Straddling the southwestern coast of Finland, the inviting port city of Turku is one of Finland’s most relaxed destinations. The oldest city in Finland and formerly the nation’s capital, Turku was once the most important city in the country (in the eyes of many locals it still is). It has a rich seafaring history and is well-known for its vibrant harbor, marvelous Gothic cathedral, medieval castle, and large student population. Having formerly been my home for nearly a decade, the city continues to hold a special place in my heart. Here’s our lowdown on the best things to do in Turku.
Learn about rural life
At Kuralan Kylämäki (or Kylämäki village; around 5km northeast of Turku) you can learn all about life in rural Finland.
The village has been inhabited since the seventh century, but today consists of four farms and their outbuildings which have been restored to their original 1950s condition.
Children will enjoy seeing sheep, horses and cows around the village, and there are authentic 1950s’ activities on offer – you can even get to practise your archery skills too.
Take a walk along the river
Water seems to be everywhere you look in Turku. The river Aura splits the city in two and is lined with endless rows of cafes, restaurants and boutiques.
Turku natives live in a world that is defined as this side of the river and the other side of the river. Ask for directions and you’ll know what we are talking about!
To best soak up the atmosphere stroll along the riverbank, taking in the stunning bridges that represent both old and new architecture. And don’t miss a ride on the quirky little river ferry.
The orange Föri (city ferry) has been transporting people across the river free of charge for decades – and it only takes about two minutes to get across.
Turku Market Hall
Turku Market Hall is a great way to explore Finnish and Scandinavian cuisine – or just to grab a quick bite! Opened in 1896, Turku Market Hall is the second oldest market hall in Finland. Markets and market halls are a big part of Finnish culture, and in the city centre Turku Market Hall, you can enjoy your traditional salmon soup with local rye bread in an authentic atmosphere. With dozens of stalls selling everything from meats and vegetables to sushi and cheese, there’s plenty to choose for everyone.
Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum
In the 19th century, Turku was Finland’s biggest city. The Great Fire of Turku in 1827 caused massive destruction, and Luostarinmäki (Cloister Hill) was the only wooden house district to be spared from the flames. In Luostarinmäki, a visitor will experience a unique, artisanal atmosphere of olden times in a quaint location. The outdoor museum includes 18 blocks of original 18th- and 19th-century buildings. An intriguing glimpse of pre-industrial craftsmanship is brought to life at the Loustarinmäki Handicrafts Museum. The museum shop sells craftwork and sweets, and Café Kisälli offers a traditional Finnish delicatessen. The museum is located only a few blocks away from River Aura.
Enjoy free concerts and events
Turku has lots to offer music lovers! Students at the Turun Konservatorio organise free year-round concerts along the riverbanks, in museums and at other outdoor venues around Turku.
In summer, there are plenty of free concerts in the city’s many parks. Check out the Turku Event Calendar for all the city’s events. Remember to click on the ‘Free of charge’ filter when searching.
Turku Castle is a perfect pit-stop for modern-day princes and princesses. The castle, built in the 1280s, oozes Scandinavian history with its whitewashed walls and cobblestone corridors. The castle was constructed when Finland was still governed by Sweden, and many nobilities with their local armies have dwelled here. Now, there are dozens of great halls and small nooks to discover as well as exhibitions on the history of the castle and Turku itself. In the big courtyard, you’ll also find a coffee shop to rest your feet after the castle tour.
PUF Design Market
Discover Finnish design in the heart of Turku. PUF Design Market showcases over 20 Finnish brands from newcomers to internationally renowned old-timers. Many of the brands are ecological, and each month PUF highlights a different fashion brand. PUF also organises fashions shows and concerts in its space. PUF is located just a few blocks away from Turku’s central Market Square.