Most people will know Finland for being the happiest country in the world and only for that it’s a great country to visit. But Finland has a lot more to offer and one of the reasons for visiting this country in Northern Europe is its beautiful castles.
While the Nordic countries are now clear independent countries, this hasn’t been the case for that long. Finland has only been independent for 100 years. It belonged to Sweden from the late 13th century until 1809 when it became part of the Russan Empire.
This post will show you a list of castles that you can visit in Finland. From castles dating from the medieval period to castles used as a residence of the Swedish royal family. These Finnish castles are steeped in history set in the beautiful Finnish landscape.
St. Olaf’s Castle (Olavinlinna Castle)
Olavinlinna Castle is the northernmost stone fortress that is still standing, located on an island in the Kyrönsalmi strait in Savonlinna. The three-tower castle was built in the 15th century by Erik Axelsson Tott to lay claim to the Russian border in the province Savonia.
St. Olaf’s Castle was sieged multiple times by Russian forces during the First and Second Russian Swedish wars. The castle houses several exhibitions, the castle museum displays artifacts related to the castle. And the Orthodox Museum displays icons and religious artifacts from Finland and Russia. Since 1912 the medieval castle is the stage for the Savonlinna Opera Festival.
Visitor information: the castle is open nearly every day of the year. Visit the website for current opening times.
Turku Castle (Turun Linna)
Turku Castle is the largest surviving medieval building in Finland and together with the Turku Cathedral is it one of the oldest buildings in Finland that is still in use. The castle, located on the banks of the Aura River in the city of Turku, was built in the 13th century when this part of Finland was still a province of Sweden.
During the reign of Duke John of Finland and Catherina Jagellon the castle was extended with a Renaissance floor and a King’s and Queen’s Hall. The castle has had multiple functions, from a military fortress to an administrative center. But now, it is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Finland.
Built: 13th century
Style: Medieval and Renaissance
Visitor information: The castle houses permanent and temporary exhibitions. In the Summer months they offer guided tours in English and Finnish. For more information visit the website.
Häme Castle (Hämeen Linna)
Hame Castle (also known as Tavastia Castle) is a medieval castle in Tavastia Proper that was built in the 13th century. Though the castle was originally built on an island, it now sits on the coast of Lake Vanajavesi. The castle was built as a military fortress but it later became a home for Swedish nobility and until 1953 it was used as a prison.
After extensive renovations the castle now houses a museum and it’s a popular venue for events such as Renaissance fairs.
Built: 13th century
Visitor information: the castle is open for visitors throughout the year. Visit the website for more information.
Raseborg Castle (Raaseporin linna)
Raseborg Castle is a medieval castle built in the 1370s. Its main purpose at that time was to protect Sweden’s interest in southern Finland against the Hanseatic city of Talinn. Originally built on an island, the castle was built in a D shape with a thick-walled donjon and the straight part forming the keep, and an inner bailey in the center. The ruins of the outer wall still exist.
Due to the sea level becoming lower, the castle lost its importance because it was no longer reachable by boat. In the Middle Ages the castle was fought over by the Swedes, Danes, and pirates until it was abandoned in 1553, after Helsinki was founded.
The castle ruins were restored in the 1890s and close to the castle is one of the largest open air theatre stages in Finland (the Raseborg Summer Theatre).
Visitor information: The castle is open April-October. A guided tour is available in English, Swedish, and Finnish. Visit the website for current information.
Kastelholm Castle is a medieval castle built by the Swedes in the 14th century on the Åland Islands. The castle was originally built on a small island in a strategic location helping to keep Swedish authority of the Baltic. The castle’s heyday was during the reigns of Swedish King Gustav Vasa and his sons when this part of Finland was part of the Swedish empire.
The castle was extended multiple times over the centuries until it was ruined in 1745. It was reconstructed in the 20th century and together with the Outdoor Museum Jan Karlsgården (located next to the castle) is it a popular tourist attraction.
Built: 14th century
Visitor information: the castle is open daily from May-September. Visit the website for more information.
Bomarsund is a never finished fortress in the Åland region of Finland. The end of the Finnish war in 1809 meant that the Grand Duchy of Finland (including Åland) was no longer Swedish but now a part of the Russian Empire. Åland was the furthest corner of the empire and therefor they decided to built a strategically located fortress to defend the northern part of the Baltic Sea and to house the Russian contingents on the island.
The project was never finished and it was ruined by the English-Frenchman forces. The ruins are now a historical monument and on the other side of the channel you will find a small museum.
In the area around Bomarsund are two hiking trails.
Visitor information: the museum is open almost daily. Visit the website for more information.
Kuusisto Castle (Kuusiston piispanlinna)
Kuusisto Castle is a ruined medieval bishop’s castle on the island Kuusisto near Turku. The site has been a bishop’s residence since the 1290s but the stone castle dates from the early 1300s. The glory days of the castle were in the 1400s in the time of bishop Magnus II Tavast, an influential figure in Finland.
For one year the Danes owned the castle until it was conquered by King Gustav Vasa. In 1528, during the Protestant Reformation, he ordered the demolition of the castle. The stones from Kuusisto Castle were used to build Turku Castle. It was not until the 1890s that the castle was repaired.
Built: early 1300s
Visitor information: the castle ruins are free to visit. Visit the website for more information.
Svartholm sea fortress is located at the mouth of Loviisanlahti (Bay of Loviisa) and belongs to the same defense chain as Suomenlinna fortress. The construction of the fortress started in 1748 but in 1808 it ended up in Russian hands. During the Crimean War in 1855 the English navy blew up the island’s equipment and the fortress was left to decay.
The fortress was restored in the 1960s and it’s now a popular family destination which can be reached by ferry or by your own boat. In the summertime there is a restaurant on the island.
Visitor information: the fortress ruins are free to visit. Visit the website for more information.
Just as Svartholm Fortress, Suomenlinna was built in 1748 by the Swedes and became Russian in 1808. Suomenlinna is a popular tourist attraction from Helsinki and a favorite picnic spot for the locals of Helsinki.
There are several museums of the island which can be reached by ferry.
Suomenlinna Fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it’s a unique monument of military architecture.
Oulu Castle (Oulun linna)
Oulu castle was a defense castle on an island in the delta of Oulu River. There have been several castles on this site but the present day ruins was built around 1605 by King Charles IX.
On top of the ruined powder magazines a new wooden structure was built in 1875 that was used as an observatory for the Oulu School of Sea Captains. Since 1912 this building is a café that includes a small exhibition of the castle history.
Visitor information: the castle ruins are open during opening hours of Tähtitorn cafe.
The fortress of Lappeenranta is part of the same defensive system as Suomenlinna and Hamina. Not only is the fortress an important part of Swedish, Russian, and Finnish history it is now also an important cultural destination.
The guardhouse at the Main Gate is part of the oldest buildings on the island. These buildings now house the Cavalry Museum. The South Karelia Museum of Art, The Orthodox Church, and the Commandant’s House date from the late 1700s.
On the island lies also a nature and cultural trail. This trail, along the fortress, tells the story of the buildings and the cultural history.
Hamina Fortress (Haminan linnoitus)
The Hamina Fortress is a Star fort on the coast of the Gulf of Finland and it’s one of the few circular fortresses in the world. The construction of the fortress started in the 1720s after the Treaty of Nystadt. It was built to prevent a Russian advance into the Gulf of Finland. However, after the Russo-Swedish War of 1741–1743 the fortress fell into Russian hands.