©Patrick Selin/Unsplash

Turku – the birthplace of Finnish history


The oldest Finnish city is a place with a historic soul. The mixture of Swedish and Russian influences, visible in, among others, the architectural style, takes you for an extraordinary journey into the past.

The heyday of this old capital began in the 13th century, when it was an important trading settlement. As a matter of fact, the city’s name refers to it, as it derives from an old-Slav word, tǔrgǔ, which means ‘market’. Situated at the mouth of the Aura River, Turku is one of the largest Baltic seaports today, with a dynamically developing shipbuilding industry. Along the rivers flowing through the city, there can be found popular monuments and places with flourishing culture and nightlife.

The pharmacy museum ©Samu Valleala

The pharmacy museum ©Samu Valleala

In the royal abode

The most important landmark of the city is the medieval castle (Finnish: Turun linna), erected as a defensive stronghold around 1280. In the 16th century, thanks to the first Grand Duke of Finland, John III, it underwent a significant reconstruction – the castle became the official residence of the ruler and gained a Renaissance form, which it keeps to this day. Visitors have access to chambers, castle rooms and even dungeons. The building also acts as a museum presenting the history of the city and the entire country.

Old Turku ©Tim Bird

Old Turku ©Tim Bird

Following the traces of history

In the close vicinity of the castle, you can find Forum Marinum – a maritime museum that presents an impressive collection of ships, exhibits of the shipbuilding industry, as well as objects associated with the Finnish Navy. When in the city center, it is best to head towards the cathedral – the national temple of Finland, where many prominent people, including the Swedish princess Sigrid Eriksdotter of Sweden, have been buried. Initially, wood was used for the construction of the cathedral, and over time the building was reinforced with stone.

Along the rivers flowing through the city, there can be found popular monuments and places with flourishing culture and nightlife.

Those interested in old nobles’ buildings should visit the Qwensel House – the oldest aristocratic house in the city. It houses the Pharmacy Museum, whose interior resembles a nineteenth-century pharmacy with its staff wearing historical clothing. Moreover, one should definitely visit the Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum, which comprises eighteen buildings from the 18th century that survived the largest fire in the history of the country. There you can find apartments, shops or service outlets that depict the lives of the former residents of the city.

Harbour area in Turku

Harbour area in Turku

Closer to nature

Thanks to numerous museums and monuments, Turku is able to meet the needs of tourists throughout the year. When visiting the city, you do not have to worry about the weather. When it is fine, take a stroll to one of the extensive parks. A path along the river towards the port will lead you to a bustling city beach.

©Stian Vesterinen/Unsplash

©Stian Vesterinen/Unsplash

A great attraction, especially in the spring-summer season, is the Archipelago Trial, i.e. more than 40 thousand islands comprising the Turku archipelago. Thanks to bridges, roads and ferries that connect the islands, you can explore unspoiled nature, also from the perspective of a two-wheeler using the well-developed infrastructure of bicycle routes. A National Park listed on the UNESCO list, stunning broads, ambient holiday houses – all these can be found just a few dozen kilometers from the city.

Turku Castle ©Joakim Honkasalo/Unsplash

Turku Castle ©Joakim Honkasalo/Unsplash

Dossier

The most famous for: one of the largest ports in the Baltic Sea.
A breakthrough moment in history: the 16th century under the rule of John III, which is the time of independence from the Swedes and great development.
Famous monuments: Turun linna Castle, the Cathedral, the museum of wooden houses.
The most interesting architectural styles: Romanesque, Gothic and Russian architecture.
Something for gourmets: vegetarian and vegan dishes at Roots Kitchen, street food – e.g. bagels with baked salmon, Kainuulainen Kalakeitto – fish soup.
One definitely needs to: walk the road along the Aura River, which leads to the Castle and the port; visit one of the cosy cafes.
Off the beaten track: a dozen kilometres from the city (near the town of Naantali) is the Moomin Valley – an amusement park that recreates the world of the heroes of Tove Jansson’s books.
A place for a walk: Kupittaa and Urheilupuisto parks with numerous sports facilities.

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Text created in cooperation with Kraków Airport.