Finland is an absolutely fantastic place to visit if you are looking for somewhere to go in Northern Europe that caters to gluten-free and Celiacs! The Finns are extremely aware of cross-contamination and their health care providers are very well-versed on the intricacies of proper diagnosis. Nearly every menu in every restaurant that I saw had a “gluten-free” guide at the bottom. If there was no indication of the mention of gluten-free, then the chefs and servers were well aware of it and were able to accommodate requests.
I’d say that the most gorgeous time to visit Finland is in the summer, usually around June-July. I had an opportunity to visit there during a month of June, and it was a pleasant and wonderful experience. The only thing that was difficult for me to get accustomed to was how much sunshine they were getting! They are in the far northern region of Europe, so in the summertime they have much longer days. At one point, I remember the sun seemed to set around 11pm and then rising again around 3am.
I did not know the magnitude of Finland’s knowledge of gluten-free, so I must admit that I OVERPACKED with gluten-free foods. That’s a first! I had a friend that spoke Finnish type me up some translator cards to indicate that I was GF, but I didn’t end up using them because 90% of the people spoke English and most of the menus had both Finnish and English on them.
My stay in Finland was for less than a week, so I only had the opportunity to visit the southern region. I stayed at the Naantali Spa Hotel located in the southwestern corner of Finland. The town of Naantali is quiet, quaint and beautiful. The spa hotel itself is one of the best of its kind in Finland. They are located just an hour away from the nearest city of Turku and only a few hours from Finland’s capitol Helsinki. The hotel features multiple restaurants, all of which cater to gluten-free. Le Soleil has gluten-free pancakes, waffles, bread, and muffins for breakfast and then lunch and dinner has the option of European and Far Eastern menu options. And TK’s Restaurant has gluten-free delicacies like escargot and tiger (which I wasn’t brave enough to try either!) as well as traditional gluten-free menu items!
One of the best ways to see the glimpse of the more than 50,000 islands in the Archipelago Sea is to take a boat trip from Naantali to the Villa Wolax. And even on the boat, they had made gluten-free vegetable soup and gluten-free bread!! The Villa Wolax is a summer home on one of the many islands that can be rented out for groups and they can also cater to gluten-free as well. They have a guest house with saunas, games, activities as well as excellent fishing off the pier.
I took the Moomin train to Kaivohuone restaurant in Naantali’s harbor. The restaurant was built in 1868 and is just gorgeous. Looking through their massive windows, I got a beautiful view of the harbor with all of its yachts and ships. And, of course, they cater to gluten-free visitors. Their freshly made strawberry sorbet was some of the best that I’ve ever tasted!
The next evening, I took a trip to Turku to the Forum Marinum Museum, which is a wonderful maritime and Navy museum. So many of the world’s cruise ships and other ships are built there in Turku, as the Finnish people are some of the best ship builders on the planet! Inside the Forum Marinum Museum is Café Restaurant Daphne, which caters to gluten-free visitors. On this menu, I made myself try something new….Reindeer! They come from the northern part of Finland in the Lapland. The reindeer was delicious, but honestly it was hard for me to finish since I felt like I was eating Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer :).
If you want a nice place to visit during the summer and you want to be able to count on staying well and not getting “glutenized,” then give Finland a try. It’s a beautiful, wonderful, and fun country!
Mara Alexander is the Founder of GlutenFreeWorld TV©, a Certified Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, a Certified Health Consultant and a Professional of the Academy of Healthcare Management. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org