One place everyone should absolutely see in Helsinki is Suomenlinna Fortress. It is perfect combination of history, nature and picturesque village situated in the island next to downtown Helsinki. It is very easy to reach – just take a ferry from Kauppatori (opposite to President Castle). It takes only 15 minutes by ferry and there are several ferries every hour. Tickets can be bought in ferry station. It is also good to know that normal Helsinki transportation tickets (the ones you use when travelling by bus or tram) are valid for the ferry. There is no entrance fee for the island and it is always open. There are living approximately 800 people in the island. More information you find here.
But what is this Suomenlinna Forstress? Well, it used to be fortress protecting Finland. The fortification work begin in 1748 (back the Finland was part of Sweden). However, it took many years to finish and even when finished the fortress was actually never completed as planned. Nowadays Suomenlinna is a beautiful place and marked as UNESCO World Heritage Site. This tiny island is perfect place to spend a day – you can walk around and admire see, old buildings, fortress and nature. I suggest to have picnic there (you can find a grocery store from the island, it is very near the ferry stop), another option is to visit some of islands cafes and restaurants. It is also possible to swim in Suomenlinna but there are no long sandy beaches – however you will have feeling of nature when swimming there. You can also walk tunnels within fortification – some of them are open for visitors. Since the streets of Suomenlinna are old you should not wear high heels. Also it is not place for people having difficulties to walk.
I’ve just spend two great days in Suomenlinna – Saturday I spent a great day there with my husband. When arriving we headed to Länsi-Mustasaari part of Suomenlinna (when arriving by ferry, you go right). It is not as touristy as other parts – if you want to have a feeling “being alone” then you should go that way. You can also admire beautiful Helsinki skyline from Länsi-Mustasaari. We were reading books and having picnic whole day. My husband also swam (but I didn’t since the day wasn’t too hot). Yesterday I visited Suomenlinna Summer Theatre (unfortunately the play is in Finnish) and had a picnic again. This time we headed towards Kustaanmiekka. When going to that direction you see first old church (which is also a light house) and after that many other old buildings. This way is more touristy but also you see more beautiful buildings than in Länsi-Mustasaari (where it is more aboug quietness and nature). You’ll find easily guideposts so it is easy to see which way to go.
During winter time Suomenlinna is different – very windy and not touristy at all. However, I recommend to visit Suomenlinna whatever the season is – it really is very lovely and special place!