Food Meets Design in Helsinki

Not only is Helsinki gaining recognition as a destination for international gourmands showcasing Finnish food to its finest, it has also been on the forefront of design this year with its role as the World Design Capital of 2012.

After a year of design exhibitions and events in 2012, visitors can witness the changes and innovation this small European city has to offer. The design element meets the culinary scene with one of the major programs that took place this year—the Abattoir.

The Abattoir buildings that were designed to house the Helsinki Abattoir in 1933 have been turned into a food and design meeting place, hosting farmers markets, pop-up restaurants and design events in 2012. The area will continue to be developed for the retail trade in the future, one of the aims of the city.

“Influences from both the East and the West are evident in everyday Helsinki; architecture, cuisine, design, customs and even street slang all bare evidence of a past under Russian and Swedish rule,” says Helena Niskanen, a marketing representative of Visit Finland and president of Scandinavian Tourism Inc.

With the food and design scene helping to shape Helsinki’s identity, travelers are also taking note of this blossoming city.

“I have noticed that the cozy small size of the city and very nice local connections are the big hit,” says Anne Relander, marketing manager for the Helsinki City Tourist & Convention Bureau. “Helsinki is clean, safe, silent with charm of both Scandinavian chic as exotic east influence of nearby Russia. I see huge potential in American markets for Helsinki. Many have visited other European cities but Scandinavia is still off the beaten track.”

Travelers interested in viewing the city’s architecture can take a tour led by Archtours, which showcases the city’s Art Nouveau architecture, the largest concentration in Northern Europe.

Clients looking for five-star hotels in Helsinki have plenty of options to choose from, including Hotel Kamp with winter rates from about $160; Hotel Haven, part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World chain, which offers a Best of Helsinki package featuring accommodations and dinner for two with rates starting at about $335; and the newly renovated Radisson Blu Hotel Plaza, with rates from about $152 per night, near the business district and shopping centers. The Radisson also offers The Ultimate Helsinki package with rates starting at about $172 for accommodations in a Standard or a Business Class room, entrance to the casino, sparkling wine or non-alcoholic beverage at check-in, breakfast buffet, and a Helsinki Card, which provides entry to sights and museums, as well as transport and discounts around town.

Relander also recommends some of Helsinki’s four-star hotels that “could be five- star in European standards,” such as the award-winning Crowne Plaza Helsinki or design hotel Klaus K, with rates from about $160 to $500. Klaus K also offers the Design District Helsinki package, starting at about $230 dbl for a 1-night stay for two, sparkling wine upon arrival, admission to the Design Museum, discounts in Design District Helsinki member stores, and The Best of Finland breakfast at Ilmatar.

Inspired by the city’s role as design capital, Klaus K hotel started the Living Room co-creation project, launching in February 2013. “We are creating a new living room for the city of Helsinki—some might call it the lobby,” says Markku Torhonen, sales and marketing manager at Klaus K. “Our professional designer team has taken ideas that came from the crowd into the final plan. And the co-creation process is still ongoing with regards to menus and so on.”

The living room will work as a space where guests can have the hotel’s breakfast and will be used for different types of events. “Overall, we would like it to be a ‘landmark’ place for people to get together, whether it would be for business or pleasure. Where our guests can feel the vibe of the city within our premise and enjoy their stay whether they’re here for business or leisure,” says Torhonen.

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