My wife and I stayed in Hotel Katajanokka from September 12-16 and found it generally very good.
Others have pointed out the fact of this hotel being a converted prison. Apart from the striped shirts on some of the staff, the prison architecture makes it wonderfully quiet; the walls are three feet thick. Those walls also make wifi in the rooms problematic, but access is good in the basement restaurant and in the guest lounge just off the front desk.
Arriving late after a long trip from Vancouver, we got a cordial welcome. We found the staff cheerful, friendly and professional, with fluent English (like Stockholm, Helsinki seems full of English speakers).
A rather narrow basement holds the breakfast room, which turns into a restaurant in the evening. The breakfast buffet was good, though a bit limited compared with others we've seen, with the Nordic emphasis on cold cuts, cheese, and vegetables as well as fruit, cereal, bacon and sausages. You could ask the cook for eggs prepared as you wished. We had dinner in the Jailhouse restaurant only once--a very good chicken Caesar salad.
The real strength of this hotel is its location in the Katajanokka neighbourhood, a peninsula divided the north and south harbours. It's a beautiful area of quiet streets and impressive apartment buildings designed in the Jugendstil style, and a pleasure to walk around in. The view over the north harbour is especially fine; the south harbour is dominated by the giant ferries to Stockholm and Tallinn.
You can also walk easily into downtown Helsinki and Market Square and Senate Square, though the #4 tram right outside the hotel entrance will get you there faster. In good weather, which we had, Esplanadi Park is a great place to hang out or enjoy lunch. (If lunch is too liquid, the WCs in the basement of City Hall, nearby, are reputedly the best in the neighbourhood.)
If you've come back from a long day of sightseeing and shopping, and don't feel like dinner in the Jailhouse or going back downtown, go out the side entrance of the hotel onto Vyökatu and walk north a couple of blocks, then turn left on Luotsikatu. Halfway down the block is the Mount Everest Nepali restaurant, where we twice enjoyed excellent dinners. (Again, staff speak English and the menus include English.)
All in all, we enjoyed our stay at the Katajanokka and if we ever return to Helsinki we'll book there again...and go for more walks in its wonderful neighbourhood.
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