This year visiting Vallisaari has never been easier. Until spring of this year the island was closed to the public as it is owned by the Finnish defense forces, now, for the first time, it can be reached by a 20 minute ferry ride from the Helsinki’s Market Square.
From Vallisaari you are provided with excellent views of Suomenlinna, especially when you reach the west shore of the island. Here you have a clear view of the King’s Gate, Suomenlinna Church and the fortress walls.
Throughout the island there are different military buildings, some more hidden than others. Many of them haven’t been used for years and are slowly returning to nature.. Some of the buildings can be explored a little inside but for others the mystery remains behind locked doors.
Over the course of history Vallisaari has been known by three names. Firstly, it was called Lampisaari (Pond Island) as ships stopped here for drinking water, before the name was changed to Vallisaari (Embankment Island). The name was changed once again, this time to Aleksanterinsaari (Alexander Island) while Finland was an Autonomous part of Russian. It was during this time that most of the fortifications were built, including the Alexander Battery.
Metal stairs lead up to a metal walkway that runs across the grassed over roof of the Battery, from the metal walkway you can look over the only area of the island that still remains off limits to the public.
At the end of the walkway the view is unlike any I have ever seen of the city and its surrounding islands. In the foreground is Vallisaari, the middle ground Suomenlinna, and the back ground Helsinki.
The last inhabitants of Vallisaari left in 1996, leaving the island to quietly slumber in its almost natural state. With little interference from people nature has been able to thrive on Vallisaari, the island is home to over 1000 species of butterfly, with more than 100 being threaten or rare.
Connected to Vallisaari by a short harbour wall is Kuninkaansaari which is well worth exploring too. Here you can find a few idyllic swimming spots, a small cafe and even more nature. Don’t miss these large concrete structures which seem to be the entrance point for something much larger buried beneath the ground.
Visiting any of the islands in Helsinki’s archipelago allows for great views of the city and its skyline filled with churches. From Kuninkaansaari, not only can you see the city, but you also have a clear view of a large part of Suomenlinna and to the suburbs in the east.
© Our Shadows Will Remain
If you are interested in visiting Vallisaari you can find out more information HERE.
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