There is a fascinating range of Historic Sites in Finland, from medieval castles to industrial landscapes. Together with its museums, these Historic Sites in Finland are a great way to discover the story of a nation which has, among other things, been ruled by the Swedish and the Russians before attaining independence in 1917.
There’s a host of top Historic Sites in Finland to visit and among the very best are Suomenlinna Fortress, Kastelholm Castle and Raseborg Castle. Other popular sites tend to include Hame Castle, Bomarsund Fortress and St. Anna’s Church of Kokar.
We’ve put together an experts guide to Finnish cultural places and monuments, with our top ten places to visit as well as a full list of Historic Sites in Finland, which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.
What are the best Historic Sites in Finland?
Suomenlinna Fortress is an impressive 18th century maritime fortification complex spread over eight islands in Helsinki and which has been property of the Swedish, the Russians and the Finnish. Considered an excellent example of the military architecture of the period, Suomenlinna Fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Today, this is a fascinating place to visit and a popular one, with various things to see including a series of museums as well as sites such as the King’s Gate and the Great Courtyard. Military history enthusiasts will enjoy exploring its many bastions and there are guided tours.
Turku Castle is a large medieval castle in Finland which has served as a stronghold as well as a granary and a prison. In fact, it is said to be Finland’s largest intact medieval building.
In terms of military action, Turku Castle often featured in local or regional battles. In 1318, it also played a more international role when it was attacked by Russian invaders. Yet, over time, Turku Castle’s military importance waned and it became a 18th and 19th century prison before coming a museum of its own history and that of the Turku region, a part it still plays today.
Hame Castle (Hameenlinna) is a medieval site which has served as everything from a royal residence to a granary and a prison.
Whilst it is unclear as to when exactly Hame Castle was built, it is usually dated to the late 13th century. Indeed, many historians associate it with the Swedish crusade of Earl Birger, who came here sometime that century, seeing the castle as a way to help Sweden consolidate power in central Finland. Nevertheless, regardless of when it was founded, Hame Castle would undergo construction for centuries.
Today, visitors can still see the oldest part of Hame Castle, referred to as the fortified camp. This is mainly comprised of an imposing thick defensive wall dotted with towers. There’s also the ruin of an old well.
The brick sections of Hame Castle date from the 14th century, something which makes the site unique in that it was one of the earlier places in Finland to use this material. The increased grandeur f the building materials is mirrored in the importance of Hame Castle generally and, from the 14th to 16th centuries, it became had connections with many of Finland’s most prominent circles.
Hame Castle’s decline began in the late 16th century, in part expedited by the reformations of King Gustav I of Sweden. It would have a brief resurgence after the Great Northern War, but its main roles in the 19th and 20th centuries were as granary and prison. This site also features as one of our Top Ten Visitor Attractions of Finland.
Kastelholm Castle, also known as Kastelholms Slott or Kastelholman Linna, is a medieval castle located on the Åland Islands. In the early 20th century the site was transformed into a museum and there was a restoration programme in the 1980s.
Today the ruins of Kastelholm Castle can be viewed and the site is also the home of the Jan Karlsgården Open-Air Museum, which recreates 19th century life in the region.
Bomarsund Fortress is a ruined 19th century fortress in Aland which was destroyed during the Crimean War.
The whole of Aland was declared a demilitarised zone in 1856, a status which remains to this day. Visitors to Bomarsund Fortress can see its pretty ruins. There’s also a modest nearby museum about the site (next to Prasto Bridge).
Raseborg Castle is a ruined medieval castle in southern Finland first mentioned in writing in 1378. Raseborg Castle was intended to defend the then Swedish territory Southern Finland and it would go on to be the focal point of clashes with the Danes as well as pirates.
Today, visitors to Raseborg Castle can see its restored outer wall as well as its other ruins, including those of a wooden barrier which once encircled the castle, stopping entrance to the harbour to foreign ships.
The Verla Groundwood and Board Mill (Eilinen elaa Verlassa) is an excellent example of the industrial landscape of Finland’s Kymi river valley in the 19th century. In fact, the site has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, a testament to its remarkable state of preservation, rarity and historical importance.
Whilst a mill was first established in Verla in 1872, the surviving Verla Groundwood and Board Mill dates to 1882, the previous one having been destroyed by a fire. This would continue to operate until 18 July 1964, whenit was closed down upon the death of its long-time owner.
Today, visitors to the Verla Groundwood and Board Mill can learn about its history and how it impacted the area as a whole. Separately, but on the same site, there are a set of prehistoric rock paintings near the car park believed to date back to 7000BC. This site also features as one of our top 10 Finnish tourist attractions.
Fiskars Village is a picturesque historic ironworks village in Finland. The ironworks of Fiskars Village were established in 1649, at a time when this region of Finland was renowned for the production of iron.
Despite being devastated by the Russians in 1713, Fiskars Village thrived again and went on to have its most flourishing period in the 19th century under Johan von Julin. During this time, Fiskars was advanced in terms of agriculture, medicine and education.
Today, Fiskars still operates as an international corporation creating consumer items. Fiskars Village is considered to be a cultural hub and visitors can also tour its ironworks museum telling the story of how this village developed. Fiskars Village features as one of our top Finnish visitor attractions.
St. Anna’s Church of Kokar is a pretty, whitewashed stone church in Aland built in 1784 and renowned for its 14th century Finnish Franciscan convent.
The ruins of the convent are still visible today and visitors can see where the monks who lived there once worked. St. Anna’s Church of Kokar is also home to a baptismal font designed to a 13th century style.
This site also features as one of our Top 10 Finish Visitor Attractions.
Porvoo Cathedral (Porvoon Tuomiokirkko) is a 15th century Gothic-style church which became a cathedral in 1723.
The first incarnation of Porvoo Cathedral was actually begun in the 13th century and, whilst parts of this survive to this day, its current look mostly dates back to 1414-1418, when it was rebuilt. Over the centuries, Porvoo Cathedral has suffered numerous destructive events including a fire in 2006, which devastated its roof, since repaired.
In 1809, Porvoo Cathedral played an important role in the nation’s history as the opening site of Finland’s first Diet in which the country was affirmed as an autonomous Grand Duchy. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Finland.