Turku, known as Åbo in Swedish, has a vivid cultural life, significant background history and charming vibe. Located on the south west coast of Finland, this city is home to various experimental art industry, cool boutiques and innovative restaurants, vibrant music festival and not to forget the world's biggest archipelago. In short, it has an exciting mixture of old and new.



If you've followed my Instagram account, you might have seen many updates on Finland there during the past few weeks. It was indeed an amazing trip. I had a chance to discover Turku for few days through the Nordic Blogger's Experience program and frankly speaking, I fell in love with this country. Thus, I'm sharing you my wonderful experience discovering Turku.


Read on to know some interesting activities and restaurants to check out.

First, quick facts about Turku


1. Turku is the oldest city in Finland (founded at the end of 13th century). It was the first capital city before this country became part of the Russian empire and the capital status goes to Helsinki due to close proximity with St. Petersburg, Russia.
2. Turku was designated as the European Capital of Culture for 2011.
3. According to Wikipedia, 5.2 percent of the population here speak Swedish.
4. Turku is also known as a student-friendly city. There are various universities for local and international students in the city.
5. Turku also known as the Christmas City of Finland (the only city in Europe where Christmas Peace is officially declared on Christmas Eve).


How to get to Turku?

Turku is an accessible city as it has a great connection between many places within Europe and beyond through different modes of transportation.

Thinking of taking flights? Turku Airport is located approximately 7 kms away from the city centre. The flight connections include airBaltic, Finnair, Nextjet, Norwegian, SAS and Wizz Air. Besides that, there are ferry connections as well including Silja Line and Viking Line. For long-distance travel with bus, you may choose Matkahuolto.


Transportation around the city

You may opt to drive or simply take the public transporation. The city and town transporations are pretty efficient. Click here to check the bus timetable in Turku and here for the city route guide.

Tip: Explore Turku region with the 24h travel ticket (cost only €7.50 and can be purchased from any Föli bus). If you plan to drive, this parking information is helpful for you.


Activities

Whether you're a nature enthusiast, adventure junkie or history buff, this city definitely going to entice you with its offerings. 

Check out some of the activities you can do while being in Turku: 

Go crazy with the winter swimming & sauna 

Winter/ice swimming is one of the important elements in Finnish culture. They do it regularly though some of us might think it sounds pretty insane as the water is freezing. This is not only being part of their culture but also believed to have some health benefits.


Surprisingly, I did it not only once but three times (obviously beyond my expectation). Call me nuts but I just love doing it and super excited to write a separate blog post for this later on.


Just in case you want to try it, there are many spots available in Turku. One of them is at Saaronniemi Beach located in Ruissalo Island, just approximately 17-minute drive away. The place has both sauna and open water area.

GPS (Saaronniemi Beach): 60.421461, 22.093179


Making Karelian pasty

One of the best travelling ingredients is to taste the local lifestyle by doing what they normally do in their daily life. During my visit, I get to learn how to make Karelian pasty (one of the famous delicacies in Finland) with Johanna and her mother. It wasn't that easy for me as I am obviously not a good baker (maybe soon) but with Johanna and her mother's guidance, it turned out great.


I was also told that the recipe they used was handed over from her great grandmother. How amazing is that?


If you wish to experience this, simply visit www.doerz.com. It is a platform where visitors in Finland can do a variety of cool things with the locals such as making Finnish traditional dishes, street photography, making beautiful bread together, cold and swimming sauna and more!


Visiting Market Hall

Visiting market has always been my favourite part when travelling. Firstly, it is where you can taste local authentic food. Secondly, there's an opportunity to get up close with locals. Here in Turku, it is even exciting to visit this particular market as it is the second oldest market in Finland. It was built in 1896 by a Finnish architect named Gustaf Nyström and now still standing as one of the city's gems.


Make your way to Turku Market Hall and you can see some of its interiors are remain unchanged. You will literally feel like stepping back into past times.


What you can generally find here? Fresh meats, spice, local gift and cheese shops as well as restaurants and cafés. Below are some of the highlights:    


Taste various fresh and tasty cheeses at Juustopuoti shop.


Kiss My Turku's signature cake served at Piece of Cake, Mbakery Café.


Try some of the fish delicacies at Herkkunuotta. The Archipelago bread is my favourite!

Website: www.kauppahalli.fi | GPS: 60.449838, 22.266220


Drop by Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova Museum for interesting tales of Turku

For history buffs, Aboa Vetus and Ars Nova Museum could be the place for you to learn and understand more about Turku and a bit of Finland histories. The museum has two different exhibitions including Aboa Vetus, which showcases Medieval and Turku histories (permanent exhibition) while Ars Nova concentrates more on contemporary art (exhibition changes based on season or theme).



Aboa Vetus has an interactive exhibition making it more fun for us from all walks of life to learn more about the histories of the city. The entrance fee is €10 (adult) and €5.50 (children from 7 to 15 years old)



Join the Turku city guided tour


Besides museums, a guided tour is also a great way to get to know more about a particular place. In Turku, I got a chance to follow a guided tour led by Annamari Laine. I enjoyed the short walk. It was around 2 hours walk with full of Turku's past and present stories including Turku Cathedral, Pyhän Hengen chapel, Old Great Square (where declaration of Christmas peace is announced) and Aboa Vetus and Ars Nova Museum.


From this walk, I get to learn why Finland capital city moved to Helsinki, the tragedy of the Great Fire of Turku that happened in 1827 and more.


Plus point for this tour when Annamari also brought us to some Instagrammable spots around the shore of Aura River. I know there are lot of them but sadly time doesn't permits.

Click here if you would love to join this walk. She also led the tour in English, Swedish and Finnish. 


Admiring Aura River

In winter, expect to see the almost-completely-frozen Aura River, the heart and soul of Turku. Interestingly, this city was founded on the east side of the river. This 70-kilometre long river will be a perfect spot for people to spend their time during summer.



The river has two sides which they usually call "on this side of the river" for the older east side meanwhile "the other side of the river" for the newer west side. It's important to remember that. Tricky one, huh?


Hiking at Kurjenrahka National Park

Need a pinch of adventure? Venture slightly further from the city centre for a hike in the forest of Kurjenrahka National Park. Located just 40 km away from Turku, this park is probably a favourite place for nature enthusiasts and adventure junkie. It is home to various flora and fauna including wild animals like Eurasian lynx, fox, brown bear and more (source: Wikipedia).


But of course one of the popular activities here is hiking. There are various kind of trails that are suitable for the beginner to professional. Click here to see the trails information. I spoke to our guide, Menni Heikkinen from www.liikkeelle.com, she said the longest trail is around 30km long and could take up to 2 or 3 days of hiking.


However, if you have limited time, the highly recommended trail would be Savojärven trail (6km).


The best part is we took a short break between the hike for hot drinks and bbq. It feels so great to warm ourselves in that way.

Interestingly, it is everyman's right in Finland and that means you are free to roam in the forest, pick wild berries and mushrooms as well as build a temporarily camp as long as you don't harm the natural environment. How amazing is that?

Website: www.nationalparks.fi | GPS: 60.738094, 22.323474


Eat & Drink

When you're done exploring the city, time to feast some of what Turku has to offer. After diving into their gastronomy adventure, I believe it is safe for me to say that Turku is a place for foodies.

Here are some of the top restaurants you might want to try:

Kaskis Restaurant

If you like surprises and of course delightful food, go to Kaskis Restaurant. Founded in 2014, this restaurant serves by-course menu made from fresh and seasonal ingredients. You may choose four courses (€55) or six courses (€66). Good news is you'll get to taste different dishes everyday as the menu changes daily.


Note: Advance reservation up to 2 or 3 months early is indeed if you planning to dine in during weekend.

Website: www.kaskis.fi | GPS: 60.446758, 22.272936


M Kitchen & Cafe

Located in the foyer of Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova museum, M Kitchen & Cafe does not only serve lip-smacking food and drink but also a unique atmosphere. You may have your brunch here with the variety of salads, warm main dishes, fruits and wide array of pastries. On Sunday, they serve a cake buffet and various delights from MBakery.

It is a cool place for a hangout with your friends and families.


Price for weekend brunch is €19.90. Meanwhile weekdays is €13.20.
Website: www.mbakery.fi | GPS: 60.449750, 22.273833


Di Trevi Restaurant 

I've asked one of the locals "Where is your favourite spot for dinner?" and she simply said "Di Trevi Restaurant". Well, I have to agree with her. If I'm living in Turku, I would probably have the same thought. Di Trevi welcomes its diners with mouth-watering food with a combination of the Mediterranean flavors, refreshing drinks and a warm ambiance.


Uh, did I mention about their tasty tapas?

Website: www.ditrevi.fi | GPS: 60.449666, 22.268648


Smör Restaurant 

Looking for a romantic and cozy ambiance? Smör Restaurant is definitely a place for you. Thanks to the professional chefs for the remarkably prepared food inspired from seasonal and fresh local produce. You may choose to enjoy their course or à la carte menu.


Smör Restaurat updates its menu  every eight weeks to give everyone a different taste.

Website: www.smor.fi | GPS: 60.450286, 22.271924


Piece of Cake - MBakery Café

For something sweet, why not try Piece of Cake. It is hailed as one of the best bakeries in Finland for their hand-baked breads, cakes and delectable lunches. Since it is located in the Market Hall, it could be your best spot to relax, enjoy some drinks and cakes after touring around the market.


Pssst, don't forget to taste their official Kiss My Turku cake, too.

Website: www.mbakery.fi | GPS: 60.449838, 22.266220


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This article was made possible through a trip organised by Visit Turku in conjunction with Nordic Blogger's Experience (NBE Finland) program. As always, all opinions are my own.