Picture: Visit Finland
These days the old fortress island of Suomenlinna is home to families and artists and is a part of the City of Helsinki, with a total year-round population of about 900.
Suomenlinna is also still an important cultural centre, with museums, galleries, restaurants, and cafés.
The old shipyard is active in restoring wooden sailing vessels.
Access to the islands is possible from Helsinki’s South Harbour, with a ferry plying the short distance from the mainland from early morning until late at night.
In the summer a number of waterbuses also include Suomenlinna on their itineraries.
Among the many museums worth looking into is the Doll & Toy Museum, which has a delightful collection of doll houses and toys dating from the 1830s onwards, and is as attractive to adults as it is to children.
Here it is easy to feel that one is part of some great historical chapter, since during the Swedish period the building housed the famous Walhalla Orden, one of Viapori’s many secret societies.
On a fine day, the Walhalla terrace offers wonderful views out to the open sea and the outer islands.
At around six in the evening, you can also watch as the colossal ferries to and from Sweden pass through what seems an impossibly narrow channel towards the open sea.
There is a strong temptation to reach out and shake hands with the passengers on board.
Some will argue that the terrace of the Café Piper in the English formal garden laid out on neighbouring Susisaari offers Helsinki’s best panoramas, allowing the combination of a cool beer and unlimited ship-spotting.
Café Chapman has a convenient location near the waterbus pier. They have a lunch buffet daily and serve as an à la carte restaurant on summer evenings.
Suomenlinna also boasts a brewery of its own.
Suomenlinna Brewery Restaurant, located only a few steps from the ferry, serves food made from fresh Finnish ingredients and their own beers.