Where to Stay in Helsinki
July 2019 UPDATE - Bunny is happy to add a couple more hotel recommendations to her Where to Stay in Helsinki blog post.
Bunny is a frequent visitor to Helsinki, the pearl of the Baltic Sea, or a windy drab hole in the north, depending on when you're visiting. Bunny strongly recommends summer. If you have the urge to visit Finland outside the summer season, which usually lasts about 3 days, you'd better head straight to Lapland and skip the capital altogether.
If you do find yourself in Helsinki (for any reason), there is no lack of nice places to stay at. Bunny has experienced most of Helsinki’s best hotels over the past 15 years and has a firm favorite in the city center: the luxury boutique hotel Lilla Roberts.
Hotel Lilla Roberts as Bunny's Choice
The affordable Lilla Roberts is a relative newcomer on the Helsinki hotel scene as it was opened only in August 2015. Since the opening, Bunny has already acquired half a dozen stays under her belt (Bunny has Finnish family and friends). Bunny's visits to Lilla Roberts have been of fleeting nature, usually lasting only one night, but she has always had a very nice and comfortable stay there.
All the Room Types Are Fine
Bunny has stayed in three different Lilla Roberts room types: Comfort King, Style and Junior Suite. All have been excellent so choose according to how much space you require around you. The room sizes vary from 25 square meters to the generous 100 square meters of the suite. The views are nothing special so there is no reason to upgrade on account of that. Wi-fi works beautifully throughout the property.
The good news is that all room types are lovely, with stylish decoration, wooden floors (Bunny abhors carpeting!) and very comfortable beds. The even better news, according to Mr. Bunny, is that the king beds come with separate duvets which Mr. Bunny loves as he claims Bunny keeps stealing the joint duvet during the night (not true, obviously).
Bathrooms in all room types are roomy, with minimalistic interior and beautiful black and white tiled floors. Some of the more expensive rooms have also bathtubs. Toiletries are by Noir.
Bunny Loves the Lobby Bar
The hotel's lobby bar, Lilla e, is Bunny's particular favorite. It is very stylish, with some oversized chess pieces, artwork and a cool mock fireplace. Bunny has gulped down quite a few of cocktails there. She is also happy to note that the current snack menu includes more vegetarian options than in the past.
Not So Good Vegetarian Choices, but Great Location
Lilla Roberts room service menu used to be pretty bad for vegetarians. It has recently been improved but there are also plenty of good restaurants nearby. Helsinki city centre is rather compact and walkable in any season. As long as you are staying within walking distance from the colorful harbor and the Esplanade park and shopping street, you can be sure you are getting the best of Helsinki.
Lilla Roberts' location more than meets this requirement. It sits on a quiet side street (in an old police station, apparently), less than a 10-minute walk from the sights, such as the famous Esplanade. Bunny has never had noise problems at the hotel and the quiet surrounding neighborhood has a lot of old-fashioned charm.
Bunny’s Consistently Good Experiences at Villa Roberts
Lilla Roberts is part of the Small Luxury Hotels collection (aka SLH) and Bunny, a happy SLH member for a number of years, usually books through the club to receive the member benefits which include a free room upgrade, complimentary breakfast and early check-in/late check-out when possible. Lilla Roberts has never failed to honour the SLH perks and has always given Bunny a room upgrade. Bunny wishes the same could be said for other places and all SLH hotels.
Breakfast is always included in the SLH rate and Lilla Roberts breakfast is excellent, with plenty of choice, from Finnish specialties (try the local Karelian pasty with egg-butter mix) to international staples. Just make sure you get there early as the breakfast restaurant tends to get a bit busy, even if the hotel otherwise seems blissfully quiet. And remember to ask a server for special coffees if you are so inclined. They happily make you a cappuccino or decaf coffee at no extra charge if the ready-made pots filled with coffee tailored to Finnish tastes (read: watery) are not your sort of thing.
The Best Service in Helsinki
Bunny has stayed at Helsinki’s finest hotels over the years, including hotel Kämp and the Haven, to name a few, but Bunny finds the service best at Villa Roberts.
A true measure of a luxury hotel is how they handle the various hiccups that are bound to happen. Case in point: Lilla Roberts came through with flying colors when Bunny once experienced challenges. The minibar fridge in her room did not function and the reception immediately dispatched a repair man after she alerted them to this problem. So far, no big deal as that would be the minimum response expected by Bunny. However, when the maintenance guy was not able to immediately fix the problem, the hotel promptly upgraded Bunny to a fabulous suite! This was really a stroke of luck as it was one of her few visits to Helsinki purely for pleasure purposes, with Mr. Bunny in tow. So the Bunnies had time to take in the suite with all of its perks. Mr. Bunny was particularly pleased with the big TV screen and the Nespresso machine, although he did note that the room itself was somewhat dark (he always has complaints, doesn't he?).
Bunny’s Few Criticisms
So is there anything to improve at Lilla Roberts? Well, a sauna would be a welcome addition. Finland already has approximately two million saunas to its 5,5 million population, so surely there'd be room for one more in Lilla Roberts?
Other Hotels to Consider in Helsinki
Want to stay smack in the middle of everything for an affordable price, with clean, cool, Scandinavian style minimalistic rooms? Go to Glo hotel Kluuvi. Bunny has stayed here a lot, particularly in her younger party days, as the hotel's excellent location right in the middle of Helsinki is a real bonus for night owls and shopping enthusiasts alike. Their breakfast is usually included in the price and adequate, although often very crowded due to the small breakfast area.
Need a bit more sophistication and bling? Hotel Haven in the harbor is a beautiful establishment with excellent service. Bunny used to frequent the Haven, which is Lilla Roberts' sister hotel, and likes it a lot. Mr. Bunny, who has trouble remembering any names due to his advancing years, calls this "the Russian hotel", perhaps reflecting more on the clientele than the hotel itself. Haven is also a member of the Small Luxury Hotels collection so you can count on a room upgrade if you book through the SLH. And remember to check out the bar which looks really cool. The one disadvantage Haven has compared to Lilla Roberts: it has those damn carpets in the rooms that Bunny so loathes in any hotel!
Do you have an early morning flight from the Helsinki-Vantaa airport? Do yourself a favor and stay the previous night at the Hilton Helsinki Airport hotel. You will be a short walk (covered, for those frequent rainy/snowing/sleeting days in Finland) from the departure hall. You can have a good night's sleep in one of Hilton's excellent, clean and functional rooms and catch your morning flight fresh and relaxed, instead of making a miserable early morning scramble by expensive taxi to the airport. Hilton has a sauna and a good restaurant in the lobby. Bunny recommends the chickpea burger washed down with some Finnish beer.
Hotel Katajanokka is a quirky, memorable hotel that used to be a prison. A couple of prison cells have even been preserved for interested hotel guests to gawk at (of course Bunny did). Hotel Katajanokka is a three-minute walk from the Viking Line ferry terminal and the best option for this lovely part of Helsinki.
As for Clarion Helsinki, it is a very affordable stylish hotel in the new Jätkäsaari urban investment district. It is the best choice for accommodation if you are catching a ferry from the Helsinki West Terminal. Bunny particularly loved the Sky Room Bar and the heated outdoor pool with partial glass floor on the 16th floor. Check out Bunny’s full review of Clarion Helsinki.