Turku’s unique spots and hidden gems
Most visitors come to Turku with a bucket list in hand. They’ve got their sights set on wandering the medieval halls of Turku Castle, not to mention indulging in all the delicacies on offer in the Turku Market Hall, and exploring Turku Cathedral, the nation’s most important religious building. But if you’re looking for a more unique experience, we’ve got the inside scoop on some much-loved local favourites that you’ll want to add to your list.
Turku is full of vintage stores, galleries, and restaurants, owned and beloved by locals. In fact, right across the city, there are delightfully different places just waiting to be discovered. Find out more about these hidden gems here and see a new side of Turku.
Turku has a thriving second-hand scene, led by eco-conscious locals looking to make a difference. You’re sure to unearth some treasures when you visit these six stores.
Best from the past – Found in a rugged-looking courtyard, this boutique offers a wide range of vintage clothing from different decades, plus fabulous customer service.
Maanantaimarket – As well as recycled clothing, you can pick up some wonderful paper products and Maanantai-designed earrings, or just sip a coffee and daydream in the pastel-toned atmosphere.
Merkitys 2nd Hand Shop – At this stylish boutique of recycled clothing, shoes, and accessories, you’ll find something special for men and women. Merkitys also has a selection of their own colourful jewellery for sale.
Ecolocal Market – This boutique is a delightful blend of the best local brands and quality second-hand bargains. And if you find yourself in sudden need of a party dress, you can borrow one from the Clothing Tree!
Dirty Hippies Secondhand & Lifestyle – You’ll discover a perfect partnership of recycled clothes, shoes, and accessories here as well as natural cosmetics, home décor, and cleaning products. Plus, there’s a laid-back mood and lovely owners!
Päivitetyt – Situated right in the heart of the city, this boutique has a wide range of vintage clothing. If you want to hop on their bandwagon to bring the Finnish capital back to Southwest Finland, you can pick up a t-shirt or hat with the slogan, ‘Make Turku capital again’.
Turku Castle is a must, of course, but these unsung attractions are also worth exploring.
Monastery Avenue – Looking for the old part of Turku? It doesn’t get much older than Monastery Avenue. Feed your hunger for culture and food, as you wander through this maze of deliciously colourful buildings.
Kirkkopuisto Terrace – Enjoy the best of the old and the new at Kirkkopuisto Terrace, an outdoor feast for the taste buds that lasts all summer long. It’s right in front of the Turku Cathedral, so you can experience this pop-up celebration of food, drink, and music, while you admire a building that’s been around since the 1300s.
Piispankatu Street – Walk down the stairs of Turku Cathedral, turn right, and continue along Piispankatu Street. Here, you’ll find a treasure trove of picturesque buildings, charming cafés, and secret courtyards. Wander down to Tuomaanpuisto Park, where you can stop for a picnic, and return by Jokipuisto Park. You can also cross over to the other side of the Aura River via the Tuomaansilta Bridge, and walk back to the city along the wooden, pier-like path. Stick close to the Aura River and it’s almost impossible to get lost.
Luostarinmäki – Journey back to the 19th century and explore the charming alleys, courtyards, and homes of Luostarinmäki. It’s an incredibly unique part of the city; it survived the Great Fire of Turku in 1827 and it’s been untouched by time.
Pharmacy Museum and Qwensel House – Be inspired by the Rococo and Gustavian styles of Qwensel House, while you learn about the history of medicine, ailments, and health in the Pharmacy Museum. The courtyard here holds the best-kept secret in the city: Café Qwensel. This gorgeous café proves that there is nothing like a decent pot of coffee drunk from a tiny porcelain cup.
Turku is filled with sights and attractions, which you can enjoy at zero cost. Why not wander through these Insta-worthy neighbourhoods or enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the city from the top of a nearby hill?
Port Arthur – Known as Portsa to locals, this much-loved neighbourhood is only a stone’s throw from the city. It’s filled with wooden homes as well as a bohemian vibe, perfect for a stroll on a lazy afternoon.
Kakola – Close to Portsa, you’ll find Kakola. It’s here that the city prison once stood, but the imposing granite complex is now home to a brewery, bakery, and design store as well as the stunning Hotel Kakola.
Vartiovuori – Look up from the banks of the Aura River, and you’ll catch a glimpse of Vartiovuori Observatory. It’s a beautiful neoclassical building, found right on top of the hill, and the view is truly breathtaking. The trail to the top will take you past some striking buildings as well as a dramatic stone staircase known as Mustainveljestenkuja Way (Black Monks’ Way). It was named after the Brotherhood of St Olaf’s Dominican Monastery, who wore black caps.
Kunsthalle Turku – Run by the Turku Artists’ Association and the Photographic Centre Peri, Kunsthalle puts on public exhibitions featuring intriguing contemporary art. It’s found inside the Old Town Hall, right in the medieval part of the city.
Makasiini Contemporary – Tucked behind the Turku Cathedral is Makasiini Contemporary, a fresh new face in Turku’s art world. It’s housed in an 1830s building, which was once (among other things) a stable for the governor’s horses and carriages.
Ruissalo’s Maininki – Did you catch the 2020 version of Restaurants on the edge on Netflix? You might have caught a glimpse of this traditional restaurant as it was renovated before the eyes of the world. Now this wonderfully relaxed venue serves up delicious dishes, free of formalities.
Oobu – Savour the Aura River scenery and the archipelago-inspired food at Oobu, a new restaurant in the middle of Turku. Try Oobu’s classic smoked salmon soup or take your pick from any of the fish, meat, and vegetable delicacies on offer.
Karu – Step through the doors of Karu and into a world of Japanese cuisine. Taking inspiration from the Izakaya tradition of shared dishes, Karu prepares meat, seafood, vegetables, and sushi with a modern twist.
Roster – Found close to Turku Cathedral, Roster combines first-rate ingredients, high-class chefs, and a relaxed atmosphere for an all-round great dining experience. If you drop by for lunch or drinks, you might find yourself staying for dinner!
Blanko – Tickle your taste buds at this renowned restaurant right by the Auransilta Bridge. Beneath the cosy brick vaults, you can explore a fusion-inspired menu that offers a tasty lamb pasta as well as other wonderful dishes.
Tintå – You’re sure to notice the terrace in front of Tintå as you stroll along the Aura River, it’s always packed with contented Turku locals! Enjoy the European riverside atmosphere, fantastic wine selection, and a high-quality menu featuring gourmet pizzas.
Kuori – The vegetarian dishes of this popular restaurant on Hämeenkatu Street feature imaginative combinations of Asian fusion and local seasonal delicacies. Try the falafel bar, colourful salads, and steamed bao buns!
Tip! Book a private tasting tour of Turku’s most delicious restaurants as well as a guided walking tour for your group through Visit Turku. Check out the Kiss My Turku online shop and the different tastes of Turku on offer like the Turku Food Walk card and the Mysterious Turku walking tour.
The cherry on top: Of course, you’ll need somewhere to stay, so that you can cross off everything on your list! Why not hit the hay at the Solo Sokos Hotel Turun Seurahuone? It’s right in the centre of Turku, and the combination of modern rooms and 1920s style will 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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