Savonlinna is a small city in South Savonia province, Eastern Finland, close to the Russian border.
Tiny Savonlinna Airport (IATA: SVL) is served by Finnair's subsidiary FinnComm , which offers flights from Helsinki to Savonlinna up to three times a day, especially during the Opera Festival. Advance fares start from €32/one way, cheaper than the train, but go up quickly as the plane fills. There is a shuttle service to and from the bus station, which departs one hour before the flight leaves.
There are 3-4 trains daily from Helsinki or Joensuu to Savonlinna. The price is reasonable especially for students, seniors and juniors. It takes about 4 and half hour to Helsinki by train.
There are two stations in Savonlinna, the more central Savonlinna-Kauppatori halt next to the market square, and the main Savonlinna station about 1 km away. Both are unmanned, but you can buy tickets in the train with no surcharge if you board here.
Long-distance buses are also an option.
Savonlinna is stretched out on a series of islands in the middle of Lake Saimaa. While you can cover the central parts on foot, you'll need to resort to buses (or rent a car) to access the suburbs. If you want to rent a car, there is a Hertz rental office at the waterfront, near Hotel Tott.
The cathedral and part of the city center
Medieval Olavinlinna (St. Olaf's Castle)  is the city's symbol and main attraction. Built in 1475 by Danish knight Erik Axelsson to protect the eastern border of the Swedish-Danish Kalmar Union, it was named after the patron saint of knights, St. Olaf. The Russians were soon on the offensive, but the castle withstood several sieges before capitulating in 1714. The Swedes recaptured it in 1721, but lost it again in 1743, and it stayed in Russian hands ever since. This also explains why it has stayed in such good shape: for the Russians, it was far inland and militarily useless, and hence not a target for the enemy either.
Today, Olavinlinna is the world's northernmost medieval stone castle and easily Finland's best-preserved and most attractive castle, and it's quite a sight perched on the shores of the lake. The interior, though, is surprisingly small and sparse (virtually all furniture and decorations were lost in fires in around 1870), and free guided tours take one hour. There are two small museums inside the castle:
- Castle Museum, covers the castle's history
- Orthodox Museum, with Russian Orthodox icons and paraphernalia
Entry to the castle is €5/3.50 adult/child. The castle is open daily 10AM-6PM in summer, 11AM-4PM during the rest of the year. Guided tours in English run every hour in summer (enquire in advance at [email protected] in other seasons), but you can still visit the museums and courtyards without it.
- There are plenty of sightseeing cruises around Lake Saimaa. If you're extremely lucky, you just might spot the very rare Saimaa Ringed Seal (saimaannorppa).
- The city is renowned for its yearly Opera Festival , organized within St. Olaf's Castle. There is also a Ballet Festival at the same place earlier in the year.
- Visit Kylpylä Hotelli Casino . It is situated on an island in the city centre. It offers swimming pools, massaging showers, a jacuzzi, a children's pool, Finnish saunas and Turkish saunas (steam rooms) also for day visitors.
- Sulosaari. A small island on the other side of the Kylpylä Hotelli Casino, as seen from the city centre. A very picturesque, and quiet place for a stroll. In wintertime, you can include it in a lake-traversing trek, provided the ice is thick enough to walk on (which it usually is).
During the morning and afternoon, the best place to eat is the market square by the lake, where you can get Eastern Finnish delicacies like lörtsy meat pies and freshly fried muikku (vendace, a type of freshwater herring).
- Keisarin Puisto, Olavinkatu 33. Chinese food.
- Pizzeria Capero, Olavinkatu 51.
- Uskudar Kebap, Pilkkakoskenkatu 3.
- Hesburger, Olavinkatu 39. The ubiquitous Finnish fast food chain.
- Liekkilohi, next to market, tel. 050 3105 850, . The flagship floating restaurant of a franchised chain, the menu here is simple: pick either one of their trademark flame-broiled salmon, fried muikku, the un-Finnishly immodestly named "world's best fish soup" (not quite, alas) for around €15, or go whole hog and get them all plus the amazing cold fish buffet with 17 types to sample for €35. Prices may be negotiable if it's quiet and you're in a group.
- Medieval Restaurant Hilpeä Munkki, .
- Piatta, Kauppatori 4-6, .
- Tamino, in the Seurahuone hotel, .
- Kylpylä Hotelli Casino, . Offers nice rooms in beautiful surroundings, on an island in the city centre.
- Perhehotelli Hospitz, . Next to the Olavinlinna Castle.
- Savonlinnan Seurahuone, . The traditional wing of Hotel Seurahuone was built in 1956, and it was renovated in 1989 when the new wing was completed. The hotel has 80 high-quality rooms - most of them with a view over the lake. 51 of the rooms are non-smoking and a few designed especially for women.
- Pietari Kylliäinen, . City hotel located close to both service and nature.
- Holiday Centre Järvisydän, . 30 min. drive from Savonlinna, in the village of Rantasalmi, right next to Linnansaari National Park, offering excellent surroundings for nature activities all year around. Summer cottages villas. Medieval style restaurant Piikatyttö.
- Ilola Inn, Ilokallionkatu 13, . Small, artistic Inn situated 2.5 km from the centre of Savonlinna.
- Mikkeli — 100km away by car
- Kerimäki — featuring the world's largest wooden church
- Retretti, an art center with exhibitions inside caves in Punkaharju, is accessible by local train from Savonlinna. There are five trains a day, and a train ticket costs 3,90€ for adult.
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