The Aura Riverside – Turku’s Living Room
The River Aura and the existence of Turku are inseparable. The river is even reflected in the city's Swedish name: Åbo, which means to live beside the river.
Turku’s centre originated on the eastern shore of the Aura, a fact any Turku local is quick to point out. You’ll often hear whether something is from "this side " or "the other side " of the river. The older eastern side (the side where Turku Cathedral stands) is "this side", whilst the newer, western side is "the other side".
The River Aura is the heart and soul of Turku. At its estuary, the oldest city of Finland began to grow way back in the early 13th century. 800 years of urban history has not diminished the importance of the river in Turku's cityscape. Quite the contrary, as today the riverbank is known as a lively meeting place for locals. If you want to meet some of these “Åboriginals” during your stay, simply walk along the riverside to find the people of Turku, relaxing in their other living room.
A walk along the waterside is the best way to get to know the River Aura and its surroundings. A casual stroll for a few hours from the cathedral to Turku Castle gives a great overview of Turku's cityscape, its history and the city’s present day. Along the way there are many interesting museums as well as an array of wonderful restaurants and cafés. It is not without merit that Turku has become known as a gastronomic paradise. The riverboats that serve as restaurants are also a renowned Turku speciality, found lining the riverside all the way down to Föri, the city ferry.
Along with the cathedral and Turku Castle, the quaint little Föri ferry is one of Turku's most distinctive landmarks. Set sail on a ten-minute journey from shore to shore, admiring the scenery during the trip and working out which side of the city is Turku and which is Åbo. Take as long as you need to decide, the ride is without charge! Next to Föri, another famous Turku vehicle, the Funicular, now takes you up the hill of Kakolanmäki. Funi, as it’s affectionately known, is another free mode of transport that’s well worth a test drive.
If you’re still at a loss to know which is “this side” and which is “the other”, here's a handy summary. On the River Aura’s eastern bank is located the Turku Cathedral, as well as the University of Turku, Åbo Akademi University and the Old Great Square, on the edge of which stands the magnificent Brinkkala Mansion. Located on the more modern shore (i.e. “the other side”), is Turku Castle, the modern-day city centre with its marketplaces and indoor shopping centres, as well as the idyllic Vähätori Square, flanked by the impressive Turku City Library.
Top tip: If the idea of a walk doesn’t excite you, pop down to Låna on the shores of Vähätori Square, and cruise down the river in an electric picnic boat for hire. Of course, the sights and experiences are not limited to the area between Turku Castle and the cathedral! The idyllic landscape also extends upstream past the cathedral, so it’s no bad idea to go in the other direction up to Koroinen Cross, Halistenkoski rapids and Kylämäki Village.
Text Maija Ryyppö. Photos Pekka Vallila.
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