Sveaborg Fortress Suomenlinna.
What immediately comes to our mind when we talk about Finland? Helsinki, of course! And what is the first thing associated with the city of Helsinki? Undoubtedly, the fortress of Sveaborg, or, as it is also called, Suomenlinna.
The ancient fortress, built at the time when Finland was part of Sweden, is an integral symbol of the country. It is marked by UNESCO as part of the architectural and cultural heritage and consistently attracts thousands of tourists every month.
The history of the fortress begins in the middle of the 18th century, in 1748. Built on the nearby islands of the Wolf Skerries, it was supposed to protect the city from enemy invasions. The building coped with this task splendidly until 1808, when it was captured by Russian troops after a long battle. Since then and for the next 110 years Sveaborg was under Russian control. During the Crimean War, the fortress held back the invasion of Anglo-French troops.
In 1918, Finland became an independent state and Sveaborg received a new name – Suomelinna, which means “Finnish fortress” in Swedish. For about half a century the building belonged to the military, serving as a base for the artillery, until in 1973 it acquired the status of a museum.
Since 1991, Suomelinna was included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO as a valuable architectural and cultural monument.
Sveaborg today: what to see and do
Today Sveaborg is a museum and a calling card of Finland. Here they will find entertainment for both adults and children, for architectural buffs and connoisseurs of different types of military equipment, which is in abundance here. Tourists will also note the beautiful nature, and gourmands will find a place with delicious national cuisine in the old medieval surroundings. This fortress has everything, even a working prison, so it makes sense to arrive before it opens so that you have the whole day at your disposal.
Let us briefly list the main museums of Suomelinna:
- Suomelinna Museum proper. All that has been preserved in the long years of the fortress, you can look closely at in this museum
- the War Museum Manege, where you can take a closer look at Finnish military equipment
- the Ehrensvärd Museum, which contains, among other things, paintings by the artist who lived and worked directly in the fortress
- Submarine Vesikko is a must-see because it is a rare opportunity to see a real World War II boat from the inside.
- Customs Museum, the name of which speaks for itself
- And for dessert – Toy Museum, a collection of bears, dolls and other children’s games for the period of about two hundred years. If you come to Sveaborg with children – be sure to leave an hour and a half for this museum, especially since the museum has a very nice cafe.
A little nuance: if you take care of buying a Helsinki Card in advance, visits to museums will cost you… For free!
In addition to the museums, the fortress itself is also worth seeing. Forts, barracks, bastions and ancient fortress walls will not leave you indifferent.
- You should pay special attention to the Great Courtyard with its characteristic distorted perspective of the buildings.
- Interesting is the Royal Gate, erected back in 1754 on the site where, according to legend, the King of Sweden stood and watched the construction of the fortress.
- Sander Bastion will amaze you with its exhibition of ancient weapons and massiveness.
- Suomellina Docks are the oldest surviving docks in Europe.
- Erensvärd Kronverk is simply beautiful on its own.
And in case you have seen the fortress, visited the museums and have some free time (which is unlikely), or you are not the first time you come to Suomelinna – the fortress offers a lot of interesting activities. Every year, regardless of the season, there are exhibitions, concerts, open-air performances, as well as opera performances and even sailing regattas.
Address on the map
Address of the fortress Sveaborg is very simple:
- Suomenlinna C74, Helsinki
How to get there
Sveaborg Fortress is located on an island, so if you don’t have a private helicopter, there is only one way to get there – by water.
The easiest way – by public transport, ferries NKL, which at intervals of 40-60 minutes run from the Market Square of Helsinki, from 6 am to 6 pm.
If you do not like the ferry – use the river streetcar JT-line. The cost of both modes of transport is about 5 euros. You can buy tickets in advance, as well as directly on board.
The distance to the fortress Sveaborg from the capital of about two kilometers, so the road will not be long, no more than fifteen minutes.
Suomelinna Museum opens at 9:45 am and works until 6 pm. Until about the same time are open to visitors and other museums located in the fortress – Toy Museum, Manege, and others. Some of them close at 5 p.m. or 5:30 p.m.
Fortunately, cafes and restaurants are open longer, so you can have an appetizing dinner after visiting the museums. The last eating place on the island closes at 11 p.m.
Suomenlinna Fortress (Sveaborg)
Suomenlinna Fortress (Sveaborg) is located on 8 islands and is near Helsinki, the capital of Finland. It was built for military purposes, to protect first the way to Stockholm, then only the Finnish capital. Nowadays it is a magnificent sight.
These surroundings are not only a way to diversify your holiday in Helsinki, but also a reason to go on a separate trip. For a long time you can get acquainted with local history and realize how strange the fate of these lands has evolved.
Panorama on the island of Suomenlinna in Helsinki – Google Maps
Historical buildings, special landscaping and local flora and fauna are not the limit for the inquisitive tourist. Sveaborg is notable for its rich infrastructure.
Sveaborg has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991. Even in photographs, the views of the mighty fortress look very inspiring. At any time of the year this place has something to surprise you.
For example, the island of Iso-Mustasaari is more to the liking of those who want to get around the museums and learn about how the succession of power on the islands and how construction and armaments were developed here. The island of Kustaanmiekka and the newly opened for visitors Vallisaari will appeal more to fans of ecotourism. Each area of the ensemble is charming in its own way.
Origin of the name
The first name of the fortress is Sveaborg. It translates simply: “Swedish fortress”. So it was called by Russians, when Finland was part of the Russian Empire. Finns at the time called the fortress Viapori (translation is the same).
In 1917 Finland becomes independent and no longer wants the islands defending the Finnish capital to be called Swedish. The name Viapori was replaced by Suomenlinna (“Finnish Fortress”) in 1918.
The Swedes, however, continue to use the word Sveaborg, and the Russians adopted the second name – Suomenlinna. In our language it is considered that the fortress has variant name, and both versions are correct.
The very islands where the fortress is located are called “Wolf skerries”. These are 8 rocky scraps of land with Finnish names: Kustaanmiekka, Iso-Mustasaari, Pikku-Mustasaari, Länsi-Mustasaari, Susisaari, Särkkä, Lonna and Pormestarinluodot.
Documentary about the history of Sveaborg Fortress
The war period in the north of Europe provided the area of the islands with a rich history. It so happens that the area has survived three periods: the Swedish, the Russian and finally the Finnish.
Here in the 1740s the Swedish government decided to build military fortifications. Major Augustin Ehrensverd was appointed in charge. Thus was laid the foundation of the architectural ensemble, which has survived to this day.
In 1808 the Russians besieged the fortress and got it without casualties, but with a large number of prisoners in addition. At first they did not develop the local area, only erected an Orthodox church.
During the Crimean War, they were forced to erect cannons toward Sweden (still standing on the islands). Finns complained a lot about the behavior of the Russians during the years of dependence on the empire. In 1905, the locals staged their first uprising, which later served as the plot for a movie.
In 1972, the USSR and Finland made a joint film, Sveaborg. The film depicts a bloody revolutionary uprising inside the fortress in 1905, which ended in a mass execution by the Bolsheviks.
Finland gained its independence in 1917. During the Civil War (1918) the fortress is used as a concentration camp for the Red Guards. World War II in 1941-1944 turned the fortress into a base of the German flotilla. After the war, the land went to the Soviet Union, but later returned to the Finns, who proceeded to the careful restoration of local buildings.
Now Suomenlinna – a cultural and historical center of Finland, with stunning views and a rich heritage – in 1991 it was included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO.
There was a time when the population on the islands was up to 10 thousand people, but nowadays the indigenous population is only 800-900 – the rest of the families have moved to Helsinki. Many people here live in historic buildings, which are constantly being reconstructed.
Sveaborg fortress sights
The rich history of the fortress has awarded it a lot of attractions. The local population now lives in historic buildings, there are Russian cannons along the shores, and various museums are open daily.
The stone gate, preserved from the very foundation of the fortress, is literally the symbol of Sveaborg. Through it, the Swedish king walked from the royal harbor to his possessions, then made his way through secret passages.
A German submarine from the Second World War towers over the bay by the island shore and is part of the Suomenlinna Naval Museum. Its formidable visage used to strike fear in the hearts of civilians, but today it is only a reminder of the troubled times and part of the museum of naval engineering.
The large Lutheran Church building is surprisingly multitasking: it is both a spiritual building and a lighthouse. It used to be an Orthodox church, but is now decorated entirely according to Protestant canons. You can come to this humble but very beautiful place for peace of mind.
Memorial Plaque in honor of V. G. Belinsky
The news for many tourists is that Suomenlinna is the birthplace of Russian critic Vissarion Grigorievich Belinsky. He was born here in 1811 aboard the Russian ship. On the territory of the fortress is a memorial plaque in his honor, with inscriptions in three languages: Swedish, Russian and Finnish.
On the islands there are several museums of various orientation:
- Suomenlinna Museum. This is the key building. Here visitors are given a general history of the fortress, from its founding to the Finnish War, from World War II to the present day.
- Customs. The permanent exhibition in the museum is devoted to the history of the Finnish customs service and the fight against smuggling. The museum building was built in the 18th century.
- Ehrensverd Museum. Located on the territory, which is loved not only by tourists but also by locals. It is a place for recreation and meetings. At the entrance to the museum is a monument to the founder of Sveaborg – Augustin Ehrensvärd. This is where he is buried. The exposition of the site is dedicated to his life and the first years of the fortress.
- Toy Museum in Suomenlinna. A favorite place of all children and all those who are fond of unusual things. The permanent exhibition presents a collection of old toys from the early 19th century to the 1960s.
- Military Museum Manege, museum “Submarine Vesikko” and “Naval Fortress Suomenlinna” show guests a variety of exhibitions devoted to the wonders of European and Russian military technology.
Entrance to all museums is paid, except for the customs.
Suomenlinna has long been accustomed to receiving guests, so the infrastructure here is well developed. You can find shopping malls, souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants. For cultural activities there is a library and a gallery of contemporary art.
If you want to meet every day of your trip to these amazing islands, you can stay at the local hostel Hostel Suomenlinna. In May and September, it is better to take seats in advance, there are a lot of applicants.
You can sunbathe and swim near the Gulf of Finland. Be sure to walk through the park “English garden” – it is different plants, which are usually difficult to find growing in the neighborhood. The special “fortress” flora was formed here thanks to the different peoples involved in the ennobling of this territory.
Opening hours of museums, cafes, churches and stores – on the official website of the Suomenlinna Fortress
How to get to the Suomenlinna Fortress in Helsinki
Get a single ticket for public transport in the city in advance. You can’t get to the fortress by cab or by car, but you’ll have a good chance to get on the ferry. You can buy it in the subway or from bus drivers. At the pier there is also a sale point, but you have to wait in line there.
How to get to Finland and how to get to Helsinki you can read on our website. Now you need to be at the market square Kauppatori, only from it you can get to Sveaborg.
Route from Helsinki-Vantaa Airport to Suomenlinna Fortress by public transport – Google Maps
To Kauppatori Square
Ferries and sea buses (or “sea streetcars”) run from the market square. You can get there by streetcars 1, 1A and 2 (stop Kauppatori) or streetcar number 3T (stop Eteläranta). Also in the city there are cab services, for example, Uber, Arrivo or you can find the nearest cab stand.
The easiest way to get to the fortress in 15-20 minutes at any time of the year. In the old square pay attention to the stele to Empress Alexandra, and from there turn to the sea. There you will see the pier, from which the ferry departs. In winter, the ferry to Suomenlinna Fortress leaves with the upper deck closed.
If you already have a ticket, go to the turnstiles. If you are traveling with a child in a stroller – go to the barrier, you will get a free pass. If you forgot to buy your ticket in advance, go to the wooden kiosks.
From May to September you can get to the place by sea bus. They take tourists to the main attractions of the city. There is, for example, a route that can take you straight to the Royal Gate.
For sea streetcars is mainly responsible company JT-Line. There are three summer routes. A single ticket does not work on this transport: you must buy a separate pass at the kiosk or on board the ship.
From island to island
There is no island that has all the attractions of Sveaborg together. You need to travel between at least 3 islands: the mine island of Lonna, Iso-Mustasaari and the island of Vallisaari.
From Iso-Mustasaari you can get to the islands of Kustaanmiekka, Pikku-Mustasaari, Länsi-Mustasaari and Susisaari via a bridge or a spit. You can get to the other islands by water bus. If you wish you can use an Island Hopping pass that gives you free access to the water. Inside these “streetcars” there is a dining area with its own kitchen.