During my trip to Finland, the city of Turku was one of the biggest surprises. Had I known more before visiting, I would have spent more than just 24 hours there. Here are a few things you should know about Helsinki.
Turku is about two hours via train from Helsinki. It’s a nice trip through a very green countryside. The train delivers passengers to a station just a short walk from Turku’s city center. The center is very walkable. You’ll only need to take a bus if you’re headed far from the downtown.
Why to Go
During the summer, Turku is as lively a city as you’ll see. It plays host to Ruisrock, which is Europe’s second-oldest musical festival. Acts will range from rap to heavy metal, and they’ll come from all over the globe. In 2012, visitors could watch everything from Snoop Dogg to Children of Bodom. The festival makes hotel rooms scarce and expensive, so book far ahead.
Aside from that, Turku is one of Finland’s warmer cities. The city center has a farmer’s market, and people seem to be shopping and dining outdoors late into the night. The Aura River cuts through the city; ships turned into restaurants line the river, along with walking and running paths. The Forum Marinum maritime museum reflects Turku’s nautical influence (it’s where many of the world’s largest cruise ships are built). It’s worth a few hours; my favorite exhibit was the Nordic rescue car.
Somehow I missed the Flowpark; I love aerial obstacle courses, and it sounds like this one just a short walk from the City Centre would’ve been worth a few extra hours before catching a train back to Helsinki.
Eating and Accommodation
With the expense and scarcity of hotel rooms, I stayed at a convent, of all places. The Bridgettine Convent Guesthouse. It’s also a short walk from the train station. The rooms are plain but clean, and the sub-$100 rate included breakfast.
One thing disappointed me about Turku, and Finland in general: the food. I’d hoped Finland would be in the middle of a rebirth of interest in its traditional foods. But it seems Finns have co-opted the kebab as its national food. Middle Eastern, Asian and Indian fare is easy to find. But just try finding sahti (pronounced “sockh-tea”, it’s a beer-like beverage made with juniper branches) or some reindeer. Maybe the Finns consider it provincial and would rather go more exotic. At Panimoravintola Koulu, a brewpub set in a former school, you’ll find an extensive menu and house-made beers. I preferred the more international and adventurous beer selection at Alvar.