60.1699° N • 24.9384° E

Nature and history in Helsinki

Luna and Achilleas discovered different sides to Helsinki, during one hot summer day. The capital of Finland is known for Nordic design and beautiful architecture but it also presents an amazing mix of nature and history.


Luna and Achilleas loved their encounter with the people of Historians Without Borders (HWB). They had the opportunity to walk and talk with Finland’s Former Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, the founder of HWB, who showed them around through the city’s historical centre. History and its various interpretations influence politics and events around the world, he explained. Being aware of this is particularly important in a globalised world where we are all interconnected!

HWB wants to get people talking about history, and to promote active knowledge of it in peace building and conflict resolution. Bringing in the history of their home countries, Greece and Spain, Achilleas and Luna had a lively discussion with Erkki and history professor Rinna Kullaa.

Next, our travellers took the ferry to Vallisaari, an island in front of Helsinki close to the sea fortress Suomenlinna. In 1808 the Russians laid siege to the fortress, bombarding it from the hills in Vallisaari, which was much less fortified. It surrendered, and Finland changed hands. The island remained a military area also under the Finns, until 2012.

Thanks to its particular history, the nature on the island flourished: with 1’000 different butterfly species, nightingales, warblers, eagle-owls, badgers, bats… the island is the most biodiverse spot in Helsinki!


This hidden gem is now being transformed into an attractive spot for visitors, thanks to Lights On!, an EU-funded initiative which is bringing history to life in Vallisari and seven other historical locations in Finland and Estonia. By encouraging people to visit these spectacular ruins, fortresses, hill forts and parks, Lights On! sheds light on the two countries’ past and the powers and intrigues that shaped it.

Luna and Achilleas experienced it: they tested an interactive app, featuring characters from the history of the place and their stories – including the Czar and Czarina, which they choose to take selfies with.

They also enjoyed the amazing view from Vallisaari. Looking closely at the horizon, they could distinguish the shores of Estonia – the next country on their Baltic Route!

See also

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