Suomenlinna Island is truly an island that has it all from its sand beach to historical museums, its great-tasting food, and its friendly people.
I had the pleasure to travel to Suomenlinna Island in 2014. It’s a beautiful island just on the coast of Helsinki. It’s a very historic island with a fortress dating back to the mid-1700 which was built while Finland was under the control of the Swedish kingdom at the time. There are a lot of amazing historic buildings that I visited.
For those planning a trip to Suomenlinna Island or even considering it as a possible destination, here is a guide to help you plan your trip there and make the most of it.
About Suomenlinna Island
Suomenlinna Island is just a 15-minute ferry ride from Helsinki, the capital city of Finland. It’s been a world heritage site since 1991. Suomenlinna offers a unique travel experience for visitors of all ages and is truly a must-see thing to do whenever you visit Helsinki or Finland. The fortress is home to approximately 800 people. It was previously owned by both Russia and Sweden.
Why Suomenlinna Island?
The island is also known as the Castle of Finland. Why wouldn’t you want to go and see why it’s given that name? It’s a little slice of heaven you can’t miss visiting while in Helsinki. You get to have a ferry ride experience and get to go back a few years in the best and just experience its full beauty.
Getting into Suomenlinna Island
At the moment, Finland doesn’t have any COVID-19 restrictions on entry to the country. All restrictions on entry have been lifted.
You can only get to the Island over the seas. The island is only 15 minutes ferry away from Helsinki and you need a transport card to board the ferry. You will board at the Katjanokka ferry port which is located near the old market in Helsinki. You need to buy a Helsinki Card that allows you to use public transport and gets you to board the ferry for free. There are no tickets sold on the ferry. The ferries run all times of the day, around four times an hour. Check timetable.
Where to stay on Suomenlinna Island
I stayed at Hostel Suomenlinna for three nights. It’s open to guests throughout the year. The rooms are very clean and they offer breakfast as well. You get to meet a lot of amazing people while staying there. The pocket-sized camp facility provides great opportunities to become familiar with the history of the Island and observe the state of the Baltic sea.
Best time to go to Suomenlinna Island
Suomenlinna Island is pretty much an all-year-round destination. The best time to go will be summer as you will have longer daytime hours compared to winter. In summer the sunset is only after 10 pm or 11 pm, which gives you a longer day time to do more activities.
Top things to do in Suomenlinna
Museums you can’t miss:
- Toy Museum
- Military Museum Manege
- Suomenlinna Museum
- Customs Museum
- Ehrensuärd Museum
- Vesikko Submarine
- Jetty Barracks Gallery
- Gallery Augusta
- Potviapori Ceramic Studio
- Hytti Glass Studio
Where to eat in Suomenlinna
- Cafe Silo
- Cafe Piper
- Cafe Icecellar
- Cafe Vanille
- Cafe Bar Valimo
- Restaurant Klubizo
- Restaurant Cafe Chapman
- Suomenlinna Brewery Restaurant
- Suomenlinna Centre Cafe
- Toy Museum Cafe Samovarbar
- Walhalla Restaurant (Walhalla Gourmet, Pizzeria Nikolai, Sunview Terrace & Bar)
- There are picnic areas available on the island
Things to see in Suomenlinna
1. Military Museum
You get to see the Vesikko which is a Finnish submarine from the 1930s-1940s, which has been restored as a museum exhibit. Onboard Vesikko, it is possible to see what the cramped working environment of the submariners was like, with its diesel and electric engines and torpedoes.
2. Kings Gate
The monumental Kings Gate is the emblem of Suomenlinna. It was built in 1753-54 as the ceremonial gateway to the fortress. The gate was built on the site where the ship carrying the founder of the fortress, King Adolf Frederick of Sweden was anchored while the king inspected the construction work in 1752.
Kustaanmiekka offers a view of the original bastion fortress and the coastal defense line with its earthworks and guns constructed by the Russians at the end of the 19th century.
4. Suomenlinna Church
Suomenlinna Church was built as a Russian Orthodox garrison church in 1854. In the 1920s, during the early days of Finnish independence, the church was converted into an Evangelical Lutheran church. A lighthouse for air and sea traffic still operates on the steeple.
5. Dry Dock
Suomenlinna Dock is one of the world’s oldest dry docks still in use. The ships of the Swedish coastal fleet were built there in the 1760s under the supervision of the naval architect F H of Chapman. Nowadays the dock is used to restore old wooden ships.
The courtyard designed by the founder of the fortress August Ehrensuärd has served as the main square of the fortress since the 1760s. It was badly damaged in bombardments during the Crimean war in 1852. The tomb of Augustin Ehrensuärd is located in the courtyard.