As I mentioned before, in the summer the life in Helsinki happens outside and on the surrounding islands whenever the weather permits. Suomenlinna Sea Fortress is a significant part of the capital’s and the country’s history starting from the 1700’s. The island undoubtedly one of the gems in Helsinki, an UNESCO World Heritage site and all-round a great place to spend a relaxing summer day. A word of warning – this is a picture-heavy post!
We were in need of fresh air one afternoon and hopped on the Suomenlinna ferry from the Market Square. Because the island is home to roughly 800 residents, the ferry is part of the public transportation system in Helsinki Region. The ferry departs at least once an hour (up to every 15 minutes in peak hours) and the beautiful trip takes around 15 minutes.
The main agenda in Suomenlinna is to walk around the little islands (connected by bridges) and enjoy the scenery. There are walls and old buildings scattered around. On Saturday afternoons you may well spot couples getting married, because the Suomenlinna church is one of the most popular wedding churches in the city.
Fun fact no. 1: the church doubles as a lighthouse, look at the picture below to see the lights at the top.
There’s six museums on the island, each of them quite small and easily manageable. They are all linked to the history of Suomenlinna one way or another. Here are my picks:
The Customs Museum (free entry!)
If you wish to just relax and focus on the local experience, Suomenlinna has great picnic spots up on the cliffs. If you pick your spot in the far southern end in Kustaanmiekka, the big cruise ships departing in the afternoons will float right by you through the narrow.
There are also multiple cafés and restaurants, my favorites are the Suomenlinna Brewery (yes, they make their own beer and ciders that I highly recommend trying), and Café Piper that has amazing views out to the sea. It was built in 1928 and has been a café ever since.
Since the fortress was built, there has also been a functioning shipyard on the island. It’s actually one of the oldest shipyards that are still in operation. In the beginning they built war ships, currently they conserve wooden ships and boats.
Fun fact no. 2: there are no street names in Suomenlinna, but all the buildings have been named with a combination of a letter and numbers. There is also a very own post code for the islands, 00190.
Fun fact no. 3: There is an open prison in Suomenlinna. The inmates conserve the island and the buildings, ie. they work instead of being locked up 24/7.
To summarize, don’t miss Suomenlinna if:
You like to walk. You’ll be on foot all round the island(s) because there is really no other means of transportation.
You appreciate beautiful scenery. There will be lots! Take your time.
The weather is good. If it’s -15 degrees celsius and snowing, you might want to go somewhere else. When the city feels too hot for you, this is just the place to go
You’re interested in architecture. This place is one of a kind and highly recommended if you’re a building geek like me.