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Suomenlinna Sea Fortress – All You Need to Know in 2021

One of my favourite destinations in Helsinki is Suomenlinna Sea Fortress – situated on the northern shore of Baltic Sea. Being lived in Espoo I get enough opportunity to explore the island and I am really in love with the place. It has different beauty in different seasons. In summer it is so bright, green and full of life while in Winter it turns to a fairy tale island, wrapped with snow. The same place turns to yellow-red with fall color. If you want to enjoy the true beauty of Suomenlinna, you should visit it in different seasons.

Suomenlinna and History:

 “Linna” means fortress in Finnish. Suomenlinna is a sea fortress, built gradually from 1748 onward by Sweden on a group of 6 linked islands belonging to the district of Helsinki in Finland. The fortress is an interesting example of European military architecture of genre. The place is added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1991 as a unique monument of military architecture. Another unique feature of Suomenlinna is – in the course of its history it has served in defense of three realms – Sweden, Russia and Finland. 

Suomenlinna in summer
Suomenlinna in winter

Nowadays, Suomenlinna is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Finland The place is visited by approximately one million visitors annually. This is also home of 800 residents. The funny thig is that there is no name of any street in Suomenlinna.

This is a vehicle free zone. Only service vehicles are allowed on the Island.

Suomenlinna on Map

How to explore Suomenlinna:

You have to explore the area on foot as no public transport is available in Suomenlinna. The main route across the fortress runs from north to south via all the main sights. It starts at the main quay in front of the Jetty Barracks and ends at the King’s Gate. The length of the route is about 1.5 km. Information boards along the route provide information about sights and their history. This route is marked with a solid blue line on the information map. I would say Guided tour is the best way to explore the fortress and to know its history.

Recommended tourHelsinki and Suomenlinna 5-Hour Sightseeing Tour

What to see in Suomenlinna

There are several historical sights, museums, restaurants and café to visit. Here is my take them.

1.Jetty Barracks

Jetty Barrack i Suomenlinna
Jetty Barrack in winter

The pink-plastered Jetty Barracks, the main gateway to the fortress, is  located on the northern shoreline of Suomenlinna. It is the first building visitors see as they arrive here.  The barracks, built in 1868–70 in Russian era, was designed to accommodate 250 soldiers.

The tourist information office along with few cafes & restaurants are situated in the Jetty Barracks.

2.Suomenlinna Church

Sumonelinna church in summer
Church in Summer

The Church in Suomenlinna was built in 1854 as a Russian Orthodox Church. Original building had five steeples with onion domes but  in the alteration works, the main dome lost its onion shape and the tower was made quadrangular. Nowadays this Church is a popular venue for weddings, concerts or events.

Suomenlinna Sea Fortress - All You Need to Know in 2021 1
Suomenlinna Church
Church in winter

3.Prisoner-of-war camp memorial and The Casino Park

A Prison of war camp was located in Suomenlinna between 1918 and 1919. After the civil war, about 8,000 prisoners were interned in the camp.

A memorial for the prison camp is situated in the Casino Park on the island of Iso-Mustasaari, near the main quay. The memorial consists of two rocks, one in natural condition and one quarried.

4. Suomenlinna Museum

Though there are six museums in Suomenlinna, Suomenlinna  museum  is the only one which is open throughout the year to showcase history and restoration of the fortress. It is open from 10 am to 6 pm in summer season (2 May-30 September) and from 10.30 am to 4.30 pm during the winter season (1 October-30 April). A short film about history of the fortress is shown every half hour. The film is available in several languages.

Suomenlinna Meusum
Suomenlinna Museum
Museum in Suomenlinna
Island Museum

5. Dry dock

Dry dock in Suomenlinna is one of the oldest operational dry-docks in Europe. The construction  started in 1750. Basins and service buildings of the dock served as base for the Swedish Coastal Fleet’s Sveaborg squadron until 1808.

The Dry Dock in winter in suomenlinna helsinki
Dry Dock in winter
Dry Dock of suomenlinna helsinki in winter
Dry Dock in summer

Public access to the dock area is prohibited but visitors can see that from the dry dock observation deck.

6. Great Courtyard

The Great Courtyard, designed by Augustin Ehrensvärd, served as the main square and administrative centre of the fortress from 1760. In the middle of the square there is the tomb of Augustin Ehrensvärd, designed by King Gustav III of Sweden together with Augustin’s son Carl August Ehrensvärd and Johan Tobias Sergel.

Augustin Ehrensvärd Tomb in the courtyard of suomenlinna helsinki
Augustin Ehrensvärd Tomb in the courtyard

7. Suomenlinna Beach

There is a small but cute beach at Kustaanmiekka island in Suomenlinna. This beach is good for family with kids as water level of the bay is low. There is a public toilet near the beach. 

suomenlinna beach helsinki
Suomenlinna beach

8. Bastion Zander and artillery of Kustaanmiekka

Kustaanmiekka island is situated in southern Suomenlinna. There are four bastions, built between 1748-1750. Bastion Zander is one of them. It has been the flag bastion of the fortress throughout its history.

Bastion Zander suomenlinna Helsinki
Bastion Zander

You can see artillery in many places at Suomenlinna, especially in Kustaanmiekka. In addition to Russian & Swedish artillery from 18th Century,  you will find artillery from the World Wars as well.

artillery in Kustaanmiekka suomenlinna Helsinki
Artillery in Kustaanmiekka

9.King’s Gate

The King’s Gate is one of the iconic symbol of Suomenlinna. The gate was built in 1753–54 on the site as the entrance gateway to the fortress. In 1752 the ship, carrying King Adolf Frederick of Sweden, was anchored while he came to inspect the construction of the fortress. In the 1770 the gate was transformed into a double drawbridge. A quay and wide stairs, made of limestone, were built in front of the drawbridge.

The King's Gate in Suomenlinna Helsinki
The King's Gate in Suomenlinna
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The King’s Gate

How to reach

These islands are accessible only by water. A ferry service runs from the Market Square of Helsinki throughout the year to Suomenlinna. The ferry departs every 30 minutes and it takes 15–20 minutes to reach. The journey offers majestic view of Helsinki and the surroundings from sea. During winter, the trip through the ice-covered sea is a unique experience. In summer season, a water-bus service to the fortress is also available for visitors. 

ferry for suomenlinna helsinki
Ferry for Suomenlinna
Helsinki seen from the Sea
Helsinki from Sea

What to do:

1.Take a guided tour:

The guided tours are offered by Ehrensvärd Society and held by authorised Suomenlinna-guides. The tour start from Suomenlinna Museum. Duration is approximately one hour. Tickets can be bought in the museum or from Ehrensvärd Society’s online shop. The price is €11 for adults and €4 for children. It is free with Helsinki Card. Guided tours are conducted in different languages and  ticket entitles the holder to free admission to the Ehrensvärd Museum. During winter, tours are available only on weekends.

Recommended tourHelsinki and Suomenlinna 5-Hour Sightseeing Tour

 2. Sit and Relax

Suomenlinna is such a beautiful place where you don’t need to do anything. You can spend a whole day just relaxing and enjoying the surroundings.

siljaline cruise from suomenlinna helsinki

3. Fishing

If you are fan of fishing, then Suomenlinna is a good option for you. All you need patient and fishing permit.

4. Walking trail

The best way to explore the fortress is walking around. There are several walking trails between parklands and main sighting sides.

walking train in Suomenlinna
Winter walk
walking trail in suomenlinna
Summer walk

5. Explore the history by visiting museum

There are six museums in Suomenlinna – Suomenlinna museum, Ehrensvärd Museum, the submarine Vesikko ( a restored 1930s vessel) , Military Museum’s ManegeToy Museum and Customs Museum. Those museums are located in different parts of Suomenlinna. You can purchase tickets separately at each museum. During the summer season, a combined ticket to all museums is also available and it is valid for the whole summer (from 1 May to 30 September). Museum Card is valid in all the museums. Only Suomenlinna museum is open whole year, whereas others are open only during the summer season.

 submarine museum Vesikko in suomenlinna Helsinki
Submarine museum Vesikko

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Moon Ray

A Traveller with Nomadic soul.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. sumit walia

    Suomenlinna Sea Fortress does seem to be something out of a fairy tale land of magical lands in the oceans. Six islands linked together was an interesting aspect to ponder as I read further into your post. Ice-covered winter trip is made over the ice, is it? So what is conveyance used? The visual of the Jetty barrack in winter looks so surreal. Suomenlinna museum would be an excellent place to visit and see the short film to know more about the history of this place. Augustin Ehrensvärd Tomb looks remarkable. Suomenlinna looks like a great place to do some lovely landscape photography especially Kings Gate

  2. Harshita

    Such a beautiful place! So charming in summer and a winter wonderland when it snows. Wouldn’t love taking the resident count to a plus 1 and making it 801! Also not to forget that’s some fishing spot there with birds flying by and a cruise ship in sight, such a scenic one!

  3. paolo

    The photos during winter is amazing, i have never seen snow in real life before and these photos are making me want to. Suomenlinna Sea Fortress’ vibe is so peaceful, it is perfect for relaxation. This virtual tour is well detailed and i love that you have listed all the must visit sites in Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. Hope to visit Helsinki one day!

  4. Jay Artale

    I know you said you need to visit at each different season, but those winter photos are just gorgeous, especially the one with the pink barracks and the snow. I was surprised that this building has Russian heritage, as I wouldn’t have guessed that from the design.

  5. Raksha

    Wow the King’s Gate looks huge. I had never heard of Suomenlinna Sea Fortress before. This looks like a great place to visit. I have added this to my list of places to see now.

  6. Subhashish Roy

    Me and my wife loved this place when we were there couple of years back and spent a day exploring Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. All these beautiful pictures brought back those splendid memories. We loved Helsinki and also Turku in Finland and in fact the entire Scandinavia region.

  7. Agnes

    I was in Helsinki for three days, and I liked the city. That is why I would like to come back to see its surroundings too. So, the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress looks interesting. I add it to my list. I love the winter scenery. The guided tour seems to be perfect to learn more about the history of this place.

  8. Shreya Saha

    Suomenlinna seems to be an interesting place in Finland to visit. I would love to visit the fortress when I am in Helsinki. It’s good that you can wander around by feet and there is no transport inside. I would love to take a guided tour of the fortress.

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