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We Stayed in The Prison Hotel Katajanokka in Helsinki

Travelblog Gone with the Wine

Travelblog and lifestyleblog. Life under the Californian sun - Gone with the Wine. Trips, food and wine from all over the world. Solo and family adventures.

We Stayed in The Prison Hotel Katajanokka in Helsinki

Paula Gaston

*Our trip was made possible by Hotel Katajanokka,
but as always, all opinions are my own.

As you know, we are currently visiting Finland for the summer, and last week we spent some time in the capital city, Helsinki. While we were there, we stayed at Hotel Katajanokka which was built in the old Helsinki County Prison building. So on our trip, we got to sleep inside a prison cell even though I think the cells used to look a lot different when the real prisoners were still there. Or what do you think?

Hotel Katajanokka in Helsinki

Hotel Katajanokka in Helsinki

SUPERIOR FAMILY ROOM AT HOTEL KATAJANOKKA

Our room was a Superior Family room on the fourth floor, and there was plenty of space for two adults and two kids. On the same floor, they used to keep the Finnish government leaders in 1945 who were detained for war-crimes trials. Also among those people was the president Risto Ryti. So quite a story! Now those prison cells have been renovated into upscale hotel rooms, where you can still see the history of the building and the city. Our room had a king bed and a fold-away sofa bed for two. And as a nice surprise, there was also a good selection of bath products and a big tub in our bathroom. Our kids are used to taking baths at home and enjoy playing in the water, so we found some use for these luxuries right away.

From our room we had a great view to Katajanokka harbor, and our kids loved watching the big ferries come and go. Every morning and every evening, we watched them load new passengers after offloading the old ones, and then slip away again. I think it would take us a long time to tire of this view.

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Our kids loved watching the ferries come and go

Our kids loved watching the ferries come and go

The names of the government leaders kept here

The names of the government leaders kept here

FROM GLOOMY PRISON TO LUXURY HOTEL

The hotel building is from the 19th century when they typically built all the county jails to look intimidating from the outside and depressing from the inside. Before here, there had already been two other prison buildings in the Katajanokka area. Helsinki County Prison was also used as a “remand prison” where the suspects were kept while waiting for trail. Finns gave this place the nick names Skatta and Nokka. Its most famous prisoners were the president Risto Ryti and his ministers, as I already mentioned earlier. They were all kept there at the end of the Second World War. War time was heavily present in Skatta’s history in other ways too. The building got damaged in bombings in 1942 and 1944.

The Helsinki County Prison was closed in 2002, and after renovations the Hotel Katajanokka opened in 2007. This old building which is protected, started a completely new life. Ever since 2016 it has been an independently owned Lifestyle-hotel, and it was just chosen for the Marriott International Tribute Portfolio as its first hotel in Finland. While staying at the Hotel Katajanokka, you should explore the surroundings and the building, as there is quite a lot to see. In the cellar for example, they have two old cells which are open to visit. The other one is a group cell which is really ascetic and dark, and the other one is an old isolation cell. Among the cells, there is also a prison chapel, a gym and some saunas for the guests.

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An old group cell

An old group cell

An isolation cell

An isolation cell

THE LINNANKELLARI RESTAURANT

On our first night in Helsinki, we had dinner at the hotel in the Linnankellari Restaurant. It is located in the cellar of the hotel, and has a very calm and quiet atmosphere. We stayed there quite a while. Their menu is not too deep, but we found something we liked right away. Like so often, I chose some fish while my husband went for the meat. But we always like to share the things we order, or at least taste each other’s dishes, so we end up eating many kinds of foods. The dessert menu had some classics prepared with a little twist, and we couldn’t resist trying some. My husband never passes the opportunity to order the Creme Brûlée, and I just had to try the Pavlova with fresh berries.

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The food was great and our waiter took such good care of us. The only thing we missed a bit was a kid’s menu which they didn’t have. Even though they were very helpful and the kitchen had some suggestions outside of the menu for kids, it is still a little bit easier for us moms if we get a written menu. At least for me, since I like to offer my kids some “real food”, and I’m secretly hoping that things like fries with chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches would not be the only items available on the kid’s lists. We do choose such food now and again, especially when travelling, but I always like to push some healthier sides for it at least. They did bring a fresh bowl of lettuce and tomatoes for the kids with the food at the Linnankellari which was great.

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They said SUMMER BREAKFAST IS MADE OF ICE CREAM

(Or so the sign said) and we believed them… ha ha. What a cute campaign! But of course, we ate something else first like delicious pancakes and fresh fruits. The best part of the breakfast was that it wasn’t like the usual hotel breakfast. Among the typical eggs, sausages and bacon, they also offered some oven-fresh meat pastry, banana smoothies and the most delicious oat meal. The oat meal was made in rice milk instead of water, which made it a little bit sweet. I loved it and will be trying it at home too! The morning coffee was drank from a steel cup just like in jail.

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Summer breakfast is made of ice cream. Porridge can be eaten at home. Yeah.

And did I mention the ice cream? The summer campaign in the Prime Hotels offers lower room prices and as much ice cream as you can eat at breakfast. And of course, all the kids were so excited! Especially when they got to scoop it out of the freezer and decorate by themselves. And I have to admit that I did try some myself too. Their campaign signs were hung from the ceiling with hand cuffs.

Breakfast is made of ice cream in the summer time

Breakfast is made of ice cream in the summer time

This is good to remember while getting some breakfast

This is good to remember while getting some breakfast

One great thing about the Hotel Katajanokka is the location. It is far from the traffic noise, but still close enough so you can walk right on to downtown. If you don’t want to walk, or you need to get there from further afield, the tram number 4 stops right in front of the hotel.

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I must honestly say, that this was one of the most pleasant hotel stays we have had. We really liked the fact that this place has such a story to tell, and the building was renovated with its history in mind. The prison atmosphere was still there even though the hotel is quite luxurious. The staff was friendly and we were well taken care of. A night in prison doesn’t sound so bad after all!