Folks Hotel, Helsinki: a hotel that gets everything right

Restaurant Albina  (Folks hotel)
Restaurant Albina (Folks hotel)

The transformation of Helsinki’s once-industrial Konepaja neighbourhood is drawing visitors to this new cultural centre, with hip bars and restaurants — and where the historic Folks Hotel is full steam ahead.

Where is it?

Konepaja is often described as Helsinki’s centre of ‘urban culture’ — but that fails to do justice to the architecture and historic feel of this former industrial zone, famous for the building of trains in the early 20th century. The area is an attention-holding mixture of red brick factory buildings, modern apartments, trendy eateries and cosy coffee shops.

The Puu-Vallila area is on the doorstep; a series of charming streets, lined with quaint little wooden houses that were built for workers in 1913, in a garden city-style district where locals walk their dogs and any traffic is drowned out by birdsong. The bohemian district of Kallio is easily strollable, while Helsinki’s central station is a 20 minute tram ride and there’s a straightforward bus to the airport, although by taxi is even easier.

A bedroom at Folks hotel (Folks hotel)
A bedroom at Folks hotel (Folks hotel)


Built in 1901, the Folks Hotel is the oldest building in the area and was once home to the Pasila train factory, which built locomotives for the state railway. The owners have taken care to respect that history, preserving a large ceiling mural painted by railway employees and leaving the factory clock stopped at the exact time the last worker left the building in the early Noughties.

But it’s the modern flourishes that stop it feeling like you’re sleeping in a museum — the clever train tracks in neon light that run across the brick exterior, quirky antiques and minimalist work by local artists, such as former ice hockey player Ville Leino. Touches of the original exposed brick are brought up-to-date by a clever use of colour — slate, rich teal, orange, bright yellow. And ,of course, the sauna. The feel is characterful, cosy and authentic, no doubt helped by the hotel — which opened in October 2020 — having independent Finnish owners, rather than pretending to be all those things while being part of a giant international group. The service is friendly, helpful and very welcoming.

Folks Hotel (Folks hotel)
Folks Hotel (Folks hotel)

Which room?

The 146 rooms owe more than a nod to the Ace hotel chain — the sort of sleek industrial chic aimed at ageing hipsters looking to explore up-and-coming areas. If that sounds cynical, it’s not meant to be — this ageing hipster loved the huge factory windows looking out over the neighbouring industrial buildings, wooden floors, mini Smeg fridge and hygge-worthy soft furnishings.

My boutique room was located in the hotel’s historic building, opposite the main reception and featuring that impressive workers’ mural. Despite its industrial past, the feel was one of comfort — with a Tempur bed, soft shades of grey, terracotta and white, ceramic murals by Finnish artist Laura Itkonen above the bed and, of course, a bathrobe and slippers — essential for visiting the sauna. The hotel also offers rooms for solo travellers — increasingly popular in Scandinavia’s cities — as well as those for couples and families, with bunk beds.

Restaurant Albina (Folks hotel)
Restaurant Albina (Folks hotel)

Food & drink

Eating and drinking is an egalitarian affair at the Folks Hotel. Some rooms have mini kitchens and there’s also a large communal kitchen in the main building, with more Smeg appliances and even equipment should you care to bake something sweet (well, the Finnish do like their fruit-topped rice pudding, not to mention the national obsession with liquorice). There are oils, spices and guests often buy communal ingredients for use by others once their stay is over — no wonder Finland has been voted the world’s happiest nation for seven years in a row.

There are tapa-style snacks and drinks available in the lobby bar, by the main reception, and there’s a gin and tonic hour most evenings. While the summer months see the opening of rooftop Bar Alexis, with a curated cocktail menu. But my advice is to head downstairs to the atmospheric Restaurant Albina — which offers dinner Tuesday to Saturday and where guests enjoy breakfast each morning. Trust me, even at 8am, it feels as though you’re deep in the bowels of the building — in a good way; dimly lit, with flickering candles bouncing off the exposed white bricks and pipework. Buzzy groups of local friends were enjoying the good bread, thick butter, pickles, fruity porridge and strong coffee (the only thing the Finns love more than liquorice in my experience) alongside guests. It felt as though I’d been invited to an intimate Scandi gathering, rather than a hotel breakfast buffet.


Did I mention the sauna? Well, there’s also a huge steam room. I had both to myself and enjoyed the lovely loyly (a Finnish term for the steam that rises from the sauna stove) both before breakfast and after my evening meal — you don’t sauna just once a day here. Cosmetics in these communal areas are by Rituals. There’s also a wellness centre, with a gym and fairy-light adorned yoga room. It’s possible to book massages and personal training, too.

The sauna is a must-try (Folks hotel)
The sauna is a must-try (Folks hotel)


Visit the Folks Hotel during the summer and you might not want to go anywhere — every June, the owners organise a free music and food festival in the industrial grounds right outside the building, which is becoming something of a local must.

The location is ideal for walking to the nearby Kallio district, which boasts a huge Art Nouveau church (and where, one local told me, there are sometimes raves), as well as vintage shops, bakeries and picturesque squares in which to drink yet more coffee.

The Helsinki Exhibition Centre and Olympic Park are little more than 15 minutes walk from the hotel. But to really immerse yourself in local culture, head for one of the many public saunas. Kotiharjun is the only neighbourhood sauna still heated the traditional way, with wood. While Sompasauna is a hippie-style, community-run waterfront sauna that has to be experienced to be believed — during the winter months, I recommend plunging into the hole cut out of the ice, before walking to the nearby Helsinki Distilling Company, in another cool industrial complex of restaurants and bars, to warm up with a local whisky.

Best for…

Exploring Helsinki off the beaten track and sampling local life.


Rooms at the Folks Hotel Konepaja start at €220 per night,