We have gathered for you tips and information how to make the most of your visit to the Savonlinna Opera Festival.
Savonlinna is located in the heart of lake Saimaa and it’s easy to reach from Helsinki by car and train or bus(4 hours), by plane (1 hour).
The Opera Festival is a big effort for a town the size of Savonlinna. The accommodation, at least in the centre of town, is fully booked long in advance. If you want somewhere to stay within walking distance of Olavinlinna Castle, you therefore need to book as soon as possible after New Year.
There are various hotels within walking distance of Olavinlinna Castle. The most traditional ones are the Spahotel Casino, Sokos Hotel Seurahuone, Hospitz Hotel and Pietari Kylliäinen. Also within walking distance are four summer hotels: Tott, Vuorilinna, Opera and Villa Aria.
Excellent accommodation is also available in the Savonlinna region, such as the Järvisydän at Rantasalmi and Kruunupuisto at Punkaharju. Transport to the opera is arranged from these if required. Find out all of our accommodation recommendations here.
Savonlinna in summer abounds in culinary delights. While it’s not always necessary to reserve in advance, booking is advisable if you want to be sure of a table.
Olavinlinna Castle has a restaurant, the Linnantupa, steeped in atmosphere. As the number of seats is very limited, be sure to book in advance. Very close to the Castle are the Linnakrouvi, Valo and Hospitz Hotel restaurants, and a little further away the Waahto, the Majakka, the Wanha Casino and the Huvila Brewery Restaurant. Again, these restaurants are so popular that booking is recommended.
One place you absolutely must visit in Savonlinna in the summer is the busy market, with its numerous handicraft and food stalls. It is also the place to try a traditional Savonlinna lörtsy, a sort of bun with a sweet or savoury filling. Right beside the market is the Savonlinna Seurahuone Hotel, where you can eat fried vendace (a small lake fish) on its roof terrace.
The Festival has no official dress code, but please remember that Olavinlinna is a medieval castle. The courtyard can be cool even on a summer evening, in which case bring something warm to wear. But even the inner courtyard is affected by the weather and the environment, so wear something loose in hot weather and bring a plastic bottle of drinking water.
The Castle passages and floors are very uneven, so wear stout shoes.
The castle auditorium
The performances are held in the main, covered courtyard. The Olavinlinna auditorium seats 2,264. The orchestra is in a pit in front of the stage. The opera performances begin at 19.00. Please take your seat in Olavinlinna Castle at least 15 minutes before the start of the performance. Latecomers will have to wait until the first interval in order to be admitted. Operas are performed in their original language. The auditorium has a subtitling facility that may not be fully visible from every seat. The subtitle translations of the sung texts are in Finnish and English.
The Castle auditorium has provision for three wheelchairs. Wheelchair seats can be booked beforehand at the Festival Office, tel. +358 15 476 750, email@example.com.
Access to Olavinlinna Castle is via a security check. Bags, backpacks and other such baggage will be checked. The check will be made by security officers before the bridge leading to the castle or, for those arriving by boat, on the landing stage behind the castle. Please allow more time than usual for entering the castle.
The following are not permitted in the castle area: firearms, sharp objects such as knives, any items designed to cause injury, multiple tools, explosives, fireworks, flares, laser pointers, light sticks and aerosols (e.g. hairspray). Nor may alcohol, drugs or glass bottles be brought into the area, but you can bring your own plastic water bottle. Any larger bags such as suitcases must be left at the check point.
There are several car parks in the centre of town near the Castle, such as on Punkaharjuntie, Malminranta, Tottinkatu and Koulukatu. Visitors can also use the multi-storey car park at the passenger harbour end of Tottinkatu.
Read up beforehand
For those of you who want to study the opera more closely, the Opera Festival publishes handbooks with libretto of all the season’s operas. In addition to the text, libretto (in the language in which the opera is to be performed and Finnish), there are articles about the opera and a synopsis in Finnish and English. Librettos are sold at the Opera Festival’s box office in Olavinkatu and Tallisaari, and at the Castle on the night of the performance.
A peep backstage
If you’re spending the night in Savonlinna, don’t be in a hurry to leave the next morning. After breakfast, take a little walk to the opening of the Opera Festival day at 10.00 on the Waahto terrace near the Harbour. At this session, Aarno Cronvall is joined by interesting guests such as artists appearing at the Festival, and they often give a short performance. The morning session lasts a good half-hour or so. (Please notice that the interviews might be in Finnish).
Once a week during the Opera Festival visitors can join a tour of Olavinlinna Castle including the backstage regions. Though the Castle is a unique setting for opera, it cannot boast the same facilities for the artists as a dedicated opera house. Creating the backstage premises in Olavinlinna Castle has called for ingenuity to overcome the obstacles, because the Castle built at the end of the 15th century was not originally designed for the performance of opera! Read more.