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22 Best Things to Do in Turku & Surroundings

Things to do in Turku: View of the frozen Aura River and Turku Cathedral in winter

Straddling the southwestern coast of Finland, the inviting port city of Turku is one of Finland’s most relaxed destinations. The oldest city in Finland and formerly the nation’s capital, Turku was once the most important city in the country (in the eyes of many locals it still is). It has a rich seafaring history and is well-known for its vibrant harbor, marvelous Gothic cathedral, medieval castle, and large student population. Having formerly been my home for nearly a decade, the city continues to hold a special place in my heart. Here’s our lowdown on the best things to do in Turku.

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How to Get Around Turku

Turku is best explored on foot and the city is very compact and pretty easy to navigate. Virtually all the must-see attractions in Turku lie along the Aura river—the city’s main river and are within comfortable walking distance of each other.

For the outer-lying sights, you can also get around Turku using the city’s efficient public bus system. A single journey ticket (valid for two hours) for buses costs 3 EUR and can be from the bus by cash or card and also as a mobile ticket.

A 24-hour ticket costs 8 EUR and can be used for multiple journeys. To find out more information on tickets and how to plan your journey, check here.

If you are visiting Turku between April-October, a great way to get around is on a bicycle. Turku has a fantastic bike infrastructure and well-marked bicycle paths.

Renting a bike is quite easy and cheap. Turku’s convenient shared-bike scheme, City Bikes has about 40 stations across the city. You can find more information about bike rental here.

I would advise using taxis in Turku unless it is absolutely necessary as they are very pricey, and you will run up a large tab. However, if you wish to travel by taxi you can check out 02 Taksi.

Things to Do in Turku

Before I mention the list of things to do in Turku, let me first delve briefly into its history. Although Turku was founded in the 13th century and was once Finland’s main cultural and mercantile center, not much of the city’s 700-year plus history can be observed, as Turku was tragically struck by a series of fires, the most devastating of which was the Great Fire of Turku in 1827 that consumed about 75% of the entire town.

Turku was subsequently rebuilt by Carl Ludvig Engel, who designed Helsinki, with stone-and-brick buildings, a grid plan, and broad streets. It, therefore, lacks a medieval core, unlike many other European cities. Turku also was stripped of virtually all of its old wood buildings post–World War II as part of a modernization drive.

There are plenty of great things to see in Turku and this underrated city makes for a superb getaway for those on a short break. Whether your interests lie in architecture, museum hopping, eating, shopping, or just chilling in the park, there’s something to do for everyone in Turku.

Below we have compiled a list (in no particular order) of the best things to see and do in Turku.

  1. Be Enchanted By Turku Castle
  2. Admire Turku Cathedral & the Old Market Square
  3. Check Out The Market Square & Turku Market Hall
  4. Take a stroll along the Aura River
  5. Visit Turku Art Museum
  6. Be Fascinated at Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova
  7. Chill On One of the River Boats
  8. Go For a Refreshing Sauna
  9. Be Enthralled at Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum
  10. Relax in Turku’s Green Spaces
  11. Experience Turku’s Oddities
  12. Explore Forum Marinum
  13. Feast on Finnish Cuisine
  14. Go Swimming at Ekvalla Beach
  15. Explore the Pharmacy Museum & Qwensel House
  16. Survey Turku’s Architecture
  17. Go Picnicking in Ruissalo

1. Be Enchanted By Turku Castle

Turku: The illuminated Turku Castle in the winter

Not only is Turku Castle (Turun linna) one of the must-see attractions in Turku, but it is also one of the most important sights in Finland. Situated at the mouth of the Aura River southwest of the city center, Turku Castle has towered over the adjoining harbor since its founding in 1280.

It is the largest medieval castle in Finland and has gone through numerous modifications and expansions throughout its long history. Turku Castle has served as a defensive fortress, luxurious residential palace, gaol, administrative center, granary, and garrison.

Today, it is home to a fascinating historical museum of medieval Turku, which among other things, features a series of small-scale models illustrating the evolution of the castle grounds and its surroundings.

Turku Castle: Wood-paneled banqueting hall. PC: Elena Noeva/Shutterstock.com

Other highlights include a stunning array of medieval wooden religious sculptures, the castle church, and two sumptuous wood-paneled banqueting halls collection in the museum also includes a spate of antiques, porcelain, tapestries, silverwork, glass, toys. costumes and even flapper dresses from the early 20th century.

A visit to Turku Castle will definitely be worth your while, especially if you love history or castles. Walking among the winding paths and labyrinth-like corridors of Turku Castle will take you back in time. You can check opening hours and prices here.

2. Admire Turku Cathedral & the Old Market Square

Must-see Turku: View of the soaring Turku Cathedral in the winter

Undoubtedly the city’s most prominent landmark, Turku Cathedral (Turun tuomiokirkko) lies in the old city center on the banks of the Aura river. Its massive west tower, which rises to a height of 102 meters can be seen from virtually anywhere in the city.

The cathedral is the “mother” of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland (Lutheranism is by far Finland’s largest religious body) and is the greatest medieval monument in the country. The imposing brick cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and Finland’s first bishop, St. Henrik.

Turku Cathedral was originally built using wood in the late 13th-century and was considerably expanded in the 14th and 15th centuries. Having suffered substantial damage during the Great Fire of Turku in 1827, most of the current structure stems from restorations carried out in the 19th century.

Turku: The cavernous but spartan interior of Turku Cathedral. PC: Evelyn Jackson/Shutterstock.com

Keeping in line with Lutheran churches, Turku Cathedral’s interiors are rather spartan although it features beautiful stained-glass windows. It doesn’t contain any grand treasures apart from a collection of relics and liturgical artifacts dating´ from the Middle Ages.

Turku Cathedral is open daily from 09:00-18:00. Admission to the cathedral is free but the small museum about the cathedral’s history is subject to a fee of 2 EUR.

A short walk away from Turku Cathedral is the Old Market Square (Vanha Suutori). This erstwhile medieval market square was the administrative and commercial center of Turku from the founding of the city up until the Great Fire of Turku. 

Today, the square plays host to several prominent events throughout the year such as Turku’s medieval and Christmas markets, and Finland’s annual Declaration of Christmas Peace. You can admire the several grand Neoclassical buildings that surround the square.

3. Check Out The Market Square & Turku Market Hall

Turku: The bustling Market Square with the Orthodox Church in the background

Sightseeing in Turku wouldn’t be complete without paying a visit to the city’s open-air Market Square (Kauppatori). For the city’s residents, the market square is the focal point of their day-to-day activities. All buses pass through here and most shops, cafes, and restaurants are located not far from it. 

Turku Market Square is home to numerous tented stalls that sell fresh local produce, berries, Finnish handicrafts, clothing, books, trinkets, and other paraphernalia. 

It’s also the home of “Ratikka“, Turku’s only remaining tram carriage that now serves as an ice cream booth. While you enjoy your ice cream, you can also enjoy a view of Turku’s Orthodox Cathedral on the square’s north end.

Turku: Interior of the Turku Market Hall. PC: Inspired By Maps/Shutterstock.com

If the weather is bad and doesn’t allow for outdoor shopping, stop by the Turku Market Hall. It is located in a lovely old red-brick building from the late 19th-century.

You can find some exotic products here like salmiakki (brutal salty licorice), canned moose, reindeer jerky, and herring that make great souvenirs. There are also several food stalls where you can grab lunch and a small cafe crafted from a former train wagon! I just love it.

The Old Market Hall is open Monday-Friday from 08:00–18:00 and Saturday from 08:00-16:00.

Fun Fact

Turku is a bilingual city with Finnish and Swedish as its two official languages. Having been founded by the Swedes in the 13th century, Turku’s original Swedish name, Åbo, comes from an amalgam of the words å (“river; creek; stream”) and bo (“dwelling”). The Finnish name Turku stems from an Old East Slavic word for ‘marketplace.’

3. Take a stroll along the Aura River

Turku: People walking on the esplanade beside the Aura River on a sunny winter day

The Aura River (Aurajoki) which cuts through the city before emptying in the Baltic Sea has been aptly called Turku’s lifeline. It is beloved by the locals to the point where it is customary for the locals to say that something is found “on this side of the river” or “the other side of the river”.

The 4-kilometer stretch from Turku Cathedral to Turku Castle is particularly scenic and is peppered with cafes, bars, benches, museums, swanky condominiums, and some of the city’s important buildings such as the City Hall.

Taking a leisurely stroll along the Aura River is one of the best things to do in Turku and you should definitely take the time to walk here if you can. As you begin your walk, you’ll notice that the part of the river near the city center is a popular recreational area for the locals and you can often find swathes of locals chilling by the river banks. 

I love how in the cold winters the river often freezes to the point where you can walk, skate, or even ski on it. To get the best views of the Aura River, go to one of the several bridges that connect the two sides.

Turku: The whale-tail shaped Harmonia Fountain in the Aura River. PC: Karasev Viktor/Shutterstock.com

Further ahead, as you make your way toward Turku Castle and the port, you’ll see the hulking cranes of the old Turku shipyard that have become iconic parts of the cityscape.

You’ll also encounter Föri, a little orange commuter ferry that runs nonstop back and forth across the Aura River. Other landmarks along the quayside include the whale-tail-shaped Harmonia Fountain and a giant daisy!

5. Visit Turku Art Museum

Turku: Beautiful Art Nouveau exterior of the Turku Art Museum. PC: Andrew Babble/Shutterstock.com

If you’re an art lover, you should pay a quick visit to the Turku Art Museum (Turun taidemuseo), the city’s premier art museum. The museum is housed in a beautiful Art Nouveau-style stone building that kind of resembles a medieval castle. 

The museum has more than 7,000 works of art, mostly by Finnish artists from the 19th and 20th centuries. The exhibitions are usually well-curated and the museum’s collections of Finnish Golden Age paintings and modern art are impressive.

Top billing goes to Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Finland’s national painter and besides his works, you can also see the works of notable Finnish artists such as Walter Runeberg, Felix Nylund, Eero Järnefelt, and Hugo Simberg.

The Turku Art Museum is open Tuesday-Friday from 11:00-19:00 and Saturday-Sunday from 11:00-17:00. The entrance costs 12 EUR.

6. Be Fascinated at Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova

Turku: Exterior of the Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova on a snowy wintry day

Contemporary art and archaeology unite in the Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova museums under one roof. Both museums are housed in the Rettig Palace, a former private residence of a tobacco factory owner.

Turku: Dug up medieval street of Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova. PC: Torynna, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Being a history buff, I really love the Aboa Vetus—Finland’s most intriguing archaeology museum. The medieval ruins here were discovered by accident during renovation work, and showcase the history of a town block in Turku from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. Excavation work is still ongoing and you can take a walk through centuries-old streets and take a peek into the cellars and homes of the old town. 

Turku: Skeletons of a dog and pig at Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova. PC: Ilarius, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The vast repertoire of over 35,000 artifacts includes coins, glassware, ceramics, textile fragments, and various objects made from wood, leather, clay, and bones. I like how the museum offers a lot of interactive and hands-on learning activities for kids and adults. 

Ars Nova on the other hand couldn’t be more modern and features more than six hundred works, of which the collection by Finnish and Western artists from post–World War II is the hallmark. Works by stalwarts such as Picasso, Max Ernst, Andy Warhol, and David Hockney are on display here.

Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova museums are open Tuesday-Sunday from 11:00-18:00. Admission to the museums costs 8 EUR each, and a combined ticket costs 12 EUR.

7. Chill On One of the River Boats

Turku: Riverboats docked on the Aura River. PC: Inspired By Maps/Shutterstock.com

One of the best things to do in Turku if you’re visiting in the summer is relaxing on one of the city’s cavalcade of riverboats docked on the Aura River. Some are permanently moored while others cruise up and down the grand old river. 

Most of them have been converted to bars and it doesn’t get much better than enjoying a drink on the top deck in the sunshine and watching the world go by while bobbing on the river. 

I’d recommend checking out Jakke, a small boat cruising up and down the river with plenty of alcohol on board. It docks in several spots along the way and admission costs between 5 EUR and 10 EUR per person.

If the bars are too expensive for your liking (expect around 7 EUR per drink), do as the locals do. Get yourself a couple of chilled cans from the nearest supermarket and plant your behind in the grass while you soak up these rare sun rays!

8. Go For a Refreshing Sauna

Finland: Traditional old wooden sauna

No visit to Turku would be complete without going to the sauna, a quintessential and obligatory experience Finnish experience. Finland is the land of the sauna par excellence and there’s no shortage of saunas. Saunas are regarded as a necessity here, not a luxury.

It is estimated that there are approximately 3.3 million saunas in Finland, a staggering number considering Finland only has 5.55 million people. They are in houses, flats, companies, government offices, and swimming pools.

Historically, a sauna was the place where women gave birth, people meditated, bodies were laid out after death, and a place where fish and meat were smoked. The sauna was also used by Finns as a place to meditate and for some going to the sauna is still a spiritual experience.

Nowadays the sauna is more of a place to sip some chilled suds with your mates or conduct business deals.

There’s nothing more satisfying than sweating it out in 90°C (194°F), having the air in your lungs purified and skin pores getting cleansed. I recommend checking out Forum Sauna if you are interested.

9. Be Enthralled at Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum

Turku: Multi-coloured threads and needles at Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum

When the rapacious Great Fire of Turku swept through the city, the working-class quarter of Luostarinmäki was the only part of Turku to completely escape the flames.

A cluster of original 18th- and early 19th-century buildings and workshops set along tiny lanes and grassy yards now make up the outdoor handicrafts museum. 

There are numerous workshops (among them a silversmith, a watchmaker, a bakery, pottery, makers of wigs, gloves, and combs, and a cigar shop) where displays of Finnish arts and crafts of all types can be seen.

Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum: Employee demonstrating a craft. PC: Bysmon, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The most enjoyable aspect of Luostarinmäki is that the museum staff dress in traditional attire to illustrate craft skills and to apprise you about life in Turku a couple of centuries ago. This offers a fascinating insight into the customs and traditions of a bygone era. 

A visit to the Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum comes highly recommended as it is a most interesting place for adults and children alike. Opening hours and prices for the museum can be found here.

10. Relax in Turku’s Green Spaces

View of a verdant city park in Turku

Finnish cities have considerably more green spaces than European cities in general, which I think is due to the Finns’ affinity for nature. Turku is no exception to this as green spaces account for almost a third of the city’s surface area.

There are several lovely parks in the city such as Kupittaanpuisto, Tuomiokirkonpuisto, Brahenpuisto, Samppalinnanpuisto, and Urheilunpuisto. Their lush-green lawns offer many opportunities to relax and enjoy the outdoors.

Fun Fact

The legendary long-distance runner, Paavo Nurmi (1897–1973), nicknamed “The Flying Finn,” is Turku’s most famous son. He won a total of nine gold and three silver medals at three different Olympics. A bronze statue of Nurmi stands in the center of Turku and the city hosts the annual Paavo Nurmi Games & Marathon.

11. Experience Turku’s Oddities

Every city has its share of oddities and Turku is no exception. Even after having lived there for so long, there are two things about Turku which I personally find rather odd.

a. Posankka

Turku: The famous Pig Duck statue (Posankka)

First, Turku’s very strange and very unofficial mascot – the pig duck. The statue known as Posankka was conceived by Alvar Gullichsen in 1999 and originally floated on the Aura river.

It’s now found on the grounds between the University of Turku and Student Village, the sprawling student accommodation complex. During Vappu (the annual May Day celebrations), the statue receives a white hat and during Christmas time it is crowned with a Santa’s hat. Go figure!

b. Turku <3 Hesburger

Turku: Entrance of a Hesburger restaurant

Another thing that stands out to me and which you might notice yourself is that there is a disproportionately large number of outlets of the fast-food chain Hesburger in Turku. There are about 20 Hesburger establishments in the city which is quite high considering the population of Turku proper is less than 200,000.

At the same time, there are only two McDonald’s and two Burger King joints. It probably has something to do with the fact that Hesburger was founded in Turku and is still headquartered there. Finns swear it’s the best fast food. Whether I agree or not is irrelevant, because you haven’t really been to Turku until you’ve tried it at least once!

12. Explore Forum Marinum

Turku: Exterior of the popular Forum Marinum exhibition center. PC: Tommikus, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Given Turku’s long and storied maritime past, it would be unjust not to pay a visit to Forum Marinum. Forum Marinum is part maritime exhibition center and part a fleet of museum vessels moored on the Aura River including two tall sail ships, four naval ships, and several smaller vessels.

Both the permanent and changing exhibitions can be found in an old restored granary building. Model ships, construction plans, illustrations, and multimedia displays give you a perfect overview of the history of seafaring, shipbuilding, fishing, and naval exploits in Finland.

Turku Forum Marinum: View of the impressive full-rigged Suomen Joutsen ship. PC:Bahnfrend, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The best part about visiting Forum Marinum is the opportunity to climb aboard the sailing ships that are only accessible in the summer.

It’s a great pleasure to roam the decks, explore the crew’s and officers’ quarters, the galley giving you a good idea of what life was like onboard. The most impressive of the vessels are the full-rigged ship Suomen Joutsen and the steam-powered MS Bore.

You can find more information about the opening hours and prices of Forum Marinum here.

13. Feast on Finnish Cuisine

Finnish food: Sautéed reindeer served with mashed potatoes and lingonberries

Tasting some authentic Finnish cuisine is definitely one of the must-do’s in Turku. Traditional Finnish cuisine is best described as a mélange of European, Scandinavian, and Russian cuisines.

It may be fairly simple as compared to some of the more famous world cuisines but there are still a couple of iconic Finnish foods that you must try.

Meat, game, fish, milk, potatoes, rye, porridge are staples of Finnish cuisine. Finns are very fond of soups, the most popular ones being mushy pea soup (hernekeitto) and salmon soup (lohikeitto). Some of the most popular fish dishes in Finland are fresh or smoked salmon (lohi), marinated herring (silli), and tiny fried vendace (muikku). 

Game meat is often found on menus in many Finnish restaurants. I highly recommend trying sautéed reindeer (poronkäristys) which is served with mashed potatoes, cranberries, or lingonberry sauce.

Some of the most popular Finnish desserts are blueberry pie and lingonberry pie. Other popular sweets include doughnuts (munkki), cinnamon buns (korvapuusti), and star-shaped plum tarts (joulutorttu).

14. Go Swimming at Ekvalla Beach

Turku Beach: People relaxing at Ekvalla Beach on a sunny day

Going for a swim at the beach doesn’t normally top the list of things to do in Turku but come summertime, it’s all that locals want to do. There are a couple of beaches in Turku but our absolute favorite is Ekvalla Beach.

Ekvalla Beach is popular with locals and not many foreigners know about it. Like most Finnish beaches it’s quite small and you can expect the water to be brackish and very cold. But hey, no pain – no gain! 😉

15. Explore the Pharmacy Museum & Qwensel House

Turku: Qwensel House, Turku's oldest surviving wooden building. PC: Bysmon, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Located along the banks of the Aura River is Qwensel House, Turku’s oldest surviving wooden building. The bourgeois residence was built around 1700 and its Gustavian and Rococo interiors have been immaculately preserved and are well-worth seeing. 

The house is also home to the small but quaint Pharmacy Museum which provides an intriguing insight into the history of medicine. The museum showcases the working area and storage for traditional herbal medicines and various pharmaceuticals that pharmacists used in their profession.

Turku: Antique measuring scales at the Pharmacy Museum.

The museum’s glass beakers, scales, measuring instruments, and spiral-necked flasks lend a bit of science fiction flair, while the antique wooden shelves effuse an air of sophistication. In conclusion, this surprising museum is a lot more interesting than it sounds and worth a quick visit.

You can check the opening hours and prices of the Pharmacy Museum & Qwensel House here.

16. Survey Turku’s Architecture

Turku: Exterior of the spectacular St. Michael's Church

One of the great things about Turku is that you can see various architectural styles when walking around the city. Turku’s cityscape includes a wide array of architectural styles from a variety of historical periods.

Besides the rather bland functionalist and modernist buildings that dominate much of the city’s architectural patchwork, you can admire some nice examples of Art Nouveau, Neoclassical, Neo-Renaissance, and Nordic Classicism. These buildings are mostly found in some of Turku’s older districts.

Turku: The Neo-Renaissance exterior of the old Turku Main Library

Notable Neoclassical buildings in Turku are the Swedish Theater, Turku Orthodox Church, and Brinkhall Manor, Finland’s oldest Neoclassical edifice.

The Neo-Renaissance architectural style is well-represented through structures like City Hall and the old Turku Main Library. Don’t forget to check out St. Michael’s Church, a lovely blend of Art Nouveau and Neo-Gothic styles.

17. Go Picnicking in Ruissalo

Turku: The idyllic Ruissalo island and small beach

Ruissalo is a beautiful place to barbecue, play minigolf, swim, relax, take a walk. You can also spend a whole day here hiking through the idyllic island where you will pass pretty 19th-century villas and sturdy oak forests. All these attributes make Ruissalo the perfect spot for picnicking. 

Popular picnic spots on Ruissalo include Kansanpuisto and Saaronniemi. It is also possible to camp in Saaronniemi at Ruissalo Camping. During our time in Turku, Jacky and I went to Ruissalo often to enjoy all its offerings.

Best Day Trips From Turku

1. Naantali 

Naantali: Boats docked in the quayside on a sunny day

Lying only 20 kilometers north of Turku, the charming seaside town of Naantali is the perfect example of a dreamy medieval town. It was founded in the 15th century and its Old Town is one of the best-preserved in Finland.

Naantali’s narrow cobblestone streets and lovely wooden houses, many of which are now home to small handicraft shops, art galleries, and cafes, are among the most atmospheric in Finland.

Naantali Moominworld: Beautiful blonde girl posing for a photo with a Moomin mascot

Primarily a summer town, Naantali even serves as the official summer residence of the Finnish president (a massive granite villa overlooking the harbor). Many visitors to Naantali in the summer head to the ever-popular Moominworld, a Disney-like theme park.

Other popular things to see in Naantali are the 15th-century Naantali Church and the Naantali Museum, which provides a good overview of the town’s history through the use of plenty of artifacts.

Fun Fact: The Moomins

Finland’s biggest literary export, the Moomins are an eccentric family of nature-loving, white-snouted, hippo-like trolls. Creator Tove Jansson based the central characters of Moominpappa, Moominmamma, and their meek child, Moomintroll, on her own eccentric family. Beloved throughout Finland and abroad, the Moomins have since been the basis for numerous television series, films, and even a Japanese cartoon series.

2. Rauma

Charming old wooden houses on a cobblestone street in Old Rauma

Rauma, located about 90 kilometers north of Turku, is best known for its Old Town, distinctive local dialect, and its high-quality lace.

Dating back to the 14th century, Rauma is one of the oldest towns in Finland and is certainly one of the best day trips from Turku. In fact, this little town is one of our favorite places in the entire country; every time we visited, we loved it just a little bit more!

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Rauma is the largest unified historical wooden town in the Nordics. It has a collection of over 600 single-storey wooden buildings and is home to about 800 people. The majority of wooden houses in Old Rauma can be found around two main streets and the marketplace.

Woman walking on a narrow alley among the old wooden houses in Old Rauma

Walking around Old Rauma is like stepping into a veritable time machine. Its winding cobblestone alleys, colorful wooden facades, and ornate gates will keep you wanting to take pictures that have a “wow” factor built in them.

Many of the wooden houses are home to lace boutiques, art galleries, jewelry studios, and a bevy of antique stores and secondhand shops that are worth checking out.

3. Turku Archipelago

View of a small island in the Turku Archipelago

The coastline around Turku is one massive playground for the city’s inhabitants and should be high on your list when moving on from the city. The Turku archipelago is a vast array of forested islands, rocky bluffs, and skerries, scattered off the city’s western and southern shores.

The Turku archipelago lacks any cultural treasures, but it does boast plenty of splendid natural scenery, abundant birdlife, ever-changing views of sea and land, and a profusion of wild berries: lingonberries, blueberries, and raspberries.

It’s an ideal environment for cycling, bathing, kayaking, and island hopping. Some of the best places to see in the archipelago are Pargas, Nagu, Korpo, and Iniö, all quaint little towns with a handful of interesting sights.

The best way to venture into the Turku archipelago is by taking a ferry. For more details check the FinFerries website. Another fun way of exploring the Turku Archipelago is by bicycle. 

4. Kurjenrahka National Park

Finland National Parks: Beautiful wild landscape of Kurjenrahka National Park

Finns have a well-publicized affinity for the outdoors, and much of the Finnish landscape is safeguarded by 39 varied national parks, all of which provide a great opportunity to connect with the serene Finnish nature and wilderness. One of these is Kurjenrahka National Park, located about 40 kilometers north of Turku.

Kurjenrahka National Park was established in 1998 and covers an area of 29 km². Its landscape is mostly dominated by bogs, a type of wetland, but also features a few patches of primeval forests, some of which haven’t been touched in 150 years.

The Eurasian lynx, brown bears, and gray wolves call the park their home, although you will most likely not come across any of them. However, Kurjenrahka is beloved by many bird watchers as several species of birds such as the Eurasian wryneck, the chiffchaff, or the osprey call the park home.

Finland National Parks: Man walking on a marked wooden trail in Kurjenrahka National Park

There are plenty of marked trails around the various shimmering lakes and ponds in Kurjenrahka. The trails are very clearly marked every 10 meters so it is nearly impossible to get lost. Make sure to wear waterproof shoes on your hike.

Insider Tip

For an authentic Finnish experience, buy some sausages in advance and stop to grill on one of the communal fireplaces along the track. You’ll need to split your own wood from the stockpile provided, and safely extinguish the fire when you’re done.

5. Pori & Yyteri Beach

Exterior of the Gothic Revival style Central Pori Church on a cloudy day

The industrial town of Pori, which lies approximately 120 kilometers north of Turku, is famous throughout Finland for two things; its much-lauded Jazz Festival and Yyteri Beach, Finland’s answer to Bondi Beach.

Admittedly, this small town does not have a whole lot to see, but it is rather charming in its own way. Having been established as early as 1558, Pori boasts a handful of beautiful old buildings and a few small parks, as well as a well-developed riverside to enjoy. We were particularly enchanted by the Gothic Revival style Central Pori Church and its cast-iron steeple. 

Pori boasts a number of points of interest such as the Neo-Renaissance Old Town Hall and a few streets in central Pori featuring imperial style houses. Other sights in Pori worth looking into are the Pori Art Museum and Satakunta Museum.

Pori Jazz: A crowd of people in front of the stage arena

Founded in 1966, the famous Pori Jazz festival is the town’s biggest draw and takes place over the course of nine days in July each year.

It is Europe’s oldest Jazz festival and frequently attracts crowds of up to 175,000 people. Jacky and I attended Pori Jazz in 2016 and it turned out to be a memorable experience. 

Pori: The fine white-sand Yyteri Beach

The aforementioned Yyteri Beach is a beautiful 6 kilometer stretch of uninterrupted fine white-sand and dunes, probably not something that comes to mind when one thinks about Finland.

The beach is famous for its distinctive natural sand dunes and is ideal for swimming, biking, watersports, and beach sports.

Where to Stay in Turku

The best place to stay in Turku would be in the city center and in the vicinity. Virtually all of Turku’s main attractions can be found here, so it’s a perfect base for sightseeing.

In general, hotels in Finland have a well-deserved reputation for cleanliness, a wide range of facilities, and good service. Finland doesn’t use official hotel ratings, but the vast majority of hotels would be considered to be in the three- or four-star class. 

Hostel: Hostel Linnasmäki, a popular choice for budget-minded travelers looking for someplace close to the city center

Budget: Omena Hotel, this centrally-located hotel is one of the best value for money hotels in Turku. Just 5 minutes’ walk away from the Market Square, plenty of shopping and dining options nearby

Mid-Range: Radisson Blu Marina Palace Hotel, an excellent mid-range choice by the Aura river. Rooms are tastefully decorated and the Nordic-style breakfast is excellent

Turku Travel Tips

What is the best time to visit Turku?

The best time to visit Turku is undoubtedly the period from May to September. The days are long, the weather is perfect, and there is copious amounts of sunshine. Another advantage of visiting Turku in the summer is that all the attractions are open.

Avoid visiting Turku in the winter if you have a lot of sightseeing on your agenda. Days are very short and it can be either bitterly cold or uncomfortably damp.

Is Turku Safe?

Yes. Finland is one of the safest countries in the world, and for the most part crime in Turku won’t be an issue. Use common sense and precaution with valuables and you will be fine.

If going out at night, especially on the weekend, things tend to be rowdy and can be unpleasant. Avoid eye contact with inebriated Finns, they tend to be rather aggressive.

Is Turku Expensive?

Yes, it is. Visiting Turku won’t be light on your wallet, so be prepared to spend more than on other tourist destinations in Europe. 

Food and alcohol are two things that are very expensive in Finland and will eat into your budget. For example, a cup of regular cappuccino costs 4-5 EUR, a pint of beer at a pub or a restaurant can set you back 7-10 EUR, and a small glass of wine costs 8 EUR plus.

A typical cocktail usually costs 12-15 EUR, and the main dishes at a mid-range restaurant cost somewhere between 20-35 EUR. 

Many lunch places offer a good-value meal deal which costs 10-15 EUR, which often includes a main course, plus salad or soup, bread, and coffee. Otherwise, dining out is pricey. If you want to save money on food, our recommendation would be to head to the supermarket.


Now, what do you think? What are some of the best things to do in Turku? And is Turku on your bucket list? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

About Mihir

Hi there, I'm Mihir! I was born in India, raised there and in Australia before spending nearly a decade in Finland. I suffer from chronic fernweh and am always looking forward to a new adventure. Besides traveling, my other loves are my beloved cats, architecture, art, beer, classic movies, history, cricket, and Australian Rules Football. Oh, there's also my partner in crime Jacky who's not too bad either 😉

9 thoughts on “22 Best Things to Do in Turku & Surroundings”

  1. Hi, I really enjoyed reading this account of Turku. Am visiting the Nordics this summer & will surely visit, even if it is just for the day. Thank you Jacky & Mihir

    1. Hi Sudha, thanks for your comment! You’ve chosen a great time to visit the Nordics, it’s really best to see them during summer. Hope you have a great time 🙂

      Mihir

  2. Even though I’ve lived in Finland for most of my life I’ve only to Turku once. I had good time but after reading this post I gotta say that I definitely feel like I missed out on lots of stuff! I’m gonna have to go back ?

  3. I’ve spent 2 weeks in Finnish Lapland on February this year and I really enjoyed the winter season including all the outdoor activities ? Finland is just a stunning country ! I love this close proximity to nature. Turku seems a vibrant modern city of many events. I would love to see the Tall Ships Races !

  4. Thanks for this detailed guide. I have always wanted to explore Finland, but as for swimming – brr, I would have to pass. I think my great grandmother came from Turku. Her family had a farm they turned into a museum somewhere over there.

  5. I’ve spent so much time in Finnish Lapland, but I haven’t seen nearly enough of the rest of Finland. Turku looks like a great place to visit and I really hope I get to visit one day. Maybe a Finnish road trip would be a good way to explore more of this beautiful country.

  6. I spent one day in Turku on a Viking Line cruise from Stockholm in 2013. I remember it took me quite some time to appreciate it, in fact I started liking it when it was almost time to go back to the ship and we spent the last couple hours in a cute pub drinking Finnish beer. My first taste of the city was it’s severe temperature. It was the end of September and we were coming from end-of-September Stockholm and yet Turku threw us off. We disembarked at 7 am and people were scraping their windshields from frost! Didn’t expect it could get this much colder than Sweden! Spent the first three hours freezing my ass until H&M opened at 10! Never underestimate the Finnish cold. Lesson learned!

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