Embark on a captivating journey to discover the rich tapestry of Finnish history and traditions. We’ve carefully curated a selection of four must-visit destinations to ensure a delightful and educational adventure for visitors of all ages. Immerse yourself in the unique cultural heritage of Finland at these extraordinary locales.
Museo Militaria – Experience Finnish War and Military History in Hämeenlinna
Museo Militaria is one of the largest war and military history museums in Finland. The museum started operating in 2013, when the Finnish Artillery Museum, the Pioneer Museum and The National Signals Museum were combined into one museum. The museum especially reserves the cultural heritage of armed forces in Finnish artillery, pioneers and military signalling and conveys related information, stories and experiences. Museo Militaria is located in the birthplace of the city of Hämeenlinna, in the historic castle barracks, next to the mediaeval Häme Castle. The museum is a cooperative museum of the Military Museum belonging to the organisation of the Defense Forces.
The museum offers a lot to see and experience for those interested in Finnish history as well as military life and military history, and is perfect as an excursion destination for the whole family. Covering three floors of the main building, the extensive main exhibition comprehensively presents the history of the museum’s three types of weapons from the Middle Ages to the 21st century. At the same time, visitors journey through the history of Finland. In the changing exhibitions, the themes of the main exhibition are explored in depth with overviews also made beyond the main weapon types on display.
The museum is located in the old red brick barracks built in the 19th century and the 1910s. In addition to the indoor exhibits, the museum includes a fenced outdoor exhibition area where, in addition to the largest cannons, the pioneers’ heavy equipment such as vehicles and military crossing equipment are on display. Also located in the outdoor exhibition area are the separate buildings for changing exhibitions, the Artillery Hall, and the military amateur radio station.
Museo Militaria is open all year round. In the summer season; from May 1st to August 31st the exhibitions are open every day from 10am to 5pm, while in the winter season, from September 1st to April 30th the museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 5pm. The Museum is closed for Christmas from December 16th 2023 to January 1st 2024.
In the museum’s main building, customers are served by the museum shop and the museum Café Militaria, where you can get hot and cold refreshments and snacks during the museum’s opening hours.
In addition to its own tickets, Museum Militaria has a joint ticket for sale, which allows you to visit The Parola Armour Museum in Hattula. You can also purchase the regional ticket, which includes Häme Castle and Prison in addition to the Militaria Museum.
Maritime Centre Vellamo – unforgettable experiences for the whole family
The Maritime Centre Vellamo rises in the old Kantasatama harbour of Kotka like a gigantic wave. Inside this stunning wave-like building, you’ll find the exhibition experiences of the Maritime Museum of Finland, the Kymenlaakso Museum, and the Coast Guard Museum. Vellamo is a must-see destination throughout the year!
The exhibition offerings of the three different museums are diverse, featuring the maritime history of Finland, alongside the Kymenlaakso region’s history, art, cultural heritage, ships, and boats. During the summer, the offerings expand as the icebreaker Tarmo (1907), the lighthouse ship Kemi (1901), and the patrol vessel Telkkä (1958) are open to the public.
The “Fateful Svensksund” exhibition provides a perspective on the Russo-Swedish War, which saw the largest naval battles ever fought in the Baltic, just off the coast of Kotka, and tells the story of the forgotten fortress city built in the aftermath of the conflict. The military history is approached through the stories of the people involved. Unique objects lifted from shipwrecks, interactive exhibits, and modern technology create a memorable experience.
“Shifting to Wood” is a tribute to the forestry industry of Kymenlaakso and its workers. Together with the journey of wood, the immersive exhibition carries visitors from one decade to the next. The path leads from the forest to the factories, each with its own culture passed down from generation to generation. The decades encompass successes and sacrifices, happy and challenging memories.
Maritime Centre Vellamo is enjoyable for both adults and children. Family activities are considered in everything, ensured by exhibitions specifically designed for children and families, as well as numerous activity points.
The offerings at the Museum Shop Plootu include unique gifts and Vellamo’s own product range. Sustainable development, recycled materials, and locality are favoured in production. Maritime Centre Vellamo has been awarded the Green Key certification as a sign of its responsible and sustainable operation.
Beyond the museum exhibits and activities, the architecture of the building is a stunning experience in itself. Maritime Centre Vellamo is a modern and impressive structure, with a facade combining sea-coloured metal panels and glass plates showcasing historical themes. The interior is dominated by oak, a traditional shipbuilding material.
The location of Maritime Centre Vellamo by the sea is an experience for both domestic and international tourists. Kotka’s other attractions, such as internationally acclaimed parks and the city’s river and nature, complement the overall experience.
A Must-Explore Destination for History Enthusiasts – The Parola Armour Museum
For those captivated by war history, the Parola Armour Museum stands out as a must-visit destination. The museum is dedicated to the meticulous gathering, preservation, investigation, and exhibition of the rich history of Finnish armoured and anti-tank defence troops. It serves as a captivating window into the skills and triumphs of the Finnish armoured troops, particularly the wartime tank division, against a superior enemy in the battles of Finland’s last wars.
The museum proudly houses Finland’s most extensive collection of tanks, armoured vehicles and anti-tank guns used by the Finnish Defence Forces throughout their history. Alongside Finnish weaponry, the museum displays a significant number of tanks captured during the Winter War of 1939-40 and the Continuation War of 1941-44, as well as tanks from abroad. Notably, an armoured train, featuring a splendid old steam engine, adds an extra layer of historical charm
What sets the Parola Armour Museum apart is its unique collections, including the most comprehensive array of Soviet-era tanks outside Russia. Rarities of particular interest include the BT-42 assault gun, the only one of its kind, the T-50 light tank, one of only two left in the world, and the only remaining BA-10 armoured car in the world.
The majority of these remarkable weapons and vehicles are on display throughout the extensive grounds, with the most modern vehicles housed within the two main buildings. Here, visitors can discover the fascinating history of Finland’s armoured troops through a large number of captivating and informative exhibits. To complement the experience, the museum offers a café and a souvenir store.
The Parola Armour Museum is not just a haven for history enthusiasts; it’s an excellent destination for both adults and children. Located 110 kilometres north of Helsinki in Hattula, Parola, near Hämeenlinna, the museum invites visitors of all ages to explore and appreciate the profound history of Finnish armoured and anti-tank forces.
War Gaming Event – 20.-21.1.2024
Winter Action Day – 24.2.2024
Engine Warming Day – 1.5.2024
The Suomenlinna Sea Fortress: A Must-Visit Cultural Gem
Recognized by UNESCO as an exceptional example of military architecture from its era, Suomenlinna earned its place on the list of World Heritage Sites in 1991. Today, it stands not only as one of Helsinki’s premier tourist destinations but also as a vibrant community hosting approximately 850 residents and fostering one of the capital’s most active artist communities.
Originally known as Sveaborg in Swedish, the construction of Suomenlinna commenced in 1748 under the guidance of Count Augustin Ehrensvärd, whose tomb now graces the Great Courtyard. Playing a pivotal role during the Russo-Swedish War of 1788–1790 as Sweden’s main military base and again in the war of 1808 and 1809, Suomenlinna endured a Russian siege, surrendering after three months and subsequently falling under the control of the Russian Empire. Post-Finnish Independence in 1918, the Finnish government assumed control of Viapori, renaming it Suomenlinna.
Today, Suomenlinna is more than a globally significant historical site; it is a lively and thriving community, a hub of avant-garde culture, with numerous buildings transformed into artists’ studios. Visitors have the opportunity to acquire unique souvenirs from their visit, with many studios offering distinctive items. Additionally, six museums beckon exploration: Suomenlinna Museum and the Military Museum are open year-round, the 18th-century interior museum Ehrensvärd Museum, the nostalgic Toy Museum, the Customs Museum, and the unique submarine Vesikko.
Beyond its historical and cultural significance, Suomenlinna is a cherished destination for tourists and Helsinki locals alike. The islands boast numerous parks ideal for picnics, a secluded beach perfect for swimming and sunbathing, and an array of restaurants and cafés. Suomenlinnan Panimon Ravintola offers seasonal delicacies and operates a micro-brewery, while Bastion Bistro occupies the wooden infantry barracks built in 1892. Restaurant Adlerfelt specializes in fresh food trends and wine, and Viaporin Deli and Café provide various lunch and take-out options. Pizzeria Nikolai offers a unique setting with tables in the labyrinthine casemate vaults and an outdoor terrace. For a quick snack, visitors can also stop by Café Bar Valimo, Cafe Silo, and Café Vanille. Suomenlinna truly captivates with its historical richness, artistic vibrancy, and diverse recreational offerings.
Visitors can reach Suomenlinna via a ferry service which runs from the Market Square throughout the year, and is operated by HSL-HRT, which means the same ticket works for the trams, buses, metro, and local trains. During summer and autumn, a water bus service to Suomenlinna is also available. The guest harbour in the middle of Suomenlinna caters to visitors arriving by their own boats.