Turku (Swedish: Åbo) is a city in the Southwest coast of Finland at the mouth of Aura River. It is located in the region of Finland Proper in the Province of Western Finland. It is believed that Turku came into existence during the end of 13th century which makes it the oldest city in Finland.
Turku was for a long time the most important population center in Finland: it was the first capital city of Finland from 1809 to 1812 and continued to be the largest city by population in Finland until the end of the 1840s. Nowadays its significance nationwide is not the same as it used to be, but Turku is a regional capital and important location for business and culture in Northern Europe.
Turku has approximately 175 000 inhabitants, and was the most important city in Finland from the 1300s until 1812, when the Russians moved the capital to Helsinki (closer to Russia and farther from Sweden). Turku remained Finland's main city for a while after, but its ambitions were dealt a death blow in 1827, when a raging fire destroyed most of the city.
Today's Turku remains the third largest city in Finland, after the Greater Helsinki metropolitan area and Tampere. Some of the main attractions of Turku are its history and historical significance and the great natural beauty of the neighboring archipelago. Turku is at its best during the summertime, and hosts a great number of festivals, including rock festivals, chamber music festivals and a renaissance faire.
The city is well connected domestically, but sparsely connected internationally. Perhaps the most scenic way to get to Turku is by taking a passenger ferry across the Baltic Sea, from Stockholm in Sweden.
Turku Airport (IATA : TKU) is located 8 km north of the city. There are domestic flights from Helsinki, Mariehamn, Oulu, and Tampere. International scheduled flights from Stockholm, Copenhagen, Riga and Gdansk. Bus line 1 (€2.50) connects the airport to Kauppatori and the port.
VR offers direct connections from Helsinki (2h), Tampere (1:40), Pieksämäki, and Kuopio. The railway station is located in the northern part of the city. Note that some trains continue onwards to the Port of Turku (Turun satama), which is quite handy if connecting to the ferry.
The two biggest ferry lines are Viking Line and Silja Line . Each one has a morning and an evening departure from Stockholm, Sweden, with a brief stop at the Åland Islands. For a scenic view, a morning departure is advisable. Evening departures provide adequate night club activities on board if you want to cut loose before arriving in Turku.
Turku has an excellent public transportation system, and its buses can reach nearly every corner of the city.
The vast majority of the city's sights are within two kilometres of the Kauppatori market square that is considered as the heart of the city. The river Aura passes through the center of the city, and its banks are very popular for walking along on, allowing for a pleasant stroll from, say, the city centre to the Turku Castle.
The city tourist office can suggest cycling routes and publishes an excellent free bike route map of the city and surrounding towns. You can rent bike for €12 per day or €59 per week; Find out more bicycle rental at the website or call +358 (0) 40 372 5310.
The free Föri ferry shuttles travellers and their bikes (no cars allowed) across the Aurajoki River every day from 6:15 AM to 9 PM, or until 11 PM in summer. The trip covers a grand distance of 78 meters and takes about a minute and a half. A running local gag is to ask visitors if they've taken the trip from Turku across to Åbo on the Föri yet; actually, both sides of the river are called the same, Åbo is just the Swedish name. Incidentally, the name comes from the Swedish färja and is related to the English word "ferry".
Föri's low-tech cousin Kampiföri can be found upriver near the Kuralan kylämäki village museum. The name means "Winch Föri", and true to the name, it's operated by up to 12 passengers winching themselves across the river on their own muscle power.
Almost every bus terminates at the Kauppatori market square, and bus lines radiate outwards from it. There are no significant 'circle lines', so usually if you need to transfer, you will need to take one bus to the Kauppatori, then transfer there to the bus taking you to your final destination. Buses generally go in two directions from Kauppatori, so check and make sure that you are taking the correct numbered bus in the correct direction as well.
A single ticket is €2.50, and it is valid for unlimited transfers within two hours of the ticket's purchase. If you intend to take the bus more than twice a day, it becomes economical to ask the bus driver for a 24 hour ticket, priced €5.50. There are no 48 hour tickets, but the tourist office sells Turku Cards (of 24h and 48h varieties) which, in addition to providing free admission to most sights, also provides you free bus rides for the validity period. Some of the more important bus lines are the number 1, which goes from Kauppatori to the airport to Kauppatori to the passenger harbor (and Turku Castle) and then all over again, and the numbers 50-54 and 30, which will take you to the spa hotel Caribia.
Taxis are generally easily available, but expensive. There are three crunch times when they might be slightly problematic, and those are the morning and evening ferry departure times (particularly during summer), around 8 AM and 9 PM, and the bar closing times (particularly on weekends) around 4 AM.
A normal taxi will carry about 4 people and a moderate amount of luggage. For significant amounts of luggage, you may want to order a "farmari" taxi, an estate/wagon car which has a roomier luggage compartment. There is also a third common type of taxi available, the tilataksi, a van which will comfortably carry about 8 people.
Taxis charge a base cost of €5.00-7.70 depending on time of day (on Sundays the base cost is higher regardless of the time of day), and €1-2 per mile, depending on amount of passengers (more passengers, higher mileage charge). Quick 1-2 mile trips will cost in the €8-13 vicinity.
Flagging taxis on the street is rare and may not work; calling the central dispatch is the common method, however you can recognize a free taxi in dark, since the taxi sign on the top will have its light on. There is a central dispatch for all Turku taxis at phone number 02-10041, and bookings can be made in advance, though more than one day in advance is unnecessary. Advance bookings less than 30 min before desired departure time are not accepted -- in that case, just phone the dispatch when you are ready to go. Outside the worst rush hours, a taxi should take no more than 5 minutes to arrive. If you are out late at night, plan ahead. During weekend bar closing hours, wait times in excess of 1 hour are not unheard of.
Parking places are sparse at rush hours, but otherwise you should be able to park your car quite near the place you are going. One good option is the underground Louhi parking hall (€1-2/h) as it gives you direct access via elevators to the center of the city and its entrance is well.
During the summertime, there are multiple boats at the banks of the River Aura who make trips into the archipelago.
Turku Castle (Turun linna) , +358-2-2620300, Daily 10 AM-6 PM; reduced hours and closed Mon in Oct-Mar low season, Linnankatu 80, At the south tip of the city, near the ferry terminals. A must for everyone visiting the city and is one of the country's most popular tourist attractions. This old castle dates from the 1280s, and has been carefully renovated. There is always some exhibition in the castle premises. Highlights include the two dungeons and magnificent banquet halls, and a historical museum of medieval Turku in a maze of restored rooms in the castle's old bailey. Tours of the stronghold are given hourly in English. They give a good account of the castle's history.
Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova , This museum is actually two museums: Aboa Vetus tells about the history of Turku, and Ars Nova is a museum of modern art. Aboa Vetus is based on ancient remainings of old buildings and the Aboa Vetus exhibition is located there.
Ruissalo. A beautiful national park on a island located 6 km from the Kauppatori. There is also a championship level golf course, Aura Golf , founded in 1958. The Ruissalo Spa Hotel is its immediate vicinity.
Caribia spa and Posankka. Relax in the spa and see the famous cross between a pig and a duck, Posankka. This pink statue was made by Alvar Gullichsen, and it has become a known landmark in front of the spa.
(Wäinö Aaltosen museo) , +358-2-2620850, Tue-Sun 11 AM-7 PM, Itäinen Rantakatu 38, 15 min from Market Sq, or take bus 14/15, An art museum named after Finnish artist and sculptor Wäinö Aaltonen (1896-1966), whose statues of famous Finns and various nationalist themes can be found throughout Finland. Perhaps the best-known is the classical Greek-style statue of
Forum Marinum and Suomen Joutsen . A national special museum that also works as a maritime centre while having the famous Suomen Joutsen (Swan of Finland) just outside of it. A ship that is considered as the national ship of finns. Both are located just after the guest harbour when going down stream, you can't miss it.
Sibelius Museum , Biskopsgatan 17 FIN-20500 Åbo (Turku), Located only 150 meters from the Turku cathedral is a low modern concrete building, housing an interesting collection of musical instruments as well as displays of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, the man and his music. On display are more than 1400 musical instruments and music art from all around the globe. These include instruments hundreds of years old, such as lutes and early viols; harpsichords, clavichords and early pianos; and downstairs, many organs. Additionally, a room is reserved for Sibelius´s life and work. During the autumn, winter, and spring seasons the museum hosts chamber music concerts on Wednesday evenings. The collections available at the Sibelius museum are of interest to both experts and ordinary music lovers. The museum was founded in 1926 by Otto Andersson, the first Professor of Musicology and Folklore at Åbo Akademi University.
The Medieval Market (Keskiaikaiset markkinat) takes usually place at the last weekend of June. The old market square is filled with medieval action for the whole weekend, from sales to hangings to music and dance plays.
For proper restaurant meals, expect to pay 10-30 euro - lower end with some simple pasta or soup with water or a soft drink, and the higher end with a high-grade steak meal with good wine. For fast food or pizzeria meals, you will generally need to pay under 10 euro. Burger meals are around 5-8 euro (including drink and fries), kebabs and pizzas are about the same.
Generally, proper restaurants are open until 10-11pm, on weekends maybe an hour longer. There are no proper restaurants open in Turku after midnight. Fast food chains, pizzerias and other such places are open later at night, some as late as 3-5am. In some establishments, the bar may remain open for drinks even though the kitchen has closed and no food is available.
Hesburger is the dominant burger chain in Turku, and you will find several of these in the city centre. Pizzerias are frequently kebab-pizzerias, offering both Turkish kebab and Italian pizza dishes on their menu. You will also find a lot of these downtown. Unfortunately, the restaurants offering the finest kebabs are not located in the core downtown.
Milan, Eerikinkatu 5, opposite cinema Julia (downtown). Kebab-pizzeria with excellent pizzas and kebabs.
Sisilia, Aninkaistenkatu 3 20100 Turku. Servers decent kebabs and pizzas. Famous for the price: all kebabs and pizzas 4 euro (for students, but you don't really need an I.D.).
Bremer. All meals around 10 euros: pizza, wok, burgers, tortillas. Uudenmaankatu 1.
Panini Caffè Ristorante, address: Linnankatu 3. Good Italian food at reasonable prices.
Restaurant quality food is readily found in Turku. Most famous are the restaurant boats on the banks of the River Aura. Some of them close for the winter, but others remain open throughout the year. Other famous restaurants include:
Enkeliravintola ("Angel Restaurant"), downtown on Kauppiaskatu, decorated with many art objects related to angels and focusing on warm, friendly atmosphere.
Viikinkiravintola ("Viking Restaurant") Harald, downtown on Aurakatu, giving patrons a pseudo-authentic Viking style environment. One of the few restaurants that serves Reindeer.
Hermanni, along the riverside towards the harbor from downtown
Trattoria Romana, Hämeenkatu 9. An Italian trattoria, excellent price-quality relationship. Tip: try their unrivalled pizza margherita.
Oscar's Place (Oscarin Olohuone), Eerikinkatu 10, in hotel Hamburger Börs, Opened in 1895, this German-style pub-restaurant was at the forefront of Turku gastronomy for a long time. Post-renovation, though, the ambience is airy but nondescript and the menu is now a somewhat odd mix of the gourmet (escargots, duck leg confit) and the not so gourmet (burritos and pizza).
Restaurants and bars have varying closing hours, but generally, the popular nightclubs and discos are open until 4am. Last call always occurs half an hour before closing time, and is indicated by the bar staff turning the lights off for a few seconds, then turning them back on. They may repeat this a few times in quick succession to make sure the patrons get it. It's generally smart to leave about ten minutes before the last call, to avoid being caught in the rush of everybody trying to leave at once, especially if you are planning to get back to your night spot by a taxi.
Night clubs tend to have guarded cloakrooms where you can leave any of your outer garments in exchange for a ticket. Using the coat service is generally considered mandatory even if this is not explicitly pointed out. The cloakroom fee is usually 2 - 2,50 euros. Do not lose the ticket; the bar staff will often not want to hash out ticket confusions during closing time when things are at their most chaotic. If you lose the ticket, you may be told to come back the following day to get your things, expect to be able to prove the jacket is your by telling the staff the make of the jacket/colour of lining/contents of pockets.
The legal drinking age in Finland is 18 for mild alcoholic drinks (up to 20%/40-proof) and 20 for stronger drinks than that, but virtually all establishments sell stronger drinks to 18-year-olds as well. The minimum age required to enter bars/pubs/nightclubs differs; legally, one must be at least 18 to enter places that serve alcohol, but many clubs and bars have higher age limits (20 - 24 yrs).
Kirjakahvila, Vanha Suurtori 1. Located at the historical Old Great Square, this is a culture cafe and a bookshop (hence the name, which means "Book Cafe") run by volunteers. Besides books there are also a lot of comics, postcards and posters by local artists for sale. Freshly baked cakes every day, even for vegans. Free wireless Internet available, ask the staff for passwords. Opened from 11am to 7pm, from Monday to Friday, but there is often live acoustic music or other cultural events in the evening.
Cafe Mansikkapaikka, Piispankatu 11, a old yellow wooden house. The name means "A place where wild strawberries can be found", and the interior and the atmosphere is very romantic and cosy. The tea is served in small strawberry-themed tea pots and you can choose from an assortment of 30 different teas.
For a similar disco experience for early twenties upwards, there are a number of options such as night club Giggling Marlin . Another popular night spot for mid-to-late twenties is Börs Night Club in the same building as the hotel Hamburger Börs (but open to all, not just hotel guests).
Nightclub Onnela, at Aurakatu 14, is popular among exchange students. You can find them socializing on wednesdays.
In the summertime, it is very popular to spend the early evening until midnight or so on the restaurant boats on the banks of the River Aura, and when it gets a little chilly, move indoors to a restaurant or night club.
Dynamo at Linnankatu, opposite the main library, caters for hipsters with a passion for slightly more eclectic sound. Downstairs indie pop, electro and rock 'n' roll are the main draws, upstairs it's chiefly soul, funk and disco. Attracts a healthy amount of exchange students.
Cosmic Comic Cafe at Forum shopping center by the Market Square. Comics gallery, board games to play and a relaxed, "a second living room" atmosphere. Sometimes very overcrowded.
Alvar at Humalistonkatu 7, near the railway station. It is located at a building designed by a famous finnish architecht Alvar Aalto. A comfortable place with nice staff and a large selection of beer. Free Wi-Fi available.
Brewery restaurant Koulu, an old school building converted to a brewery restaurant serving their own beers, good food and an excellent selection of wines. A cozy biergarten in the back yard is open in the summer.
Pikku-Torre close to the centre is a good and friendly bar-cum-restaurant, serving a good choice of different beers and a selection of mid-priced meals (only until 9 pm.). Pikku-Torre is one of the best spots in Turku for watching football. Live music on weekends.
Whisky Bar at Yliopistonkatu 19, in the core downtown of Turku. Has a wide selection of whiskies. Nowadays strongly orientated to heavy metal by it's music and atmosphere.
Rokkibaari, at Linnankatu 27, a short walk east from Hostel Turku. Metal orientated, with live music on Saturdays and heavy karaoke two days a week. If you are in luck they will let you use a laptop for internet.
Hostel Turku, . Located on the river close to the town centre, 10 minutes walk from the train station, or take bus 1 from the bus station/harbor. Spacious and friendly, contains a decent kitchen, laundry, lockers, and bike hire. Book ahead, as it gets very busy in summer.
Interpoint Hostel, Vähä Hämeenkatu 12a (near Cathedral, Kupittaa railway station). Open in summer only, usually July 15-Aug 15 (may vary). Maintained by Turku YWCA volunteers and often praised for its friendly atmosphere. Accommodation is very cheap at 8,50 €/night, but only includes a mattress on the floor. Kitchen and laundry facilities available.
Turku Unihostel, Inspehtorinkatu 4. Located in the Turku University student village, and intended for longer-term stays. Buses 30, 50, 51, 53, 54, 20 minute walk to centre. Single rooms with WC/shower and common kitchen, laundry, tv, wireless internet. Book by the week only, payment by wire transfer in advance, limited office hours to obtain keys. Inhabited mostly by university short-term visitors, but open to anyone.
Omena. Booking only by Internet, and you get a passcode online which you can use to get into the building. There is no reception staff and no breakfast.
Holiday Inn Cumulus & Ramada. From the marketplace about 5 blocks towards the harbor.
Sokos Hotel Seurahuone. From the marketplace about 3 blocks towards the harbor. On the same street as Cumulus/Ramada (Eerikinkatu).
Sokos Hotel Hamburger Börs & City Börs , +358-2-337381, Kauppiaskatu 6, Formerly the **Grand Hotel Börs**, this hotel dates back to 1904 (the restaurant is a few years older yet) and remains a solid choice. The complex now has twin hotels diagonally across from each other, with the City Börs rooms being cheaper and simpler, but the combined reception is in Hamburger Börs. The entire complex has no less than 9 restaurants, bars and clubs, making this a popular nightspot. Indoor pool and sauna. Good discounts often available if you book a package with the ferry companies.
Park Hotel. A non-chain hotel only a couple hundred meters from the railway station.
Scandic Hotel Julia. Two blocks from the marketplace, towards the cathedral.
Centro Hotel. One block upslope from Julia's location, a little hard to find on the inner courtyard of the city block.
Artukaisten Paviljonki. Near the Elysee Arena and fair centre, several miles from downtown.
There are plenty of opportunities to part with your cash in Turku. The city centre is full of major retail and independent shops. Shopping in Turku is generally more affordable than in Helsinki, but, as with the rest of Finland, it is by no means cheap by international standards.
Länsikeskus, District on the outskirts of town full of big-box hypermarkets.
Cruises on the Baltic Sea:
Take the bus to Naantali to see the presidential summer residence Kultaranta and the Moomin world.
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