Santa..! We Know Him: Our Finland Adventure
Updated: Oct 14
We were invited out to Finland in September 2023 to find out more on event opportunities and experiences in the destination. With Finland being a bucket list destination for Leigh since she was a child. There was only one member of the team who could take up this opportunity!
"Finland is a magical place. It was an experience for all of your senses. The sites are breath-taking of outstanding beauty. The food is fresh, delicious and a real treat for the tastebuds. The smell of clean fresh air. The feeling of exhilaration of the all of the activities you take part in. The sounds of nature and silence when in the forests." - Leigh Bacon ( Projects & Venues Manager; We Are MEaT)
I met the group for the Finland FAM group and we boarded the Fin Air flight from Heathrow. We were upgraded to Premium with it’s comfortable seats and leg room. There was plenty to choose from with inflight entertainment for a 2 hour flight!
Rovaniemi is a part of Lapland and has beautiful natural beauty with the river, nature and forests. Unfortunately, during the Second World War most of this area along with the buildings, people’s homes and belongings were burnt down! There is very little original architecture, most of the buildings were rebuilt after the war or in the 60’s and 70’s! You may be forgiven for being surprised that what you find inside is not the same as the architecture outside!
After getting to Helsinki we got on a connecting flight from Helsinki to Rovaniemi. We had transport waiting for us which took us to The Lapland Hotel. The Lapland Sky Ounasvaara hotel was contemporary, natural with a woodland feel. An inviting fire in the reception area gave a welcoming cozy feel.
When I reached my room. What a treat. The room was spacious yet comfortable and cozy with all the facilities you would need. I had my very own sauna in my room! The bed was like sleeping on a cloud.
We went to the award winning restaurant Sky Kitchen which was situated in the hotel. What a treat for your senses! The menu had been chosen for us. The waitress spoke through every dish. The food was all from the local area or foraged in the nearby forest! I could taste the ingredients for each dish. The dishes were exquisite, fresh and with rich but delicate flavours.
We were taken to The Bear Hill Husky kennels. This is a large area with inside and outside kennels. A huge area or the Huskies to exercise and socialise with other Huskies. A training area to prepare them for pulling a sledge or a sledge type cart. The animals well fair are top priority at this kennel. They wait for the Huskies to reach the age of 2 and they retire the Huskies by 7 years if not before. Huskies need lots of exercise and we were told that they love pulling the sledge or cart!
We were given a scarf and warm protective clothing as well as boots and gloves.
We were then told that we would be driving the Huskies! We were taken through the health and safety procedures for us and the dogs. We given instructions on how to drive the Huskies and cart as well as the signs for stop, slow down and go! The dogs were eager to go. There was a chorus of barking and howling which made me feel they were eager to get underway!
I was filled with excitement, fear and anticipation. It is like nothing I have ever experienced. I was concentrating negotiating bends and uneven ground as well as not getting too close to the Huskies and looking at the instructor on the quad bike. However, I was taking in the beautiful scenery and fresh air. I was in awe of the dog’s intelligence and strength! After I drove the cart, I swapped with my fellow cart buddy (Caroline) and I was then the passenger. It felt like I was going faster than I was as I was quite low to the ground. After the cart ride we were able to meet and pet the Huskies. This experience was truly exhilarating!
After the Husky cart ride we were taken to a circular building and had a hot cup of berry drink which is a traditional Finnish drink. We then and met some of the dogs in the kennels. The real highlight was meeting the puppies! The kennels do this so that the dogs are able to socialise with people. We got lots of licks and cuddles from the puppies and watched them while they played with each other and their mother. A beautiful site to see.
We then went on to see 3 hotels, all very different ie style, facilities and budget.
We had lunch at Sokos Hotel, Vaakuna. The food was typically Finnish. The service was good too. This hotel is a 3 to 4 star hotel with meeting rooms (event space for meetings). This has 159 bedrooms ranging from entry level to suite. This hotel has a Christmas room and an Ice room.
The Haawe Boutique Apartment Hotel has 14 apartment rooms. Each room are decorated in a contemporary style to a high standard. The room sizes range from 2 to 5 people! The rooms have a kitchen with all the mod cons.
Santa’s Hotel – Santa Claus. This is decorated in a contemporary style but dusted with the magic of Christmas. There are some great event spaces: meeting rooms, restaurants and bars within this hotel. The meeting space has a great working area and a relaxing break out room with the option to grab food and refreshments at the café.
Arctic Light Hotel – This is a beautiful family run boutique hotel with some beautifully decorated, contemporary but cozy rooms. This hotel has won many awards! It was also one of the oldest buildings in the area. This hotel still has the original caged lift! The Arctic Restaurant and the terrace bar are great event spaces.
Arctic Snowhotel and Glass Igloos was a unique resort with some wonderful room options. There are single and double glass igloos for different group sizes. This site also has an ice restaurant in the winter – An interesting option for an event! We had dinner in the Kota restaurant which is a large wooden circular building with a roaring fire in the middle. The salmon was cooked on the fire too! There is a spacious bar area which is lit by twinkling star like lights. There is an observation area up the stairs with a glass roof where you can see the night sky, stars and the Northern Lights.
We flew to Helsinki and had lunch at the Art deco Hotel Lilla Rose which is where we stayed for the night. The Head Chef talked us through the menu delicious menu. The food was wonderful, and the service was excellent. The hotel is elegant and beautiful. The Restaurant had some good options for event space! The bedrooms were beautifully decorated in a monochrome art deco design which flows through the hotel.
We the went on some site visits around Helsinki – Hotel Kamp. The beautiful architecture of the outside of this building continues into the décor of the inside of the hotel. You are met with an elegant foyer from the domed ceiling donned with an exquisite chandelier creating sparkling jewelled light filling the whole foyer and public areas within it’s reach!
The bedrooms were well equipped and of a wonderful standard – even from entry level.This hotel has some beautiful event spaces throughout the hotel, including room with beautiful mirrors, arched floor to ceiling windows with an ornate ceiling and a painted Mural on one of the walls which looks almost regal room with lots of space and light.
We then went on an exhilarating RIB-boat safari to see the stunning archipelago and passing by some island venues. Almost 100 kilometres of coast and over 300 islands offer an endless number of opportunities to enjoy the maritime atmosphere of Helsinki all year round.
Suomenlinna Fortress island – a Unesco World Heritage site and the home of 800 Helsinkians; Vallisaari island – the home of Helsinki Biennial; and Lonna island – the compact “livingroom” of Helsinki with a sauna, restaurant and event space which can offer some wonderful event spaces and opportunities. This trip was wonderfully executed and professional run. We were given lots of facts along the way.
We stopped at one of the islands for a picnic taking in the beautiful views the coast line of Helsinki has to offer.
We went for dinner Gillet which is part of the Ravintolakolmio group which is a family run restaurant chain. We were greeted by a musician playing the saxophone and a wonderful bar and cocktails and a great event space. We went into the restaurant with it’s brick walls and wooden floors. The sommelier talked us through the menu and the wine choices to accompany each course. We had a traditional Nordic meal with local produce. The ingredients were fresh and delicious.
We ended the evening with drinks in the Clarion Hotel Sky Bar. We had breath taking views from this bar showing Helsinki lit up at night.
We had a wonderful breakfast at The Lilla Roberts Hotel. There was a wonderful variety of food with a hot and cold choices.
We then went on 3 site visits. The first was the Crowne Plazza and Scandia hotel. These overlooking Hesperia Park and situated near to Toolonlahti Bay. This hotel has a large number of hotel rooms, various size meeting rooms and lots of event space opportunities. We then when to the Scandia Hotel just a few feet away which would be ideal for extra hotel rooms.
When walking in the Hesperia Park we saw some other event spaces such as the Little Finlandia, which is a typically Nordic wooden building which some great event space over looking the to Toolonlahti Bay. This is also situated next to the Musiikkitalo Concert Hall which is currently being renovated but also have some a great event space opportunities.
The last site visit was at Scandia – Grand Central. It is called this as it next to the Railway Station which has links to the Airport. This beautiful city central hotel was exquisitely decorated in a contemporary style. Each boardroom is can accommodate different size groups and the décor and furniture is carefully thought out. The largest of the conference room/event space is well thought out with an area with a hospitality area. There is also a beautiful outdoor terrace area which would make a wonderful event space. The bedrooms were also decorated to a high standard.
We ended our trip with lunch at Restaurant Salutorget. Again we were given a wonderful traditional Nordic lunch.
On reflection Helsinki has so much to offer – restaurants, hotels, activities, event spaces. I only scratched the surface on my visit. It has so many possibilities for events, conferences, meetings etc. The Finland Convention Bureau offer a great service and so many opportunities. They are very knowledgeable of the area, the suppliers and what would make your event a success.
Mobility around Finland is so easy. As Finland is such a diverse country it has so much to offer all tastes and budgets. It is geared up for both business and leisure. You could be at a conference or meeting in the morning in one of the many locations such as the wonderful hotels, quirky or traditional event spaces (Santa’s workshop0, or even your own exclusive island! If you fancy a team building activity, incentive or down time you choose from one of the many activities such as : one of the many sauna’s, then cool off in one of the lakes or coastal area or have an exhilarating RIB ride, go hiking, ride on a Husky sledge, feed the reindeer, enjoy a wonderful meal and really get the taste of Finland!
I will definitely be returning as it was such a magical and unique experience! Please reach out to me or any of the team - firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your event experience options in Finland.