In this article I explore the absolute four must-see sights and things to in Turku. These are the places to focus on if visiting for the first time, especially if you only have a few days in the city.
Turku is the oldest city in Finland, at over 800 years. Although most of the buildings are relatively contemporary as the city suffered many fires, including a massive one in 1827 that pretty much destroyed the place. It was briefly the capital of Finland before Helsinki took the role.
Watch my Video on Best Things to do in Turku
You can also watch the video on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/DFJGXAEIDiI
The best things to do in Turku
#1: Turku Castle
The most visited attraction in the city is Turku Castle. Almost as old as the city, it started as a fortified fortress and was added to and extended over the centuries. The most significant updates being in the 16th Century when the Swedish Prince John and his bride ruled the region for seven years. During its long history it has been a fortress, a palatial home and court, a warehouse, barracks, prison and now it is a fascinating museum.
The walk and tour through the castle transports you through centuries of its life. As you climb around the twisting stairs and walk along stone hallways you come across ancient rooms filled with intricate murals on the walls, an ancient old church now filled with religious statutes and artefacts. There are always numerous temporary and permanent exhibitions of items linked to the castle, gorgeous renovated halls and rooms with grand pillars and even waxwork recreations of life in castle during the 16th century. There is so much to see here and I recommend that you allow plenty of time to do it justice.
#2: Turku Cathedral
Another popular and must-see sight is Turku Cathedral. Like the castle, it is another ancient site with origins almost as old as the city. It is Finland’s National Shrine and residence of the Archbishop of Finland. It is also regarded as Finland’s most valuable historical monument building. The huge tower visible from many parts of Turku is over 100 metres high.
The cathedral runs services in multiple languages and is also an important venue for music events and concerts as well as this religious role.
Inside it is impressive and breath-taking with vast towering vaulted ceilings, columns, a huge organ, beautiful altar and various areas dedicated to the significant players in the city’s and Finland’s history. Many key local and national figures are buried within the cathedral.
It is a gorgeous place in stunning grounds and a definite must see.
#3: River Aura
The focal point and heart of Turku is the beautiful River Aura running through it. The city developed along the banks of this river and it remains a place where locals and visitors gravitate towards. The banks have walkways lined with flowers to stroll along; cafes to sit and relax at and you can even take boat rides along it.
There are large boats moored along the banks that operate as bars and restaurants. In the evenings after work and at weekends crowds are drawn to and fill the area creating a great vibe and energy.
The river is used for major local events, such as the Tall Ships Races. When I was in town around 100 ships filled every inch of the banks. They attracted half a million people to view them and enjoy the concerts, fair and events put on by the city.
Watch my video of the Tall Ships Races in Turku
You can also watch the video on YouTube at https://youtu.be/jM4NRG9iZW0
#4: S/S Ukkopekka
Another must do is going on one of the lunch or dinner cruises on the old steamship the S/S Ukkopekka. It is something of a Turku institution. The ship cruises out along the River Aura, past the port and ferry terminals and heads out into the Archipelago. The Archipelago consists of about 40,000 islands of all sizes and is a beautiful area with grand summer houses, boats and different islands to stay on or visit for the day, The S/S Ukkopekka takes you out to get a taste of the archipelago for a few hours with a meal included. It is a great experience.
If you are visiting the city for longer there are many museums, craft markets and the Archipelago to explore.
As the oldest city in Finland, Turku has a rich heritage and much to explore and see. The River Aura is the heart of the city and will be, no matter what you do, integral to experiencing the city.
Note: I travelled as a guest of Visit Turku for a two-night visit to the city.
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