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How would you identify a typical historical town in Europe? According to some people, its market square, riverfront, cathedral, and castle. These are just a few of the things you can do in Turku, qualities that truly define a historical European town.
However, nowadays, it is also a vivid modern city that holds a lot of events, and it was declared a European Capital of Culture in the year 2011.
The gateway to the West and oldest city in Finland, Turku is the eclectic and thriving city, which is well revered with rich cultural heritage and forward-thinking locals.
Out of several Turku attractions, you must visit Turku Cathedral and Turku Castle (the largest historical castle survived in the whole Scandinavia.
Turku has around 20 museums to visit. Naantali, the sunny sea-facing town, is yet another holiday destination located just a quick drive away.
If you are visiting here for a fun and memorable experience, there are plenty of things to do in Turku. You can easily embrace the healthy and pleasant environment here, which will tempt you with food, culture, history, and architecture.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Quick information and Turku travel tips
- Currency? Euros
- Languages? Finnish and Swedish
- Where is this place? Located in Northern Europe; South West of Finland
- What is Finland famous for? Skiing, Northern Lights, Santa Claus Village, Forest, Lakes, Vikings, and many more!
- Best time to visit Finland? Visit during Winter (November to March) and do some winter activities, explore Santas Village, and witness Aurora Borealis. Come around Spring (March to May) to see the surroundings bloom to life and Summer (June to August) to explore the lakeside, festivals, and the midnight sun. That said, Autumn (September to October) is also a beautiful time to visit as the weather is still nice but chill and the surroundings start to change color from green to beautiful golden yellow and orange.
- What to wear during winter in Turku? Read our winter packing guide and as well our jacket reviews
- Closest Airport? Turku Airport
- How to get to Turku? You can either fly from Helsinki, take a bus like Omnibus, or take the train – the latter is the quickest way to get to Turku from Helsinki.
- Other famous places in Finland? Lapland, Lappeenranta, Espoo, Porvoo, Vaasa, Tampere, Pori, Åland Island, Savonlinna, Helsinki, Rovaniemi, Salla, Jyväskylä, Kuhmo, Kajaani, Oulu, and Joensuu
- Famous neighboring countries? Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, Russia, and Sweden
Do you need a visa for Finland?
In order to enter Finland, you need to have a valid Schengen visa. If you’re a citizen of the EU group of countries, you can enter Finland without a visa. However, if you’re a citizen of Canada, the USA, New Zealand, and Australia – you can stay in Schengen areas for 90 days.
Check out our detailed guide on how to apply for a Schengen visa – read it here.
Where to book your flights to Finland?
Check our handy-dandy guide on how to find the cheapest flights around the world – read it here.
Do you need travel insurance for Finland?
Remember this: anything can happen! Read our take on why you need travel insurance and how it can save you money when things go unplanned – read it here.
Experiences and top things to do in Turku, Finland
Visit Turku Castle
Turku is also famous for an unfortunate event that occurred in 1827 known as “Great Fire of Turku” due to which most of the old town was destroyed. This fire was so worse in Finland’s history that Nordics were blamed for lack of extinguishers.
Even though the fire had wiped out most of the medieval charm of this city, Turku Castle is still one of the best Turku attractions. And yet, the castle maintains its old glory, which was saved from any damage.
It is always known as the largest medieval surviving structure in Finland and one of the only three castles remaining in Finland.
Since the 1280s, Turku Castle is still standing proudly on the edge of the Aura River, it is probably the most iconic attractions, and getting here is one of the best things to do in Turku.
The castle is not just restored completely and became photographic, but it also hosts exhibitions about the history of Turku, Finland, and the castle itself. You can access guided tours from June to August in English.
Check out the Botanic Garden of Turku
Located on the island of Ruissalo, the Turku University Botanical Garden is both for public showcase and for scientific research where you can explore the sprawling greens.
There are around 5000 varieties and species of plants to display in indoor and outdoor gardens. You can find the enormous range of succulent plants in greenhouses as well as a range of tropical greens.
The peonies, rhododendrons, economic plants, annuals, exotic trees, meadow flowers, and shrubs are flourishing well in the outdoor garden. The three ponds have vivid water lilies and various wetland plants in the new landscape.
You can also host training sessions, meetings, and private events in the greenhouses, outdoor gardens, and cafeteria and seminar hall. Most of the outdoor area is a greenhouse. Therefore, it is easily accessible by wheelchair with some help
Buy lovely souvenirs from Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum
Turku was the biggest city in Finland in the 19th century. In 1827, the Great Fire of Turku caused huge loss and the Cloister Hill, or Luostarinmäki was only wooden house district survived from the fire. You can experience a tranquil, artisanal vibe of the golden era in a quaint address in Luostarinmäki.
Its outdoor museum is one of the best attractions in Turku. It has 18 blocks of the original buildings built in the 18th and 19th centuries. You can witness an innovative glance of pre-industrial craftsmanship coming to life at the museum.
You can also buy beautiful souvenirs, sweets, craftwork, and Finnish specialty dishes at Café Kisalli. The museum is strategically stone throw away from the Aura River.
Visit Turku Market Hall
You are making the best decision by visiting Turku Market Hall if you want to savor the traditional Finnish dishes. It is a stunning architectural landmark, which was built in 1896 and restored in 1976 from destruction. The faithfully restored Turku Market Hall of today still grabs the eyes with its nostalgic and enchanting charm of the bygone era.
It was built by over 42 tons of iron parts and 30000 bricks to make the ideal harmony of shelter to everything from fish counters and traditional meat markets to fresh and dynamic entrepreneurial hoteliers and even a café in the train carriage.
You can taste the delightful and quirky local dishes, which are exceptionally delicious here, including the local cheese, Turku Raisan Sausage, beautiful buns, delicious pastries, fish, and even more. You name it, and there are chances to find one which is always produced locally and of top quality. Unbelievably, they are doing their businesses here for around a century.
All the stall owners here are pleased to share their passion and experience for local dishes and are friendly by nature. Therefore, you can take your time to visit and taste whatever you like or have some coffee while watching everyone in his or her everyday routine. Even silent observation gives the best experience of Turku sightseeing.
Visit Sibelius Museum
The Sibelius Museum is probably the only museum in Finland that is completely dedicated to music. Designed by Woldemar Baeckman, the museum complex is among the most original creations of Finland since the 1960s. This museum highlights a selection from around 2000 instruments of art and traditional music from different parts of the world.
Along with its Jean Sibelius’s collection, the Sibelius Museum has a vast collection of various materials related to music in its archive, for example, photos, sheet music, and sound recordings. The collections and Sibelius museum itself are the amazing things to see in Turku for both ordinary music lovers and experts.
The funnel-shaped pillars, the concrete and glass surfaces, as well as the atrium garden in the core of the building, have a different setting for it. The exciting and sober design of the main complex is very attractive to the visitors who love to explore architecture from different parts of the world.
Visit Turku Cathedral
Turku Cathedral is a very amazing building and serves as a seat to the Archbishop of Finland and the national sanctuary of the country. According to many people, this 13th-century cathedral is the most famous medieval building in Finland.
When this cathedral was initially built, it was made completely of wood. In the 1400s, a stone was rebuilt. Karin Månsdotter, the Queen of Sweden in the 16th century, is one of the well-known personalities in the history buried here. You can find her sarcophagus made of marble very clearly.
Located on the hillock of Unikankare, Turku Cathedral is National Sanctuary in Finland. Dedicated to the first bishop of Finland, St. Henry, and the Virgin Mary, the church was sanctified in 1300. The Turku Cathedral is known as the most valuable monument in Finland. In every part of this serene National Shrine, you can spot the details of the history of the country.
The captains of war and bishops and Karin Mansdotter, a queen, are resting under the arches. In the southern gallery of the church, you can get back to the history in the early 1300s at the Cathedral Museum. The sculptures of saints and Catholic Middle Ages silverware are also displayed in the museum along with other things.
Go on an archipelago trail hike
This is a fun and exciting adventure in Turku that you shouldn’t miss out, one of the best things to do in Turku is the archipelago trail hike. Located next to Turku, there are whopping 40000 islands along the Archipelago Sea, and most of them are as smaller as a tennis court.
You can access the larger islands by several ferries buzzing here. Bridges interlink most of the islands. Therefore, you can easily hire a bike to hang out with loved ones and embraced the natural and tranquil beauty.
For both locals and foreigners, Turku Archipelago Trail is the best activity. You can cover the 250 km long trail by a bike or car. The trail starts from Turku to explore city life before you head to remote locations.
The islands are also tranquil sanctuaries in themselves to explore peaceful Scandi living and natural beauty. Before you start your trip, check the timetables of ferries across the islands. You can visit a lot of local tourist offices where you can check schedules.
Go to Kuralan Kylämäki
Based on a farm that was rebuilt in the 1950s with traces belonged to the Iron Age, Kurala Village is a unique open-air museum. It is more than just a village where you can witness the live history of the countryside after World War II in southwest Finland.
It also displays the ancient work and technology. Kurala is located right on Turku’s eastern fringes where you can find a typical restored village in which artists act as in the post-war period in costume.
In Kuralan Kylämäki, there is also a farm operating here with sheep, chickens, and cows. So, your kids will have fun here. You can also walk along the woods with hunting bailiffs. Also, it may be an interest to you to participate to make hay, sow seeds and churn butter, according to the season. It also has the true medieval interest, as it has been a settlement in the Iron Age.
Feel the adventure at Flowpark
At Flowpark, both kids and adults enjoy adventure activities in a very safe environment to have great summer holidays. This eco-adventure park serves children from 7-year-olds to older. There are different rope bridges, swings, lane jumps, monkey bars, and cable slides on the woodland. You will be strapped with harnesses and given helmets to take tougher challenges.
Even dedicated climbers find some courses challenging here. Well, your kids can also develop self-confidence by taking many lighter tests and there is something for everyone in your family to do when enjoying Turku holidays.
So, leave all your fears behind and have some exciting activities in this adventure theme park. You can find many options to test your fitness high up over the trees, where high rope adventure trails are well built.
There are 18 different trails and more than 140 missions waiting for you in Flowpark to test your nerve, balance, and coordination. Here, you can have fun with your family, friends, or even coworkers. Flowpark is specially designed for the adventurous and active visitors, where age is just a number.
However, there is a minimum age limit for the adventure trails in high ropes that are standing over 120cm high. There are three well-built trails for children closer to the ground. Therefore, even your smaller fearless climber can test his skills. Flowpark is strategically located in the serene and green surroundings of Skanssi shopping centers. Therefore, it is well connected from Turku city center.
Check out Forum Marinum Maritime Centre
The National Specialist Museum for naval history and Finnish maritime, Forum Marinum is located next to Turku Castle. It gives the world-class nautical experience for visitors of all ages.
The museum houses both permanent and temporary exhibitions, a huge range of museum ships and vessels, sailing ships named the Sigyn (barque) and Suomen Joutsen (frigate), several steam vessels like police boats and tugboat, and four warships.
The ships open only in summer. The exhibitions at the Maritime Centre and Bore-ship are open all year round and ships open only in summer.
Here, your curious little ones will love going through the footprints of Axel, the ship’s dog. He will guide both adults, kids, and lead them to try different maritime skills like mooring a vessel, starting a motorboat, and wearing the traditional marine’s costume. This museum also hosts public events and meetings.
Named after a sailboat, Restaurant Göran offers delicious lunch and coffee. Groups, companies, and even families can book this restaurant. You can also buy items and souvenirs at the Museum shop. Visit the old warehouses and see how maritime trade was evolved.
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Founder of Pretty Wild World and one of the leading experts in Europe travel, the Nordics, and Scandinavia Destinations.
Evan Kristine has been mentioned in big publications such as The Huffington Post and the Thought Catalog has been sharing her useful travel tips and hacks to the world for more than five years now.
Nowadays, she is a full-time traveler exploring and documenting her journey around the world providing you the next best travel idea for your great next adventure.