At the family-owned Salpalinjan Hovi hotel in south-eastern Finland, guests take centre stage from the minute they walk through the door.

Salpalinjan Hovi, a small boutique hotel located a stone’s throw from Lappeenranta in Finland, has been shaped by Anne Sorsa-Vainikka’s own experiences as traveller. When her children were young and the family travelled abroad, Sorsa-Vainikka and her husband would regret splitting the family up at night, with the children in one room, and them in another. This got them wondering which services and activities their ideal hotel would offer.

In 2012, Sorsa-Vainikka, a biologist by training, fell in love with a former village school building in their native city of Lappeenranta, where she and her husband, a lawyer, had relocated from Helsinki. When the pair came across the gorgeous, listed building, it was immediately clear what Sorsa-Vainikka would do next. She would convert it into a small, cosy hotel, where she would offer guests the best-possible stay. Her hotel would be unique and different from chain hotels. Couples, families, nature and culture lovers would be welcome. Two years later, Salpalinjan Hovi opened.

Salpalinjan Hovi: a unique themed hotel in the middle of nature

Music room. Photo: HiskiShow

In furnishing the hotel, Sorsa-Vainikka preserved the references to the building’s former life. “I wanted to honour the history of the school building and I decorated all the rooms according to different school subjects,” she explains. “We have a mother tongue room, a history room, a biology, geography and an art room. All our rooms are family rooms, so that families can stay together.” Though the hotel has one small room that can accommodate a maximum of two people, most of its other rooms can sleep up to four guests, while its biggest room can sleep six.

Salpalinjan Hovi: a unique themed hotel in the middle of nature

Old school memories. Credit: HiskiShow

As a Finnish touch, the hotel features a traditional wooden sauna. “Foreign tourists might not understand why a school would have a sauna, but in Finland, teachers used to live in the school building. So, of course, they needed to have the sauna,” she explains with a smile.

Salpalinjan Hovi: a unique themed hotel in the middle of nature

Strange rock. Photo: HiskiShow

Family-friendly hospitality

Salpalinjan Hovi is a family-friendly hotel in several ways. Sorsa-Vainikka’s own children were picky eaters – and as a result, eating out at restaurants could be a stressful experience on holiday. So, she built a kitchen corner in each hotel room, where guests can make their own meals if they wanted to. Furthermore, guests can borrow everything from board games and books, to skates, skis and snowsuits for free during their stay.

Salpalinjan Hovi: a unique themed hotel in the middle of nature

Harbour boardwalk Lappeenranta. Photo: City of Lappeenranta

The hotel is located a mere nine kilometres from Lappeenranta, a city in south-eastern Finland renowned for its rich history and breathtaking nature. Nearby, visitors will find idyllic hiking trails, birdwatching, biking, fishing and paddling, as well as a 17th-century fortress, a former bunker line known as the Salpa Line, and stunning views of Saimaa, the largest lake in Finland. The hotel also offers multiple seasonal travel packages, from a three-day cycling tour, to a guided tour of the area’s most important war history sites. In addition, the hotel’s partner companies can bring rental equipment to the hotel and organise various activities and services.

Salpalinjan Hovi: a unique themed hotel in the middle of nature

Left: Winter feelings. Credit: Salpalinjan Hovi. Right: Bicycles for all ages. Credit: Salpalinjan Hovi

Salpalinjan Hovi is the hotel in the wider Lappeenranta area with the best overall score on (9.4), and the only hotel in the region with a score above nine. Sorsa-Vainikka attributes the many positive reviews to the personable and warm approach she has offered every single guest in the hotel’s eight years of operation. “When I go abroad and visit a city, I want to know what the most important sites are. And often, it’s difficult to find out,” she says.

That is why, as a hotel manager and host, Sorsa-Vainikka is always on hand to offer guidance and advice to first-time visitors to the area. “When guests, especially foreign guests, come to our hotel, I always tell them what there is to see and experience around the Lappeenranta area. I want our guests to have a superb holiday in which they discover the many interesting places here in Lappeenranta. And I think guests really appreciate that.”

Salpalinjan Hovi: a unique themed hotel in the middle of nature

Cooking on the grill. Photo: SLP Group Oy

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