1Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova
Turku is truly an exceptional city, where central excavations easily become the headquarters of archaeological operations. This was the case in the 1990’s, when Rettig Palace began to be renovated into an art museum.
What emerged was more than art, with the museum adopting a fantastic dual-purpose, in which you can explore the foundations of medieval Turku, in addition to mouth-watering pieces of contemporary art. Also found within the Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova complex are M Kitchen & Café and a superb museum shop.
2 Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum
In Turku on 4th September 1827, a fire roared out from the residence of burgher Hellmann, and by the end of the day three quarters of the city had burned to the ground. One of the few areas that avoided disaster was the area of wooden homes known as Luostarinmäki. The collection of houses is now a museum and a place to admire a near 200-year-old milieu in the eastern part of central Turku.
The houses of Luostarinmäki that still stand in their original places, once belonged to deprived families. Tour round the creaky homes and the artisans craft demonstrations from yesteryear, and for a moment you’ll forget that we live in the 2010’s.
Standing tall over the mouth of the River Aura is the 700-year-old Turku Castle, one of, if not the most famous landmark in Turku. The building is an impressive sight, but equally impressive and absolutely worth getting to know are the stories hidden within, such as those from the renaissance life of Duke John, for example. Inside the ancient, confined stone corridors, the imagination easily begins to grow. Are the dips in the windowsill really from the elbows of the duke’s imprisoned brother, Eerik XIV? Is it true that wild bears guard his room? Was it Turku Castle where the disappearing elves were seen?
Take a guided tour or explore the castle through the Timeline exhibition, which illustratively presents the history of Turku Castle.
4Wäinö Aaltonen Museum
Occasionally, passers-by look up to see the statue of Paavo Nurmi greet them as they pass from the Auransilta Bridge to the riverside along Itäinen Rantakatu. The landmark is a reminder of its designer, the most famous sculptor of his day, Wäinö Aaltonen. Continue his story on the same street to the Wäinö Aaltonen Museum, where Aaltonen’s four-metre tall Finnish mermaid in the lobby welcomes you.
The artist himself participated in the design of the museum building, complete in 1967, making the building a literal work of art. The spaces have different looks and feels. Inside, you will see works from the main collection donated by Aaltonen, as well as temporary exhibitions of contemporary art – explore out the current programme online.
5Turku Art Museum
Inside Turku Art Museum’s stunning granite-stone castle, let yourself be absorbed by paintings from national treasures Schjerfbeck and Gallen-Kallelan, as well as by the unrestricted nature of contemporary art. During the public tours on Sundays, expert guides take you deeper into the exhibition backgrounds, helping you to look at things from new perspectives.
In the museum’s Café Victor, service comes on porcelain plates, creating an old-world atmosphere. In the café’s cosy milieu, you can also enjoy concerts and other social events. Both the events as well as the exhibitions are best explored online.
6 Phramcy Museum and Qwensel House
Located on the River Aura riverside, an old red-ochre building is easily missed if walking past unaware of the treasures hiding within. If well informed, then step inside and into another world. Qwensel House is a presentation of gentry life, with a story that begins in the 17th Century. In another part of the building, the Pharmacy Museum introduces the history of the pharmacy business. The artefacts on display fascinate the imagination, from herbs hanging from the roof to frogs preserved in glass jars.
The quaint Cafe Qwensel operates in the small courtyard, where a coffee break will feel like a leap back in time. Wonderfully idyllic and highly recommended.
7St Michael’s Church
Completed in 1904, the majestic design of the church’s national romantic style is truly awe-inspiring. The idea for these palatial, neogothic towers was conceived on the drawing board of 20-something architect Lars Sonck, and constructed on the boundary between central Turku and the Portsa area of wooden homes.
You’ll discover a more intimate atmosphere in two smaller Turku churches, which may not be easy to find. The first, St Catherine’s Church, is a medieval chapel in the middle of Turku’s student village. The other, St Martin’s Church in the Martin neighbourhood, represents the 1930’s stylistic transition from classical to functionalism, as well as a piece of Italy in Turku!
8Forum Marinum Musuem Ships
The Suomen Joutsen is a Turku icon, whose rightful place on the shores of the River Aura has taken some twists and turns. But no longer, as the historic frigate is now in the eyes of most, pictured in the foreground of Maritime Centre Forum Marinum.
Other ships moored to the River Aura alongside the Suomen Joutsen, include the mining ship Keihässalmi as well as the gunboat Karjala. Among the museum ships are smaller and more specialised vessels, such as a 19th Century steam-powered tugboat as well as police and ambulance boats from the 1900’s. And that’s not all – for an appetiser of Forum Marinum’s diverse fleet of museum ships, as well as their whereabouts, visit:
Named after the great Finnish composer, the museum operates from a house designed by Woldemar Baeckman, the modern concrete architecture of which contrasts with the historic milieu of the surrounding neighbourhood.
Inside the museum, you can get to know the life and works of Jean Sibelius, as well as the world of music more generally. Among other things, the exhibitions present different groups of instruments as well as the history of music appreciation.
In 1925, Turku businessman Alfred Jacobsson and his wife Hélène Jacobsson prepared a will, in which they specified that their home be preserved as a museum after their deaths. And so it came to be, and now the home of the Jacobsson’s is a detailed museum to the spirit a bygone world operating in the lovely time warp on Piispankatu Street.
The Ett Hem museum’s splendidly wealthy artefacts and details of a bourgeoisie milieu is open to visitors in summer and at Christmas time as well as for groups upon reservation. Also, have a look through the museum’s different guided themed tours.