Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo’s perfect weekend in Helsinki

The award-winning Finnish chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic will also be guesting in Boston and Vienna this spring

Sakari Oramo
Sakari Oramo | Image: Anna Riikonen

I tend to wake early on Saturdays, and if the weather is anywhere near decent I’ll go out for a walk at 7.30 or 8am. There’s a forest near our home in Espoo, on the western edge of Helsinki, where the paths are illuminated so you can walk even when it’s dark. I walk as much as I can; I love it not just for the exercise, but because it’s a good opportunity to think. 

When I get home I’ll make breakfast: plain yoghurt, fruit, boiled eggs and coffee – always dark-roasted filter – or if it’s cold I’ll have porridge, which we’ll have with cloudberries, raspberries or sea-buckthorn berries for a good shot of vitamin C. 

After that I’ll spend some time looking at the scores of whatever I’m conducting in the coming weeks. Then my wife and I will jump in the car and drive into Helsinki for lunch, where there’s a vegetarian restaurant near Hakaniemi market called Silvoplee that I particularly like. It’s named after its owner, Satu Silvo, who is a well-known actress in Finland. Most of the food is organic and a lot of it is raw, so it is mostly salads: there are about 30 different ones to choose from, as well as delicious vegan cakes with fruit. 

Afterwards we’ll take a walk in the Tori Quarters, the historic centre, which connects Senate Square with the seafront. There’s also the Allas Sea Pool, a great year-round open-air pool with saunas that opened last summer right in the centre on Katajanokka. Imagine swimming when the outdoor temperature is minus 20°C!

Or, if we need something, we might go shopping. The department store, Stockmann, is very traditional but useful. Our home is so full of stuff that it’s a challenge to find space for anything new, but there are also hundreds of shops selling beautiful Finnish design, We recently bought some tumblers from Iittala in glass the colour of smoke. Our curtains came from Marimekko. 


My head is always so full of music that we only occasionally go to concerts. Acoustically the minimalist Helsinki Music Centre is very good, though the jury is still out on the design. But we might go to the theatre in the evening, to see small companies like Aurinkoteatteri. Their productions are always highly imaginative; they really take you somewhere else.

There are only 12 to 15 weekends a year when I’m at home with my wife Anu Komsi, who is an opera singer and also away a lot, so on Saturday night we might have friends over to catch up. I like cooking and make a very good soup with red lentils and the juice of two oranges, which gives it a sunny, slightly sweet flavour. Near to us is a big K-supermarket, which has one of the best fish counters in the area so we’ll serve maybe Arctic char or sea bass. My wife is a good cook, famous in our circle for her tarte tatin, with apples from our garden. 

On Sunday we might drive out to Kivenlahti about 18-20km west of the city, where there’s a great Greek restaurant, Ravintola Marine, on the waterfront. We’ll start with cold meze and then fish or a vegetable dish like stuffed aubergine. 

After an authentic Greek coffee, we might stride out along the Baltic shore and walk 3km along the coastal path, which is backed by pine forest. The air is incredibly fresh because it comes straight from the sea; we are normally out for a good few hours. 

Once we’re home, we’ll light the logs in the stove and some candles. And then we just hunker down for a cosy evening on the sofa with a book. At the moment I’m reading Matriarkka [Matriarch] by Jari Tervo, one of Finland’s leading novelists.


We’ll eat something light: maybe salad or my lentil soup, and later we’ll watch television – we like Nordic noir and I especially enjoyed The Bridge. Otherwise we’ll watch the news and call it an early night. 

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