Back to our student roots is how it felt when we finally reach the Summer hostel Domus Academica in Helsinki, Finland. Student accommodation during semester terms, for three months during the short but intense Nordic summer this hostel becomes a hub for guests and backpackers from all around the world, some of them happily chatting with the friendly student reception staff as we enter the lobby.
True to the green travel spirit, we had decided to make the best of a sunny Sunday in June, and walk. It took us about 40 minutes to navigate our heavy bags from the Linda ferry station (coming from Tallinn, Estonia), in a zigzag through Helsinki’s business and design district (those wanting to avoid the very uneven streets better take tram no. 2, which will get you very close to the hostel).
Check-In at Summer Hostel Domus Academica
With keys in hand, we made it to our basic, but functional and spacious room on the 4th floor. Table, fridge and a little kitchen (though without equipment), a small bathroom, two single beds easily put together. Large windows facing a (quiet) street. Internet worked well with the cable borrowed for a small fee from reception (wireless only available at a dedicated room next to reception area). Spotlessly clean throughout.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of Domus Academica – apart from its dedication to sustainable, eco-friendly hospitality, which of course was what attracted us in the first place – is its proximity to Helsinki’s city center, making the hostel and student accommodation a great starting point for sightseeing tours around this rapidly changing Scandinavian capital.
The impressive Kamppi chapel of silence, located in a corner of the Narinkkatori square, opposite the Kamppi shopping center, proved a good meeting point for our local “guides” – fellow members of hospitality network BeWelcome.org.
Student hall during Semester terms
If only for its size – and you can hardly blame them because that’s of course exactly what it is – Domus Academica feels more like a student hall than a hostel, which is also reflected in its large, functional and modern cafeteria, where we went for (organic!) breakfast the next morning.
While the food was basic and good, the place itself lacked a bit of atmosphere, perhaps due to its basement location, or because by then we had gotten used to the kind of breakfast arrangements that you encounter in four and five-star hotels. For a budget accommodation like Domus Academica, it certainly does the trick.
More impressive is the hostel’s commitment to sustainable and climate-friendly hospitality. As Sanni, a particularly likeable and enthusiastic member of the mostly student staff, tells us during our tour around the property (comprising several buildings, a sauna, pool and bike room, among others), Domus Academica is the first accommodation provider in Finland to offset the carbon emissions incurred by hostel operations.
Climate-friendly budget accommodation
Through the Nordic Offset Organization, necessary funds are donated to support renewable energy projects around the world, most recently wind turbines in China and Turkey.
Considering the low margins on which hostels usually operate, this clearly is exemplary. With the University of Helsinki the driving force behind this initiative, we are confident that other university units, such as the various restaurants, will follow suit.
All in all, apart from its great location and reasonable price (especially during summer, Helsinki is an expensive city destination), Domus Academica’s easy-going atmosphere and laudable commitment to environmental best practice makes it the ideal place to stay for eco-smart travelers on a tight budget during their (summer) city trip to Helsinki.
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