Get us in your inbox

Helsinki has turned this square into a huge alfresco restaurant

The Finnish capital has allowed 16 bars and restaurants to serve diners on the iconic Senate Square

Huw Oliver
Written by
Huw Oliver

For diners, it means a safe dining environment in an iconic location. For businesses, it means more space and more custom at a pretty tough time. Helsinki has come up with an ingenious way to encourage locals to start eating out again, by transforming its iconic Senate Square into a giant alfresco restaurant.

Senate Square in HelsinkiPhotograph: Torikorttelit / Camilla Bloom

The local authorities invited 16 popular bars and restaurants to open secondary outlets in wood cabins on the huge central square, which is overlooked by the city’s towering cathedral. Diners can enjoy artisan pizza, Finnish pickled herring, tapas, hotdogs and an array of hearty breakfasts from 8am to 11pm, while bars serve cocktails and craft beer until 10pm.

Senate Square in HelsinkiPhotograph: Torikorttelit / Camilla Bloom

The design, by Linda Bergroth, was inspired by allotment gardens, with cabins from the Finnish capital’s Christmas market reused as lookalike sheds. The tables and chairs – some 480 of them – are surrounded by around 200 planter boxes (many of which are being used to grow herbs).

Senate Square in HelsinkiPhotograph: Torikorttelit / Camilla Bloom

The raised garden beds are intended to create clear paths across the square, allowing for the safe flow of visitors and providing ample space between tables to ensure social distancing. On its unveiling, Jan Vapaavuori, the mayor of Helsinki, said the project would be a ‘safe, exciting and communal summer oasis in the heart of the city’. Right now, it certainly looks that way.

As Prague comes out of lockdown, locals held a feast to reclaim the city.

More on Time In

    Latest news


      The best things in life are free.

      Get our free newsletter – it’s great.

      Loading animation
      Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?

      🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

      Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!