Ateljee Bar & the toilet with the best view of Helsinki

Seeing cities from above always has a je-ne-sais-quoi feeling. That’s why parties on terraces and in penthouses have this aura of being the coolest.

In Berlin, for instance, you can get a view of the city from above (and for free) in the Reichstag and (for an entry fee) from the Fernsehturm – the TV tower. And they are two of the most visited spots of the city. In Stockholm I also went to the Gondolen Restaurant, an attic-bar, to check out the city from above – don’t forget to try its cocktails. But what about Helsinki? You go to the Ateljee Bar… and its toilets.

The Torni Hotel
The Torni Hotel as seen from the street. Source (CC: by-sa)

The Ateljee Bar in Helsinki, in the Torni Hotel

The first time I heard a Finn talking about the Ateljee Bar he mentioned – besides its location – specifically its toilets. But I will talk about that later. Let me tell you about the bar first.

The Ateljee Bar is on the uppermost floor of the Torni Hotel (street Yrjönkatu 26) in the center of Helsinki. It is a hotel that belongs to the well known Nordic hotel chain Sokos. What makes this hotel stand out is their bar on the 12th floor: the Ateljee bar.

The top floor of the Torni Hotel
The top floor of the Torni Hotel contains the Ateljee Bar. Source(CC:by-nd).

One thing that I like about this bar and hotel is the words in Finnish they used to name it. “Torni” is the Finnish word for “Tower”, and it is a tower indeed and for many years (1931-1976) it was the highest building in all of Finland. “Ateljee” means “Atelier”, a workshop.

The Ateljee Bar (Official Website) is divided into two rooftops that each have a panoramic view of Helsinki. This photo has been taken there and you can see a lot of Helsinki from it; for instance, the iconic White Cathedral of Helsinki.

Panorama from the rooftop of the Torni Hotel
See in different sizes. Source (CC: by-sa).

The bar is the place where Helsinkians and tourist alike meet to see the city from above and have some Finnish beer, a Lonkero (a long drink composed of grapefruit lemonade and gin), some Finnish cider or even some Koskenkorva hard liquor (or whatever they choose).

The Atelje Bar
From the ’30s until now: Ateljee Bar. Source (CC: by)

The toilets at the Ateljee Bar: the best view in town

A bar on a rooftop must have some restrooms for its guests. We do know that once we have had some beers, we are prompted to go to the toilet, and the toilets at the Ateljee Bar are famous throughout all Helsinki as the best in town: The view can’t be outmatched.

They have some panoramic windows that allow guests to attend the call of nature without the need to stop enjoying the view: If you like scenery, the hotel designers must have thought – you must take that everywhere. Chapeau.

These are the photos of the toilets for ladies and gentlemen in the Ateljee Bar. Try guessing which one is which, and I leave you the answer below both photos. These toilets are, unlike many public bathrooms in Helsinki, free to use.

Women's bathrooms in the Ateljee bar
Source (CC: by).

Men toilets in the Ateljer Bar.
Source (CC: by)

That’s right: The first photo is taken in the women’s bathroom. The wall you can’t see in the photo, to the left, is also a giant window. It makes sense: women mostly sit while using the restroom and this way they can enjoy the view while doing so. Also, the seat is down.

The second photo shows us the restrooms for men. You can see that the seat is up and a condom machine. The bad thing is that the view can be distracting and the aim might be affected.

Have you ever visited the Torni Hotel and/or the Ateljer Bar? Will you do it in the future if not?



Kallio: Helsinki’s hipster neighborhood

Each city has a signature neighborhood where the people are young, good looking, and dress in the most fashionista way. You can see some Helsinki street styles on a page called Hel Looks, and you can find all the relevant boutiques in a single district, called the Design District of Helsinki. But all these hipsters reside, and have their shops, cheap bars and cool cafés in another part of Helsinki: the Kallio neighborhood.

Kallio's park
A “Restaurant Day” in Kallio. Source (CC: by-sa)

Preface: hipsters

I don’t like the word “hipster” very much, I don’t know why. Residing currently in Berlin, I’m confronted with it constantly, which is quite tiresome, especially when heard from tourists who came here attracted by things that they read online. They are the “post-hipster pack”, the followers. The pioneers came here between 2005 and 2007 when the word “hipster” was unheard of and it was better that way.

Hipsters in Helsinki
This is a photo that shows up when you look in Flickr for “Helsinki Hipsters”. Source (CC: by-sa)

The Kallio neighborhood in Helsinki

We suggest you start your exploration of the Kallio are where Google Maps puts its’ center and get lost in the area to find your most beloved corner by yourself. Google says the center is in the Suonionkatu street, next to the iconic Kallio church, and we believe it to be true.


See Kallio, Helsinki on a bigger Map

Gentrification happened to Kallio as it did to other blue-collard working class neighborhoods fairly close to the city centers.

It attracted students, designers and young artists (we are not sure how starving), that were in dire need of cheap bars and flats. These people brought onto themselves the carefully designed cool cafés and the young entrepreneurs and professionals, that had some money but still wanted to feel cool. Finally, all these people stay and start growing old, accumulating more money, and thus making the cafés become more expensive, the beers even more expensive, and the rents out of hand for most people.

Kallio, seen from the water.
Kallio, as seen from the water. Source(CC: by-sa)

It is “Ley de vida” (Law of Life) in the cities and the only thing you can do about it is to start looking for the next cool neighborhood or pay more. A process that ends when the city is expensive, everything is overdesigned and you can’t find a mom-and-pop style store anywhere. I have seen this happen in front of my eyes, and I am the “moving to the next neighborhood” kind of guy. So far.

Kallio isn’t that far into this process, luckily. It is near the city center and is accessible with the “touristic” tram (the one that passes through all the places that you must see in Helsinki), and thus it is one more stop for those who want to know the city center, in its widest meaning.

I’m not going to suggest a list of bars and restaurants to check out. The best is to get lost in the area and go into the places that attract you by their look and atmosphere. There are no “must-see” places in Kallio, in my opinion, but there is so much diversity in terms of bars, restaurants, stores, boutiques, and thrift stores, that it is better to see and choose in the moment.

A restaurant in Kallio
Pic of the restaurant “Rytmi”, in Kallio. Source (CC: by)

Two specific tips, if this is what you are looking for. An iconic store called “Made in Kallio” (street: Vaasankatu 14), that combines a bar & café and a design shop; and also the Finnish saunas in the area to relax: They are called Arla (in the street Kaarlenkatu 15) and Kotiharju (Harjutorinkatu 1).

The hipster neighborhoods of other capitals in the Nordic Countries

If you are interested in the hipster ‘hood of other Nordic (or Scandinavian) countries, they are Södermalm in Stockholm, Nørrebro in Copenhague, Grünerløkka in Oslo.

Södermalm, in Estocolmo
Södermalm in Stockholm: filled with hipsters.

Do you like to go to the hipster neighborhood of a city you visit? It is usually a synonym of good cafés and good looking people, something that I can’t possibly object to.



House slippers in Finland: the Reino

We know that Finns remove their shoes and footwear when they enter a house. Like this, they avoid bringing snow into the house that will eventually turn into dirty water puddles. This mere practical thing turned into a habit with time, and now they feel more comfortable without street footwear when they are indoors. But that doesn’t mean that they go barefoot or with socks, necessarily: They also use house slippers or home shoes.

Taking off the shoes when entering a house is polite
All shoes remain by the door.

The cold floors and the house slippers

One of the Finnish customs is to remove one’s shoes when entering a house. But anyone who has done that during a time of the year that wasn’t summer in Finland knows that your feet can get cold very fast.

In order to avoid that, you can do plenty of different things: fill your house with rags or carpet, or wear thick socks – for instance made out of wool – over your normal socks. You can also have a different pair of footwear for indoors (that’s my preferred solution: Because in Spain there is no tradition of taking the shoes off, I just wore different ones when I was home and the snow could melt by the door, over some paper towels). Or you can wear house slippers.

There is also a “business version”, which is wearing leather sandals over the socks. This can be seen widely in Finland. For instance, when I was going to the uni in my Erasmus year, plenty of teachers took off the street footwear and put on the leather sandals. Sandals over socks: a pretty big “no-go” in Spain that in the North of Europe is accepted as formal.

Leather sandals with white socks
Formalwear? May God have mercy on our souls. Source (CC: by-sa)

Jokes aside, “who cares what people think, who cares what people say”. Being cold in Winter is one of the worst things that can happen to anyone. And with a winter that can reach -32 degrees Celsius (my personal record), it is something not to be taken lightly.

The Finnish hipster alternative to house slippers

Reino is the brand that is on top of this interesting market – who knew – of Finnish house slippers. It is the modern, hipster choice in Finland.

The Reino slippers have been produced since 1932 in Tampere, keeping their original style since then. The house slippers brand has since then resisted wars, economic depression, crisis and globalization, up to today.

At some point in their history, they even took their entire production to third-world countries to reduce costs. But one given day the management decided to sell the company due to low sales and the workers bought it. They restored the machines and started the production again in Finland.

Nowadays this brand is back as a hipster, iconic way to dress your feet for the home. I am pretty sure that its grandpa-look, sitting on the sofa with a robe, smoking pipe and newspaper had a lot to do with its success.

You can find these house shoes in many shops specially in Helsinki but also throughout Finland. You will recognize them, they look like this:

House shoes. Brand: Reino from Finlandia
Being at home doesn’t meant not being elegant. Not anymore. Source (CC: by)

This is their Online Shop, if you want to join and wear some house shoes that seem to say “homey, but elegant”. Also worn in a totally ironic way.

They are so popular in the country that even the beer brand Olvi made a special edition of its beer with the classic pattern of the Reino shoes. The name: “Olvi Reino”. You can see it here: en este enlace. Classic. Long-lasting.

What do you wear on your feet in Finland, when you are home? Did you know the Reino house shoes brand?



Public Saunas in Helsinki (and Finland’s oldest)

If you go to Finland I’m pretty sure you’d like to go to a real Finnish sauna.

If you never visited one we encourage you to try this Finnish tradition – and this enjoyment – because, if there is a word in the Finnish language that has consistently made it abroad and you already know, it’d be “sauna”. Imagine the cultural significance behind this achievement.

Public Saunas in Helsinki

There is one sauna per three Finnish people, or so the statistics say. Many homes come equipped with their own sauna, and for the ones that don’t there is probably one per building to be shared between everyone who lives there.

Since, at least for a visit, having access to these private saunas can be a bit difficult, those who travel to Finland and would like to get some steam going can go to the public saunas: the easiest way to get into one.

The most well known Helsinki sauna, the one that you probably have seen in pictures, movies or documentaries (for instance in the famous “Miesten Vuoro” documentary about men in the sauna), is the Kotiharju Sauna, open since 1928. Its now classic neon sign on the streets makes it a landmark, especially at night. The sauna is also so close to the street that you can go out and roll around in the snow during the cold months of winter or just to go out to be a bit more fresh in summer.

It is located in the street Harjutorinkatu 1. It opens from Tuesday to Sunday from 14h to 20h, and you don’t need to make a reservation if you want to use it along with everyone. If you want to have a private sauna, you can reserve it. It costs 12€ and you can also rent the material you need (including some birch branches to hit yourself or others). This is its website. The type of Finnish sauna, out of the three types, is the wooden version.

One note: it is divided between men and women.

The Kotiharju sauna
The Kotiharju Sauna. Source (CC: by-sa)

This public sauna that we are going to talk about is also located in the Kallio district of the capital of Finland. It is the Arla Sauna (street Kaarlenkatu 15).

This is its official website, where we can see that it is also from the 20s. Founded in 1929, it is also separated into a sauna for men sauna and one for women. The entry fee is 10€ and you can stay as long as you want for the price. You can go at any time between Wednesday and Sunday, from 14 to 20h, and you can also get a sweet massage on the premises.

Public sauna in a hotel building
A public Sauna in a Finnish hotel. Source (CC: by)

The Hermanni Sauna is another public sauna in Helsinki. Built in the 50s of the last century, also comes with different sauna rooms for men and women. For this sauna, the admittance fee is also 10€, but its unique selling proposition is that it’s the one that opens more often: Monday to Friday from 15 to 20h, and Saturdays from 14 to 18h. You can rent towels and you can eat something in there after the sauna. For instance: some Finnish Makkara (sausages).

This is its website and this is its address: Hämeentie 63.

The sauna? This way.
Follow the indications to get to the sauna. Source (CC: by)

Saunasaari is the last sauna we talk about that you can find in Helsinki, and it is special. It is a sauna-island. Let us explain.

It is located on an island 15 minutes from the center of Helsinki, when you take an aqua-taxi. It has different sauna rooms made out of wood, in the traditional way, and that you can rent individually for a day, catering included. The price, nonetheless, is a bit higher compared to the other places: 100 euros per person if you are in a 6 person group (but groups can be bigger, too). This is the official website.

Sauna in an island
Island + Sauna. Settings for a horror movie… or for a delicious afternoon. Mostly the latter. Source (CC: by)

The oldest public Sauna in Finland is in Tampere

We include Tampere in this post for two reasons: Because it is easy to reach from different places due to the fact that Ryanair flies there – and this city was highlighted by the company as one of the gems to discover in Europe -, and secondly because the oldest public sauna in Finland is located there. It is still in use more than 100 years later and you can visit it.

This Sauna is called Rajaportti (a word that means “door at the border”). It is in the outskirts of Tampere, in the street Pispalan Valtatie 9. Opened to the public since 1906 (Finland was still Russia back then), the type of sauna you can enjoy there is the wood sauna.

In the sauna room you have a löyly: a human-shaped carved stone that you can throw water into and that will produce steam continuously. It is also called “the spirit of the sauna“.

The dressing rooms are different for men and women, but the sauna room isn’t, making it different to the saunas we have seen in this post. The price per person is 5€ for each session, and it is only open for half of the week: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The rest of the days you can rent it for your private use. There is also a café in the building and an available physiotherapist.

Sauna in Tampere
The entrance to Finland’s oldest public Sauna. Source (CC: by)

Have you ever been in a public sauna in Finland or in another country? How was the experience?



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