At the entrance to Helsinki’s harbour lies a group of islands that is home to Suomenlinna Maritime Fortress, a popular day out in the Finnish capital.
And what is the meaning behind this intriguing name, you ask? Well, Suomenlinna means Finnish Castle. You’ll also see the name Sveaborg – meaning Swedish Castle. Suomenlinna was constructed in the 18th century, when present-day Finland was a part of Sweden. I’ll use Suomenlinna; we’re in Finland after all.
During the 600-year-long Swedish era, Mother Russia was on the offense, and had designs on this land. Hence the necessity to construct a protective fortress. Of course, in the end, it wasn’t enough. Finland became a Russian Grand-Duchy in 1809 and only became an independent country after the Russian Revolution.
Yesterday’s weapon of mass destruction
Admiral Augustin Ehrensvärd supervised the construction of the fort, and his grave is in the middle of the island. It’s a somewhat eerie memorial, I think. Still, I passed it twice – and was drawn up close both times. Something about that helmet… and the cherubs surrounding it.
Living, breathing Suomenlinna
Today, Suomenlinna is an easy 20-minute ferry trip from Helsinki – and a pleasant neighbourhood to wander around. Unusually for a military fortress, it’s a living, breathing community – with about 900 residents, a church, museums, several restaurant and cafes…
… and quirky little shops selling arts and craft made on the islands.
I’m left wondering if perhaps a rather large percentage of Suomenlinna’s population might be engaged in arts and crafts. It’s easy to see how this avant-garde environment would attract people of artistic temperament.
Leaving the shop, I plonk down on a bench. Next to me, as it turns out, is a Helsinki girl who happens to be visiting local friends. Like many Finns (and Norwegians, for that matter), she’s not one for small talk. But she does tell me there’s quite a long waiting list for flats here on the islands. Suomenlinna is a desirable address.
You can have that address too, if you wish. At least for a day or two. Suomenlinna has a hostel, where you’ll live in the former Russian elementary school. Much as I would have liked to, I didn’t have time to spend the night as I was due in Tallinn the next day. Such is the time restraints of modern life.
If you’re in Helsinki and have an extra day (or two) – and the weather is nice, I highly recommend spending at least an afternoon wandering around Suomenlinna.
The Fortress of Suomenlinna is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here are more UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world.
Disclosure: In Helsinki, I was a guest of VisitFinland. As ever, all views and opinions remain mine, all mine.
We had a great time visiting Suomenlinna while in Helsinki on a cruise stop although I expect that what my girls remember most is the boat ride and the ice cream that they had on the island!
That’s not a bad memory 🙂
Isn’t that close to where the mumi trolls and little my grew up?
Love the temperamental Little My.
You had me at “Suomenlinna” — had to find out where this was and what the name meant! Love the contrast of the military fortress with the residential area. Definitely looks like an artistic community to me!
Yes, I think it’s an interesting juxtaposition: the strict, orderly military elements and the free-spirited, Bohemian vibe.
Wow!! What a fascinating place and that sculpture on the grave is incredible! Nice pictures too my friend!
Great pictures, Sophie! And you did paint a great story on the eerie angle. I loved that picture of the canon at the firing platform! Good post 🙂
It really is.
No wonder Suomenlinna has such a desirable address. What a beautiful and charming place. I admit I hadn’t heard of it and this makes a trip to Helsinki even more appealing. Beautiful pictures, Sophie. A fortress and shopping isn’t my first thought of a combination but glad they made it work here.
Very much worth a stop when you’re in Helsinki.
Anything that makes it to UNESCO site status is one I want to visit. I’ve seen photos of this place in the winter and it looks a tad more desolate than your pictures. I love the fact that so many artisans are there as that always seems to add a richness to an area.
I really liked that creative spirit, too.
I think the memorial of Admiral Augustin Ehrensvärd is interesting, especially the helmet. Nice photos, Sophie!
Interesting, thought-provoking, and slightly spooky. Unbeatable combination.
I’m always when I see timber homes so far north. Soumenlinna does look pretty artsy and orderly. I can see why there’s a waiting list for apartments.
Thanks for the tour, Sophie!
Wooden houses are by far the most common up here in the Nordic countries. Lots of forest here.
that was a fun tour sophie, thanks for taking us on that tour today!
Glad you enjoyed it.
Looks like a very interesting place to check out. I hope to make back to Helsinki one day.
Hope you do, too.
Your posts are always so interesting and this one is one of the best. Love the mix of colors and samples you’ve provided us on this armchair tour with you.
Why thank you, Jackie.
The juxtaposition of the helmet and the cherubs is very intriguing. I can see why it drew you over. I think I’d have a fabulous time exploring all those arts and crafts places, too. It does indeed look like a desirable place to live.
Hope you’ll get here soon 🙂
Although I don’t usually like cruising and boating because I am easily “sea sick” I still always like going on ferry rides, as the waters are usually very still. I even like the 20 minute rides. When I land, I feel like I’m in a totally new place. And that’s always a great feeling!
Quirky, desirable, beautiful, and historical along with a ferry ride – this seems like a fun place to see.
You know, that’s very true. The distance between an island and the mainland, even if ever so short, does make it seem like being in another world.
Hello, that does look like a really appealling place to live, and most certainly to visit. The art and craft shops look terrific. Thanks, have enjoyed my armchair travelling with you today.
Sophie! Your photos take my breath away! I can’t get over the colour in the shot of the canon! The stone is so vibrant and the range of yellows, oranges, browns and reds – gorgeous! The whole of Suomenlinna looks wonderfully enchanting and I would love to spend days exploring and photographing the area in depth! Thank you for the introduction.
Finland next up for you guys, maybe… 🙂
Looks like a lovely place to spend an afternoon and you’re right that helmet is quite arresting!
Thanks for stopping by, Natasha.
How quaint and pretty! It would be nice place to live for a while, and get away from it all 🙂
the place looks so colorful.
Great pictures… Looks like Suomenlinna makes for a great day trip from Helsinki…
Suomenlinna is nice place to visit.I have recorded a video from suomenlinna in winter. It’s really beautiful with the snow and everything.Ii really recommend visiting Suomenlinna Fort if you are visiting Helsinki. I used my go pro camera to record footage so sorry for not perfect quality.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2ZZOWFqfsw&feature=youtu.be – Suomenlinna Fort