Saturday, June 8, 2013

Turku, Finland

Turku, Finland

By Lena Diab-Roukala

A city of History, Culture and Charm
Whether you are looking for a relaxing holiday where you can walk around, do some shopping and enjoy the tasty food, or if you are more of adventurous type, looking to exploring the fascinating Finnish nature and its charming archipelago, then you are in the right place. Turku will offer you all of this and much more.

Turku, once the capital of Finland and the oldest Finnish city ever, dating back to the late 13th century, stands proudly on the southwest coast of Finland at the mouth of the Aura River, in the region of Finland Proper.

The cozy feeling that this city brings to you, distinguishes it from all the other Finnish cities. Though being one of the biggest Finnish cities, the way this city is built, covering the area of land over both sides of the River Aura, while the city centre is located close to the river mouth from both sides, makes it feel small and warm.

Designated as the European Capital of Culture for 2011, along with Tallinn, Turku has a lot of attractions to offer, both old and new. The cultural venues in Turku include several theatres, cinemas, art galleries, and a city philharmonic orchestra. There are also numerous museums, such as the Turku Art Museum, the Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art, the Sibelius museum, which is the only museum in Finland specializing in the field of music, and historical museums such as
the Turku Castle, the Aboa Vetus museum, and the Luostarinmäki handicrafts museum, converted from residential buildings that survived the Great Fire of Turku in 1827, and the first Scandinavian venue to receive the "Golden Apple" tourism award.

Turku is a notable commercial and passenger seaport with over three million passengers travelling through the Port of Turku each year to Stockholm and Mariehamn.

So if you are wondering how to start your holiday in Turku, here are few tips.

Getting to Know Turku by the river
Take a walk on the bank of the Aura river, where numerous cafes and restaurants are spread. After enjoying a lovely cup of coffee at "Paawon Kahvila" or a delicious meal at one of the moored boat restaurants, take a few kilometers walking tour from the Cathedral to Turku Castle and enjoy a fascinating journey through history, whilst seeing what present day Turku has to offer.

Turku Cathedral, Tuomiokirkko, is Finland's national shrine and was consecrated in the year 1300. Today it stands as a lively record of the Finnish history throughout its magnificent details. The Cathedral museum located in the Southern Gallery, takes you back in time through seven centuries of history.

From the Cathedral, cross Uudenmaankatu street to the Old Great Square, Vanha Suurtori, where the Christmas peace is declared all over Finland, at noon on Christmas Eve, from the balcony of Brinkhall House every year. Turku is the official Christmas City of Finland.

Continuing from the square towards the river, you will see Turku's oldest restaurant "Pinella" and on the other side of the river lies the Vähätori Square, with great interior design shops and restaurants. Next to the square stands Turku City Library.

Facing to the library, on the opposite side of the river you can see Aboa Vetus & Arts Nova museum. It is a museum of history and contemporary art. Ars Nova is situated on an area where archaeological excavations have been going on since the early 1900s. The permanent exhibition of the museum gives real insight into life in Turku during the middle ages. Ars Nova provides a colorful contrast to old Turku. The diverse 20th century collection of the Matti Koivurinta Foundation includes more than 500 works by leading Finnish and international artists.

Then you will come to the Aura Bridge, Auransilta, the oldest of the nine bridges over the Aura River. At the foot of the bridge the Paavo Nurmi statue strides into view. Across the street, you to take a break at one of the favourite hang-out destinations at the New Pharmacy pub.

Crossing the Aura Bridge to other side, you can see the Turku Art Museum, a large grey stone building standing at the top of a hill. Then comes the Pharmacy Museum, the Theatre Bridge (a pedestrian-only bridge built in 1997) with the Turku City Theatre across the river. Behind the Theatre are The Biological Museum, the Sports Park and the Paavo Nurmi Stadium.

When you reach the Martinsilta Bridge, you will be able to see the harbour from where the Steamship Ukkopekka, Rosita and Rudolfina take guests out to the Archipelago.

Then comes the Föri, one of the best-known landmarks of Turku and its most unique mode of transport, a small ferry that transports pedestrians and bicycles across the river without payment. Next to it on the west bank is the Turku Guest Harbour. After the harbour are the market square of Varvintori, and The Forum Marinum, a maritime centre and a national shipping and naval history museum. The museum has a remarkable fleet of museum ships.

And the final stop on the river bank is at the magestical Turku Castle, Turun Linna. The halls and chambers of the main castle have witnessed major turning points in history as well as other dramatic events. The interiors of the bailey, decorated according to the styles of various periods, present the history and culture of Turku Castle and Finland. For children Turku Castle offers fun and excitement on the Little Knight’s Tours.

Hungry? Now it's time to for some food...
Choose from the numerous restaurants, local and international, the food that suits your taste. Try the historical Pinella restaurant and bar, Logomo restaurant and Tintå. If you want to eat in open terrace, head to the Vähätori square and enjoy your lunch at Rocca, Mami or Panini.

How about trying the Market Square, Kauppatori, where you can find fresh fruits, vegetables, fresh fish, and cafes or the Market Hall, Turun Kauppahalli, where you’ll find traditional meat and fish counters, delicacies and speciality shops, bread, milk and cheese shops as well as restaurants and cafes.

Escape the city to a more relaxing and enchanting atmosphere!
What about the Archipelago Trail? If you are a biker or a hiker this could be your dream come true!

Just outside the city of Turku, in the estuary of the river Aura, take the journey of exploration to one of the largest and the most beautiful archipelagos in the world.  Along the 250 km route you'll encounter 12 bridges, 9 ferries and many archipelago parishes. The distances are suitably short and with the bike you can easily get from one island to the next by ferry.

In the middle of the breathtaking landscapes of untouched nature and deep blue water, rent a traditional Finnish cottage, take a sauna and then enjoy some grilled Finnish sausages with local beers or ciders!
Archipelago Booking of Finland provides the widest selection of accommodation options in the Turku Archipelago area, including cottages, villas, B&B's, hotels or guesthouses. Available also are ready-made programs and packages. For more information check

Ruissalo Island a great holiday destination for visitors
Ruissalo is the famous island that was once used by the court of Turku Castle as a hunting Island. It is easily accessible by land or by sea. Ruissalo’s oak forests, charming 19th Century villas, Ruissalo Spa hotel, Kansanpuisto Park, Ruisrock festival, Honkapirtti’s pea soup, the Botanical Gardens, the sandy beaches, the golf club, the bike paths and the Ruissalo Camping Area make it a perfect place for a great holiday. If you are a romantic person, the beach of Ruissalo, Ruissalon uimaranta, would be the perfect place to throw your picnic blanket and watch the sunset as the huge ferries pass by very close to you!

Festivals and Happenings
The city's cultural most notable event is The Medieval Market in July each year. Visitors can watch the smith working away at their forges, see how beer is brewed using ancient recipes and touch freshly tanned leather. There is also a special activity area for children. The Old Town Hall hosts events for science, art and fashion. The whole family can enjoy the medieval amusement!

Turku hosts a numerous number of festivals. The Turku Music Festival is the oldest continuously operating music festival in Finland. The festival is annually visited by both top international and Finnish artists. Both The Turku Music Festival and the rock festival Ruisrock (held on the island of Ruissalo) are among the oldest of its kind in Scandinavia. Another rock festival is the Down By The Laituri "DBTL - City Festival". It is Finland's oldest and most legendary city festival that takes place every year at the end of July. With most of the acts performing pop and rock music, this multi-cultural event is centered on the east bank of the River Aura, around the Turku City Theatre. Not to forget to mention the New Music Festival, Uuden Musiikin Festivaali - UMF, which is considered one of the largest electronic music festivals in Northern Europe. In addition to a vibrant nightlife, centered around the Market Square.

If you are traveling along with your little ones and wondering what are the best places to spend memorable family times... here are few hints of what Turku has to offer for you.

The Moominworld, is a theme park based on the  beloved stories of the Finnish  writer and artist Tove Jansson, and is located on a scenic island opposite the Old Town of Naantali, around 16 kilometers from Turku . Hailed as one of the greatest theme parks in the world, Moominworld is an outstanding family destination.  Plan at least one day for your visit because there is so much to see and do.  You'll get to Naantali from Turku on the Moominbus or by the s/s Ukkopekka steamship. If you arrive with your own car it's advisable to leave it at the designated Moomin Car Park.

At The Adventure Park there is always a hive of activity. For children there are many opportunities for a variety of crafts and art activities. What’s best is that the entrance to the park is free along with many other activities.

What about a visit to the zoo!
At Zoolandia you will see hundreds of animals, among which some of the world’s largest birds, alligators, giant snakes, turtles and lizards. In addition to the park's spacious paddocks and forests that are home to many domestic animals. Kids will be able to enjoy lots of activities, both inside and outside. Zoolandia includes a restaurant, cafe, souvenir and gift shop, caravan park which fits for 50 vehicles and a zoo hostel. The zoo is only twenty minute drive from Turku.

If you are looking for summer fun, at JukuPark Waterpark you’re guaranteed a great day with many spectacular water-slides, large heated swimming pools, sunbathing areas together with saunas, shower rooms and the Pirate Island water-world for the little ones. When hunger surprises there are Juku Park’s grills, cafés, kiosk services and terraces available.

Accommodation and Spas
Turku offers you a wide selection of accommodations from fancy five stars hotels to hostels, furnished apartments, B&B's and cottages.  Visit the Caribbean-style theme spa at the Holiday Club Caribia, within walking distance from Turku, the Naantali Spa Hotel or the Ruissalo Spa Hotel, enjoy and simply relax.

Buy a tourist card and get 1-7 days of travel by local buses starting at only 5.50€. Rail traffic to and from Turku is handled by the Finnish national carrier, VR. Take a train trip from Turku to the Capital Helsinki, Tampere or Pieksämäki. There are three railway stations: the Turku Central railway station in Pohjola, and two smaller stations in Kupittaa and the Port of Turku.

Turku Airport is located eight kilometers to the north of the city centre, partly in the neighbouring municipality of Rusko. There are also daily ferry services from the Port of Turku to Sweden and the Åland Islands, operated by Silja Line, Viking Line and SeaWind Line.

Situated by the Baltic Sea, Turku has a humid continental climate. The city experiences warm summers, with temperatures ranging up to 30 °C and relatively cold winters with frequent snowfall. The warmest month of the year is July, whereas the coldest month is February.


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