Suomenlinna Sea Fortress

The Suomenlinna sea fortress, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of Finland’s steepest and best-known sights. The fortress is also its own district, where about 800 people live.


The history of Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna is a sea fortress located in the archipelago off Helsinki. The construction work of the fortress began during Swedish rule in 1748.

Over the centuries, the sea fortress has functioned as part of the history of three different countries. Suomenlinna was in the possession of the Swedes from 1748 to 1808, which was followed by the Russian period lasting over a hundred years (1808–1918). This period ended with the independence of Finland and the Russian Revolution.

In May 1918, the name of the fortress was changed to Suomenlinna in accordance with independent Finland, and at the same time, the sea fortress was also incorporated into the Finnish state.

Various units of the defense forces were soon placed in the fortress, and the fortress became one large Finnish garrison with this.

Renovation work was started on the fortress shortly after this, and it slowly started to become a tourist destination as well.

During the Winter War in 1939, Suomenlinna housed, among other things, anti-aircraft and artillery troops. The fortress also served as a base for the Finnish submarine fleet. After the Continuation War, only a few army units continued to operate in the region.

In the middle of the 1960s, the defense forces announced that they would give up the fortress. Only the Naval Academy remained of the units of the Defense Forces, which still operates in its old location.

After the transition to civilian administration, renovation work began in Suomenlinna, with which the buildings began to be renovated for residential use.

Development into a tourist attraction and current state

Suomenlinna, which was previously used as a fortress, was transferred to civilian administration in 1973. With an eye on management and development, the Ministry of Education and Culture established a separate Suomenlinna management board.

In 1974, a separate use plan was drawn up for Suomenlinna, the aim of which was to develop the fortress specifically as a tourist destination. The main starting point of the plan has been the preservation of Suomenlinna’s cultural heritage and its development as a residential area and monument. The nursing home operates in close cooperation with the City of Helsinki.

Suomenlinna finally got the recognition it deserved in the early 1990s, when the sea fortress was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1991.

In 1998, Suomenlinna reached a handsome landmark when the 250th anniversary of the sea fortress was celebrated in Helsinki. In honor of the anniversary, the year-round Suomenlinnakeskus was opened to tourists.

Suomenlinna has maintained its place among the most popular travel destinations in Finland, and its visitor numbers have continued to grow until these days. Approximately one million people visit Suomenlinna annually, which is almost the same number as Linnanmäki.

In addition to being a popular tourist destination, Suomenlinna is one of Helsinki’s neighborhoods, which is home to around 800 residents and a workplace for around 400 people.

Suomenlinna attracts tourists from both Finland and abroad. Many tourists visit the island in the summer, when the Helsinki archipelago is definitely at its best. However, the number of visitors in the winter season has been increasing all the time.

Suomenlinna is a very easy-to-reach day destination for tourists visiting Helsinki and the local population, and can be reached year-round by HSL ferry.

Visiting Suomenlinna is also cost-effective, because you don’t need to buy a separate ticket to the sea fort, and you can get to know the historical destination for the same price that it takes to get there.

Guided tours

The best way to get to know Suomenlinna is to take part in a guided walking tour.

On a guided walking tour, you will visit historical places, mainly in the Susisaari and Kustaanmiekka areas, and you will hear about the fascinating past of the fortress.

On the tour, you will get to know, among other things, the Great Castle Yard and the dry dock, which was once one of the largest in the world.

It is also possible to organize separate group visits to Suomenlinna.

Cafes and museums

In addition to culture and history, Suomenlinna has many restaurants and cafes that serve as pleasant places to stop and take a break.

There is a choice of everything from small, idyllic cafes and lunch places to gourmet dinner restaurants.

All of Suomenlinna’s cafes and restaurants are open throughout the summer season, and with the increased winter tourism, many of these also serve their customers in winter. The fortress also has its own brewery.

Suomenlinna also has a total of six museums, which are located on different sides of the fortress. Tickets to the museums are bought separately from each office, and in addition, the Museum Card is also valid for all museums.

List of museums in Suomenlinna:

  • Suomenlinna museum
  • Ehrensvärd museum
  • Manesis of the War Museum
  • Submarine Mesikko
  • Suomenlinna toy museum
  • Customs Museum

Other things to see inside Suomenlinna

Inside Suomenlinna, there are numerous individual attractions that you should definitely visit during your visit to the island. The most famous attractions in the area are:

  • King’s Gate
  • Large castle yard
  • Dock
  • Suomenlinna Church
  • Beach barracks
  • Bastion Zander
  • Prisoner of war camp memorial site

Ferries and water buses

The easiest way to get to Suomenlinna is by ferry. A ferry service runs between the Helsinki Market Square and the sea fortress all year round. Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) is responsible for operating the ferries.

Depending on the year and time of day, ferries run 1–4 times an hour from morning to night. The ferry ride is relatively short, as it only takes about 15 minutes.

The ferry from the market square leaves from the eastern side of the square, near the Presidentinlinna. In Suomenlinna, the departure and arrival point of the ferry is at the main pier of Iso Mustasaari, which is located on the northern shore of the sea fortress.

Suomenlinna’s ferries are part of Helsinki’s public city transport. Thanks to this, you can board the ferry with all HSL ticket types. So if you have a valid HSL ticket (AB, ABC, or ABCD), you can also use this ticket to board the ferry. Suomenlinna is located in HSL ticket zone A.

It is also possible to get one-time tickets for the ferry ride, the prices of which are 3.60 euros for adults and 1.80 euros for children. It is possible to buy tickets at the Kauppator ferry pavilion, the city’s tourist office, and the HKL service point.

The other main method of arrival is by water bus. FRS Finland Oy is responsible for traffic to Suomenlinna and the island of Lonna. The water bus operates between the fortress and the market square from the beginning of May to the end of September. The one-way trip takes about 20 minutes.

Book hotel accommodation

Are you vacationing in Helsinki and planning to visit Suomenlinna as well? Book a hotel room with good transport connections and equipped with versatile services at VALO Hotel in Helsinki’s Ruskeasuo.

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External sources: My Helsinki, Suomenlinna website
Main image: Juha Kalaoja, Suomenlinna, Visit Finland Media Bank