By Mirva Saukkola
For Finns, luxury rarely means glitter and grand logos. Instead, we appreciate high quality and unforgettable experiences. You can easily find them all over the country – from winter to summer and spring to autumn.
For most visitors to our land of a thousand lakes, the pure Finnish air and the unspoiled nature represent the greatest luxury. Sometimes you wish, however, to indulge. Here are the five best locations to experience luxury with a Finnish twist, according to Visit Finland.
Helsinki – luxury hotels, iconic cafés and more
In the heart of the capital of Finland it is not a demanding task to find a five-star pillow under your head. The hotel scene of Helsinki is booming and new hotels are opened regularly. One of the newest ones is Hotel St. George, which also has a luxurious spa with relaxation pool. This modern and chic hotel is filled with eye-pampering art from world famous artists, like world-famous Chinese contemporary artist Ai Wei Wei. If you would rather admire a sea view, head to Hotel Haven. This classy boutique hotel offers a wonderful view to the Russian-style Uspenski cathedral for the lucky hotel guest. To start your day in a truly elegant way, try Haven’s delicious breakfast in the grand 19th century dining room. Right at the heart of the city you can find Hotel Kämp – a true icon of Helsinki’s small but fiery luxury hotel landscape.
Did you know that Finns drink more coffee per capita than any other nation in the world? Most of it is consumed as ordinary filter coffee in homes but why not try a more sophisticated coffee break? Visit the most traditional café of the city, Ekberg, which has served cake lovers ever since from 1852. Or try Chez Janet, which reminds you with its pastel-colored interior and sweet macarons of the feasts of Marie Antoinette. As they say, luxury is in the details.
Porvoo – historic charm and culinary treats
The tiny town of Porvoo is a medieval pearl situated less than 50 kilometres from the center of Helsinki. It is as cozy in the summer as it is during Christmas time. But if you decide to make a trip there in summertime, we suggest doing it in a old-world style with M/S J. L. Runeberg – a ship built in 1912 and named after the Finnish national poet, who used to live in Porvoo. The grand ship takes you to your destination through the stunningly beautiful Finnish archipelago. Sail away and enjoy the landscape and a bowl of delicious salmon soup.
Porvoo is a foodie’s paradise packed with high-quality restaurants. One of the most popular ones is Sicapelle, which combines Italian flavours with local ingredients. The lady behind the delicious recipes is the head chef Simona Milazzo. Or try Salt. This easy-going restaurant with dividend portions is located next to the church in an old log building with unforgettable atmosphere.
After hard shopping, dining and wining we all need rest. Get it in style and book a room from Pariisin Ville, an elegant boutique hotel named after the Belle Époque sculptor Ville Vallgren who once upon a time shared his time between Porvoo and Paris. In the luxurious Aleksanterin Sviitti, you can sleep like the emperor, because in this very same house Alexander I of Russia lived during the parliament meeting of Porvoo in 1809.
Tampere – jazz age meets vintage gems
Tampere, the third biggest city of Finland, is mainly known for its industrial red brick architecture and rock music scene, but if you seek for luxury with a Finnish twist, you will not be disappointed. A fabulous place to stay is Radisson Blu Grand Hotel Tammer, which is situated beautifully by the Tammer river. Take a step inside and you can feel as if you would have entered Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mystery. The interior of the beautiful art deco hotel, built in 1929, takes you back to age of jazz. Don’t pass the spectacular dining room where you can enjoy tasty meals made of local products under the crystal chandeliers.
Tampere is well-known for its popular museums, like the Moomin Museum, which is especially loved among the Japanese fans of the famous Finnish cuddly cartoon characters. A hidden museum gem for a luxury traveler is Milavida, an elegant stone villa surrounded by a green park. The building served originally as a wealthy manufacturer family of von Nottbeck. In addition to the home museum, which tells about upper class life during the age of Belle Époque, the museum offers a location for visiting exhibitions, often associated with fashion. There is also a café in the museum.
For vintage shoppers, Tampere is a small haven. Vintage Garden is favored by ladies who love feminine dresses and bold jewelry. Helga-Neiti offers contemporary, high-quality second-hand fashion with brands like Max Mara, Hugo Boss and Marimekko. Or visit Kätkö Vintage, where you can also find interior design bargains, such as old glassware and ceramics.
Lahti – music, meals and modern tastes
The city of Lahti, one hour north of Helsinki by train, is small Lakeland city known for sports events, especially winter sports.
But nowadays it also boasts one of the finest concert halls in the country: Sibelius Hall. The hall located by the beautiful Lake Vesijärvi, hosts both classical and pop music concerts. The impressive building combines old factory architecture with modern, wooden structures.
In addition to music, you can enjoy culinary treats in Lahti. Try Roux, an elegant yet cozy restaurants which blends Scandinavian and French influences. It is also well-known for its excellent wine cellar. Or visit Bistro Popot – a name referring to shoes because of a shoe shop that was located in the same address for decades. Bistro Popot offers modern tastes made of local ingredients.
Shoppers go to destination is Petit St. Louis. This cute little boutique sells hip and trendy clothes, alluring fragrances by Byredo and Diptyque as well as Charbonnel & Walker chocolates.
Savonlinna and Lake Saimaa – luxury in the midst of nature
Savonlinna, a Lakeland town in Eastern Finland, turns into the opera capital of Finland with the annual Savonlinna Opera Festival held in July. The medieval castle of Olavinlinna has offered breathtaking setting for the operas ever since 1912. Remember to reserve both your ticket and hotel room well ahead of the festival as Savonlinna tends to be packed during the opera festival with both Finns and international visitors.
Nothing to wear for the big opera night? Even though Savonlinna is a small town, many designers, such as the Grand Old Man of Finnish fashion Mr. Jukka Rintala, open pop up shops during the opera festival. The Finnish fashion brand Muotikuu also has a shop permanently in Savonlinna. Muotikuu is especially well-known for its knitwear which is perfect for chilly Finnish summer nights.
The most elegant place to sleep by Lake Saimaa is located 30 kilometres from Savonlinna in the small town of Punkaharju. Hotel Punkaharju is the oldest hotel in Finland founded already in 1845. It pampers guests from locals to presidents with stunning scenery, cozy rooms and delicious food made of local ingredients. The owner, ex-supermodel Saimi Hoyer is a specialist in wild mushrooms and therefore you can always find them in the menu.