Gay Helsinki Helsinki City Guide

Curation by Jamie McGhee, words by Ian Packham

Despite occupying a stunning location on the Gulf of Finland, Helsinki is often overlooked in favour of better-known Baltic capitals such as Stockholm and Tallinn. But short of being the dull capital that might be implied by its moniker ‘white city of the north’ – which stems from the light-coloured granite favoured as a building material – Helsinki is actually one of Europe’s hottest destinations. An impressive architectural history blends with richly-stocked boutiques and innovative galleries in a country ranked one of the best in the world for being gay. Rainbow flags welcome people to most of the capital’s shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs, where same-sex relationships are accepted as a part of life and gay marriage has been recognised since 2017. Here’s our Helsinki gay city guide.

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The best hotels in Helsinki

Its luxurious suites may recall the wilds of Finland’s far north, with beds crowned by deer antlers and chairs draped in the softest of reindeer skins. However, Lapland Hotels Bulevardi lies not in the north but at the heart of the capital, just a short distance from the modern art museum and other significant Helsinki points of interest. The atmospheric suites combine the best of contemporary Finnish design with long-held national customs – the on-site sauna is open daily, while private versions are included in larger suites. Located nearby in the Design District is Hotel Lilla Roberts. Set within a fine example of the country’s National Romanticism architectural movement, the public spaces and rooms bubble with personality, decorated with attractive print art and numerous quirky touches that bring soul to the monochrome interiors.

The five-storey Hotel Fabian has a tranquil setting, yet is just five minutes on foot from the busy cafes of Market Square. Its chic rooms are bathed in natural light, as is the planted interior courtyard, which guests are welcome to enjoy throughout the day. The hidden courtyard at Hotel F6 can be found just off the Esplanade; part major thoroughfare, part urban park, it is an equally short stroll from Market Square. Its rooms are elegantly decorated in natural colours enhanced by black and gold accents, giving each space a unique cosiness. The hotel’s Runar bar is equally full of joie de vivre, whether a fruit juice or a craft beer is your tipple of choice. Atmospheric stays continue across the bridge to the distinguished residential area of Katajanokka Island, just a short tram ride from Market Square and the city centre. Hotel Katajanokka is housed within an early nineteenth-century prison, as its quirky passageways and thick walls soon testify. However, its rooms are anything but institutional, with a richly-textured décor that is a far cry from the building’s origins as a correctional facility.

Photo: Toa Heftiba

Photo: Toa Heftiba

Photo: Tapio Haaja

Photo: Tapio Haaja

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