Knight’s Castle in Vyborg, detailed information

Vyborg Castle

Vyborg Castle is an ancient “island” of the Middle Ages on the territory of Leningrad region. A walk through its cobblestone streets among the majestic walls takes tourists into the atmosphere of knightly novels. History lovers are attracted by the fact that the Vyborg Castle is one of the few monuments of Western European military architecture in the Russian Federation. This place is rightly considered a calling card of Vyborg, so every year hundreds of people come here to see the exhibitions, as well as to take part in festivals, tournaments and other entertainment events.

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Video: Vyborg Castle

A brief historical sketch

Vyborg Castle was founded by the Swedes who built a wall on the island during the Crusade at the end of the 13th century. It sheltered the central main tower, which was named St. Olaf, and which at the time was the highest on the territory of Scandinavia.

After repeated attempts of Novgorodians to regain lost territories and take over the fortress, in 1323 a peace treaty was signed whereby these lands went to Sweden. In the first half of the XV century Swedish governor Carl Knutsson carried out a major reconstruction, making Vyborg Castle one of the most beautiful and impregnable. His work was continued by Erik Axelsson and Sten Sture, whose family coats of arms long adorned the loopholes of the Paradise Tower.

The next significant changes took place in the middle of the 16th century. Thus, on the orders of King Gustav Vasa additional shoreline fortification was carried out and the buildings were rebuilt. For the first time brick was used in the construction of the main tower. The periodic reconstruction lasted till the second half of the XVII century, and it was connected with the improvement of the artillery and the necessity to enhance both the defensive properties of the buildings and the fire of the batteries of the fortress.

During the Great Northern War, in June 1710, after two months of siege by troops of Peter I the garrison of the fortress, which received considerable damage, surrendered. The castle and surrounding areas became Russian, but after the construction of more strategically important fortifications on the nearby island, the fortress lost its former importance. The reason for the last large-scale reconstruction, carried out in the late XIX century, was a fire that destroyed most of the building. Vyborg Castle was officially declared unfit for defense.

In the first half of the XX century the fortress twice passed to Finland, but after liberation of the territories in June 1944, it became the USSR, and since 1991 it became Russian again. Since 1970, a museum was opened here, which 30 years later was named the State Museum of Vyborg Castle.

Attractions of the Vyborg Castle

The heart of Vyborg is interesting not only for its centuries-old history, but also for the memorable places that can be found on the territory of the Castle Island.

Museum of Underwater Archaeology

After crossing the Fortress Bridge, you find yourself in front of the towering Vyborg Castle. You can get inside the castle by the causeway connecting the bridge with the Castle Island, and then passing through the arched passage at the base of the former Commandant’s House. At one time there were legends about the richness of its decorations. The walls with paintings, ceramic tiles on the floor, and stoves decorated with tiles – such a house was worthy for the viceroy appointed by the king of Sweden to live there. When these territories were annexed by Russia, during his visits to Vyborg Peter I liked to stay here. Later the building was used as an apartment for the commandant of the fortress.

Now the building houses the Museum of Underwater Archaeology. Its halls will be especially interesting for those who love the history of the Navy. The main exhibition is dedicated to the Battle of Vyborg on July 3, 1790, when the ships of the Russian Baltic Fleet defeated the Swedish squadron under the command of the King.

The first hall of the museum is devoted to archeological works, which resulted in the discovery of sunken Swedish frigates at the bottom of the Bay of Vyborg. The exhibits of the other four halls are items, recovered from ships: wooden cannons, cast-iron cannons, fragments of hulls and masts, corroded muskets and ammunition of XVIII century. By the way, one of the 24-pound cannons of the Swedish battleship Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte is installed in front of the museum, and opposite it, near the archway in the wall, an anchor from the same ship has found its last resting place. Here you can see the Swedish coins of those times, boarding weapons – sword, dirk, axe and grenade – of Swedish paratrooper sailor, anchor and other interesting exhibits. You should spend about two hours to see it all (assuming you are in no hurry).

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The outer defensive line

On both sides of the museum there is a rampart a little over six meters high. It was constructed in stages, as small arms and artillery were perfected in XVI-XVII centuries. It encircled practically the whole Vyborg castle, being the outer defensive border of the island. Originally the rampart was an earthen embankment, which was later lined with stone boulders on the outside. On the southern and eastern sides of the island there were also two bastions. Over the centuries, their granite facing was almost completely lost, and today they are earthen platforms in the height of one and a half or two meters. Between the rampart and the main wall there is a passage that leads around the castle.

Western case

Above the slope there are granite walls of one of the oldest buildings, the western one, built in XIII-XV centuries. At that time it was the main living quarters of the fortress and the residence of the Swedish governor and his family. The halls of the building were used for negotiations with foreign ambassadors. In the second half of XV century, the building was superstructured and expanded by the side wing. In XVI century the rooms for the king, where he sometimes stayed, were installed.

Paradise Tower

The first round tower in the fortress, called the Paradise Tower, is situated at the corner of the western corps. The decision to give the building such shape was dictated by the improvement of firearms and, accordingly, the need to conveniently place loopholes for the defenders of Vyborg Castle and improve the ricochets of the siege weapons’ cores. The upper part of the building ends in a bell-shaped dome, resembling the top of the central tower. Granite boulders stand in its foundation, and its upper part is made of stone blocks. This feature can be traced throughout the castle and is associated with the reinforcement by granite of the lower part of the buildings, which was most exposed to enemy fire. From all sides of Paradise Tower look out windows, which in the Middle Ages were decorated with family emblems of Swedish viceroys.

The eastern part of the fortress

Turning behind the tower, tourists find themselves on the eastern side of Vyborg Castle. Here is the continuation of the southern bastion, which was finally built in the early XVII century. By that time, medieval fortresses were artillery fortifications of bastion type. The cannons mounted on the south bastion covered the Castle Bridge, and crossfire with the guns of the east bastion prevented the enemy to deploy their artillery on the mainland shore.

The left flank was covered by the Cobbler’s Tower, which was almost six meters higher when it was built. In the XVII-XVIII centuries, a bastion embankment closed its base. Originally the tower was separate, because in addition to serving as part of the first line of defense, it also housed a shoe shop. To protect the inhabitants of the castle from the unpleasant smell that accompanied the process of leather dressing, the location of the tower was moved to the side. At the end of the XVI century it was completed, equipped with a brick arch for passage and connected to the main buildings of the fortress.

The upper courtyard and the eastern building

Going further, you can get to a small square in front of the Vyborg Castle. This is another part of the so-called upper courtyard. During these days during the various festivals it is a place for theatrical performances and knightly tournaments, which take place on the ristalisks, equipped by Vyborg masters.

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On the side of the bay to the square adjoins the eastern bastion, behind which is now a small pier, and in the opposite direction – the eastern building of the fortress, built in the XV century. The outer side of the building, facing the bay, was built of granite stones, while the inner side was built of bricks. Presumably, the building had military and economic purpose. There is an opinion of historians that in the Middle Ages the first floor of the building was used as stables.

Wine cellar

A little over 2 meters wide passage separates the building from the wine cellar at the base of the main tower, believed to have been built in the 15th century. Over the years, it has been rebuilt and reinvented several times and this has greatly altered its original appearance. The purpose of the building is clear from its name, but there is a version that it could have been a warehouse – economic and gunpowder. Nowadays the rooms of the building are used for museum exhibitions. It is interesting that the wine cellar is the only room of the Vyborg castle in which it is possible to see a massive tetrahedral column in the center of the hall and the vaulted ceiling supported by it.

The central tower

The passageway separating the eastern building from the wine cellar leads to a small courtyard where the entrance to the main tower of the fortress is located. It was built at the end of the 13th century and was named after St. Olaf. The height of the building is about 50 meters, and the tower rises to 75 meters above sea level. Its quadrangular base is made up of five-meter thick walls.

During its existence, the tower, like other buildings of Vyborg Castle, has been repeatedly rebuilt in accordance with the periodically changing requirements for fortifications. Its most serious reconstruction took place in the middle of the XVI century: the top was completely demolished and replaced by a higher brick superstructure. Its lower part, being an extension of the base, also had a quadrangular shape; the upper part had an octagonal shape with 3.5-meter thick walls and a polygonal dome crowning it, around which a narrow balcony was located. The windows of the tower were bristling with cannon barrels raised by a hoist and turned it into the main artillery structure of the fortress.

Some rooms on the seven floors were also used for living quarters and storage of various equipment, weapons and ammunition. The tower survived two fires: in 1834 and 1856. The cause of the latter was a fireworks display at the opening ceremony of a shipping canal between Lake Saimaa and the Bay of Vyborg. The damage caused by the fire was so great that all the interior partitions were burnt, as well as the dome, which was fully restored as a result of the restoration. The tower was equipped with a spiral metal staircase with 239 stairs and a granite porch outside. The tower has preserved its appearance to this day.

Viewing platform around the dome is very popular among visitors to the castle because of the stunning panorama of the city and the Vyborg Bay. From the other side of the tower you can admire the island of Tverdysh and the park of Monrepo located on it.

The defensive frontier of the northwestern part

From the upper courtyard square, past the wine cellar, a wider passageway leads to the lower courtyard bounded by an arc-shaped row of castle buildings.

The first of them (both by location and time of construction) is the arsenal, the place for which was not chosen by chance. Located in the northern part of the island away from the possible bombardment from the ships and being reliably protected from them by the fortress wall from the south, it was safe, hiding ammunition and weapons for Vyborg Castle defenders. Originally the arsenal, built in the XVII century, was built of stone blocks, but in the XVIII century it was completely disassembled and rebuilt of brick. Today part of the premises is occupied by the museum exhibits’ storerooms, and one of them is a store for souvenirs and ceramics.

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The next building housed barracks and utility rooms. In the 19th century it was turned into a prison, and the Decembrists I. Annenkov, M. Lunin, P. Mukhanov, and M. Mitkov were kept in its cells before being exiled to Siberia. Since 1906 the St.-Petersburg military district wire telegraph was located here, and since 1916 – Vyborg radio station. After the Great Patriotic War the building was turned into a house for officers’ families. Now the museum administration is located here.

On the left side of the prison adjoined a zeichgauz – a military warehouse, which was intended for storing soldiers’ uniforms, equipment, weapons and food supplies.

The outer part of all these buildings, which covered the fortress from the island of Tverdysh, is a wall of granite blocks, which was built earlier. Initially it was a part of the whole fortification wall around the main tower, the cellars of which were used as storehouses, arsenal and even a prison. As the Vyborg castle developed and the number of its garrison grew it became necessary to build additional constructions.

Southern wall of the castle

The part of the wall without any additions and nowadays it is the only part of it that survived, used to cover the Lower Castle and the Blacksmith’s Yard from the south. Built of stone and granite boulders, with its more than two-meter thickness, it rose six meters, representing a reliable protection for the inhabitants of the castle and the warriors defending it. The wall was built during the Renaissance period in the second half of the 16th century, during the reign of Swedish King Gustav Vasa. On the outer side of the wall, a fragment of the surviving Prison Tower can be seen slightly protruding from the wall at the upper part on the border of the zeichgaus. Prisoners were kept in its cellars, and, according to legend, not one of them survived. The top of the wall is made of brick in the form of an arched frieze. These arches were hinged loopholes, between which the defenders of the fortress could move on a wooden balcony that ran from the inside. Unfortunately, it has not survived to this day. At the base of the wall just below the Prison Tower is another arched doorway. Through this aisle you can get from the Commandant’s House inside the Vyborg Castle.

Castle Yard

The inner territory of the fortress is divided into two roughly equal parts. One of them, located on a natural hill and adjacent to the tower of St. Olaf, is the so-called Forge Yard. Archaeological finds (women’s jewelry, fragments of dishes, weapons fragments), made within its limits, date back to the XI-XIII centuries, when there was a Karelian settlement on the island. At the time of the fortress there were wooden buildings – smithy, workshops of craftsmen and their dwellings. At the end of XIX century the slopes of the hill were fortified with a stone wall.

Between it and the buildings was located the Lower Castle Yard. Nowadays this rather spacious square is used for theatrical knight tournaments, various performances and even opera and jazz festivals. The annual film festival “Window to Europe” has taken a fancy to this place. The grandstands are located on the hill of the Smithy Yard.

Cultural program

On the territory of the Vyborg Castle you can visit the halls of the Local Lore Museum, the expositions of which will tell you about the history of the city and the fortress on the Castle Island from the past centuries to the present. The museum is located in the main building. The exhibition on the third floor is devoted to the nature of the Karelian Isthmus. On the territory of the fortress are often opened and temporary exhibitions.

Visiting the interactive exhibition “Knight’s hall” tourists do not miss the opportunity to try on medieval armor knight or lady dress, to hold a sword and shield, to try to hit a target with a crossbow or a bow. The exhibition is located in the Wine Cellar. It is very popular, so there are always a lot of people here.

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In addition, you can take part in master classes in pottery, blacksmithing, and ceramics painting; learn to write in gothic script.

Practical information

The area of the Vyborg Castle is open from 9:00 to 19:00 without days off (except the days of public events). The exhibition hall of the museum is open from 10:00 to 18:00, days off – Thursday and Friday.

Entrance to the castle is free. The price of tickets for permanent and temporary exhibitions is as follows: for adults – 60-150 rubles, pensioners and students – discounts, children under 16 years – free of charge. You can order guided tours.

At the moment, the tower of St. Olaf is closed to restoration, as a result of which it is planned to restore the interfloor ceilings and make more comfortable stairs. Museum exhibits will be exposed in the formed halls.

How to get there

Address of the Vyborg Castle: Leningrad region, Vyborg, Castle Island, 1.

There are several ways to get to Vyborg:

  • by private car, moving from St. Petersburg along the highway “Scandinavia” (A-181). You will have to overcome about 140 kilometers;
  • To get to the bus station, using public transport: № 850, going from metro station “Parnas”, or № 810, starting its route from metro station “Devyatkino”;
  • By train “St. Petersburg – Helsinki” or by train to the railway station (station “Vyborg”), which is located next to the bus station.

From the railway station to the Vyborg Castle take city buses 1, 6, 12, 850 and 859. But it is better to walk for 30-40 minutes along the Leningradskiy avenue, the embankments of the 40th years of Komsomol and the 30th guard corps (it is about 1,5 km in total), to see the historical part of Vyborg or to have a snack before the long excursion in the restaurant which is situated in the Round Tower. On the way you can make a photo session near the monument to the founder of Vyborg Thorgils Knutsson who stared at the castle – the main aim of the excursion.

Vyborg Castle

The history of Vyborg began with the construction of the Vyborg Castle by the Swedes, today it is one of the most famous and recognizable sights.

On Russian territory it is one of the few castles, which were built by Europeans, so it is of particular value, as well as the adjacent neighborhood of Vyborg – the Old Town.

History of Vyborg Castle

The building of the castle began in 1293; its founder was the Swede Thorgils Knutsson. At that time the Swedes often went on expeditions into the territory of modern Leningrad region and the Republic of Karelia. At that time these lands were inhabited by Korels, who were allies of Great Novgorod. The Swedes needed a reliable outpost, and so they decided to start building a castle with strong defensive constructions.

Novgorod’s guards tried to stop the Swedes as early as 1294, but although the castle was only beginning to be built they failed to take the fortifications. The attempt to take Vyborg castle in 1322 was a failure.

All this time the castle was constantly being built and changed. The next phase of construction began in 1556, at that time it was decided to add several stories to the main tower and to strengthen the coastline and the walls. This stage of construction lasted about 9 years and today Vyborg Castle looks approximately as it did then.

In the early 17th century barracks were built on the island, defensive ramparts, which were then lined with stone. A pond and a fountain were dug out on the island, but they have not survived to this day. Swedes not only strengthened the castle, but also developed Vyborg itself, it was in the 16-17 centuries in the city appeared many buildings that are now the hallmark of the city.

The Vyborg castle could be taken only by Peter I, it happened in 1710 after a siege that lasted two months. Since then, it has belonged to Russia and is among the most famous sights in Russia.

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The Vyborg Castle Museum has both permanent exhibitions and temporary ones. Permanent ones include:

  • An observation deck on the tower of the castle, which offers a very beautiful view of the city;
  • Zoological Department;
  • Vyborg History Museum, where you can see exhibits from the times of Swedish possession, the later period and the World War II;
  • An exposition about the nature of the Karelian Isthmus;
  • Underwater mysteries of the Baltic Sea.

There are also interactive exhibitions:

  • Swedish Prison;
  • Reconstruction of the Middle Ages.

In April 2016, an executioner was hired for the torture chamber, so now everyone can try himself as a victim of the Inquisitor. It’s safe, as long as all visitors remain alive and well.

There are also other recreational attractions on the grounds of the Vyborg Castle, for example, you can shoot an arrow. They are temporary and usually work in the summer. Quite often there are temporary exhibitions and master classes, often they are free. For example, there was a master class on making pottery, there were photo exhibitions, meetings with famous people who gave lectures and much more.

Knightly tournaments in the Vyborg Castle

Knights’ tournaments, which are colorful festivals, are held annually in the Vyborg Castle. They are organized by the reconstructors by agreement with the administration of the castle. They are always held in summer, usually in June or July, sometimes there are several such events.

Prices to visit the knights’ tournaments in the Vyborg Castle are much higher than the cost of visiting the other exhibitions of the museum. For example, in 2016 the entrance for adults costs 600 rubles, although the program includes not only watching the tournament itself, but also the opportunity to participate in many competitions and other thematic activities.

Take place annually with varying frequency. This may include theatrical performances, musical events and other entertainment programs. Castle used to hold one of the largest open-air events in Russia – Castle Dance, but then it was banned because it could damage the castle. Today, the May Tree festival of ethnic music is held on a regular basis, but in 2016 it was canceled for financial reasons.

The museum, the knight’s hall, the observation deck on the tower, and the torture chamber are open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The exhibition hall is closed Thursday and Friday, with the same hours. The castle is also open on holidays.

  • Entrance to Castle Island (payment on the bridge) is 20 rubles for children and adults;
  • Museum: 100 rubles for adults, concessions and children (from 16 to 18 years) – 80 rubles. Children under 16 years old are admitted free (this applies to all places in the castle);
  • The exhibition hall and “Underwater Secrets of the Baltic Sea”: 60 rubles for adults, 40 rubles for guests and children from 16 to 18 years old;
  • Ascent to the tower observation deck: 80 rubles for adults, 60 rubles for free and for children from 16 to 18 years old.

To get from St. Petersburg to the Vyborg Castle you can either by car or by bus (along the highway “Scandinavia”), or by train. If you go by bus, the way will take about 1 hour 40-50 minutes, by electric train (“Lastochka”) can be reached in 1 hour 15 minutes. From the railroad and bus station one should walk along the quay and it will take not more than 10 minutes to get to the castle.

Vyborg thunder – the event, which occurred during the siege of the fortress by Russian troops in 1495. According to legend, at the moment when the Russians almost forced the Swedes to surrender, a large cross of St. Andreas appeared in the sky and thunder rang out, after which the attackers quickly retreated. Most likely there was just a very strong explosion, so many historians believe.

In 1856, there was a huge fireworks display that was so enormous that there was a very large fire. As a result, a lot of rooms were burned, and the reconstruction was not started until 35 years later.

During the Great Patriotic War the city of Vyborg suffered a lot, but there were only a few minor fires in the castle.

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