View from the throne – Helsinki

Rooftop Bars, Finland, Cocktails, Helsinki

At a latitude of 60 degrees north, Helsinki’s outdoor rooftop scene is certainly not a year round hive of activity, nor does it boast the most breathtaking cityscapes from mile high vantage points. But it does offer an unrivalled panoramic view of the second most Northern capital city in the world where influences from both the East and the West are evident.

My venue for this afternoon is Ateljee Bar in the Sokos Hotel Torni commanding a spectacular 360 degree panoramic view of the Finnish capital city from a fourteenth floor view point. It’s early October, and Google is telling me it is 14 degrees. And I’m glad, it means I can still sit outside on the terrace with a light jacket and absorb the ambience.

Located in the heart of downtown, the hotel was completed in 1931, and remained the tallest building in Helsinki for an impressive 56 years, even serving during World War Two for paramilitary spotters searching for enemy aircraft.

The bar originally opened in the 1950s and to this day still carries some of its charm from yesteryear. History lesson is now over. An elevator ride will take you to the twelfth floor, and from there, don’t be put off by the nondescript door. A small sign confirms you’re heading the right way and behind it is a steep spiral steel staircase to negotiate. What happened to the thirteenth floor is unknown at time of publishing.

After completing the ascent into the bar, the first thing you’ll notice is the size. A real estate agent would say it is ‘cosy’ or ‘intimate’, a realist may say it is a tad on the small size. Either way, you are soon distracted by the views around. The ‘intimate’ indoor bar has enough room for 30 guests and both the North and the South terrace can accommodate around 20 guests each too but at 16.70 Euros it was certainly on the pricey side. Whilst they don’t serve food there, you can request a bowl of nuts. It’s complementary, but at almost 17 Euros for a G&T I somehow felt I’d paid for those nuts.

Price aside, it was a fantastic drink though served in a quality cut glass with a nice garnish of rosemary and local lingonberries. The place was certainly not attracting the backpacker clientele, but by around 5pm, it seemed people started to gather here to watch the sun go down after a hard day in the office.

The decor was let down in my opinion by the very cheap-looking plastic chairs and stainless tables. More suited for a burger truck at a festival rather than a high-end (high altitude) cocktail bar.

The highlight of this bar though is usually a low light of any other bar. It is the toilets. It requires a descent down a different spiral staircase to the 12th floor, so it could be tricky after having a few drinks, and for the ladies, high heels are at your peril. And it’s certainly no fun when you meet someone coming the other way half way up.

But when you are sat on the ceramic throne, you are rewarded with a beautiful view of the city through floor to ceiling windows. So when nature is calling, you are still at one with the urban cityscape. It’s almost poetic. Anyway, there is a queue of other customers waiting for the toilet now, so I’d better wrap this blog up.

So if you ever find yourself in Helsinki and want a lovely cocktail or gin and tonic – or just simply need the loo, make sure you check out Ateljee. And if any of you are reading this outside, please pass some paper under the door…