In 1748 construction started on a maritime fortress of tremendous proportions. Suomenlinna (roughly translated to “visitor”) covers nearly 200 acres of land across six islands off the coast of Helsinki, Finland. Actually built under Swedish rule, Suomenlinna and Finland were conquered in 1808 and became a part of Russia in 1809. It was not until over a century later that the Finnish people were given their independence and reclaimed the fortress as part of their capital city. Today it is among the more exceptional tourist destinations in Finland attracting approximately 700,000 locals and foreigners a year. And not just for the unique military architecture. Suomenlinna has plenty to keep you entertained from cafés and restaurants to a brewery and museums.
Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, Suomenlinna has been a popular attraction since the early 1960s (despite being a working military garrison until 1972). Although the land Suomenlinna was built on was originally prized for its Spartan qualities, the islands are now rife with beautiful plants and wildlife, especially in the late Spring and Summer. It is an ideal spot for a family picnic on the grass or a romantic walk through lush greenery down to the sandbanks and the rocky shoreline. Feeling a bit more indoorsy? The Walhalla Restaurant is fantastic and the incredible brick work on the walls and ceilings creates a cozy cave-like ambiance that seems to make the food taste even more delicious. The cafés and restaurants are typically only open during the warmer months, so plan ahead if you are thinking about dining there.
For those not in the market for food, there are six different museums in Suomenlinna for you to check out. Entry prices vary as do operational hours, however after your ferry ticket access to Suomenlinna is free of charge. The Toy Museum is among the visitor favorites, but there is also plenty to see and learn about the island’s history and Finland’s military at Ehrensvärd Museum or the Suomenlinna Museum. They even have a dry docked World War II era submarine that you can crawl around in to see what life was like for 1930’s Finnish sailors. But it’s not just military exploits that get the spotlight; the Jetty Barracks Gallery is home to an extremely fine collection of modern art. In addition there are several studios (such as glass blowing and ceramics) around to visit that are anything but ordinary.
If you’re up for some exploring, head off to the south end of Suomenlinna and take a tour of the tunnels. They really exemplify the extent of the strength of the fortifications established here. After all that, just hop on the ferry for a short 15 minute ride back to the main land. Summer visitors will find a great little weekend market place there with all sorts of fun vendors hocking local delicacies and crafts. It’s an ideal spot for some touristy pictures and to pick up unique souvenirs. From open air theatre productions, to fun museums, and tasty eats, Suomenlinna is a super get away spot for anyone lucky enough to find themselves touring the enchanting nation of Finland.
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