Venturing Turku: The First Capital City of Finland 

Turku is the first capital as well as the oldest city of Finland, it was established in 1229. Geographically located at the South-western corner of Finland, surrounded with the stunning views of the archipelago.

To be honest Turku has not been on my travel radar before, if I think of Finland the first place comes to my mind was Helsinki. But thanks goodness to social media. Recently I have seen photos from few people from the travel industry posting it online. So after spending more than a week in Sweden, I planned out to cross the Baltic Sea to spend a couple of days in Finland. There are ferries that goes from Stockholm to Helsinki or Stockholm to Turku, which I opted for the later. So here I am venturing the medieval City of Turku.

I booked my ferry ticket online via Viking lines, the fare was cheap but it slowly added up when I book my room and meals. It was an early morning journey. I queue up to check-in to the counter and as soon as they gave me my room key card. I embarked on board and I searched for my room, and I decided to catch up for some snooze. We sailed out about 7:45 am and almost 12 pm when I got the courage to get up and had a quick shower. Immediately after I ventured out to the restaurant to have my lunch, it was a buffet style. Just after lunch I went around and ended up in the cocktail bar. There was a lady pianist playing, it was so relaxing atmosphere so I decided to grab a cocktail drink. I found an available seat in the corner. And happily sipping away my cocktail while enjoying the magnificent views of the archipelagos, as the ferry glide smoothly through the calm water of Baltic Sea.

We reached Turku just before 8 pm, but the sun was still shining so bright. Immediately after disembarking from the ferry, the bus stop is just outside the building. I soon spotted the Bus 1 en-route to the city, after purchasing my bus ticket (cost 3 euro that last for 2 hours) to the driver I settled myself  by the window seat. It was a quick bus journey to the city center, I then hop on to other bus using the same ticket heading to my host house. I settled myself instantly and my host offered to show me around Turku. We went for a walk along the River Aura, there are stalls lined up along the river bank. I soon discovered it’s Turku’s International Food Festival, they were already close, so I decided to check them out the following day.

After walking around we then decide to grab a drink, its time to sample the local brew! We decided to try one of the Boat bars, they were lined up along the Theater Promenade. The stunning view of the River Aura and sunset is a perfect way to say “ Kippis!” what a great way to start my wonderful days ahead in Turku. Then we sort of did a pub crawl! We visited Koulu, a quirky pub it used to be an Old School they even brew their own beer on site! Then we move to the Uusi Apteekki- it use to be an Old Phamacy, with interior display still feels like a pharmacy with the cupboard labels of medications. It was way past midnight when we decided to head home. Turku locals knows how to party and have fun! But did you know that after a late night drinking session the locals goes to this famous fast food stall called Mandun Grill. They will order burger or sausages with fries and cold drink, but guess what sort of drink. MILK ! yes you didn’t see that coming but yeah that’s a perfect combination for them. I wasn’t brave enough to dare and try the local trend ( I didn’t want the beer and milk churning in my belly overnight!)

The following day  I got up early to pick up my Turku Card and Food Tour Card at the Tourist information office. Then I wandered back along the River Aura, and ended up visiting the most iconic building the Turku Cathedral. The Cathedral is considered to be Finland’s most valuable historical monument and one of the most visited Shrine in Finland. Was consecrated in 1300, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary and Finland’s first bishop St.Henry. It also has museum gallery, it is home collection of ecclesiastical artifacts, that dates back from the 14th century.

After my church visit, I hop on to the tourist bus. The only stop was the Cathedral and we drove around Turku’s tourist spots. So after the bus tour, I went back to the museums. With the Turku Card I was entitled for a free entry in every museum I visited.

Turku Castle was founded in the late 13th century. It was situated on the banks of the Aura River. It’s significance as a defensive fortress and dungeons. Also served as the state prison for centuries, and the deposed Swedish queen Karin Mansdotter was kept prisoner here. Considered the largest surviving medieval building in Finland, its well preserved building. It has been attack numerous times, bombed, and destroyed by fire, and has undergone so many renovation now a days it serves as banquet rooms for municipal functions, there’s also church for local congregation and restaurant. The castle is one of Finland’s most visited museums.

Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova.Museum of history and contemporary arts. It’s  a very unique cultural attraction in Turku, Finland. The museum is a fascinating combination of old and new that invites the visitor to explore the medieval history and culture of Finland. The museum was opened in 1995. Aboa Vetus is an underground area of ruins, where the genuine constructions tell the history of the oldest city in Finland. The exhibition halls of Ars Nova displays the contemporary art.

Pharmacy Museum and Qwensel House, while strolling along the river. Go and visit this building. The pharmacy is housed of herb room, two laboratories and an office which has the oldest survived pharmacy interior in Finland. The Qwensel House is the oldest wooden house in Turku. The house was built approximately around 1700. Now adays the Qwensel House operates as the Turku Pharmacy Museum. There’s a café in the courtyard hidden from the street. Experience the old fashion style of coffee break! You get served coffee from a copper pot and the have delectable variety of cakes.

I also visited The Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art (WAM). The City Art Museum which was named after the famous local sculptor, Wäinö Aaltonen. The modernist white museum building is located along Aura River. Their programme includes various cultural events, lectures, concerts and theme days for families. During my visit they have a drawing workshop and I did join it. It was fun and added bonus I have a souvenir photo with the activity.

If you rather chose  an outdoor activities rather than visiting museums, why not go for a photography stroll and follow the Sculpture Walk trail along the River Aura. Or do the ArchitecTOUR, and you’ll be amaze with the different architectural designs around the city.

After the museum tours, why not do the Food Tour! With my food tour ticket I have scanned the list of participating restaurants. There are 9 on the list and you need to chose five establishment to visit. With their sumptous tasting menu includes Tapas, coffee & cake, chicken with Stilton cheese. It was a delightful day for a foodie like me! (Drinks are not included not unless it is stated. )

I had the chance to venture out the city and visited the neighbouring town of Naantali. A very pretty harbour town,with magnificently preserved colourful wooden houses. A very laid back atmosphere, you can easily spend a whole day wandering around the museums, local boutiques and restaurants. Having lunch with a view of the harbour is so relaxing.

On my last night I went to the party boat. I hop on the Jakke Jokilautta boat bar, the boat goes along the River Aura, it has 7 stops people can hop in and out. They also serve food but most people are up for the drinks offered. I shared a table with a local couple and they were so lovely, what a great night spent with new found friends!

Insiders Tip: 

Getting to Turku:

If you are coming from Stockholm Sweden take the ferry crossing the Baltic sea to Turku. There are different cruising lines to choose from. I did booked my ferry from the Viking lines, do check their website for prices. Amenities includes free wifi, restaurants, cocktail bar, room and even casino on board! It takes 12 hours sailing time. Then take Satama-Habour bus 1, the bus stop is just outside the building as soon as you disembarked from the ferry. The bus will terminate at the Market Square.

But if your coming from Helsinki Finland, there are different bus company to choose from. I did book my ticket online at Onnibus, do check for the prices on their website. It only takes 2 hours bus journey.

I would suggest to buy a Turku Card if you are stopping in Turku for couple of days. The Turku card can be use for a free transportation and free entry to most of the Museums and historical building. Turku Card 48 hrs cost €36.

I did have a Food Walk Card and it gave me the great list of restaurants to choose from cafe, to tapas, burgers! You just need to purchase your drink. Food Walk Tour cost €44.

Do you like drinking beer or just plain intrigue with Turku’s night life? Try to visit the quirky pubs from Old Pharmacy, to old School, to Bank or hop on to the party boat that sails along the River Aura.

Disclaimer: Thank you to Turku Tourism Board who has provided my Turku Card & Turk Food Tour. This post is solely made by my personal experienced and honest opinion, not influenced in any way.

32 thoughts on “Venturing Turku: The First Capital City of Finland 

  1. Thanks for the detailed trip report. I have visited Helsinki before but I did not know about Turku or that it was just a two hour bus ride away or I would have visited there too.

  2. I really like the laid back feel of the town. It also looks nicely colorful. Because I live near the Rhein river am always up for party boat rides. Sounds like fun thing to do in Turku, (as long as its not too cols) 🙂

  3. I have never been to Finland before but I can see from your post how beautiful Turku is. It’s definitely worth visiting. I found the Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova museum to be the most interesting, together with the castle.

  4. I thought like you, when I think about Finland, on my mind is only Helsinki because of Eurovision Song Contest and for me that country is very beautiful and have some special charm, but I didn’t have chance to explore Finland. As I can see you had amazing time in Turku, photos are amazing! I can’t wait to see your new travel adventure!

  5. All the photos look amazing first of all. How do you edit them? I have never been to Finland, but Turke has such a nice charm! The castle is breathtaking!

  6. Wow, I’ve never even heard of this place (and I’m from Europe – Holland). I love how they drink milk. Hilarious. I feel like I’ve been there a little already thanks to your post. Thank you.

  7. This looks like a really interesting place. But burgers and sausages with MILK???? That is one weird combo. I think the local beer sounds like a much better alternative. 😀

  8. Hello AnneKlien,

    Thank you for sharing us your comprehensive guide for Turku travelers, and I am personally amazed how beautiful the first city is. Your photos speaks a lot of stories and its great!

    Keep on traveling!

    xo, Blair

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