It's obvious from the moment you walk into the lobby that the F6 Hotel in downtown Helsinki is a family-run affair.
First there's the friendly hotel dog, Runar, who is likely to greet you upon arrival. On check-in, the welcoming staff will provide you with a map of the Finnish capital, but not one that you might get from the tourism office. The custom map features the staff's favorite spots in town, from restaurants and cafes to hidden gems and family-friendly venues. And then there's the whimsical wallpaper, designed specifically for the F6, found throughout the hotel's hallways.
Hotel general manager Roni Saari said that while the hotel is a member of Nordic Choice Hotels, it is still an independent, family-run business, which has its advantages for guests.
"As a small hotel, we can give more time to customers and share some information that not everyone knows about Helsinki," he said.
He added that the hotel's breakfast aims to make guests feel as if they are in someone's home. It consists of a buffet of local Finnish staples like hearty rye bread, smoked salmon, Karelian pie with egg butter and fresh berries in the summer (including local favorites lingonberries and cloudberries).
The accommodations in the 66-room boutique hotel, which opened in the summer of 2016, include standard, superior and deluxe rooms, some of which come with French balconies opening onto a colorful courtyard. As a guest of the hotel on a recent visit, I stayed in a deluxe room, a stylishly-appointed, roughly 450-square-foot space.
The F6 is ideally located for exploring Helsinki, an eminently walkable city. Set on a quiet brick-paved street, the hotel is just a block from the city's Esplanadi, a rectangular park known as the heart of the city. It's an easy walk through this park to the waterfront, where popular markets set up on weekends, and from where visitors can catch ferries to nearby islands for daytrips.
During my visit, I spent some time perusing the market stalls along the waterfront, with vendors offering local specialties like dried herring, berries and glogi, or mulled wine — perfect for the chilly fall days. After picking up a few snacks for the afternoon, I boarded the ferry for Suomenlinna. Just a 20-minute ferry ride from Helsinki, Suomenlinna is a group of islands that are home to a fortress dating to the mid-1700s. It's a Unesco World Heritage Site that's home to six museums, an impressive church and the remains of barracks and fortress walls.
Another day, I walked from the F6 to visit the city's design district, full of side streets with galleries, restaurants and ubiquitous cafes (the Finns are said to drink the most coffee per capita in the world.) From there, I made my way over to the city's Ateneum – a world class art museum housed in a beautiful Neo-Renaissance-style building just across from the city's central train station.
Both nights I was there, after enjoying dinner out on the town, I would head to the F6's hip bar, Runar (named after the hotel dog), a trendy spot popular with locals that serves up a mean cocktail.
Rates at the F6 start from about $200 for a standard room, single occupancy.