If you go to Helsinki one of the top attractions is Suomenlinna (Swedish – Sveaborg). Suomenlinna is an island fortress, about a 10 minute ferry ride from the Helsinki Harbour. It played an important role in Helsinki’s history. Finland was ruled by by Sweden and Russia at different times in its history. Suomenlinna was a sea fortress built when Sweden ruled this area of the land. It was called Sveaborg, but local Finnish soldiers called it Viapori. Russia took over Finland from Sweden after defeating Sweden in the Finnish Wars, so from 1808 to 1918 (when Finland gained its independence). After 1918 the former fortress of Viapori became Suomenlinna (The Fortress of Finland).
Suomenlinna was used as army garrison for while, but in 1973 it was turned over to civilian administration, and in 1991 it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991. Suomenlinna is a popular tourist attraction in Helsinki, but what visitors might not know is the site is also home to about 800 residents, a naval base, and a jail (minimum security penal colony) on Suomenlinna. The fortress is actually a series of 6 islands.
While I didn’t spend a lot of time at Suomenlinna (nor did I have time to take advantage of one of the free tours) I did spend about an hour or so wandering around and taking photos. The island has several museums, some shops, and restaurants/cafes, but sometimes my favorite thing to do when traveling is just to wander around, and wandering around was very nice.
Suomenlinna is accessed via ferry, which leaves from Market Square at least once/hour (more in the high season). Tickets have to be purchased from a dispenser and a single ticket is 2,70€ or 5 € for a roundtrip ticket good for 12 hours. The ferry ride is about 10 minutes and Suomenlinna is free to visit, although the various museums on the islands charge for admission. For a nice break from the city and some cool history Suomenlinna is worth checking out.
What UNESCO World Heritage Sites have you visited?