Ruotsinsalmen meritaistelussa 1790 uponneen fregatti St Nikolain hylky. Kuva: Kymenlaakson liitto
The wreck of frigate Sankt Nikolai, which was sunk in the Battle of Svensksund in 1790.

Cultural heritage

One of the purposes of the national land use goals is to ensure the protection of values related to nationally significant cultural environments and natural heritage.

International goals and agreements

Finland has obligations under four international agreements on the protection of landscape and cultural environments: the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage; the Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe; the European Convention for the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage; and the European Landscape Convention. Under these agreements, the participating countries are obligated to safeguard and consider cultural and natural heritage, architectural heritage, archaeological heritage, natural and cultural landscapes, conservation areas and everyday environments in land use planning and construction. It is important to identify these areas in land use and consider them in such a way that the related values are safeguarded.

The preparation of a national cultural environment strategy has been in progress in Finland under the supervision of the Ministry of Education and Culture since 2020.

National land use goals

According to the national land use goals, the Finnish cultural environment as a whole is based on inventories prepared by the authorities, including nationally significant built cultural environments, nationally valuable landscape areas and nationally significant archaeological sites.

The Antiquities Act

Solid archaeological remains are protected under the Antiquities Act, and access to such remains is prohibited. There is no age limit for solid archaeological remains. The Act applies to both historical and prehistoric sites, with the most recent artefacts being pieces of defence equipment from the Second World War. According to the Act, solid archaeological remains include the following: cairns, graves and burial grounds built by people; places of worship; ancient places of residence and work; forts, ramparts and fortresses; ruins of significant buildings; memorials; and the remains of ancient access routes, such as road signs and bridges.     

The wrecks of ships and vessels aged 100 years or more are protected under the Antiquities Act. Parts of wrecks, as well as artefacts originating from wrecks, are also covered by the Antiquities Act. 

The Baltic Sea has special characteristics in terms of the preservation of wrecks. The Baltic Sea is cold, dark and low in salinity. The naval shipworm (Teredo navalis), which destroys organic matter, does not survive in low-salinity water.

 The combined impact of these factors makes the Baltic Sea an excellent environment for the preservation of wrecks.


Landscape management areas

Finland has four national landscape management areas, which have been established by means of a decision issued by the Ministry of the Environment. They include two marine areas: the Skärlandet and Simo landscape management areas. The landscape management areas have been established under the Nature Conservation Act to foster natural and cultural landscapes and the historical characteristics of areas, for example.


National landscapes

In 1992, the Ministry of the Environment’s national landscape working group selected 27 national landscapes that reflect the most representative characteristics of Finnish nature and culture. The national landscapes have great symbolic value and special national significance in terms of culture, history and landscape. Several national landscapes serve as attractions, as well as having value in terms of recreation and tourism. Maritime national landscapes include Maritime Helsinki, the Archipelago Sea, the Kvarken Archipelago and Hailuoto.

No precise borders have been determined for national landscapes, and they do not have a legal status in terms of the use of the areas. 


National Urban Parks

The purpose of National Urban Parks is to preserve urban natural environments and built cultural environments as an extensive whole that is intact. Based on the Land Use and Building Act, National Urban Parks are part of sustainable urban planning and construction.

The network of National Urban Parks consists of towns and cities with different roles that are important in terms of the development stages of Finland. The National Urban Parks reflect local cultural history and the characteristics of their respective towns and cities.

Maritime National Urban parks:

• Pori National Urban Park

• Turku National Urban Park

• Hanko National Urban Park

• Porvoo National Urban Park

• Kotka National Urban Park


UNESCO World Heritage sites

The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage is an international agreement adopted by UNESCO in 1972. Its key premise is concern for the preservation of the world’s cultural and natural heritage for future generations. The countries that have ratified the agreement are responsible for the identification, documentation and designation of any future World Heritage sites for the World Heritage List. The participating countries must also take care of their existing World Heritage sites. 

Of the seven UNESCO World Heritage sites in Finland, the following are located in marine or archipelago areas or their areas of influence: Suomenlinna, Old Rauma, the Struve Geodetic Arc and the Kvarken Archipelago. Sammallahdenmäki also represents maritime cultural heritage, although it is located inland as a result of isostatic rebound.  


Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage

Finland has not yet ratified the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, which was adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in 2001. However, the country’s operations are already strongly guided by the convention. The convention stresses the importance of underwater cultural heritage as part of the common cultural heritage of nations and states. In accordance with the key protection principle of the convention, culturally and historically significant findings should primarily be preserved in their places of discovery. If artefacts or parts are lifted from the sites in connection with archaeological investigations, the long-term preservation of the cultural heritage must be ensured through conservation and administration. 

The UNESCO convention includes basic principles for the protection of archaeological and underwater cultural heritage that are similar to those included in the Antiquities Act of Finland. Findings must be reported to the authorities, and wrecks that have remained underwater for 100 years or more are deemed archaeological remains.



Antiquities Act (295/63)

National Board of Antiquities 2019. Suomen
merellisen kulttuuriperinnön tilannekuvaus [Description
of the status of the Finnish maritime cultural heritage

Government decision on national land use goals,
14 December 2017.

Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, ratified
by Finland on 13 February 1987 (19/1987)

for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe (10/1992)

Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (26/1995)

Landscape Convention (14/206)

on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage 2001

Mustonen J (2020) Maisema vesirajassa – vesialueiden kulttuuriympäristön tilannekatsaus 2020, Kulttuuriympäristötutkimuksen seura ry