An unmissable part of any Helsinki visit.
The last part of my Helsinki trip when visiting a friend in 2018 was spent at Suomenlinna, an 18th century naval fortress island. Suomenlinna is such an interesting example of military architecture, that it was placed on the UNESCO world heritage list in 1991, as the naval base truly spans across the entire island.
The construction began in the 18th century, while Finland was still a part of Sweden. The original fortress was called Sveaborg, which the Finns weirdly phonetically translated into Viapori (don’t ask me how). In 1808 one of the commanders decided to surrender to the Russians practically without a fight, for which the reason is still unknown to this day, and Viapori became one of Russia’s military outposts. Eventually, in 1918, Finland became an independent nation and Russia experienced the tumult of the revolution, surrendering Viapori to the Finns. Finland renamed its new naval fortress Suomenlinna, the Castle of Finland, as it is still known today.
In my opinion, Suomenlinna is a must-see for any military, history or engineering enthusiast, as it features kilometres of fortifications and military artefacts from different eras, as well as a church, some cute blue and white houses near the main port and a few cafes and restaurants. There are 6 seperate museums, so you can pick and choose which one you want to visit and pay for, as there is no entrance fee for the island itself. There is plenty to see even if you don’t visit the museums, which I didn’t due to lack of time, so Suomenlinna is the perfect destination if you are on a budget.
Impressions of Suomenlinna
Among the more intriguing sights are a dry dock for the ships and a submarine, which was unfortunately closed when I visited. Fun fact, I love submarines <3 ! When I first decided on Mechanical engineering, my impossible dream was to go into submarine design, which is really not a thing outside USA or Russia, unless they are research submarines. Somehow I ended up in Tribology instead and so far I’ve been quite satisfied with it.
Getting there: You can take a ferry from the Market Square in Helsinki, which runs in any season, even when the water is partially frozen, and takes about 20 minutes in one direction. The ferries are quite frequent and there are also water buses operating during the summer.