We stayed at the Merihovi for a week around our wedding at the Snowcastle in Feb 2006. We chose the Merihovi after reading other reviews on TripAdvisor, but we still weren't really prepared for what we found!
First impressions were not great. The decor gave the impression it hadn't been updated since the 1950s. Our room was down a very long, dark corridor that gave a very hostel-like feeling, and then we couldn't open the door to our room because there was a problem with the lock. We wondered what we had done. Then the door to our room opened, and everything became clear.
The Merihovi is a 1950s theme hotel. Rather than not having been updated, it has been well maintained whilst keeping its character. The hotel has a charm that grows daily as new features become noticed. It is clean, comfortable and homely. If you're looking for chic 5star luxury this will not be the hotel for you. But what it does offer is actually far more sophisticated- a spiritually as well as physically relaxing environment where everything that you are likely to need is catered for without the pretension or over-sold nature of so many 'modern' hotels.
Our room was a suite with its own sauna- a sauna with a view over the snow-covered streets and an external thermometer reading -17Cdegrees. Not an experience offered everywhere! Clean and spacious with homely comfort, we could have lived there for a good deal longer than a week!
But the single best thing about the Merihovi has to be the food. Both the restaurant and bar meals are of exceptional quality and value. There is a delightful under-selling of most of the dishes- something simply described as 'warm chicken salad' was a hearty meal with a huge amount of delicious seasoned chicken sitting on top of a perfect heap of salad, vegetables, vegetable crisps, croutons, and dressing. In fact, I read back my description and even despite my efforts it still undersells the dish. There are a great deal of traditional Finnish ingredients used- including local fish and meat, but assembled with a sensitive creativity and attention to detail that is rarely achieved. The breakfast buffet isn't bad either!
Our taxi driver from the airport was amused at the thought of us staying in Kemi for a week. He suggested that a town so small (and it is small) couldn't possibly be of interest for so long. OK, we were getting married to occupy one day and had preparations to make for the couple of days before, but we still left at the end of the week feeling there was more to do. The Snowcastle itself deserves more than one visit, as its character changes completely at different times of day and in different weather conditions- but I honestly couldn't tell you which combination is my favourite as they are all spectacular. No photograph can do it justice. As a wedding venue I doubt you could surpass the romance, and a meal in the snow restaurant might be a bit eccentric, but compromises not one bit on the quality of the food or service.
Walking on the frozen Baltic sea or the local park buried under the snow might not be much of an attraction to the locals, but to silly tourists like us it occupied many happy hours. The view from the café at the top of the Town Hall is worth the vertigo- time it with a plane arriving at the airport if you can! Art is given a high status in Kemi, with enough good quality installations to surely be worthy of a guide map around them all, but maybe it's more fun finding them by yourself! A couple of small museums are worthy of at least a brief visit, and the range of good quality restaurants and cafés is impressive for such a small place.
The Merihovi is also a great base from which to explore the artic experience. We went husky dog-sledging through stunning scenery, snowmobiling on the frozen sea and travelled on the Artic Icebreaker Sampo. The Sampo might not be the cheapest excursion, but as the only tourist icebreaker ship anywhere in the world (or so it claims) I don't think it's actually overpriced. With an excellent meal and the (hopefully not) once in a lifetime experience of ice-swimming thrown in, as well as a good quality tour and chance to chat with the captain on the bridge, I think it was very good value. We linked the snowmobiling with our Sampo cruise, which includes the quite unnerving experience of parking the snowmobile on the ice and standing there as the Sampo cruises with all its icebreaking power towards you! This link certainly helped make the most of the day (and saved a bit of money), but if I ever get the chance to go again, I think I'd welcome the chance to have the full Sampo cruise separately as the three hours goes very quickly indeed.
So I've drifted a bit from the Merihovi, but in a sense I haven't. With it being such a small place, the businesses of Kemi all seem to work together and the friendliness of the place almost feels like it's one place. And as everyone returning from the Arctic ever says- it's not as cold as you think (as long as you go properly prepared)!
- Reservation Options:
- TripAdvisor is proud to partner with Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz, TripOnline SA, Hotwire, Travelocity and Cancelon so you can book your Hotel Merihovi reservations with confidence. We help millions of travelers each month to find the perfect hotel for both vacation and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.
- Also Known As:
- Merihovi Hotel Kemi