Kotka is the southeasternmost major city in Finland, an important port at the mouth of the Kymi river (Kymenjoki). It is part of the Kymenlaakso region. The port town heritage and associated folklore is central for its identity. The Maritime Museum of Finland is located here.
The municipality has a population of around 52,000 (2020) and much of its area is made up of water. The name comes from the island Kotkansaari ("eagle island"), where the town was built and were most of its centre still lies. The former parish village Karhula, now a kind of a second centre with a number of shopping malls, is a few kilometres to the north, crossed by the E18 motorway.
In medieval times, the rich fishing around the river mouth attracted people from elsewhere to settle here: mainly Tavastians, but also Savonians, Karelians and even Swedish, when the Vyborg (Viipuri/Viborg) castle had been built in 1293 and thereby Swedish rule had been established.
The Russian border moved west to the Kymi river in 1743, and after the Svensksund battle 1790 Russia built a fortress on the islands. The fortress sustained a mostly Russian population of some 8,000 – a major town at the time. When all Finland became a Russian grand duchy the fortress lost its importance; most of the fortress was destroyed in 1855, during the Crimean War, by a French-Brittish navy.
In the 1870s a strong sawmill industry developed, thanks to log driving along the Kymi river. One of the sawmills had a Norwegian owner and many Norwegians in the workforce. 1879 Kotka became a chartered town. The streets were laid out according to those of the former fortress town. 1890 Kotka got railway and its role as the main city of the area was cemented.
In 1907, the Second All-Russian Conference of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party was held in the city.
Historically the city had a substantial Swedish-speaking population, which declined during the 20th century, and today approximately 96% of the municipality's inhabitants are native Finnish speakers, only 1% native Swedish speakers (but there is still a Swedish school). The city's long history of industrialization is evident; paper and pulp mills have remained an important part of the regional economy.
- 1 Kotka railway station (Kotkan rautatieasema), Kotkantie 1.
- 2 [dead link] Kotka harbor railway station (Kotkan sataman rautatieasema), Satamakatu 9.
There are frequent coach connections to to Helsinki and other cities, even Saint Petersburg in Russia. See Matkahuolto and Onnibus for the domestic services. Some bus routes, especially those which come from Lappeenranta and Russia and go towards Helsinki stop only at Karhula which is about 9 km away from Kotka center, local transport is available to travel between Karhula and Kotka center. Service to Saint Petersburg is operated by Transgold.
The centre of the city, the island Kotkansaari, is small enough to get around by feet. However if you need to go to other parts of the city, bus, taxi or a hire car may be more convenient.
Asiointitaksi is a service open to everyone that complements public transport. The customer only pays the price of the bus ticket and the taxi route enables weekly transport, for example to the market. The trip is ordered from the driver no later than the previous day and can be picked up from any route where it is safe to stop the car. The car can also make a small deviation from the route and pick up the customer closer to home.
There is a bike sharing system using bluetooth and the Donkey Republic about €1.50/1 hr, €4/5 hr, €12/24 hr. For longer stays becoming a member is cheaper: €9 or €18/month covers all trips of less than 1 hr respectively 12 hr, also in other towns using Donkey Republic – but you need to register as member in the country of your card (available: most countries in western Europe and USA). Customer service ✉ email@example.com, ☏ daily 09:00–21:00. Several towns in south-east Finland use the same system.
You can call a taxi from number ☏ 100 41 (in country only).
- Valopilkku (Taksi Helsinki). Taxis ordered by smart phone app.
- 02 Taksi. Smart phone app offers address based routing and gives price offers from different taxi companies. Pricing not told on the web.
- 1 Maretarium Aquarium, Sapokankatu 2. An aquarium displaying almost all Finnish fish species.
- 2 Sapokka Park (Sapokan vesipuisto). Ponds, trees, flowers, a waterfall, a rock exhibition.
- 3 Langinkoski Imperial Fishing Lodge and Nature Reserve' (Langinkosken keisarillinen kalastusmaja), Keisarinmajantie 118 (Langinkoski is situated about 7 kilometers from the city centre.). This old fishing lodge was made of timber in 1889 for Russian Emperor & Grand Duke Alexander the Third. It is situated in beautiful surroundings with rapids, trees and small rivers. The area of the nature reserve consists 28 hectares (60 acres). There is also a small Orthodox Chapel on the area. The entrance to the nature reserve is free and the entrance to the Fishing Lodge about €4 (children €2).
- 4 Maritime Centre Vellamo (Merikeskus Vellamo), Tornatorintie 99. The Maritime Museum of Finland and The Museum of Kymenlaakso are located in an architectural masterpiece in the old port of Kotka. In addition to the exhibition, work, teaching and seminar facilities of the Maritime Museum of Finland and Museum of Kymenlaakso, the building will house a 200-seat auditorium, museum shop, restaurant and an extensive library with emphasis on maritime topics.
- 5 Orthodox Church of St Nicholas. The present Church of St Nicholas was built between 1799 and 1801 in accordance with drawings by Jakov Perrin, architect of the St Petersburg Admiralty. The columns at the three entrances together with the belfry and dome of this church representing Neoclassicism form an impressive façade. The icons and several objects inside the church are very beautiful. One of the most extraordinary icons depicts St Nicholas in Kotkansaari, with a view of the area of the Ruotsinsalmi naval battle behind him. Outside the church, there is a statue of Maria Purpur, who is reputed to have prevented the destruction of the church during the Crimean War. The church is the oldest building in today’s Kotka.
- 6 Haukkavuori observation tower (Haukkavuoren näkötorni). A former water tower converted to an observation tower where you can see all of Kotka and its surroundings, and if the weather is clear, all the way to Suursaari island.
- 7 Katariinan meripuisto. A park in district of Katariina. The park of more than 20 hectares is on the island of Kotkansaari in the centre of Kotka. In the park are the ruins of Fort Katarina of the Maritime Fortress of Ruotsinsalmi.
- 1 Cruises to Kaunissaari and other islands. Kaunissaari (literally Beautiful Island) Island is a traditional, small but still lively fisherman village. Boats from Sapokka Harbour (in front of Maretarium Aquarium) about 2-3 times a day in the summer. Tickets are sold on boats. On the island you find a very small museum, a restaurant (good fish dishes) and accommodation. Remember to taste extremely delicious salmon pastries which are sold at a kiosk near the museum. There are also cruises to the islands of Tammio (only one permanent inhabitant!), Ulkotammio and Haapasaari (10 inhabitants, 25 km from Kotka).
- 2 Valkmusa National Park (buses from Kotka to Vastila and Hirvikoski have a stop 200 m from the park, with car there are several options). Extensive open bogs. Bird site. Butterflies, cranberries. Bird watching tower, day hut, campfire site.
- Kotkan Meripäivät: 23–26 July 2020. The free-of-charge city festival ("Kotka sea days") is the biggest happening in Kotka. It may be difficult to get a guest marina quay during this week-end. (date needs updating)
- Dark River Festival: 14–15 August 2020. The Dark River Festival is a metal and hard rock festival in Kotka and Honkala. (date needs updating)
- 1 Pasaati shopping centre, Keskuskatu 10. A large mall in the centre of Kotka. It has shops for every taste and is particularly full of Russian shopping tourists.
- 2 Jumalniemi, Jumalniementie 7-10. Jumalniemi shopping area can be found next to the E18 freeway. You can find many different shopping malls in the area.
Cheap places to eat include:
- 1 Erkan Kebab, Keskuskatu 35. Standard-issue Finnish-style kebab.
- 2 Hot dog stand, at the corner of Keskuskatu and Kaivokatu. As traditional Finnish night food as it gets. Try Lihapiirakka kahdella nakilla (small meat pie with two frankfurters).
- 3 Efes Pizzeria, Keskuskatu 29. Kotka's staple pizzeria/kebab house. Budget, no frills. Go for Kebab ranskalaisilla for gyros meat and fries.
- 4 Ravintola Kairo, Satamakatu 7, ☏ , fax: . Tu-Sa 13:00-late, W 13:00-02:00, F Sa 13:00-04:00. A "traditional seafarer's restaurant" in central Kotka.
- 5 Amarillo, Keskuskatu 21, ☏ . M-Th 16:00-00:00, F 16:00-02:00, Sa 12:00-02:00, Su 12:00-00:00. A Texmex-style chain restaurant close to the bus station.
- 6 Canttiini, Kaivokatu 15, ☏ . M Tu 10:30 - 22:00, W-F 10:30 - 23:00, Sa 12:00-23:00, Su 12:00-20:00.
- 7 Rosso, Kauppakatu 5 (on the first floor of Pasaati shopping centre). Italian style chain restaurant offers mainly pizza and salad bar, some other plates as well.
- 1 [dead link] Ilon talo, Kirkkokatu 8, ☏ . A classy nightclub with plenty of music, drinks and good company.
- 1 [formerly dead link] NEXT Hotel Karhulan Hovi (Karhulan Hovi), Ahlströmintie 26, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. French-style manor in Karhula, 9 km from Kotka downtown.
- 2 Hotelli Merikotka, Satamakatu 9, ☏ . Single room €55.
You can go more or less anywhere in Kotka any time of the day. Although Kotka has its share of violence and drug use, violent crime happens mostly between addicts and criminals themselves. Robbings are very uncommon.
You might want to avoid jumping a line anywhere during the night, particularly at Finnish hot dog stands ("nakkikioski"). Drunken fights are not unheard-of.
- Hamina — A historical fortress town, the easternmost sea port in Finland.
- Russia — If you have a valid visa, the Russian border isn't far away.