HOTEL REVIEW: Hilton Helsinki Kalastajatorppa
My husband and I stayed at the Hilton Helsinki Kalastajatorppa — say that five times fast — during our trip to Helsinki, Finland for New Years. Overall, the stay was very positive, but I’ll break it down by different standards below.
One of the biggest criticisms I saw about this hotel when looking to book it was the location of the hotel. It is definitely true that this hotel is not in the city center of Helsinki and is nestled in a quiet neighborhood surrounded by homes, a lake, and forests. However, I don’t think it was really that big of a deal because there is a tram (Tram 4) just about a 3-5 minute walk from the front door of the hotel.
We relied exclusively on that tram to get us everywhere we needed to go (except for the airport). It was an incredibly convenient 20-25 minute tram ride to everywhere we went in the city center of Helsinki. All told, it cost us €22.50 ($about $25 USD) for a three-day pass of unlimited rides. Everything we went to was a pretty reasonable 5-10 minute walk from the nearest tram station.
For that reason, I think the criticism of the location isn’t as big of a deal if you don’t mind hopping on a short tram ride to the city center to get where you’re going.
However, this is an issue in regards to just having a night in at the hotel. There is nothing in the immediate area except for a small café nearby. Otherwise, you are left taking the tram to get something to eat or go have a drink. I will discuss more below the lack of bar/dining options on property.
We checked in and then had to cross a roundabout on the property to get to the Seaside Wing of the hotel. This is the side where the lake view rooms are located and the building is detached from the main building. There is an underground tunnel that you can take back and forth if you find the cold weather to unbearable!
We stayed in a King Deluxe Room with View. The view was of the lake, which was frozen when we were there. While it was gorgeous regardless, I can only imagine how more beautiful the view would be in the summer when the lake is surrounded by lush green trees.
The room itself is pretty nice and standard. Waiting in the room after we checked in was a bottle of red wine and wafer candy, as well as two bottles of water. The wine was okay for a free wine — as to be expected for the complimentary wine given at most Hilton properties we’ve stayed at.
The room has a wonderfully crafted seating area that was right next to the heater. It was nice at the end of the day after being out in the cold to sit down in the chairs and sit right in front of the heater and warm up our feet. It was also interesting to watch people jumping into the lake for a swim. There was a hole next to the shore that some people late at night would hop into for a quick dip. I’m told that Fins have a propensity to take dips in cold water and to then return to the sauna. It apparently has health benefits to do so. That being said, we didn’t try it.
The bathroom had a shower and bathtub. One note about the bathroom was the heated floors. They were absolutely wonderful. There nothing quite like stepping out of the shower onto heated floors. It’s especially nice, too, after returning from being out in the cold and feeling the warmth on your cold socks. It was definitely a wonderful touch.
The room also had a minibar filled with overpriced liquor, wine, beer, and sodas. There was also assorted snacks next to the minibar.
A pretty nice Scandinavian touch is a lamp in the hotel room that is meant to prevent seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is essentially depression caused by a lack of sunlight. This is obviously a huge problem in places like Finland where during the winter, there’s very little sunlight, if any at all.
There were instructions that accompanied the lamp to direct you how to best use it. The instructions say to keep a distance of 60 centimeters (23 inches) from the lamp. You are directed to use the lamp for between 30 minutes and 2 hours every morning. You should not use the lamp at night, as it could interfere with your sleep.
In this five days that we were there, we did not see the sun shine once. So in order to help curb that, the hotel room featured a lamp that provides you with light therapy. This lamp is also meant to lessen the impacts of jet lag.
We had breakfast every morning at Restaurant Oceana. The breakfast was free for us because of our status with Hilton. I am not sure what the cost would be for somebody who paid for it.
The breakfast included a nice buffet that included your typical breakfast items of eggs (hard and soft boiled and scrambled), bacon, pancakes, cereal, meats and vegetables, salmon, and various kinds of break (bagels, loafs, and toast).
The food was pretty standard for what you would expect for a buffet at a hotel. I’m not really ever particularly impressed by hotel breakfast buffets, and this was no different. It filled me up in the mornings before venturing out for the day, but the food wasn’t anything to write home about.
I did not personally order room service, but two people we were traveling with did order some shrimp on the first night. First off, it’s important to note that the shrimp they serve in Finland are different than what you’d expect in a restaurant in the U.S. That being said, the people we were traveling with said the shrimp were not that good and even though they were hungry another night, they didn’t want to order room service again because of their first experience with it.
Restaurants and Bars
The hotel restaurant and bar that was open at night, Restaurant Meritorppa, closes at 10:30pm. That restaurant is located in the Seaview Wing of the property, which would be convenient for use if they actually would have been open. The front desk had originally told us we could grab drinks until 12am from the bar, but the first night we went there at 11pm and were refused service because the bar tenders were closing down the bar and would only offer us some water. That happened to us twice, and it seemed the bartenders may just have been wanting to get out of there early since two different people at the front desk confirmed they should be open until 12am.
In an important note: the times listed vary by sources. What is on the website is different from what was in our hotel booklet. On top of that, we were traveling with family members and their book had different times in it than our book had. this made it very confusing as to what was open when. The fact the front desk was giving us different information than the bartenders made it even more unclear.
Sauna and Pool
We did not use these facilities during our stay, but that was for one particular reason: it’s hours are very odd. The pool and sauna are mostly closed during the mornings and the evenings. I don’t recall the exact hours, but I believe it was open between 6am and 10am and then against from 2pm to 5pm. Basically, unless we wanted to wake up early just to go to the pool or sauna, the other opening times were during the day when we were out and about. I think it would be nice if the hours included evening times, as it would have been nice to warm up in the indoor heated pool after a long day out!
Overall, I would recommend this property if you’re going to Helsinki. It’s clean, the front desk staff was friendly, and the rooms are comfortable. I would also add that the location is not bad as long as you don’t mention the tram ride mentioned above. There is room for improvement in terms of what the hotel offers. I think it would be nice if they made more of an effort to have a bar open later into the night so that you can enjoy a night in at the hotel if you don’t feel like venturing out for one night. It’s possible they do this because it’s the winter months and maybe there’s less people around the hotel, but I still think it’s an area they could improve.