I spent a night at Hotel St. George in Helsinki, a Marriott Design Hotels property. While Bonvoy nickel and diming knows no end, overall I very much liked this property.
Hotel St. George Helsinki Review
I used an expiring Bonvoy 35K free night certificate to book this room. The paid rate was close to €300, so I thought the value was very reasonable.
What Is A Design Hotel?
Design Hotels was a German chain that Starwood Preferred Guest partnered with and was later acquired fully by Marriott. As Marriott describes it:
Each Design Hotels property reflects the vision of an independent hotelier, an “Original” who combines thought-provoking design, local knowledge, and cultural programming to create a gathering point for travelers and members of the surrounding community that challenges the very definition of a hotel
I would say that description is quite apt for Hotel St. George, which had a bakery and café onsite that appeared to be very popular with locals along with a unique collection of art.
I arrived just a few minutes before 1:00 pm and was welcomed in. There was no bellman or concierge, just a couple ladies sitting at a desk one level above the street entrance. The hotel felt empty and I was upgraded to a “atelier with balcony” (from the “cozy studio” room I booked) thanks to my Bonvoy Platinum status.
All five suites were available (St. George, Finlandia, Poetry, Coupole and Church Park), but Bonvoy explicitly excludes suite upgrades from Design Hotels.
What I did not expect was to be told, “Since you are on a free night stay, you will not get free breakfast in the morning. It is only for paid stays.”
Okey dokey. Good thing I was leaving well before dawn anyway.
History + Artwork
While the hotel has only been open since 2018, the building was designed by architect Onni Tarjanne, who also designed the Finnish National Theatre. It was completed in 1890 and as a hotel includes 148 rooms and five suites.
As you enter the hotel, look up and you will see a dragon, a creation of artist Ai Weiwei called Tianwu, a mythical creature from Chinese literature.
The hotel boasts over 400 pieces of art on the property and you will notice the lobby area feels much more like an art gallery than a traditional hotel lobby.
While the lobby area appears very modern, the adjacent connected building, which takes you up to your guest room, is much older in design and feel.
Upstairs, the guest room corridors again had a very modern feel.
My room, 612, was very much to my liking. I loved the parquet floors, muted color scheme, large windows, and L-shaped design of the room.
There was not much of a view from the balcony and it was too cold to sit outside, but this would be a great feature of the room on a beautiful spring or summer day.
I really misjudged the coffee, thinking it was powdered (it was high-quality filter coffee instead). I liked the soda water machine.
The restroom was large with a walk-in shower, separate tub, and dual sink. The toilet included a built-in bidet.
Shower and soap products were from L:A Bruket. There was also a basket with other amenities like shower caps and nail files in a basket next to the sink.
St. George Bakery
After settling in, I headed down to St. George Bakery for a cup of coffee. This was packed with locals when I arrived, though it emptied out by the time I left. While I just drank a couple of flat whites, the food here looked very delicious. This really felt like a local café rather than a hotel coffee shop.
One of my favorite areas of the hotel was the Wintergarden Bar, located adjacent to the lobby. It’s a beautiful space with more artwork.
At check-in I received two drink vouchers for Wintergreen. Around dinner time, I went down to the bar to get something to eat and drink.
A special menu was presented for the complimentary drinks which included a selection of beer and wine plus a gin and tonic. I asked if I could order a flat white and fresh-squeezed orange juice instead, which was not a problem.
The bar has a full cocktail menu as well.
Rather than venture out into the cold, I stayed for dinner and ordered salmon, served over a bed of almond couscous with sumac labneh (€19). It hit the spot.
The hotel has an upscale Thai restaurant called Boon Nam on-site, open Monday thru Saturday evenings.
A 24/7 room service menu is available.
The reason I chose this hotel in the first place is because of its spa. There are few things I would rather do on a cold winter day than rotate between a sauna, steam room, and pool and that is exactly how I spent my afternoon. The spa area includes a nice locker room.
The spa itself is beautiful, with soft lighting and intricate tile work.
Guests who book massage treatments are also welcome to enjoy a relaxation area with mixed nuts, fresh fruit, and hot tea.
Next to the spa is a small but comprehensive fitness studio with cardiovascular machines and free weights.
The hotel is located across the street from Old Church Park, a beautiful area in which I took a short walk in the afternoon when the sun popped up, even though I was extremely under-dressed (I did not my bring my winter coat, since I was traveling from Doha to Los Angeles and this was just an unexpected layover).
The stingy breakfast policy aside, I really liked this hotel and would happily return. I found it far cozier than the Hilton Helsinki Strand and found the amenities and design of this hotel superb. I look forward to returning.
Is the breakfast policy the same if you redeemed points for your stay vs a certificate? I have stayed in Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott properties in Europe all using points and breakfast was always included based on my status with each brand.
Spa at both St. George and the Clarion are truly superb
I’m staying at a Design hotel right now – the Memmo Príncipe Real in Lisbon. They also have the stingy policy about no breakfast if you use points. I explained that I’m a Marriott Lifetime titanium but they were not impressed. Everywhere else I’ve stayed in Europe breakfast was included even when using points.
“Good thing I was leaving well before dawn anyway”
I know, otherwise you’d have had to actually (*shudder*) pay for breakfast…
LOL. And I would have. The menu looked really good.
I happen to think it’s utter nonsense to treat “paid” and “reward” stays differently. In both cases the hotel still gets compensated so it’s not like the hotel is giving you a room for free.
And the hotel benefits from being in a network that can attract a wider variety of business than they would solo. Part of the offset for that is the acceptance of reward stays on terms that might not be as good as what they would otherwise get.
Just like an empty airline seat a hotel room that goes empty for a night is utterly worthless. I’m willing to bet that if this hotel had been an independent the room they got paid to host Matthew in would have gone empty. Not to mention the money he spent on property that would have been lost.
Treating him like a “regular” and valued guest by including the same breakfast they give to paid stays isn’t remotely too much to ask.
Someone seems to have left their sense of humor at home today…
As the owner of the brand that provides this hotel with its unique in room coffee offering, I just want to point out that Freshdrip is not powdered or instant coffee but a convenient drip coffee brewer that makes fresh filter coffee.
Shame you didn’t get to try it since I am sure you would have really liked the coffee and thus not been disappointed but satisfied or even surprised.
We founded this brand especially to provide a much needed alternative to instant coffee and capsules and people who find and try our coffees in the many properties we supply, really love them.
Hi Alex, thanks for the note and I am truly sorry I missed the coffee. Next time I will be sure to try it. Best, Matthew
First off, the breakfast benefit of Bonvoy elite status doesn’t apply at Design properties. So complaining about not getting breakfast at any Design property is not a legitimate complaint.
Second, 75 euros for a bottle of generic Wente chardonnay? Wow. That’s absurd. That’s maybe a $15 bottle of wine at Walmart in the United States.
Design has always been a weird brand. Basically, you can only earn and spend points. That’s it. Also, I think not every Design property is a Marriott participating property. Basically, Marriott bought the brand, which licenses or franchises the name to properties.
St. George also has a very nice Boom Nam restaurant, ran by Tomi Björck (local celebritiy chef, Master Chef judge and nowadays lives in Sydney with his family) and is Thai-inspired.
The bakery is probably more visited by locals than hotel guests, and the service tends to be pretty slow.. They usually make decent flat white, the breads are excellent and one should definetly have one of those buns with whipped cream — it’s a specialty in January/February.
St. George is part of the Kämp Collection Hotels that includes other hotels in Helsinki (Kämp, Haven, Lilla Roberts, Fabian, Klaus K, GLO branches) and is owned by the Nordic Hotels & Resorts (Nordic Choice), owned by the Norwegian Petter Stordalen.
Matthew the hotel looked excellent, though you really should have checked out Tribute hotel as hte idea of staying in a former prison was stupidly appealing to me, and it was a lovely hotel, though nowhere near as nice as the St.George.