Airport hotels aren’t usually known either for their service quality or their overall appeal, and I have stayed in some fairly miserable examples throughout the years. But one modern airport hotel at which I have stayed on several occasions seems to me to have got it almost completely right.
In the past three years I have stayed at the Hilton Helsinki Airport three times – never on a complimentary basis – and the hotel has always impressed me. So much so, in fact, that I went out of my way when staying in June 2012 to ask the hotel’s duty manager to give me a guided tour so I could tell our viewers a bit more about this excellent property. In keeping with the hotel’s service ethic, the manager duly obliged.
Finnair’s main marketing boast is that it provides the fastest one-stop way to get from much of Western Europe and even from the East Coast of North America to many Asian destinations. The airline arranges quick connections – which can be as short as 40 minutes – so that passengers can transfer at its showpiece Helsinki-Vantaa Airport hub to and from the carrier’s Asia flights.
However, when traveling long-haul many people like to stop over to break their journeys – and Helsinki is a fair city, which is worth taking two or three days to see. This is particularly true in early summer when the city’s far-north location provides many hours of daylight, the temperature is pleasant and Helsinki’s weather is usually beautiful.
Travelers stopping over at Helsinki can, of course, stay at one of the many hotels in or near the center of the city. (For the somewhat budget-conscious traveler, I would recommend the unusual-looking Hotel Linna, at which my wife and I once stayed for five nights in the depths of December, when Helsinki’s weather is gray and dreary.)
However, in my opinion there is really no need to look any further than the Hilton Helsinki Airport either for an overnight stay between flights or if you want to take a few days to explore the city.
For one thing, the Hilton Helsinki Airport couldn’t be more convenient either for the airport’s two terminals – which are arranged in a ‘U’ shape – or for the bus stations located in the middle of the ‘U’, right outside each terminal’s arrivals and departures halls.
The Hilton Helsinki Airport is located less than five minutes’ walk from Terminal 2’s arrivals hall; this is the terminal Finnair uses. A covered walkway, with signage showing the way to the hotel, leads you and the free-use airport baggage cart you may be wheeling right to the hotel’s door. If you do use a baggage cart, an elevator ride of about five seconds is involved as you near the hotel.
From the bus terminals, buses whisk you at very reasonable prices not only to many other towns and cities throughout Finland, but also into the middle of downtown Helsinki within half an hour.
Special airport buses, which are inexpensive to take and which only make a couple of stops en route, run every 20 minutes throughout the day from the airport bus station to the terminus right outside Helsinki’s spectacular main railway station. A municipal bus service, which stops more frequently, takes about 10 minutes longer to do the same thing – at an even lower price.
The railway station itself is a famous and wonderful example of Finnish Art Nouveau design and is within 15 minutes’ walk of many of Helsinki’s most beautiful and most important buildings – as well as the lovely esplanade which fronts the city’s main ferry harbor.
From 2014, the airport’s public transport options will become even more convenient. Helsinki-Vantaa Airport will have a railway station which will allow travelers to travel directly from the airport to Helsinki’s main station in minutes – and to other stations at which you can connect to other Finnish cities.
The Hilton Helsinki Airport hotel’s convenient location next to the airport’s bus station makes it easy to stay there and still be able to do plenty of sightseeing and dining in Helsinki. There is actually no need to stay downtown, unless of course you want to stay out really late at night to sample Helsinki’s nightclubs and bar scene.
While the airport hotel obviously cannot offer the same outside-the-door convenience of a city-center hotel, what the Hilton Helsinki Airport does offer is high service standards, excellent buffet breakfasts and extremely comfortable accommodations at rates which, if you shop around, are likely to be considerably lower than those you’d pay at a comparable hotel in the city.