How can you get lost every day? The Finnish Gate to the West
Can you guess what is the oldest city in Finland, dear reader? This is one of the cities that impressed me the most during our summer road trip. Still no clue? Last hint: it’s also one of the most important passenger and commercial ports in the country with more than 3 million people to reach Mariahamn or Stockholm. Yes, you are right, it’s Turku, the first capital of Finland before Helsinki became the capital. Turku is a truly medieval town in Finland and you will notice a big difference compared to Helsinki.
Fun fact: Did you know that Turku, is also called Åbo? The reason why the city has two names is because under Swedish occupancy, most cities were also using Swedish names, hence Turku in Finnish is translated Åbo in Swedish.
I arrived here from Aland island, with the Tallink Silja Line cruise ship, which was a very unique experience, and something that I wanted to do for a long time. I stayed at the Scandic Hotel and this is how my adventure in the city started. To be completely honest (as always) the city is so easy to get around since all streets are parallel or perpendicular, so in theory, it’s almost impossible to get lost. Well, think again! I managed to do exactly that every single day, for the 3 days I was there…actually, multiple times per day, to be more precise! Don’t ask how, it’s a huge mystery, and probably one day someone will unveil the mystery of missing ships in the Bahamas, but this will still remain a mystery, how someone can get lost in Turku!!
Just to give you a few examples on how my trip was a total adventure: the hotel had free parking, but because of this amazing mystery surrounding me, I managed to pay 25 EUR parking and on top of that also a 60 EUR fine. Yeah, I know, now you are thinking if you should continue reading my posts! But you should, and definitely, you should follow in my footsteps and go to Turku. The city was declared "European Capital of Culture" in 2011, Turku boasts theaters, art galleries, and museums. In July every year takes place the "Medieval Fair", which reconstructs an important moment in the history of the city. I went inside one of their libraries and it’s impressive how many things you can do there, from elder people learning who to type or Skype with the loved ones, to children enjoying the playgrounds.
What is to do in Turku?
I am pretty sure there are more things to do than what I did - as I said, I was getting lost constantly, but that was not really a bad thing, as I really think it’s the most beautiful city I visited the whole trip. I can’t really say which sides of Turku impressed me the most but I would look towards the historical side, with Turku Castle (which used to be a Finnish fortress during the Swedish rule) or the vivid lifestyle of the youngsters with all the restaurants, cafes and great hipster locations but one thing I am sure about, you will have the opportunity to feel one of the most authentic way of living in Finland. These are just some of the “ingredients” to which I would add the food experiences that make it a typical Finnish town, so it can be said how Turku is, so is Finland.
The harbor is the main attraction, with many possibilities for exploring the whole area, and the green spaces that predominately contribute to a clean and pleasant air. Kauppatori Square is the city center. The Aura River goes on its way through the central area, so a walk along the banks of the river, even up to the Turku Castle (dating back to 1280, entrance is 9 euros) can be a great way to see and feel the charm of this city. You can also drive an electric boat on the river which will give a great view over both sides of the city. And if you are visiting with a group of friends, you can go to the hot waters. I am so skilled when it comes to driving an electric boat. It’s actually pretty easy, you just need to know who to drive a car and you are good to go. I really enjoyed my one hour of driving, but of course, you can pick if you want more time, so you don’t feel any pressure to come back.
For all Instagrammer people, there is one special place that you can’t miss and that is Forum Marinum, a museum which has displayed a huge daisy in front of the building. The museum is very close to Turku Castle and it has also a museum ship, which is the last remaining wooden Barque – used for trade across the oceans. I know, really impressive!
Staying here you should not miss a small ferry trip on the Aura River, alongside the Pikisaari suburb with its splendid wooden villas, to the island of Ruissalo (a journey takes about 45 minutes). Here I saw for the first time in Finland free deers just enjoying the nature and casually crossing the street. Ruissalo is also a great island if you want to catch a picture of a big cruise ship passing by toward the city. Another option is the Muuminamaailma Island, beyond Naantali, where there is a fun park.
The city of Turku keeps a lot of its history, the proof is the way Turku Castle is being promoted. The edifice is one of the oldest buildings in this Finnish city, being built since 1280. Moreover, it is the largest medieval fortress in Finland.
I was very impressed of how the Turku Cathedral looked inside, for all those hot days in the summer, it’s the perfect spot to chill and relax, and of course, light a candle and say some praises. It’s one of the main touristic attractions in the city, together with Turku Castle. Have a look from the terrace for the most beautiful view of the high arcades in the main wing, wing.
Turku represents the fascinating combination between old and new and it’s very well known for its historical architecture, art museums, and the most important it’s known as the Food Capital of Finland.
Read 5 Foodie Spots in Turku, Finland.