Discover Suomenlinna: Sea Fortress in the Helsinki archipelago

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Suomenlinna welcomes visitors all year round, just a 15-minute ferry ride from Helsinki. The authentic monument of military architecture and marine nature make Suomenlinna one of the most popular tourist destinations in Finland.

During the lively summer months from May to late September, there is also a waterbus service that allows island hopping not only to Suomenlinna, but also to the cute Lonna island and the unique Vallisaari island. Both the ferry and the waterbus leave from Helsinki’s famous marketplace Kauppatori, just a short walk from the central train station.

Photo: Visit Finland / Juha Kalaoja

A Marine Adventure

In Suomenlinna, there is an array of picturesque parks, historical buildings, and fortress tunnels that offer a rich insight into past historical eras. The fortress is dotted with restaurants, cafes, and even a local bar offering tasty treats and refreshments, providing ample opportunities to relax and recharge between adventures.

For those seeking a blend of education and entertainment, Suomenlinna boasts six museums, each offering a unique glimpse into the rich history of the fortress. The main museum of the Fortress, the Suomenlinna Museum and the Military Museum are open year-round, while the Finnish Customs Museum, the nostalgic Toy Museum of Suomenlinna, Ehrensvärd Museum with it’s gustavian interior and Vesikko Submarine are open seasonally.

Exploring the Fortress

The best way to experience Suomenlinna is on foot. It is recommended to begin from the Visitor Centre, located by the main pier, and get the best tips for the day and pick-up a map of the fortress. By joining a guided tour or downloading an audio guide one can make the most of the visit. As visitors wander the cobbled streets and cliff paths, they are immersed in the fascinating history of the fortress. From restored cannons dotting the hillsides to dimly lit tunnels and passageways, Suomenlinna offers endless opportunities for exploration and adventure.

The island’s rich history is evident at every turn, with reminders of its past under Swedish, Russian, and Finnish control. Visitors can learn about the fortress’s role in various conflicts, from the Russo-Swedish War to the Crimean War, and its eventual transition to becoming a part of independent Finland.

Suomenlinna is a testament to military engineering and strategic planning. The fortress is adorned with captivating landmarks, including the Suomenlinna Church and its iconic lighthouse. The imposing Dry Dock stands as an innovative example of the island’s maritime heritage, while the King’s Gate welcomes visitors with its grandeur and historical significance.

Venture deeper into the fortress, and you’ll find yourself in the Great Courtyard, a sprawling expanse that echoes with the footsteps of soldiers and civilians alike. At Kustaanmiekka, the southern point of the fortress, the largest concentration of fortifications awaits, a silent sentinel overlooking the vast expanse of the sea.

Photo: Visit Finland / Jussi Hellsten

Suomenlinna Today

While Suomenlinna is steeped in history, it is also a vibrant and thriving community. Home to around 800 permanent residents, Suomenlinna is not just a tourist destination but a marine district of Helsinki. Suomenlinna has also become known as an avant-garde cultural location, with several buildings converted into artist studios and exhibition spaces.

Beyond its military past, Suomenlinna has blossomed into a cultural hub, with a myriad of artistic enclaves waiting to be discovered. Art lovers can immerse themselves in high-quality exhibitions of contemporary art at the galleries and exhibitions. Several artisan workshops open their doors regularly during the Art Walk events.

In addition to its museums and cultural offerings, Suomenlinna hosts events of all kind throughout the year. From changing exhibitions to guided tours and local festivals, there is always something happening on the fortress. Special events like the Suomenlinna Museum Day and Christmas in the Fortress offer unique opportunities to experience the charm and history of the site.

Photo: Visit Finland / Julia Kivelä

Suomenlinna’s Culinary Charms: A Taste of History and Tradition

Suomenlinna offers a delightful array of culinary experiences in a historic ambiance. From quaint cafes with home baked goods to fine dining restaurants, visitors can savour everything from casual lunches to gourmet meals. During the summer season, the sea fortress bustles with activity as cafes and restaurants serve locals and tourists alike, while many establishments continue to cater to visitors even during the quieter winter months.

Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or simply enjoying a day out, Suomenlinna offers something for everyone. With its captivating blend of military architecture, natural beauty, and cultural experiences, it truly is the gem of Helsinki’s archipelago.

Photo: Visit Finland
Adlerfelt - terrace and winebar
Restaurant Adlerfelt