Lappeenranta has a colourful history, lying as it does on the border between two different cultures. The harbour area of Lappeenranta used to be widely known as Lapvesi market place in the seventeenth century. It was so important as a trading place that general Governor Pietari Brahe proposed that the Swedish government should grant town priviledges to Lapvesi. In 1649 Queen Christina of Sweden signed the instrument of foundation, including an emblem, a savage, for the new town. The town received its Swedish name Villmanstrand ("wild man’s shore") from the savage figure in the emblem.
The Swedes began the fortification of Lappeenranta after the period of the "Great Hate" in 1721. In the Battle of Lappeenranta in 1741, the fortress fell in five hours. In the Peace of Turku in 1743 after the period of the "Lesser Hate", Lappeenranta fell under Russian rule, nearly a hundred years before the rest of Finland. Later on Gustavus III tried once more to conquer back the lost territory, but did not succeed.
It wasn’t until the year 1811 that "old Finland" and the rest of Finland were reunited. This started a 130-year-period when Lappeenranta was no longer the scene of battles, but a peaceful inland district. In World War II Lappeenranta experienced heavy soviet bombardment.