Hidden gems and little-known Turku tips

NO DOUBT YOU HAVE A FRIEND WHO ALWAYS FINDS THE BEST PHOTO SPOTS, RESTAURANTS AND EVENTS BEFORE ANYONE ELSE. IN TURKU, IT’S EASY TO BE THAT PERSON. SO EXPLORE BELOW, COME TO TURKU AND UPDATE YOUR STATUS TO “PIONEER”.

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Turku is a place just full of surprises! You’re sure to know about the castle and the River Aura, but Finland's oldest city also has plenty on offer under the counter, from fascinating neighborhoods to original tastes and hipster happenings. Shaken or stirred - enjoy the city however you like it.

We encourage you to peek around the corner and venture down the side streets to where you’ll discover the favourite spots of the locals and lesser-known places hiding away.

Turku's hottest neighbourhoods

So where would a Turku local hang their hat and live if there were no restrictions? Martti is mentioned. And Kakola catches the eye. Naturally, Portsa jumps to the top of the list. Many view these as Turku’s trendiest neighbourhoods - but what’s your opinion?

Those that live in Martti, Kakola and Portsa really rave about their small corner of the world. Here is where we reveal why you should pay a visit to this trendy trio. Health warning! Readers may experience acute travel or relocation fever.

Martti has all that you need

A delightful walk from the centre of Turku, the district of Martti is built around the Martinkirkko Church, named after reformist Martin Luther. The district of Martti roughly begins where the Föri ferry crashes into the dock on the south side of the river. The former worker’s district is now a sparkling display of pastel wooden houses and 1950s high-rise apartment buildings.

Try this: from Martinsilta bridge, keep the white tower of the Martinkirkko Church on your right, and stroll up Martinkatu street. The smell and tastes float from several nice restaurants and terraces along the way, from sushi to classic steaks. Those that live in Martti rave about the special spirit of the neighbourhood as something that never leaves you, and for some Martti locals, the postcode is a badge of honour.

Top Tip: Keep an eye out for locals passing by the edge of Martti up to the hidden Samppalinna swimming pool. Samppis is no secret but the charming outdoor summer oasis is easily overlooked. You can also work up a sweat running alongside the Martti district at the Turku Sports Park! Beach volleyball, frisbee golf or sprints at Paavo Nurmi Stadium - is your heart racing yet?

By ferry and funicular to Kakolanmäki

Combine the old and new of Turku transportation by heading across the River Aura from Martti and up the city’s notoriously stylish hill. Kakolanmäki is a place where prisoners used to ‘do porridge’, and now you can enjoy signature cake in the delightful restaurants. Do some time on the terrace and wonder how the old prison was transformed from a rough fortress into a stylish residential area.

The area also has a sourdough bakery, a coffee roastery, a small brewery and a host of instagrammable picture locations - don’t miss the view from the rugged prison wall down to the riverside.

Bohemian Port Arthur - a former sailor’s quarter

It’s quite a contrast when you move from Kakolanmäki to the wooden homes and narrow alleys of the adjacent Portsa. The cobblestones of many of Portsa’s streets are like a time machine, and 30 years ago your own slice of Portsa was much cheaper to achieve. Back then in the early 80’s, not all apartments had their own indoor toilet!

Imagine having coffee in the delightful little courtyard of a 100-year-old wooden house. It doesn’t have to be a fantasy. Ask the Portsa residents about it or experience it for yourself at Portsa's traditional garden markets in August. All this is made possible due to the strong Portsa community. In addition to garden markets, the neighbourhood opens up for other events - our thanks to the people of Portsa for being so welcoming.

Top Tip: Rising up at the edge of Portsa is Mikaelinkirkko Church, visible from a distance but well worth getting up close and taking your time to enjoy. The neo-Gothic splendor is a wonderful experience.

Turku’s sweetest and most secret flavours

When someone says ‘Turku’ to people in Finland, mouths begin to water. It’s little wonder when a quick glance reveals a city bursting with great restaurants and cafés, some of which you must seek from those in the know!

Restaurant Mami – Umami and the other four basic flavours are in a rare delicious balance in the dishes at Mami. Unsurprisingly, Vähätori's terrace is packed at lunchtime as diners come for the skilfully-crafted but unpretentious local food. An absolute Turku classic, in our humble opinion. A wonderful evening atmosphere and a changing menu that includes fish and meat.

Café Qwensel – The unhurried milieu of this 18th-century café offers a truly fresh and welcoming contrast to the modern world outside. When was the last time you drank pan-brewed coffee from cute porcelain cups? Our top suggestion is to sit down with a piece of cake and really take your time in Café Qwensel’s spacious courtyard.

Now that you’re here, use your other eye to gaze around Qwensel House. You never know, the Rococo and Gustavian style might one day rock the interior design world once again - at the very least, you can enjoy the oldest wooden house in Turku. Under the same roof is the Pharmacy Museum, offering medicine for those longing for a little more of the past.

Kuori Food and Wine – Hämeenkatu street’s vegetarian delight serves up twists on local seasonal vegetables with the flavours of the world. Colourful salads, steamed Bao bun rolls and a lunchtime falafel bar are a winning attraction, whether you’re vegan, curious or a connoisseur. It’s sure to make you wonder, why can’t every day be Falafel Day?

Kuppis Rooftop Bar – From Kupittaa train station, you may be surprised to find a spot from where you can enjoy both the panoramic landscape of Turku, alongside great mocktails and cocktails. Just head nine floors up, sit down and stick your head in the clouds. Is this the best spot for a sunset picture?

Pre-excavated cultural tips

Aboa Vetus Ars Nova – Geometry, psychedelia, fractals - the exhibition spaces of Ars Nova are taken over by wild patterns as Amsterdam-based artist Kustaa Saksi comes to town. The works embrace themes of mythology and repetition, as well as a celebration of colour. Kustaa Saksi: AURA June 17th-October 9th, 2022

Kustaa Saksi / Mythology series exhibition. Photo: Jussi Puikkonen

Turku Kunsthalle – Tantalising contemporary art hides within the Old Town Hall. At the visual arts centre run by the Turku Artists' Association and the Photographic Centre Peri, see works from rising stars in the artistic sky or rent an inspiring piece for your home from the Art Loan Office.

Taiteen Talo – A cultural spark so hot it almost burns your fingers. In this new, multi-artistic cultural centre are the studios of 43 visual artists as well as being home to pop-up art events and courses. This common and inspiring meeting place for locals opened its doors on the 14th May, in the Old Town of Turku, in the premises of the former Rettig tobacco factory.

Luostarinmäki Museum Quarter – This city block of wooden houses that survived the Great Fire of Turku transports you back to the 1800s. Find the definitive answer to the question of whether things were better in the past. Step into the past as you explore Luostarinmäki’s alleys, courtyards and homes. Luostarinmäki opens on 18th June.

Next on the list of other delights

LUONKOS and FRIENDS eco-store – Handmade natural cosmetics in a cute showroom in the centre of Turku. Carefully crafted and sweetly packaged products are made in Naantali, based on the inspiration of ​​three women, in addition to a lot of collecting, cooking and love of herbs. Authentically local and natural cosmetics.

Flea Market Culture – In recent years, the flea market scene in Turku has seen a renaissance with boutiques flourishng to the delight of flea market goers. Secondhand treasures are yet another reason to come to Turku!

A pair of particularly nice hotels

Original Sokos Hotel Wiklund – Let your head rest on a pillow right in the heart of Turku, where roof terraces, restaurants, pampering and shopping are just a lift ride away. The recently renovated rooms have a few surprises, such as the transparent bathroom wall. Definitely something different from home!

Opening in Wiklund this summer is the European-style all day restaurant, Wine Bar Axel F - is it too early to make a reservation already? Of course, no trip to Turku would be complete without a bite at Hesburger? The great news is that Hesburger is also now under the same roof as Wiklund.

Solo Sokos Hotel Turun Seurahuone – 1920’s glamour in the heart of the city. The hotel is the perfect choice if you are looking for a) a stylish and cosy accommodation, b) a walking distance to the riverbank, c) an artisan breakfast, d) morning and evening sauna, e) eh, this place is too cute, see it for yourself!

Text by Heidi Lajunen. Video by Kim Allen-Mersh. Photos from Terri Vahtera, Visit Turku.

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