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336km (209 miles) N of Helsinki, 230km (143 miles) N of Lappeenranta

This is the most romantic town in Finland. Lorded over by one of northern Europe's most dramatic castles, it is also the site of the country's famous opera festival. Set on two islands between Lake Haapavesi and Lake Pihlajavesi, Savonlinna also enjoys the most dramatic "waterspace" of any town in Finland. It is on seven islands, but over the centuries that has been obscured by bridges and landfills.

Founded in 1639, Savonlinna is the oldest town in eastern Finland. Its major attraction, the castle of Olavinlinna , dates from 1475, built to protect what was then the eastern border of Sweden. The town slowly expanded to the islands around the castle.

The area around the town, forming part of the Saimaa waterway, has more lakes than any other area in Finland. Because of its strategic location, Savonlinna has been the scene of many battles. In its heyday, wealthy families from St. Petersburg used Savonlinna as a holiday and health resort.

The old spa familiar to czarist Russia burned in 1964 -- only a few czarist villas were spared. However, the Kylpylä Hotelli Casino, on Kasinonsaari, attracts spa lovers to the area today.