Turku museums x 13

Journey in time to old Turku, tour the art museums and immerse yourself in the history of naval warfare. These are attractions that even the littlest ones will love.

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1Turku Biological Museum

When entering the Turku Biological Museum, you won’t yet realise the engaging expedition of exploration that’s in store.

Opened in 1907, the museum displays 13 different dioramas, or built natural landscapes, that introduce you to Finland's flora and fauna. Under one roof, adventure through each season and spot all the species of animal, from the graceful cranes to the grand and dignified bear.

Best of all, the realistic scenery means that even through glass, the soft of animal fur, the bracing sea cliffs and the thick swamps are easy to imagine. A bit like a nature programme, only in 3D.

2Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova

Turku is truly an exceptional place, where city centre excavations easily become the headquarters of archaeological operations. This was the case in the 1990’s, when Rettig Palace began its transformation into an art museum. What emerged was more than art, with the museum adopting a fantastic dual-purpose. In this museum of history and contemporary art, the old and the new combine playfully under one roof.

Aboa Vetus is Finland’s only archaeological museum, where the original excavated ruins of Medieval Turku touch the surface of what daily life was like long ago in Turku. It's a place where curiosity and investigation are permitted! On the other hand, Ars Nova’s art exhibitions paint the very different world of contemporary art. Also part of the same complex are M Kitchen & Café and the superb museum shop.

In the summer, archaeological excavations can be explored in the museum's courtyard, and guided tours and children's tours are exhibited daily.

3Forum Marinum

There really is no better location for a specialist maritime museum, with the Suomen Joutsen by its side and the Port of Turku a stone’s throw away, there’s no need to deviate far to explore a wealth of maritime history.

Operating from within the super stylish premises of an old brick warehouse, even the most hardened landlubber will be absorbed by the tar-scented atmosphere of Forum Marinum. Authentic audio and black and white pictures present a life that many are unaware of. A peek into the history of naval conflict will at the very least arose some emotions.

Other ships moored to the River Aura alongside the Suomen Joutsen, include the mining ship Keihässalmi as well as the gunboat Karjala. For an appetiser of Forum Marinum’s diverse fleet of museum ships, as well as their whereabouts, visit: 

4Luostarinmäki 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. 

5Ett Hem

Located on Piispankatu Street is the Ett Hem home museum of former businessman Alfred Jacobsson and his wife Hélène. Dating from the 1800’s and 1900’s, the bourgeois home details the interiors of a bygone era.

The museum’s selection of artefacts contains something to interest everyone; pieces of art, antiques and furniture. The museum opens for visitors in summer and over the Christmas period, as well as for groups on special request. Visitors to the museum can join one of a variety of themed tours, whilst the children’s guided tour takes them on a journey in time.

6Sibelius Museum

Named after the great Finnish composer, the museum operates from a building 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.

7Wäinö Aaltonen Museum

Current exhibitions:
HC Berg 7th June – 22nd September 2019
When is Now 11th October – 19th January 2020

​​​​​​​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.

8Kylämäki Village

The Kylämäki Village in Kurala presents more than one historical era in same attraction. The north slope of Kylämäki is the location for an Iron-Age cemetery dating from the 7th Century, whilst in the Iso-Kohmo house you can see what a 1950’s farm used to look like. Unlike many other museums, here you’re actually encouraged to touch and explore the artefacts! 

Roaming the courtyard you’ll find farm animals, which have lived in Kylämäki since the 1950’s, including horses, sheep and chickens. The atmosphere is fantastic and so is picnicking outside, but you’ll also find a café in the village.

9Turku Art Museum

Current exhibitions: Emil Nolde 4th October 2019 – 5th January 2020

​​​​​​​Just the sight of the granite-stone castle atop Puolalanmäki hill gives a promising indication of the treasures inside. Turku Art Museum is a national treasure and a jewel of the city, where, in alternating exhibitions of collected works, visitors can spot the brushstrokes of Helene Schjerfbeck or Akseli Gallen-Kallelan.

The museum presents temporary exhibitions from the classics to contemporary art, with an up-to-date programme found on the website. On Sundays, deeper background to the exhibitions is available through a guide, whilst families with children will be pleased with the Pikkuli-mobile app. Take a seat in the museum’s super-lovely Café Victor, and enjoy the charming porcelain and warm service.

10Pharmacy 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.

11Turku Castle

Current exhibitions: A Few Words About Women until 8th March 2020

​​​​​​​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.

12Turku Cathedral

In Turku, there are two buildings with a history that dates back to the 1200’s. One of these is Turku Castle, and the other is Turku Cathedral. 

Turku Cathedral was consecrated in 1300 and is still today both the national shrine of Finland as well as the location of a thriving home to Our Lord. In addition, it is also a compact representation of Turku’s history and the oldest building in Finland, where under the floor and in the chapel rests the prominent figures of Knut Posse and Karin Månsdotter. In the southern gallery is a dedicated cathedral museum, which details its history back to the Middle Ages. 

13St 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!

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