Lappeenranta: Finland’s gateway to the east

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The cosy Finnish town of Lappeenranta is the cultural centre of the south-eastern region of the country. It is not only known as an international university city, but is also a tourist highlight: due to its exciting history, which is linked to its exceptional location, Lappeenranta offers a variety of sights. There are also plenty of opportunities to explore Finland’s nature.

Where is Lappeenranta located?

The city of Lappeenranta is considered the gateway between west and east: located on the border with Russia, it is only around 190 kilometres from St. Petersburg. Helsinki is also not much further away at 215 kilometres. You can even reach the Russian border by car in 30 minutes and can make a detour to Finland’s neighbouring country without a visa.

Lappeenranta is located in the Finnish region of South Karelia and borders Lake Saimaa. The Saimaa Canal, which connects Lake Saimaa with the Baltic Sea in Vyborg, Russia, flows into the city. From Lappeenranta, you can also visit the late medieval town of Vyborg.

Sights & activities in Lappeenranta

Lappeenranta harbour
The harbour of Lappeenranta.

Lappeenranta is not only home to the LUT, the University of Technology, with over 5000 students and the SaiPa (“Saimaan Pallo”) ice hockey club. Founded in 1649 by the Swedish Queen Christina I, the city also has a lot to offer culturally. Tourists flock to the harbour in particular.

As Lappeenranta is the administrative, cultural and commercial centre of the South Karelia region, there is plenty to do here – discover Lappeenranta’s historical roots and impressive surroundings:

Linnoitus Fortress and church

The highlight of the city is its huge fortress, called Linnoitus. It bears witness to the city’s chequered history. It is a part of the city surrounded by ramparts, which was the original city centre in the Middle Ages. Linnoitus was part of the chain of fortifications between Finland and Russia at a time when a united Sweden-Finland was fighting against Russia.

Today, the fortress is considered the cosy old town of Lappeenranta. Here you will find cafés, craft shops and museums as well as green parks. The fortress is also home to the oldest Orthodox church in Finland, the Pokrova Church, which dates back to 1785.


Lappeenranta has several museums dedicated to the region’s history (most of which are also located in the fortress). These include the South Karelian Art Museum, the Cavalry Museum, the Wolkoff House Museum and the South Karelian Museum. Russian Orthodox culture also plays a role here.


Lappeenranta’s sandcastle is one of the main tourist attractions in summer. It is built every year in the harbour from several million kilograms of sand with a different theme. It is considered the largest sandcastle in Finland.

Details of the sandcastle

Between June and September, the area around the sandcastle is transformed into a small funfair with fairground rides. A funicular railway runs from here through the rest of the city.

On the other side of the harbour is Myllysaari. Here there is a sandy beach with a playground, beach volleyball court and climbing garden.

Incidentally, the Finnish crime series Bordertown from 2016 is set in Lappeenranta.

Lake Saimaa

In addition to so much culture, you should of course also explore the unique nature around Lappeenranta. With an area of 4,370 square kilometres, Lake Saimaa is the largest lake in Finland, the fourth largest in Europe and consists of several sub-lakes. It characterises the surrounding region.

The unspoilt forest landscapes are ideal for hiking and cycling, the crystal-clear lake water for parasailing, SUP, fishing (the lake is very rich in fish!) and much more. The special Saimaa ringed seal lives here and, with a bit of luck, you can spot it.

 Lake Saimaa view
View over Lake Saimaa

In winter, on the other hand, you can heat up in the typical Finnish way at Saimaa with a wood or smoke sauna and then go ice bathing.

Flights to Lappeenranta

Lappeenranta has its own small airport, but it’s hardly used internationally. Alternatively, you can also fly to Helsinki. From Helsinki Airport, you can continue your journey comfortably by train and reach Lappeenranta after around 2.5 hours and one change.

Accommodation in Lappeenranta


If you are travelling to Finland by motorhome, you will also find a beautiful campsite in Lappeenranta, which is located right by the water. Alternatively, you can also rent hikers’ cabins and flats here.

Holiday home

The South Karelia region offers a large selection of cosy holiday homes with Scandinavian charm and surrounded by Finnish nature. Some holiday homes are even located directly in Lappeenranta.

Car hire

If you want to explore the city and region flexibly, you can book a hire car. This can be done conveniently online. There are attractive excursion destinations around Saimaa for all nature lovers. If you are travelling in the city, you can also take the bus.

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