There are seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Finland. And since today, 18 April, is World Heritage Day (International Monuments Day), I present them to you. You can also find out which other three places Finland would like to nominate as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The aim of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention is to protect and preserve valuable cultural and natural treasures around the world.
1. Finnish World Heritage Site: Rauma Wooden City
Rauma is one of the oldest cities in Finland. The entire old town (Vanha Rauma) with around 600 wooden houses is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. No fire for over 300 years – an absolute rarity for a town made purely of wood. In the old days, carriages and sleighs drove along the same small streets. And to this day, the windows facing the street are often beautifully decorated.
2. The church of Petäjävesi
Petäjävesi Church was built between 1763 and 1765 and is a Finnish UNESCO World Heritage Site. 700 inhabitants lived here at that time.
A church, by the way, that was built without permission, Annika Nyström told me on a cold but sunny winter day as she led me through the church. It was only four years later that the King of Sweden gave his permission.
To this day, there is no light and no heating. A sublime wooden church with a churchyard where graves sink into the snow. Silent metal crosses that bear witness to the place’s long past. Remnants from another time.
Very special moments ended up in the newspaper even back then. One is the day in 1850 when the buttons came off the blouses of the ladies in the church. You can find out what that was all about here: When the buttons popped off the blouses.
3. Suomenlinna Fortress
Suomenlinna is an old fortress located on several islands off the capital Helsinki and has had a turbulent history. With 900,000 visitors a year, it is one of the most popular destinations in the country. The World Heritage Site is also called the “Gibraltar of the North”. The island was used for military purposes until 1973, and the military school can still be found on the island of Pikku-Musta. Around 850 people live on the islands.
4. Kvarken Archipelago
It is a fantastic natural spectacle – every year the land here rises a few centimetres further out of the Gulf of Bothnia. Where there is water today, a new small island may rise tomorrow.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site is located on the western coastline near Vaasa. It is actually called Merenkurkku in Finnish, which means “sea throat”, but the Swedish name Kvarken has prevailed.
Here are my sketches of how I saw Kvarken in the summer.
Verla World Heritage Site is located in the village of Verla, 32 km from the centre of Kouvola. Verla was declared a World Heritage Site due to its status as a unique and culturally and historically significant example of an industrial settlement from the turn of the 20th century.
6. The gravesites of Sammallahdenmäki
The Bronze Age burial site of Sammallahdenmäki is located about 20 kilometres from Rauma city centre. The site was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999. There are 36 heaps of gravestones to marvel at. I must confess, I have not been there yet. But as of today, it’s on my list!
The Tombstone Cairn site is open to the public free of charge all year round.
7. The Geodesic Struve Arc
The Struve Arc goes back to the astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve. It is a chain of survey points stretching from Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea through ten countries and over 2,820 km. Struve thus, in short, remeasured the earth in the 19th century. It became a World Heritage Site because it is considered an exceptional example of scientific cooperation between scientists from different countries. Six of these measuring points are in Finland, one of them in Enontekiö.
Finland’s seven World Heritage sites have recently joined forces to present themselves jointly.
In the future, Finland wants to add more sites to the list. The following proposals are on the table:
- The sacred place of worship of Ukonsaari by the Sami people in Inari.
- The architectural works of Alvar Aalto
- The ringed seal archipelago of Lake Saimaa