Last update: 01/07/2019
Anyone visiting Helsinki, the capital of Finland, cannot leave out the Suomenlinna Fortress, one of the city's main attractions, which is a UNESCO heritage site. Check out tips on how to get there, visit and make the most of everything the place has to offer!
THE FORTRESS OF SUOMENLINNA IN HELSINKI
Suomenlinna Fortress is located on 7 islands that are a little far from the center of Helsinki, but that belong to the city. It began to be built during Swedish era as a maritime fortress and naval base for the Fleet archipelago. Its operation as a fortress began in 1748. Originally, its name was Sveaborg (in Swedish) or Viapori (in Finnish). The Swedish era of the fortress continued for 60 years until 1808, when it was taken by Russian forces in the Russo-Swedish War.
Thus, the fortress, along with its ships and equipment, passed under Russian imperial government domain. In the following year, the Finland became an autonomous grand duchy of Russia, but the fortress remained a military base under Russian administration. With the Russian Revolution and the independence of Finland in 1917, the fortress passed to the Finnish government domain, being renamed to Suomenlinna ("Castle of Finland"). In 1991, the Suomenlinna fortress was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List as a unique monument of military architecture.
MAP OF SUOMENLINNA FORTRESS
Once you reach the fortress (see information on how to get there at the end of the post), take a explanatory leaflet about the location. The brochure is very complete, with a map, lots of historical information, places to eat, suggestions for tours, etc. For those who have a limited time, it is worth following the suggestion given in the brochure and following the “main route” (main route), painted in blue in the reproduction below the map, which is about 1.5 km long and takes just over 1h30 to travel.
Although the fortress is made up of 7 areas, only 2 of them have most of the attractions, in this order: C: Iso Mustasaari, B: Susisaari, A: Kustaanmiekka. Some areas are only open during the summer months.
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HOW TO VISIT SUOMENLINNA FORTRESS
The tour of the Suomenlinna Fortress will adapt to the visitor's profile. The fortress has several museums (with paid entry), but it is also possible to just walk through the main buildings, admire the incredible views on a sunny day, have a picnic, among other activities. You can spend a whole day there, if you have time. We took only one morning to visit the place and we stayed around 3:30 to 4 hours. It was enough to visit the main areas, but we didn't have time to visit all the museums. What we really recommend is: do the blue route, including a visit to the Suomenlinna Museum, the main museum of the fortress, which tells its entire history (number 18 on the map).
Check out the official video below about the blue route tour and better understand what we saw during our visit to the fortress:
Go through the information center and head to Suomenlinna Church (#11). Go straight until you reach the Suomenlinna Museum (#18). After leaving the museum, cross the bridge. Take advantage of your visit to take pictures of the historic buildings and enjoy the beautiful view from the high points of the terrain, especially in the south area to King's Gate (#44).
MUSEUMS OF SUOMENLINNA FORTRESS
- Suomenlinna Museum: It is the main museum of the fortress. Its permanent exhibition tells the story of Suomenlinna, the series of historical events and people involved. The upper floor features an exhibition of extensive restoration work, as well as periodic exhibitions. There is a 25-minute movie that tells the story of the fortress. (Entry: €7)
- Ehrensvärd Museum: This museum is located on the first floor of Casa do Comandante, at the top of a long staircase. The exhibition tells the story of Sweden at the time of the fortress. There are a number of portraits, miniatures, weapons, furniture, and paintings from 1760. (Admission: €5)
- Vesikko submarine: The Vesikko submarine was used during the Second World War and has now become one of the main attractions of the fortress. It is possible to see the restored submarine where 20 crew members worked. The submarine is open to visitors only in the summer months. (Entry: €7)
- Military Museum's Manege: In this museum it is possible to have an overview of the Finnish Defense Forces and the life of a Finnish soldier in war and peace, from past centuries to the present. (Entry: €7)
- Toy Museum: The Toy Museum brings together a series of antique toys from the early 19th century to the 1960s. The museum is only open in the summer months, with some events in autumn and winter. (Entry: €6)
- Customs Museum: The Customs Museum shows the history of trade and smuggling in Finland. In addition, the museum hosts an annual temporary themed exhibition. This museum is located on Susisaari Island and is only open in the summer. (Free entrance)
WHERE TO EAT IN SUOMENLINNA FORTRESS
There are several options for restaurants and cafes in the fortress area. There's even a brewery! Check out the options here:
- Restaurant Suomenlinna Brewery (brewery)
- Viaporin Deli & Cafe
- Vanille coffee
- Café Samovarbar
- Suomenlinna Center Café
- Bastion Bistro
- Café Bar Valimo
- Restaurant Cafe Chapman
- Piper coffee
HOW TO REACH SUOMENLINNA FORTRESS
The only way to reach Suomenlinna is by water. You need to take a ferry (boat) from market square which leads to Suomenlinna. Arrive at the place and buy tickets at the self-service machines that are available close to where the boats depart. buy the 12 hour ticket to Suomenlinna which allows you to travel to and from the fortress for a one-time fee of €5 per person (value as of June 2017 – check current rate here). When the next boat is available, you just hop on and find a place to sit. The journey takes between 15 and 20 minutes and allows you to have beautiful views of Helsinki. Check the timetables in this link.
- Address: 00190 Helsinki, Finland
- Schedules: vary (see this link to see all schedules)
- Entrance: free to the island; pay for museums
- Guided tours: check the options in this link
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Read more about Helsinki:
- Finland: The iconic Helsinki Cathedral
- Finland: What to do in the capital Helsinki – 2-day itinerary
- Finland: How to get from Helsinki Airport to the center
- How to get from Helsinki (Finland) to Tallinn (Estonia) by ferry
- Finland: Cheap Accommodation Helsinki Tip
- Helsinki: Typical Finnish Food at Savotta Restaurant