Suomenlinna (also called Sveaborg or Viapori) is on the UNESCO World Heritage list as an example of 18th century European fortress building. It was actually build by both the Swedish and the Russians so it shows influence from the West and the East.
A twenty minute ferry ride away from Helsinki, it is a good destination for those interested in war history and it has probably the best opening hours in Helsinki. I was trying to think of places where to take my visitors on Sunday, but most of the museums and sights were closed. Thank goodness Suomenlinna is open almost every day! The ferry to the island leaves from Kauppatori and you can buy the tickets in advance at the pier or on the ferry. Suomenlinna is also a child friendly place having nice playgrounds and a small swimming beach. The island also has a picnic area, but the geese have pretty much taken it over.
I had collected some pins points, so I decided to use them to buy me and my friends from Australia, a Greatdays vouchers for a walking tour of Suomenlinna that included the ferry rides and coffee and a bun.
The official walking tour is organized by the Ehrensvärd Society and costs 11 €. Our tour was really interesting and our guide, Camilla, really good. It’s been a while since I paid for a walking tour as I try to do things lowcost when I’m travelling. I would recommend taking the tour as it is more interesting than reading trivia from a a guidebook. I am a bit rusty in certain areas in Finnish history, so it was easier to let the guide speak and not to think back to eight grade history class or check things from google.
One of the biggest Nordic fortresses, Suomenlinna offers exactly what you would expect: cobbled streets, tunnels, dark passages, cold and wet stonewalls and dusty smell.
The tomb of the founder of Suomenlinna, Augustin Ehrensvärd, dominates the Great Courtyard. Ehrensvärd’s tomb is called the most beautiful tomb in Scandinavia and it is quite impressive.
The Suomenlinna Church also works as a lighthouse as there is a glass dome in the steeple. The beacon emits the letter H in Morse code that stands for Helsinki.
It takes a good half a day to explore the fortress. You can easily stretch it to a full day trip if you decide to go to the museums, have a picnic, go for a swim or if bring a good book with you.
Don’t pack your camera away on your return trip on the ferry, as you can get some good photos of Helsinki.