Senate Square.

Senate Square hotspot to offer diverse selection of food and drink

The City of Helsinki’s plan to turn Senate Square into a giant open-air food court took an important step forward this week after the city selected 16 restaurants to do business in the iconic space. Municipal officials agreed on a garden theme, in addition to common operating principles for keeping customers safe.

This summer, as coronavirus restrictions wind down, Helsinki hopes to revive interest in its downtown area by creating a socially distanced outdoor eating venue in one of its most famous squares. The hotspot is also intended to give a leg-up to struggling businesses.

“This summer will be a critical time for many entrepreneurs in Helsinki. The Senate Square market will benefit the companies and people that do business there, but we also trust it will function as a catalyst for renewed activity, business and domestic tourism in the city centre. Things must be planned carefully, due to the exceptional circumstances and location, but I believe that by working together, we can create a safe, memorable and community-oriented summer oasis in the heart of our city,” says Mayor of Helsinki Jan Vapaavuori.

Designer Linda Bergroth came up with a concept that will transfer the Senate Square space into a lush assortment of allotment gardens. She says the square’s stonework surface inspired her idea.

”We noticed that Senate Square consists of a grid of 3 x 3 metre squares, providing a clear basis for the establishment of individual gardens – and the maintenance of safe distances,” she says.

The allotment garden concept will also be able to make use of the wooden cottages familiar to Helsinki Christmas Market visitors.

“The pastel colours of the stalls were originally designed to fit in with the surrounding milieu. We’ll just give them a summery update and be good to go,” says Bergroth, who was also responsible for designing the updated Christmas Market look.

Some 200 planter boxes filled with herbs and useful plants will be brought in to separate the restaurant spaces from each other. They will create clear passageways for customers to move about the space. The boxes will also make it easy to keep tables at safe distances without sacrificing a pleasant atmosphere.

“It’s great to be part of a project like this that aims to delight Helsinki residents and holidaymakers in the city,” Bergoth says.

A culinary getaway

The city chose 16 restaurants to set up shop in the square, from a field of over 100 that submitted applications in a very short time period.

“There was a lot of interest and so it was hard to decide. Our criteria emphasized things like quality and diversity,” says Peggy Bauer, the director of the adjacent Tori Quarters real estate company that has been in charge of the Senate Square project.

The garden setup will provide taste experiences from some of Helsinki’s top providers of food and drink this summer, with rejuvenating breakfasts, summer lunches, pizza, fried herring, Spanish tapas, fine dining, grilled sausages, cocktails, and craft beers from local microbreweries on offer.

“Helsinki has a great food and restaurant culture. A culinary oasis is being built at Senate Square this summer that will be a window into the world of Helsinki’s quality eating establishments,” says Bauer.

Summer 2020 in Senate Square

16 restaurants
480 seats for customers
16 WCs
Opens 1 July at the latest
Open 9 am to 11 pm every day until the end of August (drink serving ends at 10 pm)

Restaurants selected

  • Bites Burgers
  • Bricco Wine Bar
  • Bryggeri Helsinki
  • Bakery-Eatery Levain
  • Ravintola Loop
  • Muru & Pastis
  • Paisano
  • Bar Runar
  • Ravintola Sea Horse
  • Skiffer x Seksico Tacos
  • Sofia Helsinki
  • Ravintola Sunn
  • Dogs & Bubbles by Valkoinen Sali
  • Pizzeria Via Tribunali & SALAKAPAKKA by Son of a Punch
  • W30
  • Yes Yes Yes

Operating principles

  • Design of the space will comply with the latest nationwide coronavirus guidelines
  • Safe distances will be upheld in use of the space and the placement of tables, seats and points of sale
  • Clear signage will be posted in the area with information about safety guidelines, walking directions, etc.
  • The area will include several handwashing stations with running water
  • A sufficient amount of WCs will be situated safely and conveniently in the space and cleaned regularly
  • The space will feature enhanced supervision and security
  • A gardener will be hired for each area to do gardening work and ensure that everyone acts responsibly and follows the safety guidelines