Hotel Kämp Helsinki
Hotel history, photos and review article
Article added on December 1, 2006
One of Scandinavia's finest places to
stay is Hotel Kämp Helsinki. The economic, social and cultural elite of Finland
as well as illustrious guests from around the world gather at the hotel.
Established in the Finnish capital in 1887, Hotel Kämp was commissioned by the
restaurateur Carl Kämp (1848-1889) and built by the architect Theodor Höijer
(1843-1910). The hotel added a contemporary continental - for most local
observers a Parisian - touch to Helsinki. Guests of the city's leading hotels,
the Seurahuone and the Kämp, arriving by train or boat, were fetched in an
omnibus wagon at the train station and in the harbor.
These were exciting times. An economically optimistic period, leading towards
capitalism and economic freedom, had begun in the 1860s and transformed
Helsinki. Governed by civil servants before, Finland saw the creation of a
pre-parliamentary institution, the Diet, which enabled estates to voice their
opinions and influencing the government. During the same period, modern
transnational travel emerged, with luxury hotels being built near train
stations. Georges Nackelmacker developed his network of Wagon-lits luxury
trains around Europe. The increased mobility stimulated commerce and economic
growth. The Grand Tour cultural tourism was enforced and at the same time
complemented by common tourists as well as by business travelers.
It became fashionable for the bourgeois to live in the city centers, where new
waves of urbanization reshaped many European capitals. Modeled after the
Champs-Elysées in Paris or the Nevsky Prospekt in St Petersburg, Helsinki
developed its Southern and Northern Esplandi, separated by an elegant park.
Hotel Kämp is situated on the Northern side or Pohjoisesplanadi, which got paved
in 1891 and where people
had the right to construct stone buildings, whereas the Southern side or Eteläesplanadi was reserved to wooden housing, the street having previously
belonged to a suburb.
In 1832, on the site of the future Hotel Kämp, a wooden house was built
according to designs by Helsinki's main architect, Carl Ludwig Engel from
Berlin. In 1812, Tsar Alexander I made Helsinki
Finland's capital. After a fire had destroyed large parts of Helsinki, the
redesigning of the city was assigned to Engel who, previously, had worked in
Tallinn and St. Petersburg. In the 1840s, a bakery and warehouses were built on
In 1874, the goldsmith Ekholm had bought the houses. They were in such a bad
shape that he was even ordered to demolish one of them. No wonder he was just to
glad to sell it all in 1883 to the restaurateur Carl Kämp.
Born in a village in the parish of Helsinki in 1848, as a young man, the
restaurateur Carl Kämp moved to the capital to work in restaurants and hotels,
including Seurahuone (Societetshuset in Swedish). In 1872 he set up his first
own restaurant Oopperakellari, which quickly gained a considerable reputation.
He married a German woman, Maira Dorothea (née Moss), and they had two children.
In 1881, Alexander III ascended the throne. The new Tsar of Russia and Grand
Duke of Finland, during an official visit to
Helsinki made clear that he would pursue the liberal politics of his father. In
1882, a private telephone network had been created and, in 1884, the first light
bulbs had been lit in Helsinki. During these exciting times, Carl Kämp had the
ambition to build a grand hotel.
He had a budget of one million gold Marks, including a separate state
loan and a construction loan from the Imperial State. 180,000 Marks were
reserved to buy the site, 690,000 Marks for the construction and 130,000 Marks
for the decoration.
The preliminary blue prints for the hotel were already designed in 1895 by the
architect Theodor Höijer (1843-1910). Höijer had graduated from the Royal
Academy in Stockholm. He became the first architect in Finland to gain important
private commissions. Among the notable public buildings designed and constructed by Höijer are the Finish National Gallery of Ateneum, the main fire station and the
main library in Helsinki. He was active until 1905, when he became seriously
When Kämp's project risked failing because of financial reasons, the owner of
the apartment block next door, the municipal councillor Frederik Wilhelm
Grönquist (1838-1912), an orphan who became a risk-taking self-made businessman,
stepped in and bought the hotel's site, offering Kämp a twenty-year lease.
The inauguration of Hotel Kämp to place on October 29, 1887 and it officially
opened to the public three days later. It had installed some of the first lifts
in Finland. The interior was decorated by the Helsinki artist C. H. Carlsson.
Bronze candelabras, Venetian chandeliers and crystal chandeliers from Berlin,
which functioned partly with electricity, partly with gas as well as the
staircase with railings cast in iron were other highlights of the Kämp. The
luxury apartments and suites on the first floor were decorated with silk, the
smoking salon was upholstered with yellow leather. The center of admiration was
the giant mirror in the ballroom, which was lighted with 25 electric and 24 gas
lights creating "a brightness never seen before", "swimming in a sea of light".
The hotel also hosted a side office of the telegraph company.
During the years of economic and social development in the second half of the
19th century, in the age before mass communication, in the pre-Nokia era, Hotel
Kämp quickly became a political and cultural meeting point for an elite
optimistic and faithful in the countries future.
At the time, the Helsinki newspapers published a daily list of tourists who
arrived in the capital. Hotel Kämp had the longest and most varied guest list.
However, the generous and friendly Carl Kämp could not enjoy his success for
long. He died from a heart attack only to years after the opening.
The widow, Maria Kämp (suite 512 is named after her), took over in a very
professional manner, announcing the passing away of her husband on the front
pages of Helsinki's newspapers, underlining that the hotel would continue to
operate without interruption.
Maria was assisted in running the Kämp by her hotel manager, German Karl König,
a former actor who formerly run a German beer pub selling sausages and
refreshments. The two could not manage a luxury hotel and quickly run into
financial difficulties which forced Maria to sell the Kämp to the newly
established Ab Hotel Kämp company in 1890. Subsequently, the widow emigrated
with her children to her family in Sweden.
The new owners, three businessmen, who had paid 1,290,000 Marks, were unable to
make the company profitable. On the verge of bankruptcy, it was taken over in
1892 by the experienced restaurateur Axel Gummesson, who had owned the
Seurahuone Hotel of Oulu for several years. He hired a Swedish assistant
manager, A. Lundbland. The domestic appliance shop on the ground floor moved out
and the space was turned into the Kämp Café on December 21, 1889. The restaurant
immediately began to flourish, and Hotel Kämp was saved.
The hotel attracted Helsinki's upper-class bourgeoisie. The ground floor fine
dining restaurant became known as the Lower House, later as Bourse Café, because
Gummesson and Lundbland sensed the opportunity to turn the Kämp into a meeting
place for the leading Finnish businessmen, who met their foreign counterparts in
an elegant setting. In addition, many Finnish businesses were run by German or
Russian industrials. For instance the Russian Sinebrychoff and Kiseleff families
started a beer-brewing business and the German Stockmann family built the
leading department store. The Osberg's, Wulff's, Paulig's, Knief's, Schröder's
and Bargum's were some of the other German families who marked life in Helsinki
and, by their visits to the Kämp, helped to insure the hotel's success.
The Kämp's Upper House focused on night life and attracted Helsinki's jeunesse
dorée. Even today, the Kämp attracts businessmen from Helsinki and abroad in a
traditional Hotel setting, but the club on the first floor is in an elegant
contemporary design with a small dance floor and a hip crowd who can afford to
buy expensive drinks.
Hotel Kämp was also famous for entertainment. The management was the first to
introduce female orchestra's from Vienna to the audience. Hotel guests very
specially fond of the American musical comedy singers Helma and Anna Nelson.
Other performers at the Kämp included the long-legged Danish variety star Dagmar
Hansen, the black singer and comedian Geo Jackson, the Italian singing and music
company Emilio Colombo, the "Überbrett singing and dancing artists" Helge and
Ingeborg Sanberg as well as many authentic - and some less authentic - Spanish
Although Tsar Alexander II proclaimed in 1863 that Finnish was to be a language
equal to Swedish in matters concerning the Finnish people directly and the
Finnish Theatre was inaugurated in Helsinki in 1873, Swedish remained the
preferred language of the educated. With the rising political aspirations of the
Finns, a language dispute erupted especially at the beginning of the 20th
century, with playing politics aggravating the linguistic issues.
From 1880 to 1890, The Finnish Club, originally a reading and conversation club,
met at a rented apartment at the Kämp. Slowly, the club was transformed into a
political "club for Diet members", discussing politics in a lively atmosphere.
Therefore, at Hotel Kämp were born the ideas of a Finnish-speaking national
theatre, a national bank, a life insurance, a savings bank and a Finnish
In 1898, the Finnish writers Juhani Aho (suite 812 is named after him) and Kalle
Kajander together with the painter Pekka Halonen were refused entrance to the
Kämp, apparently due to inappropriate clothing. The incident caused an uproar
amongst the pro-Finnish community, which only calmed down when the doorman wrote
a written apology to Aho.
In 1900, a new company, AB Hotel Restaurant, was founded to run Hotel Kämp. The
capital of 240,000 Mark was equally shared by Gummesson, Lundbland and the
property owner Grönquist. By 1910, Lundblad - an able and popular man - had
acquired all the shares and become the real director and manager of the hotel
and restaurant until the autumn of 1918.
Among the other famous groups meeting at Hotel Kämp was the table of a group of
architects including Eliel Saarinen, Armas Lindgren, Bertel Jung, Lars Sonck and
Nils Wasastjerna. Another group met at the "Lemon Table" formed in the 1910s
around the unmarried, wealthy councillor John Grönlund. Unwritten laws ruled the
tables, which could not be approached by acquaintances sitting at other tables.
Women were rarely seen in these rounds, according to the unwritten rule "when a
man wants to wine and dine, let erotic distraction stay out of it."
Members of a new, liberal front called Young Finns striving for a Finnish
National State also met at Hotel Kämp. 28 writers and 12 illustrators belonging
to this Finnish nationalist movement, influenced by Europe's modernizing
movements, published Suomi 19:llä vuosisadalla, an opus presenting
Finland as a modest and small country far North, a bridge between East and West,
a vanguard of culture, urging to give her contribution to Europe's civilization.
Probably the hotel's most famous frequent guest was the composer Janne 'Jean'
Sibelius (1865-1957). Incidentally, in 2003 the movie director Timo Kovusalo
chose the Kämp as one of the setting for his film Sibelius, starring
Martti Suosalo as the composer.
Sibelius was part of the circle of Young Finns including
the artist Arvid Järnefelt and the editor-in-chief of the Young Finns organ, the
Finnish-language newspaper Päivälehti (1890, or Helsingin Sanomat
from 1904 onwards), who spent so-called 'Symposium' evenings at the
restaurant of Hotel Kämp, discussing the evolution of Finnish national culture,
especially from the autumn of 1892 until 1895.
The premiere of Sibelius' symphony Kullervo in 1892 expressed the nationalist
ambitions of the Young Finns, for whom music was a central part of their
cultural movement. Incidentally, the composer and conductor Robert Kajanus
(1856-1933), who founded the Helsinki Orchestra in 1882, was another eminent
member of the Symposium at the Kämp.
After concerts, Sibelius, Kajanus and Järnefelt regularly met at Kämp's Lower
House for discussions with Swedish punch, Benedictine liqueur and cigars,
accompanied by musical improvisations by the artists present. Sibelius, who
focused on teaching at the university, never missed an evening. Apart from a few
exceptions, women did not take part in these Symposium sessions. A fact less
appreciated by his wife.
Sibelius described the times at the Kämp as follows: "The waves of our
conversations rose sky-high. We reflected on everything from earth to heaven,
ideas sparkled, problems got inflamed, but always in a positive, liberating
spirit. We had the need of ploughing the earth for new ideas in very branch.
Those evening the Symposium gave me a lot at a time when I would have been more
or less alone."
The evenings of the Symposium group at the Kämp are immortalized by the painter
Alex Gallén (1865-1931), a spiritual soul mate of Sibelius, in Symposium
or Problem (1894), as the painting was initially called, showing the
organist and composer Oskar Merikanto as well as Kajanus, Sibelius and Gallén on
a table full of empty bottles. Somewhere between 1896 and 1900, Gallén cut off
the left side of the painting showing a female figure with the skin of her naked
body peeled off, sitting on the table in front of the men.
One day at Hotel Kämp in 1903, Sibelius composed the Valse Triste for the
play Kuolema (Death), which premiered in December at the Finnish National
Theatre in Helsinki. That day, the impulsive artist Sigurd Wettenhovi-Aspan, to
whom we due this anecdote, had run into Sibelius, who was developing a terrible
influenza. They decided to get boxes of quinine powder at the main pharmacy in
town and ended up in the piano cabinet on the banquet floor of the Kämp. They
wanted to get rid of the flu and ordered only soda with some lemon juice and
sugar to wash down the medicine, together with some oysters. The five grams of
quinine made Sibelius get deep into his thoughts reminiscing on his youth. He
starting to tap the table with the tips of his fingers to the rhythm of a death
waltz, the famous, Valse Triste.
The staff of journalists of the Päivälehti newspaper had the habit of
going out together to Helsinki restaurants once their work finished around 8pm.
The regularly ended up at one of the tables at the Lower House of the Kämp,
where the ingenious author Eino Leino drunk a black mocca on his sobering-up
The Päivälehti founder Eero Erkko was the organizer of the resistance
movement Kagaali, which intended to defend the legal and political status
of the Grand Duchy of Finland in the years of 'russification'. In 1901,
Kaagali was planning a meeting in August at the Kämp. When the police got
wind of it, it was moved to a secret hideout outside of Helsinki. The following
year however, Erkko reserved the entire banquet floor of the Kämp for a large
assembly meeting of Kagaali. The authorities only heard about the meeting
the day after, although the official residence of Governor-General Bobrikov is
situated obliquely opposite Hotel Kämp.
In 1910, one of Helsinki's first motion picture theatres, Helikon, was opened in
the Kämp's Ballroom with a separate entrance. It went bankrupt in 1925 and was
reopened one year later by another company which run it as Olympic cinema for
another four years, after which it was closed for good and the space was
restored to serve again as the Hotel Kämp Ballroom.
In 1914-15, a sixth floor was added to the Kämp and its façade changed by the
architect Lars Sonck. In addition, all rooms were renovated, modernized and
equipped with water pipes, radiators, cold and hot water. Most rooms were
equipped with modern bathrooms, and the popular "American Bar" opened. This was
a reaction to the opening of Seurahuone in 1913, a new hotel opposite Helsinki's
The Kämp's kitchen was run in an almost military-like style with an iron
discipline, with a strict distribution of tasks between men and women which
remained unchained until after the Second World War. The staff was multi
cultural with a Russian, baking pies, a German, preparing sausages and
smoked meat and a Finn taking care of fish. The working language was Swedish
with a mix of German, Russian and French words. Meals normally started with a
Swedish-style smörgadsbord and schnaps.
After the death of municipal councillor Grönquist, the president of the Kansallis-Osake-Pankki, Mr. Paasikivi, bought the Kämp
for his Finnish bank in 1917; he remembered that the
bank's founding meetings had taken place in the Mirror Room in 1889.
It was a revolutionary time in Finland, whose Parliament approved on December 6,
1917 the Declaration of Independence, making the transition from a Russian
province, the Grand Duchy, to an independent nation. It led to a bloody
Independence and Civil War which ended only at the end of January 1918.
In the autumn of 1917, the Kämp was affected by the great strike. Only guests
residing at the hotel were served by the waiters. Two Red Guards controlled the
in- and outgoing customers. After the Red Guards took control of the city, the
Kämp - as the meeting place of the bourgeoisie - was frequently inspected by the
One day, Director Lundblad was ordered to switch on the light in the banquet
hall. It took the short and stubby man some time to reach the switch, which the
patrol interpreted as being slow on purpose, which resulted in an arrest of the
director, who was not liberated until a few weeks later, apparently because he
The heavy fighting between the White and the Red Finns took its toll. The Kämp
was turned into a hospital for the wounded victims of the Civil War. The Swedish
staff was ordered to leave the country, including the hotel director and his
wife. The hotel Restaurant changed owners.
In April 1918 the Baltic Sea Division of the German Imperial Army marched to
Helsinki under the direction of General Count Rüdiger von der Goltz, who turned
the Kämp into his headquarters.
The Finnish national hero of the Finnish Freedom and Civil War was Baron Gustaf
Mannerheim, the Commander of the White Finns. The Finnish-born Lieutenant
General had served in the Imperial Russian army for thirty years. He returned to
Finland on New Year's Eve of 1917. By the time, the Kämp had started to host
meetings of the country's unofficial military command, which was about to create
a Finnish army and nominate Mannerheim as its Commander-in-Chief, who led the
White Forces in a military parade along the Esplanades by the statue of Runeberg
and Hotel Kämp at the end of the Civil War on May 16, 1918.
Hotel Kämp has dedicated its most luxurious apartment of the new hotel Kämp to
Marshal Mannerheim, who became the Republic's sixth President in 1944. He had
lived at the hotel for a longer period in 1919 before moving to his own
apartment. In the recommendable Mannerheim Museum in Helsinki you can admire the
great man's camp bed, which he took with him on his extensive travels. I however
do not know whether he also used it at the Kämp. In any case, I can assure
you that in today's suite, you do not have to sleep on a camp bed.
The 'Marshall's drink' - a completely filled up glass - is known by all Finns.
Mannerheim was always good for a compliment to the hotel staff when an evening
was a success, but could make nasty comments of someone failed to his duties.
Hotel Kämp was the leading hotel in the capital of the newly independent nation.
Helsinki now hosted the headquarters of big businesses, banks, insurance
companies, trade unions, political parties and, due to its geo-strategic
location bordering Russia, an important number of embassies and consulates.
In the years of the Revolution and the Civil War 1917-18, life was not sweet and
candy. Alcohol and food were rationed and in June 1919, a Prohibition Act came
into effect, the only country together with the United States, where the
prohibition laws were put in effect, with the result of the creation of a large
black market. In 1922, the law became even stricter, being drunk in public was
now considered a crime.
At Hotel Kämp, as in most restaurants and cafés, drinks were served, although
this was denied in public. The 'hard-tea', a mix of half tea, half spirit, with
a small amount of sugar added, was one of the hotel's hot favorites. In
addition, cognac, whiskey and wine, brought in by sailors, was served too.
In 1926, the Prohibition inspectors raided the hotel - not for the first time -
and discovered in room 34 - officially under renovation - a total of 137 bottles
of Estonian liquor. The hotel manager insisted that he had been abroad and,
therefore, was not guilty. In the end, the headwaiter and a waiter admitted to
be guilty of illegal possession and sale of alcohol. As a consequence, the
Governor closed the Kämp restaurant for two months.
The Prohibition ended with a referendum in 1932. A photograph captures the
moment at the Kämp when hotel manager Ville Weman reopened the door to the
hotel's wine cellar. The American Bar also reopened without delay.
The 1940 Summer Olympics had been given to Finland. In early 1939, 47 out of 64
invited countries confirmed their participation. 100,000 guests were expected in
Helsinki, where only a handful of excellent hotels such as the Kämp, the
Carlton, the Grand, the Helsinki and the Torni existed.
The well-organized games could not take place because Germany started the Second
World War by attacking Poland in September 1939. Finland declared a full
mobilization in October 1939. On November 30, 1939 the Soviet Union attacked
Finland and soon after started its air raids over the city of Helsinki. The
Olympic Games had to be cancelled.
On December 6, 1939 Hotel Kämp was asked to organize Finland's Independence Day
reception. Under the political circumstances, the President decided not to give
a reception. However, the government requested an evening cocktail for the
diplomatic corps, foreign correspondents and the political elite. The Minister
of Foreign Affairs was asked to mobilize retired waiters and bakers to cater for
it. The guests were requested to keep everyday clothes for the reception. The
Minister of Education Uuno Hannula attracted all the attention with his grey
woolen sweater and red-legged boots. Asked about his unusual outfit, he replied
to the amazement of his colleagues that this was indeed his everyday clothes.
The Finnish Winter War with the Soviet Union from November 30, 1930 to March 13,
1940 attracted war correspondents from around the world. Most of them stayed at
the Kämp, where the State Council had opened an information point for the press
on the hotel's second floor, the Kämp Press Room. Among the famous
correspondents were Martha Gellhorn, Indro Mantanelli, Max Mehlem, Morgan
Vernon, Barbro Alving and many more. They gave publicity to the small country's
brave fight for independence, in which they finally succeeded.
Most correspondents fought Finland's Winter War at the Kämp's bar, which had
been reinforced by wooden blocks and turned into a bomb shelter. Finnish
journalists, employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and important locals
gathered here too.
Max Mehlem, the correspondent of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and chairman of
an international journalists' association, conducted pneumonia after visiting
the front at the end of the war. He was a regular guest at the Kämp. For his
recovery, he had a hotel room transformed into a "hospital room".
In 1941, hotel manager Ville Weman died. His daughter, Greta Lindblom, took over
his position. She had learned the hotel business from scratch and traveled the
world to study languages. After returning to Helsinki, she worked at Hotel Kämp
for eight years, where she for instance supervised the gourmet shop for a long
period in which nothing was available. This situation continued during the
Continuation War of 1941 to 1944.
The strictest rationing ended only in 1948, followed by a sharp increase in
restaurant prices, which had almost remained unchanged since the 1930s. Coffee
prices were not liberated until 1954.
With the end of the war, the communists, previously in the underground,
re-emerged in 1945. Waiters went on strike in March 1945. At Hotel Kämp, the
guests had to go themselves into the kitchen to get their meals, among them
members of the control commission of the Allied Forces, which had arrived in
Finland in the autumn of 1944 to make sure that Finland fulfilled the conditions
of truce. The commission's Chairman was the dreaded General Colonel Andrei Zdanov, a man close to Stalin.
During this period at the Kämp, Zdanov, President Mannerheim and Prime Minister
Paasikivi could all be seen at the hotel. Paasikivi had been a longtime director
of Kansallis-Osake-Pankki, the owner of the hotel. He used to sit downstairs in
a quiet annex called 'himmeli', separated by a curtain, from where he could
leave unnoticed by a secret door through a stairway from the bank's
During the crucial time before the Finnish signatories of the Paris peace treaty
set off in August 1946, Prime Minister Paasikivi reserved a room for him and six
ministers on the banquet floor, with an empty, insulated room to each side. The
headwaiter of the time, Mauri Lindberg, gave his graduation pen to Paasikivi to
sign the treaty, who told him: "This pen will not be used again."
In 1946, the reception for the Red Army celebrating its anniversary was held at
Hotel Kämp. Marshal Mannerheim, who had been ill that day, was substituted by
two generals for the splendid reception at which David Oistrakh played the
violin, supported by Einar Englund. Afterwards, the socialist state was handing
out princely tips, Lindberg recalled.
Helsinki got the chance to host the 1952 Summer Olympics. Two new up-market
hotels, the Vaakuna and the Palace, were built for this occasion. The Kämp, by
then the capital's oldest functioning hotel, modernized its facilities and
operations. By June 1952, first-class restaurants were allowed to serve drinks
at the counter. The Kämp hired a Dutch and a French bartender and ordered new
bar stools. The Olympics were a success for the Kämp, which hosted famous guests
including Prince Philip of England, but for many other hotels, the games were
Many celebrities have stayed at Hotel Kämp. A memorable occasion was the visit
of film star Gregory Peck and his Finnish wife, which was greeted by a fan crowd
of over one thousand people.
In the autumn of 1962, Hotel Kämp celebrated its 75th anniversary with another
splendid reception. Council of commerce Bertil Tallberg had been a regular guest
for 60 years, and building administrator Jussi Lappi-Seppälä stated that he had
used hanger number nine in the vestibule's clothes rack for twenty-five years
almost on a daily basis. Among the loyal staff who had served the Kämp for over
forty years were employees of ten professions from all hotel departments. They
were awarded a badge of honor from the Chamber of Commerce.
Over the many years of operation, the wars and natural deterioration had left
their mark on the Kämp. The wooden structure of the building revealed cracks in
the walls. Water leaks further damaged the hotel's framework. During a Labor Day
dance in the early 1960s, Ms Lindblom noticed how the Ballroom floor kept
bending. She told the orchestra to stop playing, but the people continued
dancing until, all of a sudden, everyone noticed the floor giving in
portentously. The newspapers titled: 'Kämp is sinking in the mud of Kluuvi."
After two years of negotiations with the municipal authorities, the owners of
the hotel property, Kansallis-Osake-Pankki, decided to preserve the buildings
original façade. In 1965, permission was given to demolish the hotel's façade
under the condition to reconstruct it as well as parts of the interior in the
image of the original. The hotel and restaurant had already been given notice
for the termination of their lease several times, but they continued to operate
until March 31, 1965 when Hotel Kämp held its farewell party, with people
queuing up out in the street all night.
After one last effort to save the original façade, the demolition of the hotel
started in autumn 1965. After being rejected, the appeal by the Committee of
Archaeological Monuments came too late before the State Council because, by then,
the original façade had already been pulled down.
By 1967, Kansallis-Osake-Pankki declared that they had been unable to find
anyone to take over the hotel and restaurant business; a hotel with less than
forty rooms was considered unprofitable. The public opinion accused the bank of
greed and cultural ignorance. By February 1967, the bank's president Matti
Virkkunen was forced to defend the company's position and stating that
everything architectural valuable had been safeguarded. The façade, the main
staircase and the Mirror Room would be rebuilt.
However, there was no agreement on the continuation of the hotel and restaurant
operations. According to a social-democratic newspaper, the decision had been
made on a slight right-wing majority for the benefit of the bank, which erected
on the site a business and bank building in the image of the old Hotel Kämp.
The restoration was made in cooperation with the archaeological committee,
combining state-of-the-art technology with traditional handicraft. Wherever
possible, authentic pieces such as doors, pillars, stairs or iron railings were
integrated into the new building. Under the supervision of the sculptor Heikki
Häiväoja, the plaster ornaments were remodeled by the interior architect Markku
Komonen. Original paintings such as the ones by André and Favén were restored
and again set up in their original location.
Under the supervision of Professor Antero Pernaja and architect N. H. Sandell,
the new building was erected as a copy of Hotel Kämp after the 1914-15
extension, including the colors of the façade Höijer used. Only the Mirror Room
was moved to a slightly different location. The new building was inaugurated as
the bank's new headquarter in June 1969, with its banking facilities located in
the Lower House and a money exposition in the former newspaper room.
When the Kasallis-Osake-Pankki merged with Merita to become part of Nordea, a
large banking group, the company refocused and tried to find new uses for its
redundant properties. In autumn 1996, the Merita group decided to convert the
Kämp building back into being a hotel.
The decision was greeted with joy in Helsinki. The new designs were by architect
Petri Blomstedt (1941-1998), after whom suite 612 is named, and included a new,
contemporary wing and business facilities. On May 9, 1999 the new Kämp finally
opened its doors. Again, people queued up to have a look at 'their' hotel.
Immediately, the Kämp's reputation as Helsinki's leading hotel was restored. The
guestbook contains signatures from the first new prestigious guests the new
hotel accommodated, including U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the
singers Whitney Houston,
Tina Turner and Shakira, to name just a few.
The Japanese Emperor in 2002, Queen Noor of Jordan in 2003, King Harald and
Sonja of Norway are some of the nobles staying at the Kämp. The Finnish racing
driver Mika Häkkinen regularly visits the hotel with his family because he
appreciates its privacy.
A band famous for destroying hotel interior's - the name is a secret - was told
by their manager that they could "start throwing TV-sets out of the windows
straight away. Please feel free to destroy the interior of your rooms. No
problem. I have a credit card." The hotel's security manager turned pale. But
then the band manager reminded the band to bear in mind that they were about to
tour Russia and that if the hotels there heard about damage in Helsinki, none of
them would take the band and they would have to sleep in bed & breakfasts. "Do
you know what that means in Russia?" After this speech, all band members fully
qualified for a five-star hotel.
The Kämp has a house schnapps (Talonsnapsi), made with an extract of pine, anis
and eucalyptus as well as an unknown ingredient, mixed with Koskenkorva Viina (a
Vodka). It is an old recipe from Tammisaari, a place 100km west of Helsinki.
Only recommended to people used to drinking strong alcohol.
In today's hotel, in the reception area, visitors are greeted by two portraits showing the hotel
founder couple, painted in a later period. In the bar, a painting by Antti Favén
from 1915 shows The Lunch After Akseli Gallen-Kallela's Brithday Party.
In addition to old paintings, the public areas of Hotel Kämp display
contemporary artworks, for instance by Marjatta Tapiola.
The 15 suites are located on four floors in the reconstructed old part of the
Kämp. The main restaurant, the Grand Café is 'just' a popular one with
atmosphere; there is no Michelin star gourmet restaurant in any of Helsinki's
hotels. Its new furniture is inspired by photographs of the old one. The
breakfast at the Kämp is excellent. An elegantly designed Japanese restaurant,
Yume, is located on the ground floor on the left of the hotel entrance.
The Kämp Club on the first floor - in Finland called the second floor - is the
most stylish part of the hotel. It has a small dance floor and has not the old
style Grand Hotel feeling. On the contrary, it is probably the hippest place in
town in a contemporary design. People from the paper industry, Nokia and
telecommunications, bankers and consultants gather here. In addition to
affordable ones, the carte offers some extremely expensive drinks. The Hennessy
Ellipse at 312 Euros per 4cl glass (price as of September 2006) gets regularly
ordered, I was told. In addition, you can for instance chose from over 40
The majority of hotel guests come from Great Britain and the United States, some
20% are Finnish, the rest is divided among the rest of the world's nations.
Since 2002, the complex including the hotel and a shopping center is owned by an
insurance company. The hotel company is owned by Palace Kämp, which will operate
five hotels in 2007. Through a franchise agreement with Luxury Collection, which
operates luxury hotels with a history in landmark buildings, Hotel Kämp is part
of Starwood Hotels & Resorts.
In addition to my stay at the hotel, the main and excellent source for this
Andreas Augustin and Laura Kolbe: Hotel Kämp Helsinki. The Most Famous
Hotels in the World. Date of publication? 152 p. ISBN: 3-902118113. Andreas Augustin
is a journalist and publisher of hotel histories, Laura Kolbe, Professor of
History at the University of Helsinki, is probably the most competent person on the
The Kämp's reconstructed façade.
Photo © Hotel Kämp Helsinki.
The lobby rotunda with the reception.
Photo © Hotel Kämp Helsinki.
The lobby lounge in the reconstructed old part.
Photo © Hotel Kämp Helsinki.
The Kämp Bar.
Photo © Hotel Kämp Helsinki.
The Mannerheim Suite bedroom.
Photo © Hotel Kämp Helsinki.
The Mannerheim Suite dining room.
Photo © Hotel Kämp Helsinki.
View of an executive room.
Photo © Hotel Kämp Helsinki.
View of a deluxe room.
Photo © Hotel Kämp Helsinki.
The Mirror Room.
Photo © Hotel Kämp Helsinki.
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