You can easily spend a whole day just walking around on the islands. Or even spend the night if you wish. There are plenty of things to see, several restaurants spread out on the islands, and nice trails through the beautiful nature. It is also a vibrant, with about 800 persons living there, having their own school, shops and everything else a community need.
One of the first things you notice approaching the islands, is the church. It was built as a Russian Orthodox garrison church in 1854, but was converted into Evangelival-Lutheran in the 1920s. The tower also work as a lighthouse for air and sea traffic.
We decided to start with the guided walk taking you to the main sights of the fortress, giving an introduction to the fascinating history, and the life on the islands today. It start from the visitor center, and depending on season and language, you should check the timetable.
Suomenlinna Sea Fortress was founded on the islands outside of Helsinki in 1748. In 1991 it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The construction began already in the early 1700s, when Finland was a part of the Swedish kingdom. The mission was to prevent the Russians to get to close to Stockholm, and also to protect the then small city of Helsinki with its 1500 inhabitants. Even though the building was panned to finish in four years, it took ten times longer.
Augustin Ehrensvärd was the commandant of the fortress, and played a major role in building it. His house is made into a museum, showing both interior from that time, and also an exhibition about his life. It is situated on one of the sides of the courtyard, where he is also buried.
The courtyard was one of the most important places and served as the main square. It was closed on all sides, a trick to make it look bigger, and the show off the power.
After the Finnish War in 1808 the Russians took over the fortress, and it was used as their naval base the next 110 years. The Swedish commandant, Carl Olav Cronstedt was accused of treason against the Swedish crown when he surrendered to the Russians and Suomenlinna and Finland became a part of the Russian Empire. However, they had autonomy.
The dry dock is one of the worlds oldest that is still in use. It was initially used to build ships for the Swedish Coastal Fleet, and to keep the boats in the winter. Nowadays it is used to store old wooden ships.
The submarine Vesikko, belonging to the Military Museum, is also possible to enter. This is the only remaining submarine in Finland after the peace treaty signed after World War 2.
If you want something completely opposite, visit the Toy Museum. It presents toys from the beginning of the 19th century up to the 1960s, featuring hundreds of dolls, teddy bears and other old toys.
After walking around for a few hours, we were in need of something to eat and drink. We sat down at the brewery, Suomenlinnan Panimo, enjoying local beer and food. The perfect ending of a nice time at Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, the islands of adventures for everyone.