Where to stay Helsinki – Hotel Fabian
Unlike other Scandinavian countries, Finland uses the Euro. Why put this little tidbit first in a review about a hotel in Helsinki? Well, at the moment, a fair few world currencies are enjoying a reasonably good exchange rate against the Euro, meaning this Nordic gem is ripe for a visit. And if you’re looking at where to stay, you could do much, much worse than Hotel Fabian.
Scandinavia is generally not a cheap place to visit for most travellers. It was a very pleasant surprise to find what one’s budget buys in this extraordinary city. Simply, Helsinki is a great place for walking – unless you happen to be there in the depths of winter. We visited in July – unaware that this was the height of the holiday season for Finns who desert the city in droves. As a result, some restaurants (or ravintolas to use the Finnish term) on our hit list were closed for the summer.
Still, we found plenty to divert us – exceptional markets, great waterside walks, great coffee (see the post Best coffee in Helsinki here) and exceptional fine dining. But, arguably, the biggest surprise was Hotel Fabian.
It’s very easy to stick to the major hotel brands when one gallivants around the world. We’ve been staying in a lot of Marriott hotels recently, with more to come shortly in China and Hong Kong, but the large US chains don’t seem to have a huge presence in Helsinki.
With no recommendations from our social media friends, we resorted to TripAdvisor. Admittedly, Hotel Fabian is #2 on TripAdvisor’s list of where to stay in Helsinki but there’s always a bit of a leap of faith when acting on those rankings.
Arriving in Helsinki on a long overnight flight from Singapore, we were confronted with a grey early morning. To try to eat up a little time, we opted to take the Finnair bus from Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. It’s a great service – easy to find outside the terminal, tickets purchased from the machine and free wifi during the trip. It drops you outside the city’s main railway station, an imposing granite edifice designed by noted architect Eliel Saarinen.
It’s a relatively easy, and flat walk to Hotel Fabian which is on ‘Fabianinkatu’. Basically the suffix ‘inkatu’ just means street. We were happy to soak up the fresh, cool air and trundle our cases behind us heading for the hotel. Many of the streets have significant pedestrian zones. Not only was it a pleasant walk, but we chanced upon a café on our list. All good.
Hotel Fabian is a boutique hotel of only 58 rooms. The street is quiet and not at all far from the main shopping area. Of course, if you prefer taxis are plentiful or a tram service from the main station can drop you nearby.
While some hotels, if the room is vacant, will allow you to check-in before the advertised time, we were advised there would be an additional fee of 50 Euros, with breakfast thrown in. It was possibly the best 50 Euros we’ve spent – a good feed, followed by a nap and a very welcome shower and we were ready to meet the day.
We had a room on the fourth floor overlooking the street but there was very little passing traffic so no problems at all with noise. Beds are firm and, in the Scandinavian style, there are individual duvets. Décor is very good – everything’s easy on the eye and the colour scheme is monochromatic (as you can see from the shot of the bed at the top of this post). Lighting is good, including inside the bathroom and there is a great shower – roomy, with plenty of hot water and good water pressure.
Wi-fi is free throughout the hotel and worked perfectly.
Breakfast is also included in the room rate and the level of choice is perfectly acceptable although if you’re looking for custom options you’ve picked the wrong hotel. You can’t order specific dishes. Having said that, there is very good porridge, great breads/pastries, fresh and stewed fruits and an extensive selection of cold meats and cheeses, as well as boiled eggs. But ensure you take some of the fresh sourdough bread each morning, toast it, and slather it with the local butter. A slice of heaven. Even now, we’re still raving about the quality and flavour of the butter.
The hotel offers some bikes to get around but these can’t be reserved and tend to disappear very quickly in the mornings. All told, it’s exceptional value for money. As is the case almost everywhere in Scandinavia, the quality of English spoken is ridiculously good.
And it’s a great base from which to explore the city. It’s an easy walk to the water and the markets, as well as to the main architectural delights and churches. This area of the city has an exceptionally vibrant food scene, all within easy reach. Travelling in summer, you can walk freely until well after 11pm and still have enough light to easily find your way through the streets.
For creature comforts and an all-round great stay, Hotel Fabian is hard to beat. It certainly deserves its TripAdvisor rating.
Fabianinkatu 7, Helsinki