Staying in prison was never a dream of mine until I discovered Hotel Katajanokka in Helsinki. This quiet boutique hotel is a comfortable piece of history.
The room I stayed in would have been the laundry room. It’s a spacious suite with tall ceilings, a large bed, pull-out sofa, desk and private sauna. Thick walls ensure a quiet night’s rest and the private sauna provides the ultimate relaxation and warmth from a cold day wandering the city.
The prison cantina in the basement serves three meals a day for your dining pleasure. Don’t be fooled by the utensils, the food is unlike prison food you’ve seen in the movies. Its nordic cuisine is local, organic and delicious. The butter for the bread may have been the best butter I have ever tasted. It was pure magic with every bite and as a rule I avoid it in my everyday life. If the butter was that amazing, just imagine the rest of the meal.
The bars on the windows won’t keep you inside but with all the modern amenities and comfort you might not want to leave. The hotel has been recently remodeled with a modern vibe but don’t worry, there are still a couple original cells that you can tour. There’s a larger sauna for all guests open on the weekends and a 24-hour gym if you prefer to exercise indoors instead of outside in the crisp air.
Early release is not something you’ll hope for at Hotel Katajanokka, think twice before you only book one night. They say “escape the ordinary” and that’s something you’ll experience at this unique hotel.
This boutique hotel sits right in the heart of Helsinki, steps away from the esplanade and the excitement of downtown. Most of the rooms look down onto a central courtyard and large windows throughout the hotel bring in an ample amount of sunlight, even on gloomy days. The entire hotel has complimentary wi-fi. Our room had stylish elements of old Hollywood, plus eco-friendly bath amenities. Some rooms even have their own entrance from the inner courtyard, those that are designed for longer staying guests.
Hotel Fabian’s lobby is exceptionally comfortable, with lots of plush seating options available. At night, the lobby desk transforms into a bar. A complimentary traditional Finnish breakfast happens in the adjoining kitchen and dining area, with adorable humorous maps of downtown Helsinki, offering language lessons like saying “my hovercraft is full of eels” and “that hat is incredibly ugly” in Finnish. Although the hotel doesn’t have a full-service restaurant, the staff up front will happily suggest some of their favorites for dinner.
Perhaps my favorite thing about Hotel Fabian was the personality of the staff. Everyone was incredibly nice and helpful. I was always greeted with a friendly smile, and they even offered to hold our luggage while we took a three-day side trip to the north of Finland—even though we weren’t staying at the hotel again when we got back.
No trip to the Arctic Circle would be complete without at least a night in an ice hotel. Add on the amenities of top-tier lodging, and you have the Arctic SnowHotel in Rovaniemi.
The owners make each night here a true artistic and luxury experience. Every inch of wall in the hotel features intricately hand-carved artwork, including the Viking ship snow suite we stayed in. The artistry mainly reflects aspects of traditional Finnish life, taking the viewer through a story of Finnish history. The hotel, which changes design every year as it has to be rebuilt after melting, has snow suites, snow rooms with simple sleeping arrangements, an ice bar, an ice restaurant, and a snow chapel.
The beds are actual mattresses surrounded by a bedframe of ice. Reindeer hide serves as a sheet and guests sleep in high-rated sleeping bags. Anyone unable to make it through the night in the cold room can go to the locker room, which is the only warm room in the hotel itself and has bunk beds. The main building, where reception is, has heat and a media room with a television, radio, fireplace, and outlets to charge your electronics.
All reservations include a stay in the ice hotel or neighboring glass-top igloos, a complimentary wake-up call if the northern lights are out, and a warm drink to wake you up in the morning. For an extra fee, you get dinner at one of three restaurants, a snow sauna and hot tub excursion, and a drink in the ice bar.
The Klaus K is Finland’s first Design Hotel and celebrates the country’s heritage like no other. The rooms and overall design are based on Finland’s national epic, the Kalevala, and has images of the characters throughout the halls. All of the rooms are representative in some way of the four emotional themes in the Kalevala: passion, desire, envy, and mysticism.
We stayed in a Sky Loft room, the newest concept of rooms at the Klaus K. The bedroom area is on an elevated platform looking over the living portion of the room, and the bathrooms are spacious and modern. Every corner of the room has some sort of artistic flair, whether it’s sculptural lighting hanging over the sink, or a textured wall of light next to the bed. Guests staying in the Sky Lofts not only have their own entrance to the hotel, but also have open access to the rooftop terrace. You can also stream your own music through the room’s sound system or enjoy the hotel’s dedicated music channels.
Breakfast has a unique option – you can either stay in the hotel’s lounge area and have a traditional Finnish breakfast, or you can go into the adjoining restaurant, Toscanini, and have an Italian breakfast.
The hotel is located right in downtown Helsinki and is the perfect home base for exploring the city by foot, tram, or bike. An exceptionally helpful front desk staff will answer any questions you have, give you directions, and invite you to all of the several cocktail and snack hours hotel guests can take advantage of.