Baltic Herring Festival 2014, Helsinki

Baltic Herring Festival in Helsinki

Every year in early October, Helsinki’s harbor and Market Square transforms into a lively, colorful, maritime-themed set, complete with wooden fishing boats and good-looking traditional sailing boats. Fishermen from Finland’s archipelago and coastal towns and little villages, bring their latest fish catch to Helsinki to take part in the capital’s annual Baltic Herring Festival (“Silakkamarkkinat” in Finnish).

Baltic Herring Festival, Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki’s Baltic Herring Festival 2014

This autumn the Baltic Herring Festival takes place from October 5th to October 11th.

Baltic Herring Festival, Helsinki, Finland

Baltic Herring Festival 2014, Helsinki

The “queen” of the festival is of course the Baltic herring, prepared in  many imaginative ways: pickled, fried, smoked, fermented, or even raw…

Baltic Herring Festival, Helsinki, Finland

Pickled herrings (courtesy of Port of Helsinki)

There are also other local fish on sale, such as arctic char  (a personal favorite), salmon, vendace, whitefish, or flounder.

Baltic Herring Festival, Helsinki, Finland

Yeap! All these are various types of pickled herrings. There is even a Cognac-pepper one.

Baltic Herring Festival – An event with a long, fishy history

The Baltic Herring Festival was first organized in 1743, making it the oldest traditional event held in Helsinki.  Those days, the Finnish capital was one of Baltic sea’s major trading hub.

Baltic Herring Festival, Helsinki, Finland

Baltic Herring Festival 2014, Helsinki

Apart from fish products, the local fishermen trade also woolen garments and handicrafts, as well as traditional archipelago bread (“saaristoleipä” in Finnish), for which I have eventually acquired a taste.

I bet you didn’t know the following about Baltic Herring

The European Union has acknowledged that the Baltic herring is not the same as the larger herring found in other northern seas. EU fisheries ministers agreed to grant the Baltic herring its own classification even though it has the same Latin name, Clupea harengus, as its bigger relation.

Baltic Herring Festival, Helsinki, Finland

Selling archipelago bread and pickled herrings

The EU now defines the Baltic herring as a herring that is caught and landed north of latitude 59.30 degrees north. All of Finland’s fishing waters are above the designated parallel. To meet the criteria for intervention the Baltic herring must weigh more than 31 but less than 85 grammes, a weight range characteristic of the fish.

(source: Embassy of Finland in Brussels)

Baltic Herring Festival – A family event

Helsinki’s Baltic Herring Festival is not only about trading herrings and stretching your culinary limits to the extreme.  There is also a stage for music performances, cooking demonstrations, contests and a kids concert.

Baltic Herring Festival, Helsinki, Finland

Music for children, Käpylehmä Orchestra

And for those who don’t regard herrings as the epitome of culinary enjoyment, there are plenty of schooners and stalls offering fried vendace or hearty salmon soup (again a personal favorite).

Baltic Herring Festival, Helsinki, Finland

Baltic Herring Fair 2014, Helsinki

And the highlight of the Baltic Herring Festival was (for me at least)

Well, you know by now what an incurable foodie I am, so what else could be my highlight of the Helsinki’s Baltic Herring Festival than a deep plate of piping hot, chilly flavored salmon soup served with rye bread and a pint of Helsinki Porter, enjoyed inside one of those traditional sailing boats, together with good company, ?

Salmon soup, Finnish traditional food, Baltic Herring Festival, Helsinki, Finland

Chilly-flavored salmon soup washed down with a pint of Helsinki Porter

Have you ever tried pickled herrings and survived to share your story?

For herring recipes, please click here.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

32 thoughts on “Baltic Herring Festival in Helsinki

    • VasilisM

      I am not a big fan of herrings but this festival is definitely worth visiting. Do you prepare herrings differently in Canada? Thanks for stopping by Maiu! Aitäh!

      • I like herring but it tastes so different here, not as fresh as in Estonia. I´m think it tastes different because they freeze the herring before selling and it gets kinda mushy 🙂

    • VasilisM

      Well, I certainly had lots of fun eating that salmon soup and drinking that Helsinki Porter!!! 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to comment Lynn!

  1. Wish I could have been there! I laughed how you said that you grew to like saaristolaisleipa 😉 It’s not that weird 😉 There are worse like mammi!

  2. That soup looks good! I’ve always wanted to try a fish chowder 🙂 I bet it’s cold up there at this time of year. It’s quite nippy here on a morning, already. That’s a lot of years to keep a festival going. Must be doing something right.
    Pickled herring? Not for me thanks. Just gherkins 🙂

    • VasilisM

      Luckily not too cold yet. But getting darker and darker all the time. That’s the worst part of living up here, the long dark months of November and December. In January it starts to get better. The soup was excellent and the porter even better! Thank you for your comment Jo!

  3. A Herring Festival? Who would have thought it? 🙂

    I loved your pictures and description of the event. I’m not a huge fan of fish but strangely enough, I love pickled herring … compliments of my Dutch mother. It was one of her favourites and introduced to us kids at an early age. I suspect I’m the only one of my siblings who likes it though 🙂

    • VasilisM

      I know! When it comes to weird festivals and competitions, the Finns must be world champions. Only in Finland you can find events like the annual “wife-carrying” competition taking place in a little town in Eastern Finland? 🙂
      I was never a huge fan of fish either. I like seafood though.
      Thank you so much for your comment Joanne!

    • VasilisM

      You are one of the very few non-Finnish people I know that like silakka. I have to admit that I am not a big fan of them either, although I have lived in Finland for the last 17 years and have honestly tried my best to acquire a taste for them. I have though “learned” to love some other Finnish traditional food, like mämmiä and salmiakki (salty liquorice). Did you have the chance to try any other Finnish delicacies, when you visited here?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge