Top 10 Things to do in Savonlinna (Finland)

Olavinlinna fortress in Savonlinna center Finland

If you are a nature-loving outdoorsy, there are plenty of things to do in Savonlinna. It houses one of the most renowned annual opera festivals, and it is held in the serene setting of the medieval castle. It has also been a paradise for nature lovers from different parts of the world for over 100 years.

Located closely to Linnansaari and Kolovesi national parks, Savonlinna is truly a nature lover’s paradise and always remains in the top priority of culture vulture’s list. It is located in the heart of the largest lake system in Finland and is home to white-backed Corncrake and Woodpecker, and Saimaa Seals.

Located on four islands between Pihlajavesi and Haapvesi lakes, Savonlinna is a delightful town which has been the most visited attractions in Finland for a long time.

Surrounded by serene landscapes and steeped in history. Savonlinna has been known for its well-known opera festival, which is held in July every year, as well as the most beautiful medieval castle where this festival is held.

The construction was initially started in 1475 on Olavinlinna Castle, which was the border between Russia and Swedish controlled Finland. Savonlinna got city status by 1639 by Count Per Brahe the Younger.

In 1856, the city truly started to flourish when Saimaa The canal was built. In this Savonlinna travel guide, we are going to discuss the best things to see in Savonlinna.

Read also: Castles in Finland you must visit

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Quick information and Savonlinna travel tips

  • Currency? Euros
  • Languages? Finnish and Swedish
  • Where is this place? Located in Northern Europe; The South East of Finland.
  • What is Finland famous for? SkiingNorthern Lights, Santa Claus Village, Forest, Lakes, Vikings, and many more!
  • Best time to visit Finland? Visit during Winter (November to March) and do some winter activities, explore Santas Village, and witness Aurora Borealis. Come around Spring (March to May) to see the surroundings bloom to life and Summer (June to August) to explore the lakeside, festivals, and the midnight sun. That said, Autumn (September to October) is also a beautiful time to visit as the weather is still nice but chill and the surroundings start to change color from green to beautiful golden yellow and orange.
  • What to wear during winter in Savonlinna? Read our winter packing guide and as well our jacket reviews
  • Closest Airport? Savonlinna Airport
  • How to get there? You can take the train from Helsinki to Savonlinna by train and it takes about five hours. Buses are also available and it takes about the same amount of time.
  • Other famous places in Finland? Lapland, Lappeenranta, Espoo, Porvoo, Vaasa, Tampere, Pori, Åland Island, Kuhmo, Turku, Rovaniemi, Salla, Jyväskylä, Helsinki, Kajaani, Oulu, and Joensuu
  • Famous neighboring countries? Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, Russia, and Sweden

Do you need a visa for Finland?

In order to enter Finland, you need to have a valid Schengen visa. If you’re a citizen of the EU group of countries, you can enter Finland without a visa. However, if you’re a citizen of Canada, the USA, New Zealand, and Australia – you can stay in Schengen areas for 90 days.

Check out our detailed guide on how to apply for a Schengen visa – read it here.

Where to book your flights to Finland?

Check our handy-dandy guide on how to find the cheapest flights around the world – read it here.

Experiences and top things to do in Savonlinna

Olavinlinna fortress in Savonlinna center Finland

Olavinlinna Castle

One of the fun things to do in Savonlinna is visiting this famous Olavinlinna Castle. The castle of St. Olaf, Olavinlinna has started its construction in 1475.

The knight Erik Axelsson Tott, the Danish-born founder, decided substantial fortification to protect the well-built Savo region. The castle was built to prevent the attack from Russians from the east and to assure the Savo region’s control for the Swedish Crown.

The history of this castle is a blend of cannons roaring, clashing of medieval arms, and chores in the security of thick walls of the castle as part of daily life. The castle had witnessed several owners over the years, and they left their presence here in the form of different architectures. The rooms and halls of the castle can be used for various events and are available for rent.

Huvila

Located over the harbor, Huvila is owned by Waahtu brewery, and it is an excellent destination in warm weather. Its deck on the lakeside has a lot of patrons having fun over a few pints of house brew. Do not miss the Golden Ale. You can also find an appealing dining area in the old timber house.

Live bands also join here in high summer to play in the evening and opening hours last till midnight. It is one of the best places for Savonlinna sightseeing.

Opera Festival

Savonlinna Opera Festival

This world-renowned event is the most popular tourist attraction in Savonlinna, and also one of the best things to do in Savonlinna, with its capped courtyard in Olavinlinna Castle and serene and dramatic setting. Held every year in the city of Savonlinna, Savonlinna Opera Festival takes place at St. Olaf’s Castle (medieval Olavinlinna).

The castle is surrounded by serene surroundings of the lake. The origin of the festival lies closely with the growing Finnish identity, and it is well known for its independence at the start of the 20th century.

Aino Ackte, the Finnish soprano, is already known in the worldwide opera houses. In 1907, he joined a nationalist conference and spotted the castle’s potential as a great venue for an opera festival.

ancient boat on the lake near the Lake Saimaa Nature and Museum Centre Riihisaari

Riihisaari

Located on the then naval port and an island, Riihisaari is one of the best places to visit in Savonlinna. It is located in the serene granary dated back to the 16th century, which recounts the local history and the value of water transport.

It houses a lot of exhibits related to flora and fauna in Lake Saimaa, history, endangered ringed seal and a 12-minute video on the aquatic world of Torsti. On the ground floor, you can find more amazing exhibits than the ones upstairs.

There is also a group of medieval watercraft outside you can board from mid-May to mid of September. You can avail of the information about the region and town, along with Linnansaari National Park from the information deck/ticket office on the ground floor.

Related read: Top Islands in Finland you must check out

Linnakrouvi

This summer restaurant is located in front of Olavinlinna Castle, which is served by chefs who belong to Helsinki and offers the most sophisticated cuisines in Savonlinna. It is highly popular in the opera season.

It is well known to have appealing interior, tiered outdoor seating, and fare ranging from burgers to fresh and well-prepared fish caught from Lake Saimaa. The range of wine here is quite impressive and limited.

Related read: Beautiful Castles in Europe

Café Alegria

Set in the corner of precious timber hall, which now serves as a community center, Alegria features few tables on the rear grassy terrace, cozy indoor setting, sandwiches, homemade soup, and a range of delightful cakes. You can enjoy them all with organic coffee, tea, and fair trade. It is an ideal option to enjoy light lunch and cool activities in Savonlinna.

Kalliolinna

Tucked on a small island among the trees and is located just north of the heart of the town, this delightful café and ultra-friendly setting serve a limited menu of tea, coffee, and crepes. You can enjoy both savory and sweet fillings on the fresh crepes, along with the delights like cream and cloudberry jam. It is located within walking distance from kauppatori.

Kalastajan Koju

Kalastajan Koju is a place that specializes in a common lake fish, whitefish, or vendace (muikku) which is freshly caught by a fisherman on the lake every morning. It is located by the kauppatori and remains quite busy during summer. It also offers chips and fish, fried salmon and bratwurst.

Read also: Local Finnish cuisine you must not miss

Olutravintola Sillansuu

The best pub in Savonlinna, Olutravintola Sillansuu is both cozy and compact with a great range of world-class bottled beers, a great selection of whiskey, and friendly service. There is a pool table in the downstairs area. As the beer kegs empty, both amateur and professional arias are sung during the opera festival.

Majakka

This remarkable family bistro is well known as ‘lighthouse.’ It is located strategically in front of the harbor. You can enjoy delightful burgers, steaks, and locally caught fish.

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