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Hanko, Finland

Located on Finland's south coast, Hanko is a port town and also one of the country's municipalities. It is home to a split population of both Finnish and Swedish speakers, owing to its relative proximity to Sweden. Indeed, a number of luxury cruise ships call at the port immediately after visiting Sweden's Stockholm and before calling at Finland's capital, Helsinki. Occupation of Hanko dates back to at least the 15th century, as it was once the home of sailors from the time and indeed, rock carvings have been found close to the town which date back to that time. Owing to its strategic coastal location, Hanko has a history of conflict, with the Battle of Gangut taking place there in 1714 between the Swedish and Russian navies. The Swedish had already fortified a number of forts on the islands close to the towns when the Russians took control in 1809. The town itself was founded in 1874 and most Finnish emigrants who left the country's shores for North America in the late 19th century left from Hanko. In the late 19th century, Hanko became a popular spa retreat for the Russian nobility and in 1940 it was leased to the Soviet Union as a military base until 1956.

Sightseeing in Hanko

There are a number of landmarks in Hanko which have direct links to many of these periods in its history, and it's easy to see them all while in the town. The emigrants' memorial statue depicts birds in flight, which represent those bound for America, while the Hanko Casino dates back to the time when the town was frequented by Russian nobles. Not actually a gambling house but a former banquet hall, it survives today as a restaurant. Hanko is also notable for the Bengtskar lighthouse, which at 171 feet, is the highest to be found in all the Nordic countries. It dates back to 1906 is the country's first lighthouse museum. Other notable lofty structures are the burnt orange water tower and white church, both of which were rebuilt after being destroyed by the soviets during the time of their occupation.

If you're visiting Hanko in the summer and find yourself in need of a little beach time, the town is one of Finland's sunniest and has a number of beaches including Langsanda, with its characteristic white-washed beach huts. Indeed, on a cruise ship visit, once you've explored the town's landmarks, you'll likely have the option of a seaside walk, on which you'll be able to take in the natural beauty of the area and immerse yourself in its history. Involving the use of walking poles, Nordic Walking is popular here and on your walk, you'll take a coastal route which will take you past a number of attractive villas once populated by wealthy Finns and Russians en route to the House of the Four Winds, an historic café once owned by former commander of the Finnish army during the Second World War, Marshal Mannerheim.

Shopping in Hanko

Admittedly, Hanko is no shopping Mecca, but its maritime village charm is complimented by an attractive range of antique shops, boutiques and art galleries, making it the perfect place to pick up a souvenir with a difference, or indeed a genuine collectable treat for yourself.

Eating out in Hanko

Hanko is a great place to get good seafood and its coastal location means a wide selection of tasty, fresh dishes. In keeping with its capital's cosmopolitan reputation however, there's a good selection of international cuisine available too and it's possible to sample Moroccan, Italian and traditional Scandinavian meals during your visit.

Cruise Lines

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