The historic fortress at Suomenlinna is known as the ‘Castle of Finland”. It is one of the top things to do while visiting Helsinki, Finland. It is also a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The fortress was created in the 1700s by Swedish military officer and architect Augustin Ehrensvärd. Ehrensvärd was also responsible for creating the Swedish archipelago fleet.
There are six museums located on the Suomenlinna site. If you plan to visit several museums during your stay in Finland, there is a Museum Card available for purchase.
Top things to do at the fortress
- The walking tour along the ‘Blue Route’ is 1.5 km long. It starts at the Visitor’s Centre in the stone building with the vaulted tin roof, the Jetty Barracks. It was built around 1868 by the Russians. The barracks, during peace time could hold 250 soldiers. It now serves as the visitor’s centre, cafe, artist gallery and Suomenlinna Brewery and Cafe.
- Stand in the framed marble-stoned Kings Gate to admire the sweeping harbour views. The gate was the grand entrance to the fortress and was built around 1753. In the 1770s, a double draw bridge and the stairs made from Swedish limestone were added.
- Visit the Great Courtyard and the Tomb of Augustin Ehrensvärd. Ehrensvärd built the Great Courtyard in the 1760s. After his death in 1772, King Gustav III of Sweden designed his tomb with Augustin’s son Carl August Ehrensvärd and Johan Tobias Sergel. The monument was completed in the early 1880s. The courtyard was badly damaged in 1885 during the Crimean War.
Grave site of Augustin Ehrensvärd, a Swedish military officer, military architect, artist, creator of the fortress and the Swedish archipelago fleet. Suomenlinna is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo archives of the Governing Body of Suomenlinna, Photographer Dorit Salutskij©
- Investigate the historic cannons of Suomenlinna Fortress.
- Explore the Toy Museum’s antique dolls and teddy bears from the 1800s up to the 1960s. It also has a special collection of wartime toys.
- Climb aboard the restored Finnish Vesikko Submarine museum, which opened in 1978.
- Discover more about the history of the fortress at the Suomenlinna Museum.
- Learn about the Finnish defence forces and its history at the Military Museum’s Manege.
- Gather interesting facts about Finland’s history of customs and smuggling at the Customs Museum.
- Find out about the history of the Swedish era of the fortress at the Ehrensvärd Museum.
A ferry service runs from Market Square in Helsinki. It takes about 20 minutes. There is no entrance fee for the fortress, but there is a charge for each of the six museums on the Suomenlinna site.
- Sweden built and ruled the fortress from 1748-1808.
- The fort was originally called Viapori.
- Russia seized the fort after the Russo-Swedish War and ruled here from 1808-1918.
- Finland gained its independence from Russia in 1917 at the time of the Russian Revolution.
- Suomenlinna officially transferred to Finland in 1918 after the Finish Civil War.
- Suomenlinna became a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
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