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Helsinki island Isosaari to open to public on winter weekends

An island owned by the military that was closed to the public for decades will soon open for winter visitors, after allowing summertime daytrippers since 2017.

Isosaaresta näkyy Helsingin siluetti.
Vistors to Isosaari will have to navigate sea ice during the winter. Image: Suomen Saaristokuljetus Oy

Tourists visiting Helsinki in the winter months have a new attraction from 20 January, when regular ferry services to the island of Isosaari will commence.

"Isosaari is a great place to experience the magic of the outer archipelago," said Tomi Ståhlberg of the Suomen Saaristokuljetus ferry firm. "Just the ferry journey through the ice on a little icebreaker is an unforgettable experience."

Last spring Suomen Saaristokuljetus agreed to rent the island with a view to running ferry services to convey tourists to the hitherto closed haven.

The company says last summer's Isosaari trips were a success, and it will now run services to Isosaari on Saturdays and Sundays from 20 January until May Day. The boats will leave Helsinki's Market Square at 10am and return at 3pm.

Isosaari is a former military island, which is owned by the Finnish state. It was first settled under Russian rule, with military installations added over time. It was bombarded by British ships during the Crimean war and at least one English soldier, George Quinnell, died in the battle and was buried on the island.

It served as a prison camp during and after the civil war, with 1,500 prisoners from the red side of the conflict housed on the island. Many of them died there, and were buried in a mass grave in the centre of the island. A memorial to the deceased prisoners was erected in 1955.

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