In 1748 the Swedish ruled Finland and built Suomenlinna Fortress which was originally called Sveaborg, or Viapori in Finnish. Then in 1808, the Russians took over this part of the world including the Sveaborg fortress. It wasn’t until 1918, shortly after the independence of Finland that this island became part of Finland and renamed Suomenlinna which translates to Castle of Finland.
Exploring Suomenlinna Fortress
I would say that the best way to photograph the fortress would be from above on a helicopter tour or with a drone camera. However, not all of us have this equipment therefore you’ll have to explore the island on foot to find the best place to take photos! To fully explore the islands and its museums, I recommend you plan a full day on Suomenlinna.
How to get the Suomenlinna Helsinki Ferry
To get to Suomenlinna you must take a boat which leave from Kauppatori regularly. Suomenlinna is a UNESCO world heritage site and the Suomenlinna website claims that a visit here is comparable to a visit to the Great Wall of China, the Grand Canyon or the Acropolis in Athens. I wouldn’t put it in the same bracket as these but it’s definitely worth a boat trip over from Helsinki. Once on the Suomenlinna ferry be sure to pick up a free information leaflet with a map of the island. When you travel on the ferry, many of the things to do in Helsinki are visible from the panoramic view on the roof.
The iconic building of Helsinki is the cathedral. It was built in the 19th century and somewhat resembles a temple. As a matter of fact, Helsinki Cathedral is a top Instagram spot in Helsinki. The reason being that it’s surrounded by elegant steps rising from Senate Square.
Something very unique in Helsinki is Temppeliaukio Church. It’s a church built directly into a solid rock also known as Rock Church or Church of the Rock. You may be thinking, why did someone build a church into rock? Because the rock walls enhance the acoustics of the church. For this reason, when visiting Temppeliaukio Church be sure to check out the huge organ.
The Uspenski Cathedral is the largest Orthodox church in Western Europe. It’s located on a hill and is visible from all over the city. If you visit, there’s an interesting crypt area beneath it. Furthermore, you’ll find similar style cathedrals in neighboring Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.
National Theater, Railway Square
If you arrive in Helsinki by train, one of the first things you’ll see is Railway Square. I was lucky there was a huge ice skating rink in the middle of it when I visited. As a result, photos of the square were seriously enhanced with a shiny reflection. Lastly, a particularly Instagram worthy building on the square is the Finnish National Theater.
Suomenlinna Island is the most famous tourist attraction of Helsinki. However, there is another noteworthy island worth visiting known as Seurasaari. This island features an open air museum about the traditional Finnish way of life. At the same time, you can relax, admire the island and view the local wildlife.
The Kamppi Chapel is one of the most unique places of worship in the world. In fact, you’d be forgiven if you mistook it as a bow of a boat. The idea behind the chapel is that you can experience peace or pray in the center of a huge city. If you go inside, you’ll immediately forget you’re in a major European capital. All religions are welcome.
How to get from Helsinki to Tallinn by ferry
From Helsinki port, which is a 20 minute walk from downtown Helsinki, you can take a passenger service on a cruise ship to Tallinn, Estonia. The crossing is 2 hours and costs about €15. I used the Tallink Silja line which has regular crossings. There are restaurants, a Burger King and a supermarket on-board as well as free WiFi.
How to visit Russian without a Visa
I have to mention St Peter Line foot passenger service. If you use this service it’s possible to visit St Petersburg, Russia for up to 72 hours without a visa. If you’re in this part of Europe and want to add another country to your list, then a visit to St Petersburg will be perfect for you. You need to plan it well with the cruise ship times though.