Recognised on the UNESCO World Heritage List, Suomenlinna is an inhabited sea fortress spanning six islands, now within the official bounds of Helsinki. Before 1918, when newly independent Finns renamed it the “Castle of Finland”, the site was known as Viapori or Sveaborg.
Now a civilian site, rather than a military one, Suomenlinna is popular with locals and tourists as a small day trip from the Helsinki city centre. Attractions include the Nordic Arts Centre, the Vesikko submarine, the Suomenlinna Brewery and the general fortifications. Central Helsinki residents enjoy picnicking on the islands, and Suomenlinna has 900 locals of its own, as well as a minimum-security labour penal colony.
Suomenlinna is accessible from the mainland by ferry. Boats leave from Market Square and take about 15 minutes to reach the islands. Water buses are also available during the high season in the summertime.
In the 18th century, Finland was a critical strategic point between the northern superpowers of Sweden and Russia. Suomenlinna, or as it was known then Sveaborg, owes its construction to the Swedish empire, working to defend its borders against the Russians. In 1809, the Russians secured the fortress and took over the rule of Finland.