Savonlinna, Nyslott, Exploring Finland

Savonlinna (Nyslott) – Exploring Finland

Savonlinna is a town in southeastern Finland, within the region of South Savo. In English, the name means the castle of Savonia and the town is home to the impressive medieval Saint Olaf’s Castle. The names are Olavinlinna and Olofsborg in Finnish and Swedish respectively. The town is also known by its Swedish name Nyslott. With a population of around 32,000 inhabitants, this is one of the largest towns in the region. Many of these people are living on islands in Lake Saimaa, with the waterfront never far away.

A Short History of Savonlinna

The castle Olavinlinna, then known by its Swedish name Olofsborg, was founded in 1475. The castle played a part in the geopolitical game with Russia in establishing a Swedish presence in the region of Savonia. The construction conflicted with the Treaty of Nöteborg, which had been signed between Sweden and Novgorod in 1323. The castle was built on Novgorod’s side of the border, which was made possible by the earlier Russian conquest of Novgorod.

The castle was tested for the first time during the Russo-Swedish War of 1495 to 1497 and later again during the war of 1554 to 1557. During both of these conflicts, the castle withstood sieges and in its vicinity, a settlement began to develop. The town of Savonlinna was eventually established in 1639. It was in 1714 that the castle surrendered for the first time to the Russians, something that was repeated in 1743. After the second surrender and the Treaty of Åbo the same year, the castle, town, and the whole region became a part of Russia.

It wasn’t until 1812 that Savonia and the town of Savonlinna were returned to the Duchy of Finland. The town had its status as a town renewed in 1784 during the Russian rule. It did, however, take a long time for Savonlinna to gain new importance. The Saimaa Canal was completed in the mid-19th century and was the beginning of new development in Savonlinna. The town gained importance due to its strategic location within Lake Saimaa and that increased with the arrival of the railway in 1908. These developments meant not only the establishment of new industries in the town. It also made Savonlinna accessible for tourism and it developed as a resort town in the Finnish Lake District.

Things to Do and See

Savonlinna is a town that offers both a modern center with shops and restaurants and also a town with some of the more impressive historical sights in Finland. The castle Olavinlinna is without doubt the main attraction and its setting within Lake Saimaa does offer many scenic views. Walking across the many bridges connecting the central islands is one way to get a good view of the Lake, another is to head out on a lake excursion.


Olavinlinna is the main attraction in the town and the castle is probably one of the most historical sights in Finland. It is also known by its Swedish name Olofsborg and both these names can be translated to English as Saint Olof’s Castle. The castle dates back to 1475 and its three towers watch out over Lake Saimaa and the town of Savonlinna. It is possible to enter the castle by paying an entrance fee.

Riihisaari – Savonlinna Museum

Close to the castle Olavinlinna is Riihisaari, the Savonlinna Museum. This is where you will find exhibitions about the local history and the surrounding nature. This is also where you will find the local tourist information center.

Savonlinna Port

Savonlinna Port is where you can find the vessels that head out on both cruises and regular routes on Lake Saimaa. It’s joined by the local market square where you might find something small to eat while you enjoy the view of the ships and waterfront.

Savonlinna Cathedral

Savonlinna Cathedral was completed in 1878 and has room for around 1,000 visitors. The church became a cathedral in 1896 with the establishment of the Diocese of Savonlinna. It is a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.

Lake Saimaa

Lake Saimaa is never far away. This is the largest lake in Finland and the fourth largest freshwater lake in Europe after Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega in Russia and Lake Vänern in Sweden. It consists of several connected lake basins with many islands and a very long coastline. Here you will find beaches such as the Pikku Kakkosen Ranta and the Heikinpohjan Uimaranta. The lake also offers the possibility of many excursions, fishing, and many more water activities. Remember that fishing in the lake requires a fishing permit and comes with restrictions.

How to Get to Savonlinna

  • Flights: Joensuu Airport (JOE) is 129 kilometers to the north.
  • Car: Savonlinna lies along Road 14 between Juva and Punkaharju
  • Train: There are trains to and from Parikkala.

The driving distance from 5 major Finnish cities, according to Google Maps:

  • Helsinki – 332 kilometers (3 h 46 min)
  • Turku – 467 kilometers (5 h 12 min)
  • Vaasa – 475 kilometers (5 h 49 min)
  • Oulu – 444 kilometers (5 h 15 min)
  • Joensuu – 141 kilometers (1 h 45 min)

Looking to Explore more of Finland and Europe?

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