During our recent visit to Helsinki, Caitlin and I decided to spend a day exploring the nearby and popular Suomenlinna. Located a short 15-minute ferry ride from Market Square, on Easter Saturday we packed our picnics, grabbed our cameras and headed towards the pier. Suomenlinna is an inhabited sea fortress located off of the coast of Helsinki. Constructed by the then-reigning Swedish crown in 1748, the fortress consisted of six nearby islands and served as protection against Russian expansionism.
In the years before its construction, Peter the Great had relocated the Russian capital to St. Petersburg and began focusing on the development of Russia as both a regional and international naval power.With the harsh and icy winters, the rival Swedes wanted to ensure that there was sufficient strength in the area to counter any Russian advances, but knew that Stockholm was too far for those winter voyages. The result was the creation of this six-island sea fortress known today as Suomenlinna.Passed between the Swedish and Russian crowns over the years of their respective occupancy of Finland, the history of the fortress tells a long and complex history of the region.Today the fortress has been identified as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it currently serves as a wonderful day, or half-day, trip while visiting the Finnish capital city. Like good little tourists, Caitlin and I packed a picnic, bought our 5-euro ferry tickets and made a day of exploring and enjoying the island and it’s history.
There are a handful of cafes, restaurants, museums, galleries, accommodations and even a brewery on Iso Mustasaari, which is the largest and most popular island to visit. Though the island is still inhabited year-round, these businesses are usually only open to the public during peak summer months.At the time of our visit in early April, only one pier-side café was operational. After our day of exploring the island, enjoying our picnic and battling the cold sea air, we decided to pop into the cafe instead of waiting for the ferry outside in the elements.Immediately upon entering Viaporin Deli & Café, you are enveloped by sweet aromas and the overall coziness of the small cafe and food shop. Viaporin serves an array of regional offerings from freshly baked scones or reindeer jerky to the locally brewed craft beer.Though we weren’t in the mood for their reindeer jerky special, Caitlin and I enjoyed a chat with two fellow tourists while we sipped our selection of IPAs in the cabin-esque café portion of the building.The cafe is located across from the Iso Mustasaari pier and offers a perfect alternative to waiting outside for the ferry back across to the mainland.When we finished our beers and bid adieu to the fortress and island, we were happy to have spent our day learning regional history, soaking up the fresh air, and taking advantage of visiting such wonderful local gem while we were in Helsinki!
Debatably Useful Information: The ferry leaves one to four times per hour from the Market Square pier opposite the Presidential Palace. The ferry goes from Market Square to Iso Mustasaari island. Tickets are 5 euro round-trip for adults. For more information check out Suomenlinna.fi.