Finland is at the forefront of a luxury revolution.
Notable for its prowess in design and technology, as evidenced by Nokia, Linux, Artek, Marimekko, Angry Birds and Moomins, Finland has refocused its creative energies on sustainable design with an ethical and ecological perspective. Design and democracy go hand in hand in Finland, a reflection of the egalitarian spirit that has marked Finnish culture since 1906, when Finnish women became the first in the world to be granted the right to vote and to stand for parliament.
Opened in May 2018 in Helsinki's Kamppi district, the Hotel St. George exemplifies the Finnish trend toward a redefinition of luxury travel. The hotel's emphasis on environmental awareness coexists with a refined design aesthetic marked by an art collection of more than 400 pieces displayed throughout the hotel. Guests are greeted by activist artist Ai Weiwei's massive "Tianwu," a mythical white dragon suspended in the entrance lobby.
With windows and balconies that overlook Old Church Park, the Hotel St. George is housed in a Renaissance Revival building designed in 1890 by Onni Tarjanne, the celebrated architect of the Finnish National Theatre. For years, the seven-story building was home to Finland's printing and publishing industry, which included numerous intellectuals known as "fennomaniacs" who gave birth to Finnish independence alongside the preservation of Finnish language and culture.
The Hotel St. George is housed in a Renaissance Revival building designed in 1890 by the same architect behind the Finnish National Theatre. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Kamp Collection Hotels
Finnish art and design are on display throughout the hotel's 153 rooms and suites as well as its public spaces. Lush with foliage and flora, the hotel's Wintergarden functions as a conservatory where guests gather for conversation and cocktails. Suspended from the glass ceiling is Pekka Jylha's 20-foot avian sculpture "Learning to Fly," an artistic embodiment of the concept of freedom that merits its own eponymous cocktail served in a bird-shaped glass.
As the singular Design Hotels member in Finland, the hotel's Wintergarden features pieces by Alvar Aalto and other Finnish designers, alongside vintage rugs, leather sofas, oak plank flooring and wallpaper art by Klaus Haapaniemi that shimmers like a Gobelin tapestry. Three private salons known as Nooks are offered for small social gatherings or the hotel's Afternoon Tea.
Rooms and suites are furnished with classic Scandinavian designer furniture and abstract lithographs by Finnish artists. Serenity Studios come with writing desks that face onto the park and include in-room exercise bands, a king-size Duxiana bed, a marble bathroom with rainfall showerhead and complimentary use of the hotel's spa and gym known as St. George Care.
The hotel's Wintergarden functions as a conservatory where guests gather with locals for cocktails, conversation and Afternoon Tea. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Kamp Collection Hotels
Focus on sustainability
As a member of Green Key, the hotel is carbon-negative. Tap water in Finland is some of the cleanest in the world, and each guestroom at the St. George features a SodaStream machine for guests to carbonate tap water for their own personal use.
One of the most oft-cited facts about Finnish culture references the prevalence of saunas, the sheer number of which might outnumber the population. In keeping with the hotel's focus on holistic well-being, St. George Care features two saunas, an indoor pool and a cold plunge pool. Seasonal therapeutic treatments include jet lag options with sleep monitors available upon request, as are Pelago bikes.
The hotel's in-house St. George Bakery offers homemade doughnuts and four types of traditional Finnish breads baked daily. At day's end, the bakery uses the sustainable food app ResQ to sell excess baked goods to locals.
The bakery's Reading Room is a sanctuary where phones and laptops are discouraged; newspapers, magazines and shelves of art and design books are complemented by tables and cozy corners perfect for reading -- or dreaming.
Finnish art and design are features throughout the hotel's 153 rooms and suites. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Kamp Collection Hotels
To witness design and democracy in action, spend the afternoon at the Helsinki Central Library, more commonly known as Oodi. More than merely a house of literature, Oodi stands as a cultural center complete with movie theater, music rooms, game rooms, learning kitchens, sewing machines, 3D printers, restaurant, cafe and youth spaces, all serving as an extension of Helsinki home life. Oodi's front plaza flows into the entrance like an indoor/outdoor living room, enabling Helsinki's populace to wander in every day of the week.
Sipping a glass of wine in a library might seem taboo, and yet, Oodi recalls the great literary salons of Paris and London, albeit conducted in a far more democratic fashion.
Art exhibitions at Oodi are curated from the collection of the Helsinki Art Museum, known locally as HAM. Built in celebration of Finland's centennial year of independence in 2017, Oodi has been designated the world's best public library for its spectacular architecture as well as the building's focus on equality, openness and freedom of speech.
According to the World Happiness Report, a publication of the U.N., Finland has been ranked as the happiest country in the world for the past five years. Maybe it's the combination of design, democracy -- and homemade doughnuts.
Rates at the Hotel St. George start at $300 per night for Serenity Studio with breakfast buffet included.