Eddie showed up outside my hotel with a load of bags. I assumed he was just really over-prepared for our shoot, but then he said, “Hey, can I leave these in your room for a while? My new place isn’t ready yet.” It turns out he’d just gotten off an eight-hour bus ride from his home village to Helsinki, and he was here to stay.
Wide-eyed and excited about this new chapter in his life, I invited him in and showed him around. He wouldn’t stop pausing to take pictures on his phone: the fortress-like brick wall built around the hotel, the expansive vegetable garden outside the restaurant, the strange and cavelike basement nooks, corridors adorned with imposing metal gates, and everywhere old photos that told you the history of this place. Between 1837 and 2002, Hotel Katajanokka was a prison.
Its past is treated with respect and isn’t used as a gimmick. The transformation was very tastefully done, decorated in that exquisite Nordic way that balances plush with minimal; luxe with understated. Rooms are well-equipped and the wifi is the fastest of any hotel I’ve ever stayed in anywhere. Oh, and some rooms even have personal saunas – something I’m sure the old prison cells never had, not even in Finland!
So Eddie and I hung out for a while and then went out to shoot. There’s a tram stop literally in front of the entrance that takes you to the city centre in just three stops... in case you’re too tired to walk the ten minutes. But we opted to stay on the island, checking out the marina to the north, watching Russian tourists disembark from ships at the port to the south, and then stopping at a farmers market to the west. From there we walked back to the hotel, took a few more pics inside the room, and then enjoyed the punnet of fresh Finnish strawberries we’d just bought. Perfect!
Hotel Katajanokka, Merikasarminkatu 1, 00160 Helsinki, Finland