Tom’s Travels: Helsinki

Day 1

I left for Helsinki on a Wednesday. A short ferry ride to Logan Airport in Boston (3 1/2-hour layover) was followed by a 1 1/4-hour flight to JFK (6-hour layover). The 8-hour flight to Stockholm was, I believe, the longest flight of my traveling career. The 6 1/2-hour layover in Stockholm seemed longer. 55 minutes in the air followed by a 28-minute train ride to Helsinki and my hotel seemed like a walk in the park.

Exhausted upon my arrival at Hotel Lilla Roberts, I powered through 2 hours of work followed by a great meal in the hotel and was "toes up" at around 11:00 PM. Exhausted by the travel and my work catch-up, I figured I'd better set an alarm for my 9:30 AM meeting with the sales manager for the hotel.

I spent the day visiting various hotels around the City Center. All were located within a 10-minute walk or 25 Euro taxi ride from the Helsinki Train Station. The area includes most of the attractions and experiences that people associate with Helsinki as I later learned.

Day 2

Starting my day with a great breakfast at the Hotel Lilla Roberts, I headed for Hotel St. George overlooking Kirkkopuisto Park to drop off my suitcase and tour the 5-star hotel. Many Nordic hotels that I have visited over the past 4 years are sleek, clean and often distinctive. Hotel St. George is older than most but it borrows on these themes while offering a warmer and more welcoming environment. The staff is also welcoming, adding their warmth and attentiveness to the experience.

Next stop was GLO Hotel Art. As the name would suggest, the Hotel features well-known Finnish and Nordic artists and frequently hosts exhibitions of their work. Located in a century-old art nouveau Castle, the hotel successfully combines its heritage with a modern wing that helps the hotel to seamlessly blend its historic character with modern conveniences.

Next on my walking tour of Helsinki was the Klaus K Hotel. Like many of today's visits, Klaus K is located amidst the hustle and bustle of Helsinki. A "lifestyle" hotel, the Klaus K boasts that it has "room for all." The old Art Nouveau buildings meet the modern Scandinavian lifestyle at Klaus K and, as one would expect in such a hotel, the rooms are bright, funky and welcoming. If your budget allows and the weather looks favorable, consider a Sky Balcony room. The additional cost is a great value!

Hotel Kluuvi is another hotel that you will find right in the middle of the action in Helsinki. Its location draws a great mix of both business travelers and holiday-makers. Another draw is the hotel's Marimekko themed rooms. The artist's work adorns rooms that fall into this category. Marimekko has a unique and funky style that Scandinavians are drawn towards. There are several cafes on the Pedestrian walkway outside the hotel. This afternoon, I sat in one of the outside cafes and enjoyed some music on a day when the high temperature was 72 degrees with a light breeze, and relaxed with a cold beverage. A very pleasant way to spend an hour or two.

The last hotel that I visited is by far the most famous hotel in Helsinki. When heads of state visit Helsinki they usually stay at the Hotel Kamp. I am not a head of any country, or even a state, but Hotel Kamp is where I am going to stay the next time I am in Helsinki. Very close to Hotel Kluuvi, Hotel Kamp is part of a block that includes a shopping mall and several excellent restaurants. The Hotel St. George is a very cool 5-star hotel, while Hotel Kamp is a very famous and historic hotel that is impeccably maintained and stately. If you are looking for the top of the market, these are your 2 best options.

I had an excellent meal tonight at Boulevard Bar & Grill which is appropriately located on a street named Boulevard. I had both a Caesar Salad and a half Lobster dish. Both were excellent.

Day 3

This was a relatively easy day except for the fact that I walked more than 2 miles yesterday. Doesn't sound like a big deal except for some reason I decided to do it in "Penny Loafers". Mostly on Cobblestones. I wouldn't recommend it!

Overnight, my knees blew up like basketballs. Getting out of bed in the morning required some effort to balance myself as I stretched out my legs. It only took a few seconds before I could walk but my knees are feeling old. Poor me. Time to get back to the gym.

After a great breakfast at Hotel St. George I made the short journey to the Harbor front to catch a ferry to Suomenlinna. Suomenlinna is a Fortress that was built when today's Finland was ruled by Sweden.

Suomenlinna is a great place to spend time strolling the streets and finding exciting things to do. Here you can find museums, restaurants, artist workplaces, and part of the Finnish Archipelago.

I was hoping to get more done today but I spent so much time walking around Suomenlinna today that I had to hustle a bit to get to the train to the airport for my flight to Stockholm.

Overall, Helsinki was a great visit. Fantastic hotels, great food and some interesting things to see and do.

We'll be doing some more work in the near term to build out a more thorough trip recommendation but Helsinki is a very exciting place to visit. Put it on your next itinerary!