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Helsinki is surrounded by over 300 islands, several of which are easily accessible by waterbus from either the Market Square or Hakaniemi. Here, we take a look at three of the most popular islands – Lonna, Vallisaari and Suomenlinna. Despite their closeness to each other, each island is different and has unique features worth exploring.
Decidedly the smallest of these three islands, Lonna is a tiny but charming island, just ten minutes away from the mainland. Even though it is only 150 meters in length, there is an outdoor concert venue, a restaurant and coffee shop, plus cheerful terraces made to enjoy carefree summer days in the sun.
It is also home to one of the best public saunas in Helsinki, a new wood-burning sauna with sections for both men and women. To ensure that you can have a sauna bath while you are there, you can reserve a two-hour slot in advance.
Vallisaari and Kuninkaansaari
A former military installation, these islands were only opened to the public in 2016. Ideal for trekking and long walks, there are thick woods, dense with trees and wildflowers, as well as a number of cafes and kiosks at which you can stop to eat.
Throughout the islands are the historical remnants of its military past – wooden officers’ houses, red brick facilities and sternly closed-off areas that once housed torpedoes and other weaponry. The trails are very well marked, with lots of information, but guided tours are also available if you want to learn more about the islands’ history.
In 1937 a massive explosion occurred, which resulted in the deaths of 12 persons in the area that is now called Kuolemanlaakso (the Valley of Death). Stories are also told of the ghost of a headless colonel who had been viciously executed and his body thrown into the surrounding seas. It certainly makes for a fascinating excursion!
Suomenlinna is perhaps the most popular of the islands – or to be more accurate, the most popular group, since it is actually comprised of six islands. The site of the Suomenlinna fortress, it is has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1991 and is a cultural treasure that is worth visiting year round.
Nonetheless, a visit in the summer is a must, when you can best enjoy the islands’ beaches and beautiful picnic spots. There are also several museums, as well as a restored submarine which is only open during the summer season.
Read more about Suomenlinna here.
The JT-Line ferry offers a round-trip service from the Market Square during the summer, which allows you to go island-hopping to all three islands during the course of one day.