Suomenlinna island resides on a group of islands just off of Helsinki and is only accessible by water. It’s a short ride by ferry, about 15-20 minutes, that leaves from Market Square. The ferry cost is included with the transit ticket if you purchased a day pass. During the summer there is also a water bus that can take you to the island as well.
It was built in the Swedish era, in 1748, as a maritime fortress and was a base for the Archipelago Fleet, it was named Viapori. in 1808 the Russians besieged the fortress during the Russian-Swedish war. The fortress changed hands again in 1917 when it was obtained by the Finnish government and renamed Suomenlinna which means “castle of Finland”
It is awesome to watch the lively coastline of Helsinki get smaller and smaller as you leave on the ferry towards Suomenlinna. Once on the island it is easy and preferred to see on foot.
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The main route is marked with blue signs and can be seen on the map marked in blue also. The route starts at the front of the Jetty Barracks and ends at King’s Gate is about a mile long. The path is lined with boards with information about the sights and their history. The main sites on the path are the Russian merchants’ quarter, Church Park, the Great Courtyard, Piper’s Park and the fortifications of Kustaanmiekka. I would allow about an hour and a half to walk the route.
Suomenlinna is a Unesco World Heritage site and is one of the most popular attentions in Helsinki. The Island features 6 museums, 11 restaurants and cafes, and the walls and cannons of the fortress.
The Museums of Suomenlinna
The six museums are located around the island, the tickets can be purchased separately at each museum, though in the summer you can get a Museum Card that is valid for all six. Among the museums are the history of the restoration, this one is open all year. The other 5 include a maritime, a submarine, a toy, military, and customs museum. You can check this calendar for opening hours.
The Restaurants of Suomenlinna
There are a total of 11 cafes and restaurants on Suomenlinna Island. They have something for everyone from small cafes for snacks to fine dining. There is also a brewery at the fortress as well. If you just need to get a snack there is a small grocery store on Suomenlinna also. All of the restaurants and cafes are open in the summer but you will want to check the times if you are going in the winter.
Guided Tours of Suomenlinna
If you are one for a guided tour there is the option. It will take you around the fortress and give you all the history. You can purchase tickets in the Suomenlinna museum or buy them online, the tickets are 11 euro for adults and 4 euro for children. If you have a Helsinki card the tour is included. Tours are available throughout the day in Finnish, Swedish, English Russian and Chinese during the summer. In the winter they are only on the weekends in English and Russian.
If you have time you can spend an entire day here. Since we only had less than a day we wandered for a couple of hours before riding the ferry back. It leaves frequently during regular hours. Here is the current schedule.
A day in Helsinki is not complete without paying Suomenlinna Island a visit.