A definite must-see in the Finnish capital, the Suomenlinna Fortress and garrison town stretches across six islands off the coast of Helsinki. The now UNESCO World Heritage-listed site was built in 1748 as a maritime fortress but today it functions only as an exciting attraction, welcoming nearly a million visitors every year.
A strategic positionThe decision to build Suomenlinna, then Viapori, was made in 1747 when Finland was part of Sweden. During the Russo-Swedish War, the fortress was besieged by Russian forces, who made great plans for Suomenlinna. It eventually fell into decay due to neglect and the fortress later suffered great damage from bombings during the Crimean War. The fortifications were later repaired to protect St. Petersburg during the First World War, and also had forces stationed here during the Second World War. After Finland regained its independence in the start of the 1900’s, Viapori was renamed Suomenlinna, meaning Castle of Finland.
Suomenlinna was handed over to civilian administration in 1973, and a development plan was established to turn the historic site into a tourist attraction. The City of Helsinki works together with the Governing Body of Suomenlinna to preserve the historical monument’s cultural heritage, making the fortress available to visitors all year round.
Getting to the fortressSuomenlinna Fortress is open to visitors every day of the year and entry is free, see website for updated opening hours. Throughout the year, a ferry runs from the Kauppatori Market Square from 1 to 4 times an hour. During the summer months a waterbus is also available from the same spot.
Guided tours are free with the Helsinki Card and otherwise available for purchase. It is also possible to tour the fortress on your own by taking the Blue Route, where signposts direct you to the main sights.
Suomenlinna Fortress is easily reached from the Radisson Blu Seaside Hotel in Helsinki. You can walk to the ferry terminal at Kauppatori in under 25 minutes, or you can get to the edge of Esplanadi Park with bus or metro, and walk the last minutes through the pleasant park until you reach the ferry.