Quirky, eccentric, and stylish, Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is a diamond in the rough. Its tranquil bylanes and grand thoroughfares are full of avant-garde architecture and New Nordic drinking and dining venues. What’s more, sitting right outside the city are some of the most sublime natural environments in the world. Undoubtedly, the city had plenty going for it when we knew where to look, and it was easy to get lost in wonder here. What’s more, Helsinki is one of the world’s most gay-friendly cities. We loved the city’s liberal atmosphere of safety and acceptance, as well as the many options for gay hotels in Helsinki.
No talk of gay Helsinki is complete without talking about Touko Valio Laaksonen, better known as Tom of Finland. The Finnish artist was famous for homoerotic art and also greatly influenced the gay culture in the late 20th century. In fact, he’s no less than a folk hero here! Besides this, we found tons of rainbow flags flying just about everywhere in the city. These included the largely gay areas of Punavuori, Kamppi, and Kluuvi. A fabulous gallery and museum culture, tons of coffee shop meet-cute opportunities, and the pulsating nightlife made our trip all the better.
Plus, did you know that Helsinki is a delight to explore as it’s one of the world’s cleanest cities? Yes! Looking at all this, we weren’t surprised to know that Helsinki also happens to be one of the world’s top happiest cities. With such a liberal, broad-minded vibe, who wouldn’t be happy? Here’s a useful LGBTQ-friendly guide to what is one of the most welcoming cities in Scandinavia.
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Hotel Klaus K
The Hotel Klaus K is one of the most forthcoming and outspoken LGBTQ-friendly hotels in the city. In fact, it’s actually the only hotel around that uses the term ‘gay friendly’ both on their web page and in their marketing. They have a ‘We Speak Gay’ section on their website that leads to a page with resources specifically for LGBTQ travelers. How cool is that! What’s more, the hotel has a distinctive design theme, combined with references to Finland’s national epic poem, The Kalevala. The fact that we were located on the edge of Helsinki’s Design District was great, as the gay nightlife was right outside the front door.
So, what makes the hotel so gay-friendly? To begin with, its design is inspired by the sensuous themes of desire, passion, and mystique, and we couldn’t think of a better theme for a gay hotel. The references to traditional Finnish Kalevala mythology made for a discerning atmosphere, which we loved. Apart from the most helpful staff, the hotel even has a small library and a gym. The lounge area is perfect for intimate meet-ups. This is also where we enjoyed the most appetizing breakfasts of homemade bread, cold cuts, juices, and more. What’s more, we had access to the luxurious Kämp Spa nearby. Finally, the street-level Italian restaurant was perfect for an intimate dinner.
You’ll realize that the hotel cannot get any gay friendlier when you see the rooms. Although they differ in size, they all feature sensuous motifs and color themes and plush beds that were made for all kinds of activities other than sleeping. No matter the kind of room you choose, do go for the ‘Tom of Finland’ package with Tom of Finland-themed bath mats, towels, and even bedsheets! Plus, we got to take a Tom of Finland goodie bag home.
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Most romantic. We wanted to stay smack dab in the heart of the gay area of Kluuvi, and that too in luxury. It was Hotel Kamp, one of the best five-star hotels in Finland, to the rescue. This fabulously gay-friendly hotel was the perfect place for living in 19th-century luxury and exploring Helsinki’s gay scene.
The hotel retains the 19th-century classical style with a glittering Mirror room, elegant marble columns, and more. Moreover, it’s bursting with 21st-century facilities. Two restaurants on-site served lip-smacking meals, including a hearty breakfast. During summers, the terrace is home to the elegant Kämp Bar, which is where we mingled with locals too. The highlight was the gym and spa, which has three saunas – Finnish, Turkish, and even a steam one! The staff tied up everything together with amazing service and impeccable local knowledge and tidbits.
All rooms are plush and combine fresh modernity and the classical running theme. The standout feature was the decadent marble bathrooms with both shower and bathtubs. Since we were on a romantic sojourn with our partner, the Executive Suite with its own sauna was perfect for romantic times.
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Hotel St. George
One of the best hotels in Helsinki, Hotel St. George is also one of the most LGBTQ-friendly hotels around. And there’s more than one reason for the same. Firstly, the hotel sits in a converted 19th-century structure in the quiet leafy park. The tree-lined thoroughfare lies one street away from some of the best areas, sights, and attractions of central Helsinki. What’s more, it’s surrounded by some of the best gay bars in town. What more could we want?
The central hotel is a cool confluence of sophistication and informality. It showcases Finnish design and art in the most subtle of ways, in the form of fabrics and murals. Even before we entered, we could feast our eyes on whimsical art installations like the suspended kite piece Tianwu. Another striking and Instagram-worthy installation is the bird sculpture that hangs over the airy Winter Garden lounge. The round-the-clock slick gym appealed to us immensely, as did the St. George Care spa. The massages and treatments here have the ‘Mind, Body, and Heart’ philosophy, and we were able to relax like never before. However, the pinnacle of relaxation was the indoor swimming pool, steam room, and sauna. For a day of fun, we grabbed picnic baskets from the hotel’s own bakery shop and set off on loaner bicycles to explore the town on our own.
All 153 rooms and suites are individually decked out in lovely beige/light-pastel hues with cleverly concealed mod-cons. Furnishings are Finnish-inspired, while bathrooms are Spanish-marble-lined. For the best views, we chose the Attic studio rooms, which had rooftop views of cathedrals and parks.
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Best boutique. We were scouting for discerning, stylish digs in central Helsinki and realized we couldn’t do better than Hotel F6. This boutique and refreshing Helsinki hotel was a stone’s throw from tram stops, train stations, and gay bars, making it the perfect place for us to stay.
The hotel sets new standards for independent boutique hotels in not only Helsinki but Finland. The minute we stepped into the hotel, we were given one hell of a cheerful greeting by the staff and the lovable hotel dog, Runar! The lobby is spacious, breezy, and tastefully furnished and didn’t feel like a converted government ministry structure. The gorgeous hexagonal courtyard resembles a Moroccan riad and has a lovely outdoor terrace area where we’d lounge on sun-kissed Helsinki days. Besides the basement gym, the hotel even has bicycles which we borrowed to go off exploring on our own. The utterly relaxing Runar bar was a great place to meet people. Finally, the breakfast, complete with organic salads and herbs, almond croissants, fresh bread, cold cuts, and freeze-dried berries, is one of the best in the town.
The 66 rooms are split into three categories, but all have bathrobes in modern, immaculate bathrooms, elegant furnishings and mod-cons, and plush beds. The best rooms are the ones that have French balconies and overlook the courtyard, which is where we were. However, the best part is that all rooms are quiet.
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Tucked away on a leafy boulevard in the atmospheric central neighborhood of Siltasaari is Scandic Paasi, one of the snazziest hotels we’ve seen. It was one of the best places to catch views of the Baltic inlets and bays across the city. Even then, the hotel is a mere 10-minute drive from districts like Kamppi and Kluuvi. So, the location was great for us.
The hotel pays homage to the vibrant history of the salt-of-the-earth Siltasaari neighborhood with an equally colorful and modern local history design theme. Think brightly-striped ceilings right from the lobby to the bar. Just like everywhere else in the city, the staff was utterly helpful and possessed excellent knowledge about Siltasaari and the city in general. Since it’s a budget hotel, the only amenities on-site were a gym, Nordic poles, and bicycles to borrow. However, there would be a hearty buffet breakfast waiting for us in the basement restaurant every morning. What’s more, the handsome granite edifice next door is home to some excellent restaurants and bars that are nothing less than Helsinki institutions.
Even though rooms range across three categories, they all feature modern Finnish designs with themes like ‘Spectacular’ and ‘Leisure.’ If you have the urge to splurge, then the Superior Plus rooms even have kitchenettes and hot, hot saunas.
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GLO Hotel Art
No place does bespoke romance in the city quite like GLO Hotel Art. The hotel’s Art Noveau interiors and enchanting granite facade embody the Finnish National Romantic style. Frankly, they were a rather welcome departure from the city’s no-nonsense design modernity. Plus, the hotel was surrounded by some of Helsinki’s best gay-friendly establishments and was a stone’s from its best sights and attractions.
The Finnish National Romantic style of the late 19th/20th centuries is evident in the ornate wooden main door and carved granite arch. They’re also seen in Helsinki’s National Theater and National Museum, but it’s a first for a Helsinki hotel. Moreover, the modern amenities and furnishings blended surprisingly well with the mock medieval setting. Besides the 24-hour gym, there were even bikes available to rent that we used to explore the neighborhood. After a long day of roaming around Helsinki, we also headed to the sauna for some unwinding. The lobby lounge bar is atmospheric to boot and was the perfect place for a cocktail before we stepped out to enjoy Helsinki’s gay scene. Finally, the in-house cellar restaurant served both dinner and a hearty buffet breakfast.
Four categories of rooms allowed us to stay within our budget and splurge too. All of them are comfy, smart, and decked out with mod-cons and lovely bathrooms.
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Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, Helsinki
Best chain hotel. The Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel is one of the best centrally located LGBTQ-friendly hotels around. The cheerful place is a chic blend of modernity and history. It’s within walking distance of not only the main railway station but also the top things to do in Helsinki.
The Plaza sets a high bar for comfort and service, what with it being the Radisson Blu flagship for not just Finland but the Nordics as well. That said, the hotel boasts an individual style with Art-Deco details. These include Nordic design elements in the lobby and striking stained-glass windows that are an ode to the local cultural traditions and history. The lobby was stacked with board games and newspapers and was a cool place to hang out while we waited for our tours. Moreover, the hotel even has a fitness room and guest saunas. Also, we’d grab the hotel bicycles and go exploring the neighborhood on our own. Everything was helmed by an unfailingly efficient and helpful staff, right from the bellboys to the concierge. A lobby bar and a restaurant took care of all hunger pangs and cravings all day and at any time.
Sound-sealed windows and sleep-inducing, soft beds ensured that we slept more soundly than we ever have in our lives. A generous bunch of mod-cons aside, the rooms were smart to boot, with smart lighting and TVs in the bathroom mirrors. While rooms don’t have balconies, some have views of the railway station square.
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The Hotel Katajanokka is one of the most offbeat hotels we stayed at in Helsinki. Since we were looking for something different, it suited us perfectly. In fact, the structure that the hotel sits in was earlier a jail! Plus, the charming residential neighborhood of Katajanokka was within walking distance of Helsinki’s historic areas and ferry terminals.
The hotel radiates an authentic, welcoming aesthetic, belying its earlier life as a 19th-century jail. It manages to make the best of the quirky prison block layout and theme, like the bars on room windows, sans sacrificing comfort. What’s more, we could even buy jail-themed souvenirs like striped shirts at the lobby shop and peep at the old isolation cells. In fact, the prison chapel is a popular spot for weddings even today.
The staff, apart from handing out brochures and maps, was readily available with anything and everything we wanted to know about the city. Thanks to the rental bicycles, we could go off exploring on our own. Even though it’s a budget hotel, there was a small sauna and even a gym. We loved the restaurant in the redbrick cellar, which serves, among other meals, an utmost appetizing breakfast. During summers, the bar extends to the sheltered courtyard, where we could chug a cold one and listen to live music.
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Best hostel. If you’re a solo traveler looking for a budget gay hotel in Helsinki, then The Yard Hostel is perfect. Anything you need to know about the city – food, entertainment, and sights – the staff at The Yard are whom you should ask. And that’s what we did too. The hostel, which sits in a 1912-built structure, checks all boxes – it’s cozy, clean, and in a great location. The cool-looking lounge area is a great place to hang out with other travelers, especially since it even has a huge TV.
What we really loved about the super comfy dorms were the private curtains on every bed. Plus, every bed came with a USB port/plug socket and a reading light. If that wasn’t enough, we even got our personal cupboard or locker, which fit even the largest backpack! In fact, the dorm beds also have little shelves, so we could keep all of our important things organized.
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Diving headfirst into Helsinki’s wild gay scene is best done while staying at Hotel Helka. This gay-friendly hotel sits right next to the pulsating gay club Hercules, which is a superb place for meeting people. It’s also just two streets away from the superb Keltainen Ruusu, the city’s largest sex store. Plus, the fact that Helka is guest-friendly only added to its sexy allure!
Even though it’s a city center hotel, Helka offered a great bunch of amenities. We flagged off the revelries early on in the afternoon at the lobby bar, which even has a cigar room. During the day, we’d borrow the bicycles for rent and go off exploring on our own. What’s more, the hotel even has male and female saunas for relaxing. The hearty and complimentary Scandinavian breakfast buffet was the perfect way to fill up on energy after a dynamic night out (and in) in the city.
Coming to the rooms at the hotel, the neutral color palette with gray drapes, white walls, and black floorboards oozed a sensuous vibe. Apart from standard in-room amenities, the Premium rooms and suites where we stayed even had slippers and bathrobes and even one free minibar drink. The plush beds are most inviting, and large nature scenes on the ceilings keep things interesting.
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What’s better than an LGBTQ-friendly hotel in Helsinki? One that’s guest-friendly, just like Hotel Haven. The quaint yet utterly luxurious hotel is tucked near Helsinki’s South Harbor and lives up to its name. Moreover, it’s a mere 10-minute stroll from the heart of historic Helsinki. With former guests like Kylie Minogue, the star-studded hotel is in a league of its own. If you prefer hushed luxury and no questions about the goings and comings of your guests, then Haven is your gay haven in Helsinki.
“We loved everything about Hotel Haven, especially the fact that it was cool with guests. Now that’s something you don’t see in every hotel.”WOW Travel
As we stepped in, we were immediately taken by the cozy, boutique-like ambiance and plush comforts. Since there’s a 24/7 reception, we had no problems as we sauntered in late after a night of revelries in the Finnish capital. While there’s an onsite gym, we’d like to divert your attention to the breakfast, which is a grand affair. It’s served in the historic 19th-century restaurant next door. The highlight, however, is the utterly relaxing Bar Haven lounge. It features a cheery fireside and hundreds of choices of spirits, blended, and malt whiskeys. We’d enjoy a romantic cocktail and a nightcap before retiring to the coziness of the rooms.
Five room categories are all equally decadent with Elemis spa products, Bang & Olufsen entertainment systems, and Egyptian cotton bedspreads. Fresh flowers by the bedside made for a very romantic ambiance. For the ultimate experience, check out the luxurious Sea View rooms, which look out to the Helsinki harbor.
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We realize that choosing one hotel from the above awesome list will be a very difficult proposition. That’s why we came up with a specialized list to help you choose.
- Most romantic: Hotel Kamp
- Best boutique: Hotel F6
- Best chain hotel: Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, Helsinki
- Best hostel: Yard Hostel
Just So You Know:
- Iconic artist Tom of Finland was a huge champion of LGBTQ+ rights. His images of muscled, mustached men transformed the then-prevailing idea of gay men in the country.
Get Some Culture in Helsinki
- Helsinki Pride: The week-long Helsinki Pride is the biggest LGBTQ festival in Finland. It has speeches, music programs, and parties and is one of the biggest public events in the country.
- Helsinki Evening Archipelago Cruise: How would you like to see Helsinki from the Gulf of Finland? This scenic evening archipelago cruise allows you to do just that. While you’re on board, you can book a table and dig into the local delicacies while checking out the historical islands, including the UNESCO-listed fortress of Suomenlinna.
Best Gay Bars / Clubs in Helsinki
- Hercules: This three-storied gay nightclub is the biggest in not just Helsinki but the entire Nordic region. It usually attracts men above 30 years old and has everything from drag shows to live DJs.
- Don’t Tell Mama: This is the city’s oldest gay club and has a slightly younger audience. It hosts everything from karaoke nights to parties.