“ Mannerheimintie 50, Helsinki Finland 00260. Telephone: +358 9 43 101. Fax: +358 9 4310 995. 4 Stars. „
A 20 minute taxi ride (£15) or 25-30 minute bus ride (£2.50) from the airport and you have arrived at the 4* Radisson SAS Hesperia Hotel,Helsinki, part of the Radisson Group. Situated on a main thoroughfare (Mannerhelmintie) leading into the heart of the city, the hotel overlooks the Hesperia Park, complete with its frozen lake and brave joggers. Within coughing distance is the Olympic Stadium, Finlandia Hall (concerts) and the Finnish National Opera - the glass walls welcome inside the stark whiteness of the outdoors - architecture that complements rather than dominates, which is nice. The hotel itself is what I would expect of a 4* chain and it didn't exceed expectation or fall short either. The staff were welcoming and informative, with just the right amount of attentiveness. The accommodation was fine and provided everything one would need, with the marked exception of in-room tea & coffee making facilities (available in some rooms). To give you an idea of what is on offer, let's break it down into its component parts. Rooms and Breakfast Definitely a hotel geared-up for the business traveller, there is a choice of rooms for all with commensurate pricing. 57 business rooms on the higher floors with lots of freebies such as pay-TV, dressing gowns and newspapers, etc. A Presidential Suite, complete with its own sauna, and three junior suites are supposedly the ultimate in luxury. Unfortunately I can't comment; we just had a basic room: 2 beds, desk, bathroom. But consider that the price for basic was offered at £125 per night, per room (we paid £75, special offer) then the bill for the suites must be somewhere between Jupiter and Saturn. Both smoking and non-smoking floors are offered, along with connecting and non-allergic rooms. As you would expect in a 4* there is the usual mini-bar, complete with tear-inducing pricing, complimentary packaging for ablutions: shaving kit, dental, soaps and shampoos, hair dryer
and the like. Satellite TV is included in every room, as well as pay-TV (at £8.50 a throw: combination of general release movies plus the more. . .hmmm. . . 'adult' themed offerings, and radio). A mini-safe in the room is free of charge as is the trouser press. You can view your bill, access your messages or investigate the hotel's services through your TV. If you can't be away from your laptop for more than a day or so, you can plug it into the phone line in your room. Check your ISP has an international free phone number, otherwise you will end up paying £5.00 per unit and £3 thereafter for use of the hotel's land line. The decor is heavy but sparse. It does work in creating an ambience of warmth and comfort but as the rooms are both individually air-conditioned and temperature controlled you can find your own pitch. Don't worry about taking along a 2-pin adapter for that travelling iron either, you won't need it. An 'ironing room' is freely available to hotel guests, accessed via your room key, or have an ironing-board sent to your room at no cost. And should you require that adapter for whatever reason the hotel will lend you one without charge. Room service is available weekdays until 00.30 and weekends 'til 11.30. An average main course comes in around £12.00. The menu isn't what I would call huge but if you happen to get in too late for dinner then it comes in handy. There's a good selection of touristy information in the room too, the best of which and ultimately proved indispensable was the publication 'Helsinki this week', in which you'll find everything you need to know about what's on in and around the Finnish capital, restaurants and night-clubs - and it's a good read, too. The price of our room included breakfast. A minor gripe is that if you should want brekky-in-bed there is an £8.00 surcharge. Not nice when you've already paid. Still,
the 'Super Breakfast' was supposedly worth a visit to the second floor. The selection was humongous: hot or cold, they had everything. Try and get in early in order to secure one of the tables overlooking the Hesperia Park; it's a lovely way to start the day. Watch the waiter/ress though with those tea-bags. Mine only threatened the hot water with the tea, pouring out a trickle of grey fluid. Best to ask for a couple of bags to be put in the pot when you order. Non-smokers need not worry, the breakfast area is smoke-free, and the FT is provided free of charge. Your morning feast is available between 6.30 - 10.00am weekdays and 7 - 11am on weekends. So, my top tips for rooms and breakfast: Book a room that has a window overlooking the main entrance to the hotel. You get the view of the Hesperia Park rather than the sad grey buildings we got. Get to breakfast early or towards the end in order to secure a table with views. Ask for 2+ tea-bags in your teapot - most important! Night-club (minimum age 24) The club is open from Wed-Sat, 10pm-4am. There is free access for hotel guests. Expect to pay about £3.20 for half a litre of local lager. It's quite a good club really, not small with 5 separate bars, two floors and a reasonable boogie area. In most of its literature about the club, the hotel bills it as being the in-place. According to the waitress I was talking with this did in fact used to be the case, Helsinkians coming from all over but when the club was closed three years ago for renovations the crowd found a new place and decided to stay: Hotel Helsinki in the centre (5 minutes away). We went in the club 2 out of the 3 nights we were there. It was never what one could call throbbing but there was around 40 people in. This number probably changes depending on how many conferences the hotel is hosting. Worth a drink in there! But leave your overcoat in the room otherwise you'll be accosted to pay in
order to hang it in the cloakroom. Restaurant Fransmanni This is the hotel's only general restaurant, open 11.00am - 1am Mon/Sat; 12/12.00 on Sundays and carries a menu with a Provincial France theme, not extensive but enough. The decor is kind of French Bistro with attitude and lots of heavy wood and candles. Quite snug really. For a 3 course meal with a bottle of wine and lots of lager set us back £60.00. The service charge is automatically added to the bill, but tipping reaps its own rewards. A friendly waiter/ress can be indispensable in terms of finding out the best places to eat out, visit and general stuff - worth that extra few quid. The service was fine, not overwhelming and not the most conscientious in the world, but no major hassle. Lobby Bar It can be difficult to find anywhere to sit here. This area seems to be the meeting place for everyone both in the hotel and outside. It was constantly busy throughout our stay, increasing capacity from 6pm onwards. If a attendees of a conference converge there, forget it. Too noisy and smokey. Opening times: Mon-Thur 10am-12.30am; Fri/Sat 'til 1.30am. This is also the place for hotel guests to get their complimentary pastry and hot beverage on weekends between 5.30-7am. Drinks here worked out just a little cheaper than in the night-club, but not much. And forget about buying your ciggies here, £3.80 per packet as opposed to £2.30 outside. Reception/Concierge These take care of your travel arrangements and entertainment: booking tickets for concerts. . .staffed 24/7. Other Services There are several more services that the hotel provides, but as I didn't use them, I will just list them here for reference: Hair Salon Baby-sitting Car Rental (Europcar, Lobby) Conference Rooms Business Centre Service: Translation, secretarial, photocopying, printing, computers, etc. Massage Money Exchange Sauna Swimming P
ool Solarium Fitness centre Golf simulator Helipad on the roof Choice of rooms (inc. family) Dry Cleaning (Gent's suit £14.50; Dress £11.50 Taxi rank (Lobby) Free shoeshine near the lifts Ice for drinks available near the elevators General The hotel has full wheelchair access. Check-out time is 12 noon. May be extended 'til 3 for free. £10 per hour thereafter. You may leave your cases with reception if checked-out but not yet leaving. Free. But remember the check-in staff at the airport: "Has your luggage been left unattended?" Best to be on the safe side and check it again upon collection. The City Centre is 2 minute taxi ride (£2.50) or a 10-5 minute walk or a few minutes on a tram 80p (pick it up just outside the hotel: turn left out the main entrance and you'll see the stop). You can walk to the city centre through the park opposite, but be careful of walking across the frozen lake at this time of year (March/April), the big melt is occurring. As a result of the melting snow, slush is everywhere. This may pose problems generally for wheelchair-bound individuals or those who may have trouble walking - it's very slippery and hard going. If you don't want to pay the taxi fare to the airport, collect the Finnair bus from the hotel next door. For a couple of quid you can be dropped off right outside the departure gate. Conclusion The hotel is nothing special but then again we didn't have any complaints either. As I mentioned at the beginning, the hotel is mainly geared for the business traveller and this is reflected in the clientele. It may not be the first choice for a family holiday what with the lack of facilities for the very young, but with the park just over the road many a bored child can run-off the restraints of being cooped up. The hotel is clean and the staff are efficient and attentive without being over
bearing. All your needs will be catered for in a professional manner and as the hotel has a 100% refund policy if you are not completely satisfied, then there's nothing to loose. However, when we go back to Helsinki we will stay more central. Even though the hotel is only minutes away, it can be quite cumbersome jumping on and off trams, more so if you have a child in a pushchair or physical limitations. Perhaps if the Hesperia had a courtesy coach doing the rounds then this wouldn't be a problem; but without it a family would soon see the increase in their frustrations and spending money if they were to stay here for a couple of weeks. Consequently, my major gripes would be the lack of tea & coffee making facilities as standard in all rooms and the absence of a courtesy coach. Price Room: 3 nights for 2 people: £225.00 2 meals in hotel r'trant £100.00 Taxi (airport) £30.00 Internal Travel: £30.00 General Spends; £150.00 Flights: £105.00 Stanstead car park: £21.50 Total: £661.50 (Yikes, I wish I hadn't added that up now) General Pricing The hotel and Helsinki in general is comparable to central London prices! Further Information: www.radisson.com (home page, piccy of hotel) www.lonelyplanet.com (general information on Finland) www.finland-tourism.com (Tourist information of Helsinki / Finland) If there is anything that you wish to know and of which is not included here, either leave a comment or e-mail me (see profile).