Three ways to fall in love with Turku

Whether you’re planning to visit for a day or two, or even a long weekend, we’ve got a way for you to make the most of your time in Turku.

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What are the things that make Turku…well, Turku? It’s an old medieval city, of course, but it’s impossible to overlook the spectacular archipelago or the vibrant museums, galleries, and events. There’s so much to explore, so we’ve put together these three itineraries to help you experience the best of Turku when you’re short on time. Pick your favourite, create your own combo, or follow the entire three-day itinerary.

Day #1: A classic selection

Even if you’ve only got 24 hours, you’ll have time to sample the best of turkulainen culture and venture into the archipelago. Follow this itinerary to take in some classic Turku sights.  

Radison Blu Marina Palace Hotel – First things first: drop your bags at the hotel. The riverside Radisson Blu Marina Palace Hotel is a great choice for a one-night stay – it’s the closest you can get to the Aura River, while staying on dry land! The lively riverfront is right in front of the hotel, and there are amazing things to see no matter which direction you take. 

Before you set out on your adventure, enjoy a refreshing drink in the lobby bar or terrace and get a feel for Turku. You’ll also find the restaurant, Grill it! Marina, under the same roof, so if it’s time for breakfast, tuck in!

Turku Market Hall – Right, it’s time to take on Turku! First on the agenda is a shrine for foodies: the Turku Market Hall. Here, in this beautiful building designed by Gustaf Nyström, traditional delicacies meet brand-new worlds of flavour. The market hall first opened its doors at the end of the 19th century, and it’s been delighting taste buds ever since. Grab something to go, like a mouth-watering slice of cake from MBakery’s cafe Piece of Cake, and head to the riverside for a picnic.  

The riverside – The banks of the Aura River and its perfectly placed benches are ideal for a picnic, so do as the locals do, and grab a seat. It doesn’t matter which side of the river you choose, there’s no better place to savour your slice of cake and the beauty of Turku. 

The riverboats – At this point, you might feel an urge to hop aboard one of the riverboats permanently parked in the Aura River. Go ahead! The best part of the riverside is that you don’t need to search for things to do, wonderful things just seem to come along. The riverboats are an iconic part of the cityscape, and they’re wonderful places to enjoy a cider on a summer’s day (or even a cooler one!). 

Old Great Square and Monastery Avenue – The next stop on this itinerary is Turku at its oldest. The Old Great Square, in all its medieval splendour, was once a lively market square and traffic has been bustling here since ancient times. Take it all in as you wander over the cobblestones and through the alleyways of its sunset-coloured buildings. Remember to take a photo (or ten) in Monastery Avenue and pop by the stores here. Maybe you’ll find a few handmade gifts to take home!

Kakolanmäki Hill – Onwards and upwards! Stroll along the Aura River in the direction of Turku Castle, until you spot a bright orange ferry. This is Föri; it’s been sailing back and forth across the Aura River for more than 100 years, and it’s a very turkulainen way to get around. Hop aboard and continue your adventure on the other side of the river by taking a closer look at Kakolanmäki Hill. Not too long ago, no one visited Kakolanmäki Hill voluntarily as it was home to the most notorious prison in Finland, but now it’s a popular place for tourists and locals alike. If you’d prefer to give your legs a rest, try the newest addition to Turku’s transport system: the funicular. It will take you right to the top of the hill.  

Wander around the old prison area and admire the handsome granite buildings. Coffee enthusiasts should make a beeline for Frukt Coffee Roasters, but this stunning setting has plenty more to explore, like a craft brewery, traditional bakery, and design store. You’ll also find Kakolanruusu here, one of the city’s up-and-coming restaurants, as well as Hotel Kakola, which offers prison-inspired accommodation (and much more).   

Ruissalo Boatyard – How about heading to the archipelago for dinner? Make your way to Martinsilta Bridge, hop aboard the water bus, and set sail to Ruissalo Boatyard. You’ll sample a small slice of the sea on your journey and take in plenty of iconic Turku sights, like the Aura River, Suomen Joutsen, and Turku Castle. Once you get to the boatyard, you can take your pick from a couple of delicious options: perhaps pizza at Zaké Pizzeria & Wine Bar or what about some smoked delicacies at Tenlén BBQ & Smokery?

Tip! If the night drags on (and there are no more water buses), Föli bus #8 will take you back to the hotel. Water buses only run in the summertime, so if you’re following this itinerary in the winter months, why not try Restaurant NOOA? It’s right beside the Aura River, so you’ll still be able to experience that waterfront ambiance.

Day #2: Food for thought (and sustenance)

Turku is rightly proud of its cultural and restaurant offerings, and you’ll be able to enjoy both when you follow this itinerary. You’ll encounter medieval and modern culture, plus you’ll get to visit museums and galleries while eating as much (and as often) as possible.

Solo Sokos Hotel Turun Seurahuone – Good morning, a day of culture awaits! The beautifully renovated Turun Seurahuone is a great base for a two-day trip to Turku. It was designed by Erik Bryggman, who was a Turku local as well as a renowned architect, and it’s the best combo of old and new: it’s got a modern atmosphere, but there’s still an old-time glamour in the air. Plus, this 1920s-style hotel is right in the middle of Turku, so it’s only a short walk to pretty much everywhere. 

Shopping Centre Hansa – Let’s kick-start the day at Hansa, which you’ll find just around the corner from the hotel. It’s an institution in Turku, and the perfect place to pick up a coffee in preparation for the day ahead. Don’t forget to try a korvapuusti, a beloved Finnish-style bun, at Café Brahe!

Turku Art Museum – And then, to culture! From the corner of Hansa, you’ll already be able to spot the trees of Puolalanpuisto Park as well as the Turku Art Museum, a 100-year-old (and then some) granite palace. Take your time to enjoy everything inside the museum – from classics to the latest in contemporary art – and then wander around its green surroundings.

Vähätori Square – Of course, your body won’t survive on the power of culture alone. Head to Vähätori Square, which is like something straight from Central Europe, and take your pick from the multitude of restaurants found here: Gustavo, Tiirikkala, Mami, Hügge, Tårget, E.Ekblom, Smör, Tintå, or Oobu

Sibelius Museum – When you’re ready for a taste of culture again, make your way to the Sibelius Museum. It’s named in honour of Jean Sibelius, the legendary Finnish composer, and it’s a must for music fans. Want to know more about Sibelius’ masterpieces or perhaps different types of instruments found around the globe? Maybe you’re interested in Ruisrock, the oldest music festival in Finland? You’re sure to find out the answers to your questions and plenty more about music inside.  

Tip! Standing in the museum’s backyard is an oak tree known as the Kalmin tammi. It’s the oldest oak in Turku, and it’s a great place to digest everything you’ve seen so far before the next stop.

Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art (WAM) – Walk along the Aura River until you reach the next gem on this itinerary: the Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art. A bright and spacious gallery, WAM hosts fascinating exhibitions, which change every few months. Be sure to check their website for the latest info.

Makasiini Contemporary – Stroll back towards Turku Cathedral and you’ll come across Makasiini Contemporary. This gorgeous gallery spoils art lovers with works by trending local and international artists. There’s also plenty of fresh new talent on display. 

Roster – Looking for a place to have dinner? Take a seat at Roster, which you’ll find just a few steps from Makasiini Contemporary. The atmosphere is relaxed and the food is on point. See what top-class chefs can conjure up from the best ingredients.

Koroistenniemi – There’s one last surprise in store on this itinerary. Either stay on foot or rent an electric bike from 10bikes, and head upstream to see the place where Turku began in the 1100s. It’s about 1.5 kilometres from Turku Cathedral, and there’s a green peninsula as well as a white cross waiting at the end, which marks the site of an ancient church. From here, you’ll also get a great view of the Aura River. If you’ve got the energy, why not explore the surrounding area by cycling to Halistenkoski Rapids and then back to the hotel? It’s an idyllic countryside setting, and it’s surprisingly close to the city centre. 

Gunnar Eatery & Bar – If you’re feeling peckish, grab a bite to eat at Turun Seurahuone’s cosy restaurant, Gunnar Eatery & Bar, before you hit the hay. A glass of something relaxing might also hit the spot at the end of such a rigorous cultural adventure!

Day #3: An archipelago cruise

Turku wouldn’t be the same without the archipelago, so you shouldn’t leave without seeing this natural wonder. There are 40,000 islands in the Finnish Archipelago, but you’ll be able to experience part of its beauty on a Viking Line cruise. 

Original Sokos Hotel Wiklund – For a three-night stay in Turku, why not try the delightful Original Sokos Hotel Wiklund? Bus stops are super close, making it easy to get pretty much anywhere, and as an added plus, there are shops and restaurants here. This hotel is also famous for its rooftop bar, so take the elevator all the way to the top for an unparalleled view of the city.

Turku Castle – Set your alarm clock a little earlier and pop by Turku Castle first thing in the morning. Stroll around the castle and its surrounding gardens, before heading to the terminal, which is just a stone’s throw away.

Viking Line – Make your way to Turku Harbour by 8.45. It’s an early start, but Viking Line’s archipelago cruise is a great way to experience the Finnish Archipelago on a short visit to Turku. As you set sail, marvel at Ruissalo’s pastel-coloured villas from the sun deck and breathe in the fresh sea air.

You’ll change ships at Mariehamn and return to Turku Harbour by 8 in the evening, but the journey is taken at a relaxed pace. Make sure you stop by the spa or sauna and then linger over a meal in one of the restaurants on board. Surely, there’s no better combination than a leisurely buffet and a sea view! Viking Line is also renowned for its tax-free shopping, so be sure to pick up some classic Finnish sweets. And, of course, soak up the sun (or pop on a jacket if you’re travelling in winter!) and savour the scenery.

Trattoria Wiklund – If you’re not in a hurry, extend your holiday and stay one more night. Head back to the hotel to relive your archipelago adventure over some Italian delicacies and mocktails at Trattoria Wiklund.

Text Heidi Lajunen and Kathleen Cusack

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