There's a real buzz about Klaus K. After 65 years as a rather ordinary three-star hotel (known as Klaus Kurki and catering largely to a business clientele), it's undergone a complete makeover, re-opening last November as the first design hotel in the Finnish capital.
It deserves the fanfare. In a city known for its sense of style, it's no surprise that the interior of this 1913 building stands out, often unexpectedly (watch out for the outward opening electric doors when you walk in). The owners have gone for a historic theme, inspired by the Finnish national epic Kalevala, and the 138 rooms are divided into the emotions depicted in it - mysticism, passion, desire and envy. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean much to me, except in terms of room size and colour scheme (envy = brown tones and big, for example).
The rooms are all furnished with a mixture of design pieces - bold floral artwork here, a funky retro chair there, maybe a velvet or reindeer-skin headboard thrown in for achingly cool measure. Even the bathroom sink is a designer gem. Mind you, the swirly quotes from the epic woven into the hallway carpet are a bit much.
Downstairs the spaces are just as eclectic, but slicker - from the ice-clean lines of the egg-shaped check-in desk to the ultra-hip Ahjo club. Here the minimalist white décor, sculptured seats and gleaming lighting of the bar turns deliciously darker and louder, with soft sofas, cushions and candlelight, as you go deeper into the club. It has no trouble pulling in a glamorous crowd.
The food is also a hit. The three restaurants are overseen by Markus Maulavirta, one of the country's most renowned chefs whose mission is to hunt out the best in Finnish flavours. Toscanini is chic Italian. Filmitahti is more of a burgers-and-shakes place, where Finnish films are projected on to the walls, while the elegant Ilmatar features delicately smoked reindeer steak, Baltic herring with lingonberry rye bread, beetroot risotto and spicy chocolate cake on its menu, all a revelation.
Klaus K, Bulevardi 2, Helsinki, Finland (00 358 20770 4700; www.klauskhotel.com). Centrally situated at the top of a quiet leafy avenue in the fashionable Design District, you can walk to most places in minutes. The city's main shopping street, Mannerheimintie, is just down the road, as is the harbour, and the hip Undenmaankatu is just around the corner, with its quirky boutiques, bars and restaurant DEMO.
Time from international airport: 35 minutes. Taking the Finnair airport bus, which runs every 20 minutes, is a straightforward and cheap (€5.20/£3.70 single) affair. The drop-off is the main train station, an easy five-minute walk to Klaus K. A taxi straight to the door is a pricier €30 (£20).
The rooms aren't huge, so it's worth paying extra for the larger desire or envy options that come with a lounge area. Also ask for bay windows. The beds deserve a special mention - custom-made, soft cushions piled on pillows and gorgeous linen. There's also a sauna, gym and the Helsinki Day spa for posh pampering (but book ahead).
Freebies: Helsinki Day Spa toiletries. You can ask for a coffee machine and fridge to be put in your room.
Keeping in touch: rooms come with DVD/CD players, music library, iPod/mp3 plug-and-play, snazzy interactive flat screen TVs, with sound in bathroom, wireless and wired internet access and phones.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Double rooms start from €115 (£82) including breakfast.
I'm not paying that: Hotel Helka (00 358 800 169 069; www.helka.fi) is a clean, comfortable, central place, with a generous breakfast and doubles from €102 (£73).Reuse content