Lappeenranta Tourist Attractions
The Finnish town of Lappeenranta (Villmanstrand), on the south side of the Lappvesi, was founded by Queen Christina in 1649. It is the most southerly port of call for the boats on Lake Saimaa and this location makes it popular with tourists who enjoy the warmer summers.
In view of its exposed situation on the frontier with the Russian Empire it was garrisoned by a cavalry regiment in the 17th century. Near the town are two frontier crossings into Russia, Nuijamaa (road) and Vainikkala (rail). Lappeenranta is also popular with visitors for the many activities available during the winter months such as skiing and snowmobiling.HistoryThe town grew up in the medieval period as a trading station. In 1741 it was the scene of a decisive battle in which a Swedish and Finnish army was defeated by the Russians. Under the treaty of Åbo (Turku) Lappeenranta passed to Russia in 1743, remaining Russian until 1811. There are remains of fortifications dating from the 17th and 18th centuries and from the Russian period. After the discovery of a radioactive mineral spring in 1824 the town developed as a spa, much favored by the Russian nobility. Since 1974 the spa has operated throughout the year; it specializes in the treatment of cardiac and circulatory disorders and rheumatism.
Lappeenranta lies at the north end of the Saimaa Canal, the construction of which was planned by several Swedish kings but was carried out only in the reign of Tsar Alexander II and completed in 1856. Until 1944 it was wholly within Finnish territory, but in 1944 almost its whole length fell within the territory which Finland was compelled to cede to Russia and it was closed. In the 1960s, however, the Soviet Union leased the canal zone back to Finland, and the Finns then built a new canal on the old line, with modern locks. The canal is now open to pleasure boats.
Lappeenranta's main street is Kauppakatu, running from north to south. To the east of its intersection with Valtakatu, in the Central Park (Keskuspuisto), near the market square, stands the old parish church of Lappee (1794), with a separate belfry (1856). Nearby is a military cemetery with the graves of Karelians who fell in the war with the Soviet Union (1941-44); monument by Wäinö Aaltonen (1951). Near the church, at the corner of Kauppakatu and Raastuvankatu, is the timber-built Town Hall (by C. L. Engel, 1829).
Along Kauppakatu in Lappeenranta to the north, on a hill to the left (alt. 130m/427ft; 60m/200ft above Lake Saimaa), is the Town Church (1924). Farther north, at the head of a peninsula projecting into Lake Saimaa to the left of the road, extends the Old Park, with a monument commemorating a battle in 1741 in which the Swedish and Finnish army which had launched an attack on Russia was defeated by the Russians.
To the northwest of the Old Park monument in Lappeenranta are remains of old fortifications. In the fort (Linnoitus) are the Museum of South Karelia (cultural history of southern Karelia, including material from the Viipuri museum) and the Museum of Art. In the old guard-house of the fort is the Cavalry Museum, which documents the history of the Finnish cavalry.
Lappeentranta - Orthodox Church
Northeast of the Old Park monument in Lappeenranta stands the oldest Orthodox church in Finland (1785).
To the east of Lappeenranta, in an inlet on the lake, is Lappeenranta harbor, Finland's largest inland port. On the south side of the inlet can be found the spa establishment. At the north end of Ainonkatu is an old boat which used to sail on Lake Saimaa, the "Prinsessa Armaada", now housing a restaurant. On the east side of the inlet at Kimpinen Park there is a swimming beach.
South Karelian Folk Festival
Lappeenranta South Karelian Folk Festival is held in June.The festival brings together folk dance and music groups from around the world and features a different theme every year.Events include concerts, cruises, children's activities and training courses, even for beginners.
Karelian International Games
Lappeenranta is the base for boat trips on Lake Saimaa. There are regular services to Mikkeli and to Savonlinna, as well as cruises on the lake lasting a few hours or several days. In summer there are excursions to the Saimaa Canal and the Russian frontier, through the Saimaa Canal to the Russian town of Vyborg (formerly the Finnish port of Viipuri) and to St Petersburg (to which there are also coach trips; visa required).
40km/25mi northeast of Lappeenranta is Imatra (pop. 32,000), famous since the 19th century for its waterfalls. At Imatra the river Vuoksen, which flows from Lake Saimaa into the Gulf of Finland, falls 18m/60ft within a very short distance, and the force of the water has gouged a channel 20m/65ft wide out of the granite. The river has been diverted to power a hydro-electric station, and it flows in its old bed only when the sluices are opened on Sunday afternoons in summer. The construction of the Valtionhotelli at the rapids during the Russian period established Imatra's position as a holiday resort. On the west bank of the river is a tourist complex, with a camping site, chalets, hostels for walkers, a riding school, a marina and beaches.
Address: Koskenparras 6, Box 99, SF-55101 Imatra, Finland
Big Band Festival
Imatra Big Band Festival is in July.The nine-day event began in 1982 and has since attracted tens of thousands of music enthusiasts to Imatra every summer.There are over 50 scheduled events with hundreds of participating musicians from all over the world.The festival includes indoor and open-air concerts and big band contests. Also included on the sidelines of the festival is a big band summer course.
Community Center by Alvar Aalto
In the Vuoksennista district of Lappeenranta, the fine new Community Center, designed by Alvar Aalto (1957- 59), includes a church, a pastor's house, a cemetery chapel and parish houses.