If you’ve ever seen a photo of one of Royal Caribbean’s largest ships during a delivery voyage from the yard, chances are that you have already had the opportunity to sample one of Turku’s main attractions: the archipelago. The world’s largest cruise ship, Oasis of the Seas, was built at the yard just outside the Finnish city – as were many of that ship’s largest fleet mates.
However impressive when it comes to shipbuilding, Finland’s fifth largest city (population: 177,500) has a lot more to offer than cruise ships and the archipelago. And this destination is of a size that is convenient in that many of the attractions are within easy reach from the city center – or from the quay, if you don’t mind a little walking. Just follow the river Aura (Aurajoki, in Finnish) upstream from the port area.
The river is the city’s artery, where, in summertime, people tend to gather for picnics or listening to music. On your way along the river, you will pass the Turku Castle, a national monument that has stood on the banks of the river since the 14th century (see below under Do Not Miss).
The castle bears witness to the city’s long history. Founded in 1229, Turku is actually the oldest town in Finland. Over the years, it has been an important administrative center not only for the southwestern part of Finland, but also for the entire country. For a brief period of time, Turku was the country’s capital, but Helsinki took up that role in connection with Finland becoming part of the Russian empire in 1809.
In line with Turku’s long and rich historic heritage, the city is also home to the oldest university in Finland, the Royal Academy of Turku (founded in 1640).
Despite all this, Turku is not a city that is content with merely observing past achievements. A wide selection of cultural offerings is on offer, and, in addition, Turku is also is Finland’s official Christmas city. Turku also has been nominated European Capital of Culture in 2011. The 2011 Capital of Culture Program consists of 155 projects, including approximately 5,000 individual events. Many of those events will take place near the water – such as the Culture 2011 Tall Ships Regatta in late August.
Smaller cruise ships berth next to the medieval Turku Castle, within walking distance of the city center. Larger ships dock in the main port area, which is only slightly farther away.
- The medieval Turku Castle experienced its golden days during the 16th century, but traces its roots as far back as the late 13th century. Various exhibitions are on display, one of which focuses on the history of the city. Particularly appealing to children of all ages is the toy exhibition in the main castle. Theme exhibitions are also arranged.
- The Sibelius Museum pays tribute to one of Finland’s most well-known composers: Jean Sibelius. Beautifully situated by the Aura River, and only a stone’s throw from the Cathedral, the Museum is regarded as one of the highlights of Finnish modernism.
- In the year 1300, the Turku Cathedral was inaugurated. Ever since, this national shrine – the mother church of the Lutheran Church of Finland – has stood on the shores of the Aura River. This is the seat of the Archbishop of Finland.
- If you plan to visit this destination during its year as European Capital of Culture, make your way to the train station. Right next to it is the Logomo: a former engineering workshop turned cultural hub. Opera, a soccer exhibition, art exhibitions and musicals – Logomo has it all.
- Learn more about Finland’s maritime affairs at Forum Marinum: the national museum that focuses on seafaring and the navy.
- You will find the Turku Art Museum in the city center, located in a large granite building. The collections are considered part of Finland’s national treasures. Another possibility for the art interested visitor is the Wäinö Altonen Museum, WAM, named after the famous sculptor Wäinö Altonen.
- The JukuPark, 1.9 miles/3 kilometers from central Turku, is a water playground for the entire family.
- In Naantali, just outside Turku, you will find Moomin World – a a theme park for children and families based on the books of beloved Finnish artist and storyteller, Tove Jansson.
Several different shore excursions can be available in Turku and the neighbouring area. Examples include:
- Turku’s Top 3 – sightseeing in Turku – including visits at the main sites of Turku: the Cathedral, the Handicrafts Museum and Turku Castle. During the Capital of Culture year 2011, it is also recommended to combine this tour with a visit at the Cultural Centre Logomo.
- Nordic Walking tour to the nature of Ruissalo Island
- Melodies of Sibelius and art from the past
- A design tour in Turku
The distance to Helsinki, Finland’s capital, is some 102 miles/165 kilometers.
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