The Åland Islands have been through a lot of action during history. Located next to the water on the main island of Åland is the Fortress of Bomarsund. Nowadays the site consists of only the ruins of a fortress; only parts of the walls are still standing. However, it is difficult to imagine that this used to be a thriving community.
Even though the fortress is in ruins, the site still offers an interesting insight into the complex history of Scandinavia, as well as Russia. Together with the Castle of Kastelholm, the Fortress of Bomarsund stands witness from the heydays of the Swedish Kingdom to the golden years of the Russian Empire. During the Swedish era, Kastelholm was an important castle. Bomarsund was an essential place during the rise and fall of Russian rule on the islands. Both of these sights are in the municipality of Sund.
Fortress of Bomarsund
The Russian began constructing the fortress in 1830. By then, the Åland Islands (together with Finland) had been a part of the great empire for a few decades. Sweden had lost the area to Russia in 1809. The fortress was the central part of several fortifications around the island. Just a kilometer north of the fortress is the outpost of the Tower of Notviken. A town, Gamla Skarpans, was built near the fortress, its ruins are also still visible. Another settlement, Nya Skarpans, grew inside the fortress walls.
The Fortress of Bomarsund was the most western defense post for the Russian Empire. However, the fortress was never finished before it was destroyed by French and Brittish forces during the Crimean war in 1854. Interestingly enough, the war is also the reason to why Åland still is a demilitarized zone. In other words, according to international law, no armed forces are permitted to the islands.
Due to its fabulous location in the countryside, a trip to the fortress can be combined with other activities. During a visit to Bomarsund, visitors could grab the chance to enjoy a picnic outdoors or go for a swim in the chilly Baltic Sea.
If you make it to the fortress, don’t forget the museum just across the bridge on Prästö. The bridge across Bomarsund was actually built with stones taken from the fortress ruins. There are six Russian military cemeteries on Prästö, as well as two museums. In 1906, Russia built a telegraph line from Åland to the Finnish mainland. This was because Russian revolutionaries used the Åland Islands on their smuggling route from Stockholm to St. Petersburg. That’s quite a lot of history of such a small island!
How to get there
As with most of Åland, the easiest way to get to the Fortress of Bomarsund is by driving or cycling. Bomarsund is located approximately 32 kilometers from Mariehamn.
To read some more about the Fortress of Bomarsund we have used the sites below.
Don’t forget to check out the other places of interest on the Åland Islands here >>
*This post was first published 2016-01-26, updated 2017-09-18