Situated in the southwestern corner of Finland, accessible by boat, train, car or bus, is the small city of Turku. It draws tourists taking the ferry from Stockholm, Sweden, and boasts a city built along a river. In fact, several of the restaurants, cafes and lodgings are located in boats along the river. The older east side of the river is known as being “on this side of the river” and the newer, more modern side is known as being “on the other side of the river.” Both sides have something to offer.
Take a Stroll Along the River
Locals take pride in the river and hold it close to their hearts. In fact, they say that the river is the heart of the city. So you must walk or bicycle along the river. You will find cafes and restaurants both along the river and in boats in the river. They also have some nice sculptures along the river.
On this side of the river (the old side), you should step into the Turku Cathedral, located along the river. This 700 year old church is beautiful inside. You can walk in and take a look, or pay a little to visit the museum if you like.
Luostarinmaaki Handicrafts Museum
This historic open air museum is located close to the Turku Cathedral and the river, also on this side of the river, and holds the city’s oldest buildings. Dating back to the 18th and 19th century, visiting this museum is like stepping back in time. Especially since many of the buildings have people dressed in and acting like they are from the 18th or 19th century.
In 1827, Turku experienced a devastating fire and these buildings are the only ones that survived. When they decided to open this museum, they restored the buildings to the early 19th century.
If you’re looking to learn a bit about the history, of Turku, head over to the Luostarinmaaki Handicrafts Museum for a couple hours.
I highly recommend visiting the Turku Castle. The castle is large and spread out and has a varied history from the 1280’s to the present day. Through time, different groups ruled the castle. They have preserved the history and there are distinct differences between the medieval part of the castle and the renaissance part. In addition to serving as a castle, Turku Castle served as a prison, storehouse and barracks. Bombings in 1941 ruined the castle, but it was later restored. This is a place you can really get lost in and learn a lot.
The Market in the Main Square
In the main square of Turku, there is a fresh open market daily. Here you can buy fresh, local fruits and vegetables. When I was there in the summertime, I enjoyed the local berries that were in season. There are a few vendors selling prepared food if that is what you are looking for.
Turku Art Museum
This museum was recommended to me by a local and I really enjoyed it. They have art from classical periods to modern, so there is something for everyone. It is big enough to have a variety of art on display, but not so big that you feel overwhelmed.
Wander Through the City
There is so much more to see and do in this city. There are a lot of delicious restaurants, lots of places to shop, and lots of museums. I rented a bicycle for the two days I was there and rode all over the city, seeing what the different areas are like. I liked exploring the residential areas as well as the area made for visitors. I used a digital map to find hole in the wall, delicious places to eat, and cute little hidden coffee shops. There really is something for everyone in Turku.
Get Out of the City
There are so many great places to explore around Turku. I rode my bicycle to another island to see the botanical garden, which is free and open to the public. I usedthe bike path and found a nice little local beach along the way. It was nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a little while. I was impressed by the sculptures in the garden, as well as the Japanese garden area.
I was in Turku during the same time as Europeade, which is an international folk dance festival. I was able to watch folk dancers from all over the world dance on stages set all over the city. It was fun to see what different culture’s dances are like, and seeing both young and not so young dancers. It was like walking back in time in Turku with people dressed in traditional clothes walking all through the city.