The first plans to construct a waterway between Lake Saimaa and the Gulf of Finland were put forward as early as 1499 but it was not until at the beginning of the 19th century that plans to build the canal were revived. The building of the Canal began in 1845 and it was opened for traffic on 7 September 1856. The building of the present Canal was begun in 1963, and it was inaugurated in 1968 by the then President of Finland, Dr. Urho Kekkonen.
The total length of the Canal is 43 km, of which 23 km lies on the Finnish side of the border and the remaining 20 km in the section leased from Russia. The difference between the water levels of Lake Saimaa and the Gulf of Finland totals 76 metres, and is offset by means of eight locks. Goods are transported along the Saimaa Canal to various areas in Finland as well as to several countries in Europe.
One way of exploring the Saimaa Canal is to take a boat trip from Lappeenranta to the Mälkiä lock and back. In summer, there is also a daily boat service from Lappeenranta to Vyborg in Russia. The Canal on the Finnish side is open to all free of charge. You can also enjoy a boat trip along the whole length of the Canal, all the way to Vyborg and onward to the Gulf of Finland. Additional information about canal travel is available from the Canal authorities.
The Canal Museum’s pleasant café is also well worth a visit. Large-scale renovations are underway in the area, to improve the tourism services. We welcome you to visit the Saimaa Canal and study its glorious 150-year history in the Saimaa Canal Museum exhibition, and to take a two-hour cruise on the canal or a cruise to Vyborg.
At the kiosk by the Mustola lock you can admire the ships and enjoy a cup of coffee. Monuments relating to the history of the canal can be seen at the Mälkiä lock.
Saimaa Canal Museum
Exhibition with artefacts, photographs and scale models of old ships and of the Mustola and Juustila lock areas in the early 20th century. Exhibition on Suvorov’s canals in an outbuilding. Restored garden dating from the 19th century and a signposted canal path from Mustola to Mälkiä.
Saimaa Canal Museum