Savonlinna travel guide

Savonlinna is a Finnish city located in the southeast of the country, in the Saimaa Lakes region. The city occupies several islands within Lake Saimaa itself, making more than a third of the city water.

The town was founded in the 17th century around St. Olaf’s Castle, which was built in 1475 to protect Savonia and control the border with Russia.

Things to see and do in Savonlinna

Although a small town, Savonlinna has a lot to offer. St. Olaf’s Castle, the city’s cathedral and several museums about the history of the region are some of the places not to be missed.

Savonlinna is also surrounded by nature, including two nature parks that are very close to the city. So, you can also enjoy outdoor activities if you visit Savonlinna.

Olavinlinna Castle

Olavinlinna Castle or St. Olaf’s Castle is the main tourist attraction in the town. The castle is a medieval landmark built in 1475 by the Danish knight Erik Axelsson to protect the border with Russia.

The castle has been the site of several clashes between Russia and Sweden throughout history, passing from one hand to the other during the 18th century. With Finland’s independence, the castle passed into Finnish control until the present day.

Olavinlinna is the northernmost medieval stone castle in the world, the best-preserved castle in the country and one of the most attractive for tourists.

Inside the castle, it is possible to find two different museums: the Castle Museum, which tells the whole history of the castle since its construction, and the Orthodox Museum, which shows various elements of the Russian Orthodox Christian religion.

Exterior of Olavinlinna Castle in Savonlinna

Savonlinna Cathedral

Savonlinna Cathedral is the main church in Savonlinna. It was inaugurated in 1879. It is considered a cathedral because between 1896 and 1924 the church had a bishop.

Although it was bombed during the winter war, the cathedral has been restored several times and today it is possible to visit the interior.

Linnansaari National Park

Linnansaari National Park is a collection of lush, rocky islands. There are several ways to visit them. The main islands can be explored by footpaths and nature trails, and there are boat taxis to the islands.

If you prefer, it’s also possible to explore the national park by boat or canoe, which gives you more freedom during your visit and allows you to discover new places.

Riihisaari, Savonlinna Museum

The Savonlinna Museum or Provincial Museum Riihisaari is a museum located on the island of Riihisaari. It has an extensive collection to learn about the history, culture and nature of the Saimaa Lakes region.

The museum also has a nature exhibition offered by the Saimaa Nature Centre run by the Finnish Forestry Administration.

Savonlinna Small Church

Pikkukirkko, also known as The small church of Savonlinna, is a church built in 1846 in the Savonlinna town centre.

It was built as an orthodox church and almost 100 years later, in 1938, it was sold and became a Lutheran parish. Since 2017, the Pikkukirkko has been an orthodox church again.

Kolovesi National Park

Kolovesi National Park is located about 30 kilometres from the centre of Savonlinna, so you will need some form of transport to get there.

The national park is a collection of islands with rocky cliffs and narrow channels. Although there are some hiking trails on the main islands, it is recommended that you explore Kolovesi National Park by canoe or other watercraft.

Kerimäki Church

Kerimäki Church is located in a small village called Kerimäki which is next to Savonlinna. In fact, since 2013, the village is considered part of the same municipality.

This wooden church is considered the largest in the world. It was built in the mid-19th century and can hold up to 5,000 people standing (3,000 seated).

The disproportionate size is due to the fact that, during its construction, the parish priest decided that the church should be able to accommodate half the population.

How to get to Savonlinna

The city of Savonlinna has its own airport. It’s one of the least busy in the country, but has two daily flights from Helsinki and weekly flights from Tallinn.

Another fairly quick and convenient way to travel is by train. The city’s main station is located next to the market square and has daily services from Helsinki and Joensuu.

Finally, you can reach Savonlinna by bus from Helsinki, Mikkeli and other cities, by car, or even by boat from Kuopio.

How to get around the city

The city of Savonlinna stretches along a cluster of islands in Lake Saimaa. While it’s possible to get around the city centre on foot, you’ll need to use public transport or hire a car if you want to go further afield.

Being surrounded by water, it’s highly recommended to rent a canoe for a trip to see the city centre from a different perspective.

Where to stay in Savonlinna

Savonlinna has accommodation to suit all budgets, both in the city centre and on some of the outlying islands. It is also possible to camp in one of the forests to the southwest of the centre.

Bear in mind that the July opera festival is a very popular event in Savonlinna and throughout the country, so you’re unlikely to find any accommodation available in the city centre during this time.

Where to eat in Savonlinna

In Savonlinna’s lakeside market square you can find some of the typical dishes of Eastern Finland, such as lörtsy meat pie or fish muikku.

In the evening, when the stalls in the market square are not open, you will find a wide variety of restaurants and fast food places.

We hope our travel guide to Savonlinna will help you prepare for your trip to the city. We invite you to share this article on social media using the buttons below. And if you have any questions, you can use the comments section to ask them.

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