Food markets in Stockholm
Follow Lola A. Åkerström through three iconic food markets in Stockholm – saluhallar
A local penchant for organic and fresh foods means you’ll find heavily frequently market halls – saluhallar – around town. Many neighborhoods have their own version of a small farmer’s market, but the three largest and most iconic in town are Östermalms Saluhall located in the Östermalm district, Hötorgshallen in the Norrmalm district, and Söderhallarna located on the island of Södermalm (Söder).
Here you can ditch postcards as souvenirs, and pick up gourmet pickled herring, smoked salmon, cured meats, local cheese such as Västerbotten, Swedish preservatives made from lingonberry and cloudberry, handmade chocolates, and other delicacies instead.
Dating back to 1886, Östermalms Saluhall located in Stockholm’s most expensive neighborhood Östermalm holds roughly 20 stalls which sell high-quality gourmet meats, cheeses, seafood, ingredients, breads, chocolates, and more. You can buy fresh hand-made chocolate pralines from Betsy Sandberg Choklad (founded in 1926), a wide selection of local and imported deli cheeses and cured meats from M Seger Eftr. Kött & Ost, and freshly-made seafood specialties from Lisa Elmqvist which has been operating for over 80 years.
When Jamie Oliver named Östermalms Saluhall one of his favorite places after a raving trip to Stockholm, it seems this hall which gets all the press added on even more fans. You’d be hard-pressed to find any guidebook to Stockholm that doesn’t include this iconic landmark.
Over-rated? Maybe not.
Östermalms Saluhall’s deep seated past of tradition and family makes it a historical landmark.
The market is unique in the sense that there are roughly 17 traders, many of which are family business that have transcended several generations since its opening over 125 years ago.
Starting out as “Östermalms Saluhallar Limited”, the site was originally built for food stalls and office space for lease.
Architects Isak Gustaf Clason and Kasper Salin drew inspiration from brick architecture and cast-iron structures they’re seen during their travels through Germany, Italy and France in the mid 1880s.
From the time the building permit was issued to its opening ceremony in November 1888, it took only six months to erect the impressive cathedral-like building with towers, pillars, glass roof, and red brick from Börringe in Skåne.
It was officially opened on November 30, 1888 by King Oscar II and, since being purchased by the City of Stockholm in 1914, has remained an integral part of the city’s foodie culture and history.
In 2010, the market launched its own Swedish-only magazine “Saluhall” with a reach of over 15,000 readers (including digital downloads) with two annual issues and 5,000 printed copies.
While Östermalms Saluhall is quintessentially Swedish in its offerings, the other two markets – Hötorgshallen located at Hötorget and Söderhallarna located at Medborgarsplatsen – house international food stalls alongside Swedish vendors. Both markets offer comparable products at more affordable prices and are heavily frequented by locals.
After undergoing a major facelift to expand its offerings and physical space, Hötorgshallen (Old Haymarket) is what I’d call the people’s market, and is the busiest of all three halls. Hötorget itself – the square where Hötorgshallen is located – has been an open market since the 1640s and is usually filled with fruit, vegetable, and flower vendors selling fresh grapes, strawberries, blueberries, and other seasonal fruit alongside green beans, mushrooms, broccoli, and a slew of other vegetables.
During the weekend, the square turns into a flea market with people selling all sorts of used personal effects and trinkets.
Built in the 1950s and having undergone two major renovations in the 1990s and most recently 2011-2012, Hötorgshallen’s international flair makes it a practical shopping choice with vendors ranging from South America and the Middle East to Eastern Europe, Asia, and a few Swedish specialty booths as well.
Even though the market has existed in some from since the 1880s just like Östermalms Saluhall, its multiculturalism is celebrated over its historical importance.
Hötorgshallen is often where I go to find specific cuts of meat that I can’t find in regular grocery stores.
Growing up in Nigeria, goat meat was (and still remains) an integral part of my diet. Even after close to two decades spent in the US, I was always on the prowl for goat meat.
So when I moved to Sweden, finding where I could secure it in addition to other ethnic supplies on a regular basis was high on my priority list.
While there’s no shortage of lamb meat here in Sweden, finding goat is a lot more challenging.
Through word-of-mouth, I found Latinamerikanska Livsmedel at Hötorgshallen which sells goat meat (getkött) and cuts them up into stew-size bits for me before I even have to ask.
While Söderhallarna’s history might not be as colorful as that of Östermalms Saluhall or Hötorgshallen, it holds its own in terms of quality and offerings. Inaugurated in September 1992, Söderhallarna is located along Medborgarplatsen (“The Citizen’s Square”) which is a popular square prime for people-watching on the island of Södermalm.
The hall itself is a mix of commercial offices and business spaces alongside market stalls, restaurants, and Filmstaden Söder movie theatre. The building was designed by architect Bo Kessel and consists of two buildings with different outer appearances. The main market hall’s façade is made with glass while its connecting building has a yellow sandstone façade.
While its box-like exteriors aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing, what you will find within its modest airy light interiors are a variety of fresh produce vendors – from poultry and cheeses to teas and bread alongside close to 20 restaurants and cafés which happens Söderhallarna’s strength. It offers up many lunch options – Jappi Dumplings and Sushi to local seafood brand Melanders Fisk – that also cater to lunch crowds from nearby offices.
Personally, I head over to Söderhallarna mostly to visit The English Shop which imports classic products like Cadburys chocolate, malt vinegar, pork sausages, crisps, marmalades, and other quintessential British products that many of us expats sorely miss.