By John O’Ceallaigh
Perhaps the first thing you should know about Helsinki’s new luxury hotel, The Hotel Maria, is that its founder Samppa Lajunen is a three-time Olympic gold medalist who subsequently made a lot of money in real estate development. This may be his first hotel, but he’s obviously accustomed to meeting his objectives, so it’s notable that he claims this property will bring an unprecedented sense of polish and luxury to Finland’s capital city when it opens in mid-December.
For those who know Helsinki, the hotel is in its upmarket and historic Kruununhaka district. It has been formed from four adjacent buildings that date from between 1885 and 1930, and its 117-key inventory features guestrooms that come in at about twice the average size of what you’ll find elsewhere in the city. It also features more suites, 38, than any other Helsinki hotel.
All that space means plenty of the accommodation incorporates a distinctively Finnish amenity: a private sauna. Expansive bathrooms might alternatively include steam rooms, extra-large soaking tubs and marble walk-in showers. Guests might also have their own gas fireplaces, tip-top tech and bespoke furniture – I was a bit disappointed to hear that furniture was made by an American company called RH, though, when Finland and the broader region already have such a strong design pedigree.
Helsinki’s hardly a brash city, so the colour palette – lots of amber and ivory – feels appropriate, and on cold winter days there’ll be ample incentive to remain cosied up in the property. A spa will feature hot and cold plunge pools, and signature spa treatments will be inspired by the nature and purity of the Nordics.
Press materials also proclaim that this will be the first hotel in the market to feature its own ‘Wellness Concierge’, but there’s no clarification on what that person will actually do, and I tend to find the term ‘concierge’ is overused as a marketing strategy anyway. I receive press releases telling me that resorts now have ‘bath concierges’ (members of the housekeeping team who can run a bath during turndown) or ‘soap concierges’, it feels a bit gimmicky. But it’s promising, given the owner’s pedigree, to hear the hotel will open a Wellness Club in spring 2024 with a really strong focus on fitness that will include training programmes, guidance on nutrition, and a running club.
There’ll also be a good spread of dining and drinking options. The Garden Terrace will serve Nordic and international dishes; Bar Maria will serve cocktails, champagne and caviar as someone strums along on a piano; fancy fine-dining restaurant Lilja will serve dishes ‘inspired by the traditions of French cuisine’ – again, it feels a shame they didn’t showcase elevated Finnish dishes – and private-dining experiences for up to 12 guests will be available in an intimate standalone dining room called Valley.
Commendably, too, the hotel is looking to establish partnerships with properties in remote and rural Finland for guests who want to combine ambitious trips that run between city and country (a couple of days exploring Helsinki followed by an Arctic Circle Northern Lights safari sounds like an amazing holiday…). An on-site experience manager will also assist guests in planning any other activities they’d like to enjoy in the country.
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LUTE is a luxury-travel consultant and content agency that works with hotel groups, tour operators, tourist boards, airlines and more. You can learn more about LUTE here. For frequent luxury-travel updates, follow LUTE and LUTE founder John O’Ceallaigh on Instagram.