

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