photo @ Discovering Finland
Tourism Lappeenranta & Lappeenranta Guide
Situated 220 km equidistant from Helsinki to the west and St. Petersburg to the southeast on the southern shores of Lake Saimaa, Lappeenranta is the second most visited town in Finland. It is a town rich in cultural history, with numerous museums and Finland’s oldest orthodox church located within the Fortress of Lappeenranta, and possesses ten different choirs or orchestras, as well as the largest sandcastle in Finland, and excellent skiing on the slopes at Myllymäki and Konka.
Today Lappeenranta is a vibrant international university city, situated in the midst of a stunning landscape at the southern end of Europe’s fourth largest lake, Saimaa. The colorful events and historical attractions in Lappeenranta, together with the region’s magnificent nature, offer unforgettable experiences year around. Lappeenranta is a popular destination in Finland and a hub of lakeside tourism. 220 km away from both Helsinki and 190 km from St. Petersburg and close to the Finnish border with Russia, Lappeenranta is the second most popular tourist site for foreign visitors.
Tourist attractions Lappeenranta
Following the period known as ‘The Great Hate’ in 1721 the Swedes began the fortification of the town, with little success – the fortress fell in the Battle of Lappeenranta in 1741 in five hours! Shortly after, it fell under Russian rule, almost 100 years before the rest of Finland. In 1811 ‘old Finland’ and the rest of the country were reunited, and this saw Lappeenranta enjoy a long period where it was no longer the centre of battles, but instead a peaceful lakeside district.
Lappeenranta today is the administrative, cultural, and commercial centre of South Karelia, a modern, thriving town and a hub for tourism. Situated at the southern end of Finland’s largest lake system, Lake Saimaa, it is the second most visited city in the country, thanks in no small part to the Russians who love to shop here. The easy-going Karelian locals are among the friendliest in all of Finland, and have an obvious love for music which you’ll hear almost everywhere you go. There are over ten different choirs or orchestras in Lappeenranta, including a permanent orchestra and theatre, and numerous museums to visit, including the South Karelia Art Museum, the Cavalry Museum, the Wolkoff House Museum, and the Museum of South Karelia.
The Fascinating Fortress and its museums, shops, cafes and summer theatre invite you to enjoy modern Karelianism. The City Theater is located in the heart of IsoKristiina shopping mall, close to the restaurants, shops and accommodation. Hundreds of different events are held in Lappeenranta every year, festivals, concerts, sport and street events spread from the heart of the city centre to the shores of Lake Saimaa.
There are numerous museums to visit, including the Lappeenrata Art Museum, the Cavalry Museum at the oldest remaining building in Lappeenranta, the Wolkoff House Museum, and the Museum of South Karelia.
Most of these are located in and around the Fortress of Lappeenranta, which is one of the most visited attractions in Finland. Surrounded by the ramparts, this historic district represents the original town which began as a medieval trading centre during the Swedish regime in 1649. It is also the site of Finland’s oldest orthodox church, completed in 1785. With such a rich mix of fascinating history, wonderful scenery, delightful handicrafts shops and workshops, and so many museums, it is hardly surprising that the Fortress of Lappeenranta is one of the most visited and popular sites in all of Finland.
The city is also famous for its sandcastle, the largest in Finland, and a real favourite for families with children. Every summer artists gather on the northern end of the harbour to build an ever-increasing sandcastle (using over 2 million kilos of sand), with a different theme every year. In fact, the charming harbour area and Myllysaari recreational park offer numerous events, activities and refreshments for the whole family. You can take a dip to swim at Myllysaari beach or spend time relaxing at the tip of Halkosaari in the middle of the harbour. During the summer, in the marketplace, you can enjoy local specialities meat pies “Atomi” and “Vety”, enjoy live music and admire the views of Lake Saimaa. Most of Lappeenranta´s sights and services are free of charge and located in close proximity. The street train offers a comfortable and fun way to travel from one destination to another. From the Sandcastle, you may start your city train ride, rent canoes, kayaks, SUP boards or bikes, and start to explore the Lake Saimaa region. From Lappeeenranta port, you can travel to the archipelago and historical Saimaa Canal or through the Saimaa Canal to Vyborg or St. Petersburg.
During the winter you may walk, ski, or skate on the frozen lake and visit one of the Saimaa UNESCO Global Geopark sites, “Karhusaari” island near the harbour.
Lappeenranta has a vast selection of activities for visitors, whether they prefer adventures in the outdoors, or relaxing by the side of the lake enjoying peace and quiet in a serene environment. All the usual water sports are available here, and the region is a haven for fishermen, horseback riders, nature enthusiasts and bird watchers, golfers, swimmers, cyclists, and even dancers. Whether you’ve spent the day laying on the beach at Myllysaari, or playing beach volleyball, you should take the opportunity to enjoy a traditional wood burning sauna there, or visit one of the many smoke saunas in the region.