The Once-Closed Military Island Lonna Might Be the Next Hot Spot For Helsinki’s Locals and Tourists
Pictures: Conner Mckissack
While it may not feel like it just yet, history tells us that summer is just around the corner. And for the residents of Finland this is an especially important time when tourism and outdoor activities are at their absolute peak. The sun-filled days encourage Finns to visit summer cottages, take rambling bicycle rides, and eat their weight in ice cream. It’s also a chance to rejuvenate and soak up as much Vitamin D as possible.
For the residents of an archipelago city like Helsinki, packing some food and drink, calling a few friends, and grabbing a water taxi to the nearest island is the equivalent to a day at the beach. Finns love nature and solitude and what better way to combine these two passions than spending the day on an island. For such an occasion you might want to consider Lonna, a small island situated less than 10 mins (by boat) from Helsinki’s Kauppatori and just a short hop from Helsinki’s Suomenlinna. Lonna is a relatively new fixture on Helsinki’s “what to do” list but even in it’s infancy shows promise of becoming the next hot spot for both locals and tourists.
Lonna, (or Lonno.. or Dogovornyin) has had many names and functions in the past, mostly related to military operations during wartimes. In the 1940’s, Lonna was a facility for demagnetizing ships for mine removal. Last year, the island was reopened to the public and reimagined as a destination for leisure, food, and communal activity. The driving force behind the islands dramatic facelift, a sea-loving company called Fregatti, has already established an attractive restaurant led by Top Chef competitor Jouni Rahikainen. Rahikainen’s menu changes regularly based on the availability of fresh, high-quality ingredients. The restaurant sits just above a more casual cafe which is perfect for a cup of coffee or if you decide to put together an impromptu picnic on the island. Adjacent to the building is a large outdoor terrace with a view of the sea. The terrace is littered with brightly colored, repurposed furniture that injects some new life back into this historical backdrop.
Currently, this is the only completed space on Lonna, but Fregatti has their sights set on a conference center behind the restaurant and a much larger space with an outdoor terrace geared towards events for up to 300 people. The goal is to have these spaces completed in a year’s time and available for summer 2016. Information about potentially booking the spaces can be found through Fregatti’s website.
And of course, no Finnish space is complete without a sauna which according to Fregatti’s Ville Wäänänen is definitely in the works as well as some programming for children but these changes will come during the next 5 years and no doubt, will depend on the success of the island’s initial spaces.