Visiting Suomenlinna in Helsinki, Finland

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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 a vital role in Helsinki’s history. Sweden and Russia ruled Finland 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, which was from 1808 to 1918 (when Finland gained its independence). After 1918 the former fortress of Viapori became Suomenlinna (The Fortress of Finland).

Suomenlinna was an army garrison for a 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 that it’s also home to about 800 residents, a naval base, and a jail (a minimum security penal colony). The fortress is actually on 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 favourite thing to do when travelling is just to wander around.

View of Helsinki from the ferry to Suomenlinna.
This is the entrance to Suomenlinna. The building has some cafes, a bathroom, and a small information/tourist office.
The weather was cold outside, but it visiting Suomenlinna was beautiful, especially with views like these.
A church at Suomenlinna.
Some type of berries at Suomenlinna. Does anyone know what they are? I just thought they looked pretty.
A tunnel at Suomenlinna.
A non-working canyon at Suomenlinna. At least I think it’s non-working.
I don’t know what this yellow building has inside, but I loved it.
View of Suomenlinna Fortress on the ferry back to Helsinki.

Things To Know
Suomenlinna is accessible via ferry, which leaves from Market Square in the centre of Helsinki. Ferries run at least once/hour (more in the high season). Here’s a map of the area around Suomenlinna. Tickets have to be purchased from a dispenser, and a single ticket is €2.70 or €5 for a round trip ticket that’s 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.
While in Helsinki I stayed at the Kongressikoti Hotel. This was an exceptional budget accommodation in the centre of Helsinki. I received a complimentary stay at The Kongressikoti Hotel. Of course if you’re not on a budget there are plenty of hotel options in Helsinki you can book. Thanks to the Kongressikoti Hotel for their support.

Have you visited any UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

8 thoughts on “Visiting Suomenlinna in Helsinki”

  1. I loved that yellow building too. I remember learning about finland’s history at school, I should check out this place.

    And yes, wandering around is sometimes the best way to really feel a place.

  2. Ohhh your post about Soumenlinna just gave me nostalgy! I use to live in Helsinki and it was there I actually meet my Swiss husband. Although I have been many time to the island I have forgotten all the interesting informations so it was fun to re-read them again. I have yo get back there this summer!

  3. This was such an interesting read, especially as I plan to visit Helsinki and Finland next year. That said, I know nothing about this island, or its history so thank you for sharing the information. You’re quite right about the grand and colourful building on this island, they’re very photogenic.

  4. Helsinki is certainly a great place to explore! If you are interested in history, this kind of visit definitely seems to be a good idea! I will keep this on my bucket list since I would love to learn more about the history. I love that you included detailed ticket information since this can sometimes be hard to find.

  5. So glad you got to visit Suomenlinna! I went in 2014 and actually stayed on the island during my entire time in Helsinki. The jail was fascinating to me as I’d never heard of an open jail concept before visiting there. I actually wasn’t even sure if it was a jail and almost walked right in!

  6. The history of Suomenlinna is interesting. The free tours sound good. Even I love to wander around. Though would love to explore the museum and cafes. I think 2 days are enough for Suomenlinna!

  7. I liked that yellow building too. I really want to visit Finland, but in the winter though. Suomenlinna looks interesting, as well as the history behind it and I love ferry rides. If I visit Helsinki, I might just check it out.

  8. I love to visit places for their history and Suomenlinna has so much to offer in the context of Helsinki. There must be something unique about it that makes it a UNESCO heritage site.
    The entrance looked interesting and I liked the yellow building too. Glad you shared something different.

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