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When you picture Finland, you probably think of evergreen forests, frozen tundra, and rustic log cabins. Would you imagine that there are many spectacular castles in Finland as well? Not only do they look like they came right out of fantasy stories but they also played integral roles in Finnish history. These are some of the best throughout Finland and the stories behind them.
One of Finland’s largest and best restored castles and also one of the best day trips on offer in Finland. Olavinlinna is named for St. Olaf and stands on an island on Lake Saimaa. It was initially constructed close to the Russian border to defend Finland from Russian attacks. This resulted in several fascinating and even creepy stories becoming associated with the castle, most famously a Romeo and Juliet style doomed romance between a Finnish maiden and a Russian soldier.
The deceptively small exterior of this south western castle hides dozens of rooms detailing hundreds of years’ worth of Finnish history. Turku Castle was built around 1280, about the same time as the city of Turku was founded, and at the time stood on an island, although now it is on the mainland near the harbour. It served as a military fortress during the medieval period and later as a residence of the Swedish royal family, with many antiques from this era now on display to replicate what the rooms of the castle would have looked like at the time.
Another of the great Finnish castles which has also been extraordinarily well preserved. What sets it apart from the rest of the castles in Finland is that it is constructed from brick rather than natural stone, giving it a distinct red-brown colouring. The current Häme Castle was built in the 17th century in the middle of the wilderness and soon had a town growing up around it. There is evidence of a fortress on the site since the 1290s which formed part of the Eastern defence line.
Raseborg dates from 1374 and now stands only as ruins. Its age is reflected in its name, still bearing the Swedish word for castle ‘borg’ rather than the Finnish ‘linna’. Raseborg served as an administration centre for south west Finland in what was then a key trading route. In the 1550s, King Gustavas declared that the medieval castle wasn’t fit to defend against attacks from contemporary firearms so the castle was left abandoned. The round corner tower still stands and you can see the foundations of where the other buildings once stood.
A spectacular white castle on the Åland Islands in the Baltic Archipelago, Kastelholm was built in 1384 as both a defence and administration fortress and to some extent a maritime outpost between Sweden and Finland. The islanders weren’t happy with having a bailiff ruling over them so closely and the islands were particularly difficult to defend, yet they were strategically important due to their proximity to Stockholm. Kastelholm also lost its importance around the 17th century as it wasn’t built to withstand firearms and is now in a state of partial ruin.