The Suomenlinna Fortress

Literally a “Finnish castle,” the Suomenlinna fortress is one of Helsinki’s most important landmarks. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it was built in 1748 by the Swedes to defend against Russian colonisation.

The castle was constructed under the direction of lieutenant colonel Augustin Ehrensvard. It was damaged in a 47-hour siege during the Crimean War of 1854–56, when an Anglo-French fleet battled the Russians who previously made Finland an autonomous grand duchy. The castle was restored and equipped with artillery. As World War I loomed, the Suomenlinna fortress became part of Peter the Great's naval fortification to defend St. Petersburg.

Of particular interest is the King’s Gate, on which is inscribed, “Coming generations stand here upon your own ground, and never rely on outside help.” Cannons were fired from the crownwork Ehrensvärd, while Hyvä Omatunto, a detached “outwork,” serves as today’s stage for the summer theatre.

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Many buildings have survived through the centuries, including a dry dock, which is now home to about a thousand locals who restore old and damaged boats. Rare flora and various fauna can be found here, and fishing facilities are available.

Suomenlinna fortress is a popular tourist destination, perfect for a Helsinki holiday. Dress warmly, as temperatures reach below zero. Visitors can enjoy the museums, featuring glass, ceramics, and woodworks. Picnicking and sunbathing are also popular activities. Visit during the Spirit of Suomenlinna festival in October, and experience Finnish art, music, and gaiety. During Docking Week in autumn, 25 Finnish ships arrive here for maintenance. There are guided tours available.

From the Katajanokka market square, one can take a ferry to the island.

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