Turku - unique spots and hidden gems
In Turku, it’s easy to dive right in and go with the flow. However, before you jump head first into the River Aura, have a look at some of the favourite places loved by locals, as well as the lesser-known stars hiding down side streets and round corners. Be the first to discover the place on everyone's lips a year from now.
Turku. Believe it or not - there’s more than just a castle!
Turku is full of boutiques, second hand shops and restaurants, known and owned by locals, as well as positively secret streets and cafes. So, not just the main and obvious attractions but also delightfully different, somewhat special places.
These might not be so often seen in the insta-feeds of Turku locals, but we are predicting this will change. Discover these hidden gems and explore a different side of Turku.
In the 20th century, Turku was the most stylish city in Finland, with the shops of Stockholm just a short trip away. Nowadays, there’s another reason. So don’t leave your next visit any longer, and throw yourself into Turku's thriving second-hand scene. And prices are sure to pleasantly surprise any big city guest.
Best from the past - Are you hunting for vintage treasures? Housed in a rugged courtyard environment, this boutique offers vintage clothing from different decades as well as absolutely wonderful customer service.
Maanantaimarket - This boutique is a pastel-toned daydream. In addition to finds of recycled clothing, you’ll also unearth wonderful paper products and Maanantai-designed earrings. Or just go there to sip a coffee or tea and enjoy the vibe.
Second Hand & Cafe Ilona - Recycled treasures and café delicacies under one roof. Here you can treat your feet with hardly-used designer shoes, or be nice to your belly with some Belgian waffles.
Merkitys 2nd Hand Shop - A stylish boutique of recycled clothing, shoes and accessories, on whose rails you might find something special for men as well. The selection of their own colourful jewelry is a speciality.
Ecolocal Market - A delightful blend of the best local brands and quality second hand bargains. A very ecological way of doing things, as clothes can also be loaned from the Clothing Tree - a tip for those searching for a summer party dress.
Dirty Hippies Second Hand & Lifestyle - A perfect partnership of recycled clothes, shoes and accessories as well as unadulterated, natural cosmetics, home decor & cleaning products. Plus - there’s a laid-back mood and lovely owners!
Luostarinmäki - The area of wooden homes that survived the great fire of Turku, is both charming and fittingly old. Take a leap back to the 19th century and stop to enjoy a moment in time through the alleys, courtyards and homes of Luostarinmäki.
Pharmacy Museum and Qwensel House - Interior design, as a skill, is nothing new. The Rococo and Gustavian styles of Qwensel House may well be tomorrow’s trend, who knows. Come and be inspired! The medicinal drugs may be long gone but there’s lots to discover under the roof of the Pharmacy Museum.
COFFEE TIP: In the courtyard of the Pharmacy Museum awaits the best kept secret in the city, Café Qwensel. Sit down and enjoy the treats you forgot how much you missed. There’s nothing like a decent pot of coffee from a tiny porcelain cup.
Medieval Main Street - Congratulations! You’ve discovered the oldest part of Turku. The Medieval Main Street represents the middle ages trend for narrow streets, and is conveniently sheltered, so take a selfie. Captured in the background is a flush of colourful old walls and the artisan’s warehouse shops - well worth a peek inside.
TIP: Adventure through the courtyards and alleys of the deliciously coloured buildings. In the maze of old stores, feed your hunger both for culture and food.
Kirkkopuisto Terrace - At last it’s open! Last summer this city terrace roared into life, and will continue this year as well. The Kirkkopuisto terrace is not only a cordoned-off area for a touch of liquid refreshment, but in the delightful shadow of the Cathedral park with views of the River Aura, the terrace also offers some of the best local food, drink and atmosphere. Gatherings, afterwork drinks or something else, this vibrant intersection is appropriately on route and impossible to pass by.
Piispankatu - Those in the know, know that in front of the Cathedral it’s worthwhile to carry on up along Piispankatu street to the picturesque but lesser-known side of Turku. Follow the yellow buildings, pop into the cafes, peek into the courtyards - soon you’ll be in Tuomaanpuisto park, where you can stop for a picnic. The start of the route is marked by a grand old tree behind the Sibelius Museum, known as ‘Kalm’s oak’, after Pehr Kalm. Not without good reason was this area chosen as District of the Year 2021.
TIP: Follow the River Aura, you can't get lost. Come back from Tuomaanpuisto by the Jokipuisto Park or cross to the other side of the river over the Tuomaansilta Bridge and walk along the wooden, pier-like path back to the city. You’ll come across some tempting views, perfect for a picture or two (or a dozen).
Portsa - an area of wooden homes - The classic, bohemian milieu of Portsa is only a stone's throw from the city, a place where many would like to live (though not everyone would admit it). See for yourself and fall in love.
Kakola - In the past, Kakolanmäki was not a place one would voluntarily venture but now it’s a priority target (especially if the legendary funicular kicks back into action). The area was once the home to the city prison, and now the imposing but handsome granite buildings are accompanied by great views of the River Aura, the archipelago and the delightful Portsa. The great surroundings are complimented by a coffee roastery, a small brewery, a sourdough bakery, an interior design shop, a couple of amazing restaurants and the stunning prison hotel Kakola.
COFFEE & CULTURE: Would you like a cup of coffee from a prison tin mug? Well then, head to the Cafe Kakola summer cafe, located in the house of the former prison warden. And the cafe menu has definitely improved since those prison days, with the signature Kakola cake so good, it’s criminal. Whilst there, explore the fascinating photo and artefact exhibition of the Kakolanmäki Museum, which reveals the everyday life for Kakola's former prisoners in a totally new way.
Vartiovuori - Along the river bank, the eye-catching observation tower peeking out from the hill, is an attraction to plan your day around. The top of the observation tower is truly rewarding. If you still have some breath left after climbing the trail to the top, then the amazing scenery will take the rest of it! Enjoy the old houses as you ascent, and head up the handsome stone stairway of Mustainveljestenkuja (Black Monk’s Way). Oh - and don’t forget the picnic lunch!
TIP: Stretch your stay for a couple of nights and adventure through the scattered island landscape that lies in front of Turku. The archipelago is truly unique, and a place that Turku locals justifiably consider to be the most beautiful in the world. Find out for yourself if it's true!
Titanik - It’s a short leap from the riverbank to the city’s oldest contemporary art gallery, which has remained afloat since 1988. Experimentation and non-commercialism are the key values this gallery upholds. The premises of the former public toilet serve as the setting for other creative activities.
Gallery Joella - Another stop for an art fan on the other side of the river. Hosting a bounty of visual art, especially graphic art (i.e. images made using printing plates). Take a unique work home or as a gift.
Taidehalli - Intriguing contemporary art in the Old Town Hall. This visual arts centre is maintained by the Turku Artists' Association and Photography Centre Perin. There’s also a service from which to loan works of art, so there is no need to leave here empty-handed.
Ruissalo’s Maininki - You know the name sounds familiar but you can’t think from where? The answer is Netflix! The traditional restaurant of the Turku Yacht Club was renovated in 2020 before the eyes of the whole world. Now the wonderfully relaxed venue serves food, free of formalities. Go and try the fish of the day!
Oobu - Enjoy the River Aura scenery and delicious archipelago food at the grand Bassi house, in the middle of Turku. Whilst there, try at least three of Oobu’s classic dishes: smoked salmon soup, toast skagen and smoked salmon salad - these will get you off to a great start. In addition, you can nose through a menu that includes fish, lamb and vegetable delicacies. Delicious
Karu - On Aurakatu street, it’s only a short hop across to Asia, when you step through the door of Karu into a world of Japanese cuisine. Meat, seafood, vegetables and sushi with a modern twist. There’s even the chance to try the dishes of other diners. Social dining is a great invention - especially when the choice is this good!
Roster - Close by Turku Cathedral, this social spot offers tastes of the world. The best ingredients, high-class chefs and a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere - an altogether great dining experience. Head there for lunch or drinks, you may easily hang around til dinner.
Blanko - Their classic lamb pasta sits atop a menu full of other wonderful dishes. Tickle your tastebuds at this renowned restaurant by the Aurasilta Bridge. Under the cozy brick vaults, explore a menu that offers the perfect blend of different food cultures.
Tintå - A place you simply mustn't miss! In front of the yellow stone house by the River Aura, is a terrace always full of contented Turku locals - so why don’t you join them. A European riverside atmosphere, a choice of more than a hundred wines, a high-quality menu together with gourmet pizzas, are such a classic combo.
Kuori - The vegetarian dishes of this restaurant on Hämeenkatu street include imaginative combinations of Asian fusion and local seasonal delicacies. Falafel bar, colourful salads, steamed bao buns - you’ll be in a hurry to taste them all!
TIP: Through Visit Turku, it’s possible to book a private tasting tour of Turku's most delicious restaurants, as well as a guided walking tour for your group.
All Kiss my Turku tours can be found here in the online shop:
Kiss my Turku online shop
THE PERFECT PROPOSAL: With so much of everything to do, a night’s stay is a likely possibility. Hit the hay in the centre of Turku at the Solo Sokos Hotel Turku Seurahuone, whose modernist rooms, brought into the present from their original 1920s style, make you sigh with delight.
Text Heidi Lajunen. Video Kim Allen-Mersh. Photos Terri Vahtera, Kim Allen-Mersh and Visit Turku.
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