Inclusive housing at the heart of the city – Unihome helps international talent settle in Finland

Professor Gary Eiceman has met many new people at breakfast in Töölö Towers. A housing company operated by two Finnish universities also offers short-term accommodation for Finns to get away from home renovations and for weekend breaks.

Breathtaking vistas to the city blocks in the Töölö district open from the rooftop terrace. One glance encompasses the sights of the city, the sea and the lush Hesperia Park. This unique landscape is just one of the many attractions of Töölö Towers.

“You get a wonderful view over the rooftops of Helsinki,” says Päivi Holmberg, Managing Director of the Unihome accommodation company.

Töölö Towers was built in 1954 as residences for the staff of the Hesperia hospital area. Today, they host international visitors and researchers of Finnish universities. They can settle in pre-furnished apartments at a low cost until they return to their home country or find permanent housing in Finland.

The accommodation operations are run by Unihome, a joint subsidiary of the University of Helsinki and Aalto University. From its staff, guests can get advice on everyday problems, such as using public transport.

“Reception services help in integrating to the new surroundings,” Holmberg says.

With a decor that evokes the 1950s, Töölö Towers invites you to enjoy its shared spaces. You can admire the sea view from lounges, and the breakfast room has been built in the lobby of the old banquet hall. In fact, guests can easily make friends amongst themselves.

“People have gotten engaged and found life partners here,” Holmberg explains.

A researcher appreciative of the carefreeness of housing

Professor Gary Eiceman has found a number of new people to talk with in the Töölö Towers breakfast room. Among others, he has shared the table with a brain surgeon and an architect. Coming up with topics of conversation is easy when most of the guests are members of the academic community. People share their stories from all walks of life.

“That wouldn’t happen in a regular hotel,” Eiceman muses.

Eiceman works at the Department of Chemistry on Kumpula Campus. He first stayed at Unihome in 2020 after arriving in Finland to prepare a funding application.

Eiceman is particularly pleased with the flexibility of the accommodation. He can rent an apartment for a few months, return to his home country, the United States, for a summer holiday, and then travel back here again, with his furniture and other belongings waiting for him in the downstairs storage room. The arrangement is a good fit for a researcher who travels a lot.

“I don’t have to worry about pipe breakages while I’m gone,” Eiceman jokes.

According to Eiceman, Unihome’s other assets include safety and security, and a friendly staff. For his work, he has stayed in several locations in both North America and Europe.

“This is probably the best place I’ve ever been to.”

Convenient accommodation for getting away from a renovation or for a weekend holiday

Unihome’s accommodation services are available to anyone. In fact, some 30% of the customers are from outside the academic community. Accommodation can be booked online at market price, for example, if you have to get away from a home renovation. Some people visit Helsinki for a weekend break or to take part in a sporting event, making it convenient to have at your disposal a laundry room and an apartment with a kitchen.

“It’s kind of like coming home,” Holmberg says.

The Töölö Towers buildings were renovated in the early 2010s. Today, they boast a range of apartments from mini-studios to large penthouses as well as terraced houses with room for a family of up to seven. The apartments are furnished in a simple style.

“Residents get to add to the furnishings of the apartments as they wish,” Holmberg says.

In addition to Töölö Towers, Unihome’s locations include the modern Aalto Inn hotel for visiting researchers in Otaniemi, Espoo, and Unihome Students, a student apartment complex in Pihlajanmäki, Helsinki. Overall, there are over 400 apartments in these locations.

Responsible travel involves recycling and energy saving

Unihome supports sustainable development by reducing and recycling waste, and by looking for ways to improve energy efficiency. A recycling market for second-hand goods has been established in Pihlajanmäki, with a similar facility planned for Töölö. This way, outgoing residents can leave dishes, carpets and other belongings for others to use.

“It preserves nature and saves money,” says Holmberg.

In the future, communal cooking evenings will also be organised for residents. Creating a warm atmosphere is important, as many foreigners get their introduction to Finland through their local lodging. When staying at Unihome, you can be alone, but you don't have to be alone, as Holmberg sums up.

“In the future, we wish to further strengthen inclusivity.”

Read more:

Unihome's web pages

Visitors from more than a hundred countries
  • Unihome locations are available for accommodation from days to months. The typical duration of visits is two weeks.
  • Since 2018, customers have arrived from more than 130 countries, many of them from Germany, the United States and Japan.
  • Töölö Towers has 178 apartments, Aalto Inn 52 and the Pihlajanmäki student property 181.
  • For members of the University community, accommodation is available below market prices.
  • The price of accommodation includes many services, including saunas, self-service laundries, personal postboxes, bicycle cellars and luggage storerooms. At Töölö Towers, breakfast is also included.
  • Unihome was established in 2018. The University of Helsinki Funds owns 81% and Aalto University 19% of the company.
  • Unihome also manages rental apartments owned by the University of Helsinki Funds.