Savonlinna is one of Finland’s most relaxed towns, renowned for its opera festival (t 015 476 750, w www.operafestival.fi) in July. Book well ahead if you’re visiting in summertime. Out of peak season, its streets and beaches are uncluttered, and the town’s easy-going mood and lovely setting – amid a confluence of forests and lakes – make it a pleasant place to linger.
The best locations for absorbing the atmosphere are the harbour and market square at the end of Olavinkatu. At the square, try the Savonlinna speciality of lörtsy, a delicious meat-and-rice-filled pastry.
Follow the harbour around picturesque Linnankatu, or around the sandy edge of Pihlajavesi, which brings you to atmospheric and surprisingly well-preserved Olavinlinna Castle (hourly guided tours Jan–May Mon–Fri 10am–4pm, Sat & Sun 11am–4pm; June to mid-Aug daily 10am–6pm; mid-Aug to mid-Dec Mon–Fri 10am–4pm, Sat & Sun 11am–4pm; €8), perched on a small island. Founded in 1475, the castle witnessed a series of bloody conflicts until the Russians claimed possession of it in 1743 and relegated it to the status of town jail.
Nearby is the Savonlinna Provincial Museum in Riihisaari (Tues–Sun 11am–5pm, plus Mon same times June–Aug; €5), which occupies an old granary and displays an intriguing account of the evolution of local life, with rock paintings and ancient amber carved with human figures.