Review: Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport

Filed Under: Hotels, IHG Rewards

I had decided to spend a night in Helsinki, rather than continuing to London the same day. That’s because I noticed that Finnair was flying an Airbus A340 between Helsinki and London the following day, which is extremely rare. This is a plane they typically only use for longhaul flights, but for whatever reason they were flying it to London that day. I figured it was a good opportunity to sample their other business class hard product, given that it’s different than on the A350 I flew from New York.

For my one night in Helsinki I was initially going to book the Hilton Helsinki Airport, given that it’s connected to the terminal, which seemed convenient. I’m also a Hilton Diamond member, so my stay would have been pleasant enough.

But IHG has a really generous promotion right now, called the Accelerate Promo. Through it, I’d receive 45,000 bonus IHG points for staying one night with IHG in January.


I noticed there was a Holiday Inn near Helsinki Airport, and decided I might as well stay there in order to try and knock out that promotion.

The Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport was 83.60EUR per night, or I could have redeemed 15,000 points. The “catch” is that to earn all those bonus points I needed to book a specific rate type, which cost 120EUR. That’s quite a bit for an airport Holiday Inn, but I figured it was still worth it.


The Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport has a complimentary shuttle service between the airport and the hotel, which runs every 20 minutes with the following schedule:

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport shuttle schedule

This bus actually stops at several hotels, though the Holiday Inn is the first hotel on the route. To catch the bus you have to go to platform 10 if you’re departing from Terminal 1, or platinum 21 if you’re departing from Terminal 2. They don’t publish the bus schedule or where the bus leaves from online, so I had to find this out the hard way.

When I landed in Helsinki it was zero degrees Fahrenheit. I walked outside and it was so cold that I felt like I was suffocating. I actually couldn’t breath, it was that bad. So at the time I didn’t know where the shuttle left from or in what intervals, so I stood just inside the terminal looking outside constantly, until I finally saw the shuttle arrive. I sprinted outside, and felt like I was an icicle within about 15 seconds.

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Helsinki Airport hotel bus pick-up station

The Helsinki Airport hotel shuttle is more like a city bus than a hotel shuttle in terms of the design, and seems to run with great precision.

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Helsinki Airport hotel bus

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Helsinki Airport hotel bus

I arrived at the Holiday Inn shortly after 9AM. I would have grabbed my own picture of the exterior, except it was so cold and I didn’t want to catch a cold. So instead I’ll post the picture from the hotel’s website, which was apparently taken on a “sunny” day.

Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport

I was just thrilled to be indoors, even if it was a rather dumpy airport Holiday Inn.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport entrance

The reception desk was located just across from the entrance, where I was quickly helped by an associate.

I handed over my credit card and passport, and said “I realize I’m early and you might not have rooms yet, but I’m hoping to check-in, if possible.” She started by explaining that the check-in time was 3PM and that I probably wouldn’t be able to check in, which I found to be a pretty odd response when I proactively acknowledged a room might not be ready.

She looked through their inventory and made a phone call, and said nothing was available yet, but something should open within 30 minutes.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport reception desk

So I had a seat in the lobby across from the reception desk.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport lobby seating

Next to it was a bar, which seemed to be staffed by the front desk associates, as they’d switch regularly between the two.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport bar

Next to the bar was a self serve station with items for purchase, including coffee, soft drinks, sandwiches, fruit, etc. I appreciate a setup like this, especially at an airport hotel where I sometimes get hungry at weird hours of the day.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport self serve snacks & drinks

I opened up my laptop as soon as I sat down, and a minute later the associate came to tell me a room was in fact ready. At that point she processed my check-in, and as an IHG Platinum member offered me my choice between bonus points or a complimentary drink and snack. I chose the latter, since I figured I’d be hungry and thirsty at some point in my ~20 hour hotel stay.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport IHG Platinum welcome drink & snack

She also gave me a letter thanking me for being an IHG Platinum member, and giving me the code for premium internet access.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport IHG Platinum welcome letter

She pointed me in the direction of my room, which was in the far building. There’s a set of elevators just past the reception desk, which weren’t for the rooms in my tower.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport elevators

Instead I had to walk down a hallway to the next set of elevators.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport hallways

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport elevators

From there I took the elevator to the fourth floor, and then turned left and opened the door to access the corridor with the rooms.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport hallway

I turned right once inside the corridor, and my room was the second to last one on the left side.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport hallway

I was assigned room 488, a standard queen room.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport room entrance

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport floorplan

The room was… basic. It featured an entryway with a small closet to the left and the bathroom to the right.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport queen room entrance

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport queen room

The bed itself was comfortable enough. Not a Westin Heavenly Bed by any stretch of the imagination, but not too hard either. And I appreciated that there were four plush pillows. The bed also had two individual duvets, which I would have appreciated if with someone.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport queen room

In the far corner of the room by the window was a lamp and chair.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport queen bed room

On the opposite corner was a desk, along with the flat screen TV which was mounted on the wall.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport queen room desk

On top of the desk was a kettle, along with coffee and tea.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport coffee & tea

Below that was an empty cabinet, which I assume housed a minibar or mini-fridge at some point.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport queen room empty cabinet

The room unfortunately had a connecting door, which I only mention because I could hear everything going on in the room next to me. The sound insulation in this hotel is terrible, as I could hear everything in the hallway and next door.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport queen room connecting door

The worst part of the room was the bathroom, though. It was compact, and featured a sink, toilet, and rather small and nasty looking shower.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport bathroom

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport queen room toilet

The shampoo and body wash were in dispensers on the wall.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport queen room shower

The view from the room was quite nice, at least for me, since it has been a while since I’ve stayed in a city with snow. It faced what seemed to be some warehouses, along with some trees.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport room view

I worked for a few hours upon landing, and then napped for most of the afternoon. I woke up at around 7PM, at which point I was hungry. I decided to go to Bistro Fiore, the hotel’s lobby restaurant.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport Bistro Fiore

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport Bistro Fiore

The servers in the restaurant were friendly and well intentioned, though extremely slow. They were significantly understaffed, as the restaurant was quite full, but there were only two servers.

The dinner menu read as follows:

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I ordered the mushroom risotto, and was offered some bread while waiting for it. I usually try to avoid eating just plain bread, but in this case was quite hungry.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport Bistro Fiore dinner — bread

The risotto itself was quite good. At least compared to what you’d expect from an airport Holiday Inn.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport Bistro Fiore dinner — mushroom risotto

I had a cappuccino to finish off the meal.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport Bistro Fiore dinner — cappuccino

Late at night I visited the hotel’s gym, located on the ground floor. It was pretty basic, though did the trick for cardio.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport gym

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport gym

The following morning I took the 5AM bus back to the airport, which was surprisingly packed. Not just with Holiday Inn guests, but it got really full when guests from the subsequent hotels got on.

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Helsinki Airport exterior at 5:30AM

I got to the airport at around 5:15AM, and the cold was almost unbearable, even for the 10 second walk into the terminal.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport bottom line

I stayed at this hotel due to IHG’s super generous promotion, and it served that purpose well. However, the Hilton Helsinki Airport was actually cheaper and more convenient, and I suspect is also significantly nicer. Not that I plan on spending another night near Helsinki Airport (if I returned it would be in summer, and I’d likely stay at Hotel Kämp), but I’d probably stay at the Hilton next time, if in a similar situation.

I do love Helsinki Airport, so highly recommend it for transits in general. More on that in the next installment.

Am I crazy for paying more to stay at a Holiday Inn than a Hilton, in light of the promo I was taking advantage of?

  1. @lucky – Nice report as always. I have a suggestion, could you share your annual yearly stats on Brands / No. of nights or stays / indicate Paid or Award. As you are an elite travel blogger, it will provide some insights to us over how you distribute your actual brand preferences over time. This could work for Airline trips as well.

  2. Ben,

    Being that the short dash to the bus was so cold be glad you didn’t stay at the Hilton. The last time I was in Helsinki it was not attached to the terminal. You had to go right when you go out the entrance at the Starbucks, walk about 50 yards, go up some steps (or elevator), and then cross a couple of parking lots to get to the Hilton.

    That being said…. I have been very satisfied with my several stays at that Hilton. Friendly staff, good restaurant, comfortable rooms, and a club.


  3. I would have tried the reindeer. When in Rome…

    Reports like this one aren’t exotic, but they’re pretty useful. More than once I’ve had to figure out which airport hotel would be best for a pre-flight or layover stay. Looking at that shower… man. I’m not sure it was worth 45K IHG points.

  4. No, not crazy.
    And the shower…I think it’s good to have a “basic” shower from time to time, so you can value the luxury more on your next stays.

  5. @Thomas_888: Should Lucky hit himself on the head with a hammer? Perhaps he’s forgotten how great it feels when that’s not happening 🙂

  6. I suggest next time you stay in Helsinki, instead of staying at the Kämp you should try out the Glo Kluuvi which is actually just next door (they even share a spa). It’s not quite as luxurious, but significantly more modern.

  7. Ben, I think that’s a good choice. One stay will net you 45K, not including the points from the paid stay itself. Not everyone has as generous accelerate promo as yours. Mine is almost the same, except that I don’t get the ‘Earn More Faster’ option, so 3 out of 4 tasks requires me to stay 5 nights at IHG hotels.

  8. I think it is your duty to stay in dumpy places sometimes to report back to poor souls such as us.
    So inbetween reading about those god-like fancy First Class flights and 6-star-hotels, we could see, that you too, suffer like us, mortals, suffer everyday at places like this dump-ass Holiday Inn.


  9. I’ll probably be shunned for this… but I actually don’t mind Holiday Inns. IHG is actually my go to chain when looking for places to stay with Hilton following if I’m feeling “fancy”. I rarely spend anytime in the hotels (nor would I want to) since most of my travelling is always to a new city. Nice to see a review about a “normal man’s hotel” though.

    For my 1 or 2 night stays (3 if I’m being reaaaaaaly relaxed), IHG properties do the job just fine. I suppose a good example is this past August when I was in Singapore. Countless high-end properties to choose from but I ended up in a HIX near Clarke Quay. Property was brand new, modern, free wifi, a surprisingly excellent breakfast compared to the US and European counterparts and pretty close to the city center. Other than the 8 hours a night of sleeping we spent maybe an additional 5 hours in the hotel (between breakfast and showering, etc).

  10. It looks like from your Accelerate promo, you didn’t need the Jan night to unlock the full promo bonus. It just gives you the measly 5K bonus points. Was that worth the trade-off of not staying in the better hotel?

  11. Room OK but bathroom did look pretty rubbish!

    You do know of course that you don’t catch a cold from cool weather but from a virus? 😉

    Surprised they didn’t have reindeer carbonara on offer, I remember having it last time I was in Helsinki!

  12. You took one for the team on this one. Better of just walking indoors to the Hilton to avoid turning into an icicle.

  13. Unless they’ve enclosrd it in the last couple of months you still walk outside to get to the Hilton. It just has a roof now but still otherwise open to the elements.

  14. Hi Lucky,

    I left a question on one of Tiffany’s posts, and she said you might have the answer, so here it is. Thanks so much!

    Here’s something I’ve been wondering, and this probably differs by hotel chain, but maybe you have a general answer. Because most hotels are not owned by the chain, but the loyalty programs are, who covers the cost for elite benefits? Obviously there’s not much extra cost to a hotel for, say, a suite upgrade if it otherwise would be empty, but what about breakfast or the food/drinks from the lounge? Does the loyalty program provide any sort of reimbursement for these costs? Or does the hotel have to cover the cost assuming that the elite will return and “pay them back” in profit? If the latter’s the case, I can understand why some hotels have a VERY conservative definition of continental breakfast.

    And same thing with the My Elite Rate discount Hyatt had a few years ago. If a hotel wasn’t reimbursed, it’s not like they knew about having to cover the benefit when they signed their management contract. Almost seems like “taxation without representation.”

  15. Ok, so the bathroom is small. Other than that, what is wrong with it?
    So, this is what all the hotels that my company pays for look like. It was nice to see Lucky’s perspective to have a ponit of comparison.

  16. Our room was much nicer – we must have gotten lucky with the upgrade. Ours had a nice big bathroom and a second half bath, which I’ve never seen in a non-suite room. The decoration was very unusual – some sort of 70’s style

  17. As in life, standards queens are not very interesting. I’m thinking you’re more deluxe queen. Your room seemed more dowager duchess! (Sorry American readers, you probably wouldn’t understand any of that!)

  18. The decor of the room with all the wood and plain walls is very Nordic, but it’s still cheap-looking. Frankly, it looks like what one might find in a college dormitory or a hostel with private rooms. The coffee was pathetic, especially since Finns love good coffee. This is yet another reason why I don’t stay at IHG anymore; the elite-level benefits aren’t worth the inconsistency and, frankly inferiority of Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza.

  19. I stayed at this hotel twice last month (overnight connections in and out of Helsinki) and both times was upgraded to a spacious and updated executive room. The bathroom was pretty dank (much like the one you described) but all-in-all a pretty decent place to stay for a night.

    There’s also a mall with a movie theater, bowling, mini-golf and plenty of restaurants about 1/2 mile walk down the road that made for a pleasant evening.

  20. I’m not sure if your phone is displaying the temperature in Fahrenheit or Celsius but -25 is hardly “unbareable” for 10 seconds either way.

  21. One other thing. You made a comment about slow restaurant staff–overworked in fact. I’ve found this to be the case across Northern Europe, as the Nordic countries have high taxes, including taxing a business for hiring, on top of high minimum wages. As a result, restaurant staff are very, very expensive. In Oslo and Stockholm, you can find fast-food restaurants where you order through a kiosk because it’s so expensive to pay someone to just stand at a cash register and take orders.

  22. My wife and I stayed at the airport Ramada for 1 night and the Hilton downtown for 4 nights in August and found that Finnish hotels are not air conditioned so the rooms can be warm and if you can open the window, if even only a few inches, you hear the traffic.

  23. Myself and my family also chose to stay at this holiday inn whilst waiting for a connection on the ‘ reindeer route’ MAN – BNE. I agree it’s pretty basic and we too ate at the hotel and used the little gym ( converted from 2 rooms ) lucky for us it was summer as those temps look terrible. I would also agree that Helsinki airport is the best I have ever transited through , fast, friendly , compact, and convenient when you are on long trip

  24. Have stayed at the HI Helsinki-Vantaa Airport in Oct & in May. The room darkening shades are great (much needed in May). Love the restaurant: for breakfast it has a great spread with many choices. Lunch and dinner are are good with choices changed seasonally. The walk to the Jumbo mall and Flamingo hotel is easy and affords other restaurant choices, not to mention souvenir shopping if needed. The rooms are 70’s nordic sparse and not a place you will want to hunker down and hangout in, they are a place to rest.

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