Finland has consistently been voted one of the happiest countries in the world. And if you ask any Finn what they think about it, they will likely shrug their shoulders and say it is a way of life, not a metric.
There seem to be five pillars of Finnish culture that propagate the philosophy that life is meant to be spent in the pursuit of happiness — wellness, nature therapy, silence, sustainability, and design. Helsinki is considered one of the premier design capitals of the world, and Hotel AX follows this theme to the T. It is a brand-new artistic playground and a place for relaxed inspiration. The hotel’s name – the Art Experience – is rooted in the idea of providing a comprehensive art exploration for the guest.
It is the first art hotel of its kind in the Nordic region and is a mecca for creators and artists. It has a diverse collection of works both inside and outside the building. One of the hotel’s most prominent art pieces is a metal installation that hangs over its front doors and follows through to the entire lobby. The hotel is a platform, enabler, and gateway for guests into Helsinki’s design culture and artistic life. “AX will be constantly evolving – it will never be finished. It will be a platform for guests to enjoy unique art and artistic creativity in Helsinki.
The defining characteristic of AX is that art belongs to everyone,” says Riitta Liikamaa, Hotel AX’s General Manager. “So much so that this philosophy makes its way into the hotel rooms as well.” The themes of the rooms are based on different genres of literature, so they vary from room to room. The four styles are Love Letters with A View, Novel Corner, Fairytale Corner, and Poem King. Each room contains literary works connected to the name of the room category. The rooms also have artworks and artistic expressions that created the base for the imagery adorning each room.
My room, Love Letter with a View, had floor-to-ceiling mural of the famous forests of the country. Forests cover 75% of Finland’s landmass, and a legal concept known as Jokamiehenoikeudet (Everyman’s Right to Nature) gives travelers and locals free access to the country’s public lands. The fact that this concept made its way into my room was an incredible feeling. I felt like I was sleeping in the woods. A nature-inspired adult coloring book, colored pencils, and forest-themed bath essentials completed the room’s appeal.
Novel Corner has a stylish vibe with works of prose. The bookshelf contains something for everyone – romantic, adventurous, or relaxing and encourages guests to take a moment and get lost in a great book. Fairytale Corner is a unique magical room full of fairytales taking guests into a whimsical world away from the bustle and responsibility of everyday life. In this world of magical fables, guests can draw inspiration from all around, including the urban landscape showcased by the large corner window. Poem King is for lovers of poetry, with a bookshelf stacked with carefully selected works for every taste.
Even the hotel’s culinary experience is artistic. The on-site AX restaurant has a relaxed living-room-style atmosphere with large panoramic windows that open to the urban Jätkäsaari streetscape, influencing the restaurant’s setting and food profile. It is open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. They also have an inspiring art corner available during the brunch where you can make your very own piece of art while you eat.
The menu includes seasonal favorites that are reflective of the region’s history. Jätkäsaari was one of Finland’s port destinations for ships bringing ingredients, spices, and flavors from around the world. The restaurant’s bold, flavorful world cuisine includes customer favorites like chickpea stew with butternut squash and couscous, fresh fish, and Korean BBQ pork with a spicy Thai salad.
In the summertime, food can be enjoyed in the AX Garden, a hidden, flower-filled gem within the hotel’s courtyard that offers the perfect ambiance when paired with drinks from AX Bar or nearby Kyro Distillery. AX Bar serves popular beers, a carefully chosen range of wines, and cocktails designed in-house by the bar artists using ingredients like Finnish cranberries and sea buckthorns. The bar also has books, art supplies, and coloring paper for doodling while sipping cocktails.
When you follow the winding staircase down to Ax Under, the hotel’s breakfast and event space, you are greeted with more artful surprises. The Finnish philosophy of clean eating is reflected in the menu at Hotel AX. All ingredients are locally sourced and sustainably produced wherever possible — from fresh granola to cheeses and jams. Freshly brewed, individual-size French press coffee tops the luxurious breakfast. The signature products at AX Under are the AX Bagels. The bagels are made in-house fresh each morning and can be filled with cream cheese, homemade hummus, alands pommern cheese, pickled cucumber, smoked pork and turkey, and other local ingredients.
And the best part of this adventure is that earlier this year, Finnair announced the launch of the airline’s new, spacious long-haul look for its business class and premium economy. So now, a quick jaunt to experience Helsinki and Hotel AX is just a direct flight away from Chicago’s O’Hare airport.
Author: Karthika Gupta, Contributing Writer. Karthika is a writer, photographer, and world traveler. She owns her own business and has been published nationally as well as internationally. She lives in the Tall Grass neighborhood.