Empty Buildings become Restaurants, Bars & Hotels in Helsinki

Strange things have been happening quietly and rather fast in Helsinki’s city centre.

You will recall that Helsinki was like a ghost town for almost two years when Covid struck. There were few people and cars outside – shops and offices were almost empty…. 

…. but now we are back to an almost normal life with restaurants, bars and hotels enjoying boom times – that is for now…

But even though it has almost been a year since restrictions were eased the scars of Covid remain.

Right in the center of what was once the busiest shopping area of Helsinki, many shops and offices along the street and in shopping centres are taped up like some kidnapped victim. Doorways and upper windows are dark and littered – the buildings are lifeless and appear to have few opportunities to find new tenants.

But inn the spaces in between we have seen many new small restaurants and bars suddenly open up. The numbers are not huge but it appears that they have probably doubles in number. It appears that many of them are owned and run by hard-working folk who have come here from abroad – from Italy, Spain, France, S.E. Asia and South America, etc. They are also the places that are open on Sundays and Mondays when many Finnish restaurants and bars close for those days.

The key word here is “hardworking”… Money does not grow on trees in this service industry – but a reasonable return can be achieved by hard work and long days with excellent services and good food. 

A quick walk around the area discloses that many appear to be enjoying boom times now, just like the small Italian Botega 13 Deli & Wine Bar, pictured above, that is now serving truffles…

Another trend has been going on is the development of whole discarded buildings that have been turned into hotels here in Helsinki – at least 15 big new hotels have been opened in the centre at the last rough count, which is no small increase for a city that has 658 864, residents as a of June this year.

You may wonder if there is a demand for so many rooms but one must trust that these investors have their eyes open and can do their maths. There is a huge risk that high electricity prices and big hikes in travel costs will impact this sector… 

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