The pretty port city of Turku, which straddles Finland’s southwest coast, is one of the most laid-back places in the country. Turku, Finland’s oldest city and formerly the national capital, was once the country’s main city. It is known for its bustling port, magnificent Gothic cathedral, medieval castle, large student population and historic maritime past.
Turku has a lot to offer visitors, and this overlooked city is a great place to visit for a weekend. Whether tourists enjoy architecture, visiting exhibitions, dining, shopping, or simply relaxing in parks, Turku has plenty to offer everyone.
Historic and renovated Turku
Although Turku was originally established in the 1300s, it was once Finland’s main cultural and commercial center. However, little of the city’s seven centuries of history is visible due to a series of fires, the most disastrous of which was the Great Fire of Turku in 1827, which destroyed about three quarters of the city.
Carl Ludvig Engel, who also planned Helsinki, restored Turku with stone and brick structures, a grid plan and wide streets. As a result, unlike most other European cities, Turku does not have a medieval center.
During a renovation campaign after World War II, Turku also had virtually all of its old wooden structures demolished.
Best Attractions to Visit in Turku, Finland
Be enchanted by the largest medieval castle in the country – Turku Castle
Turku Castle is one of Finland’s most important landmarks.
It is the largest medieval castle in Finland, and it has undergone several modifications and extensions throughout its long history. Turku Castle functioned as a castle, a magnificent residential palace, an administrative center and a garrison, among others.
It now houses a remarkable exhibition of medieval history of Turku, which includes, among other things, a series of small-scale models illustrating the growth of the castle grounds and its surroundings. Turku Castle is well worth a visit, especially if visitors are interested in history or castles. The winding passageways and labyrinth-like halls of Turku Castle transport visitors back in time.
Visit the Turku Art Museum to see works of art
The Turku Art Museum, the city’s finest art gallery, is a must-see for all art connoisseurs. The museum is housed in a beautiful Art Nouveau style stone structure that resembles a medieval castle.
The museum houses around 7,000 works of art, the majority of which were created by Finnish painters from the 19th to 20th centuries. The museum’s exhibits of masterpieces from Finland’s Golden Age and contemporary art are excellent.
Along with paintings by Finnish national artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela, other works by renowned Finnish painters such as Runeberg, Järnefelt and Simberg are on display.
Appreciate the architecture of Turku Cathedral
Another remarkable site in the city is the Turku Cathedral. Its magnificent west tower is visible from almost anywhere in the city.
The cathedral is the mother church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and the country’s most important medieval monument. The imposing brick cathedral pays homage to the Virgin Mary and Saint Henrik, Finland’s first bishop.
Turku Cathedral was built of wood in the late 1300s, and it was extensively renovated in the 14th and 1500s. Following extensive damage in the Great Fire of Turku in 1827, much of the structure existing comes from 19th century renovations. The interiors are sparse, despite the presence of magnificent stained glass windows. Besides several vestiges and liturgical artefacts from medieval times, it does not have great wealth.
Discover The Maritime Past At Forum Marinum
Forum Marinum is one of the best places to visit, given Turku’s rich and legendary nautical past. Forum Marinum is both a naval exhibition facility and a museum fleet anchored on the Aura River, including two tall ships, four warships and numerous smaller vessels.
A reconstructed historic attic houses both the regular and temporary exhibitions. Ship models, architectural plans, images and audio-visual presentations provide a comprehensive overview of Finnish maritime history, shipbuilding, fishing and naval exploits.
Explore Qwensel House
Qwensel House, the oldest hardwood structure in Turku, is built along the banks of the Aura River. Built around the 1700s, the bourgeois residences with Gustavian and Rococo decor have been meticulously restored and are worth a visit. It depicts the life and home of the nobility in 1800s Turku with modern decor.
The mansion is also home to the Pharmacy Museum, a modest but charming museum that offers an insightful look into the history of medicine. The museum presents the operating space and the reserve of traditional remedies and other pharmaceutical products.
Don’t forget St. Michael’s Church for an architectural delight
St. Michael’s Church is one of the most picturesque structures in central Turku, with its neo-Gothic style. The red bricks of the church gleam in the summer light, blending beautifully with the gray Norwegian brick of the roofs, which shine 77 meters into the sky.
The interior has an understated elegance, recognizing that ideas are more important than aesthetics and that conviction will always trump surface appearance.
When to visit Turku?
- May to September are definitely the best months to visit Turku. The days are longer, the weather is pleasant and the sun is shining brightly. Another advantage of traveling in summer is that all of Turku’s attractions are open to visitors.
- If visitors have many tourist plans, they should avoid visiting Turku in winter. The days are shorter and it can be extremely cold or very humid.
Turku has been the capital of Finland for centuries, so it’s no surprise that it’s rich in cultural treasures. It is a fantastic place to visit if visitors want to see architectural marvels, medieval structures or important historical sites. It is a must-visit city for anyone who wants to learn more about Finnish culture.
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