While the spotlight has illuminated Helsinki for the past few years – this city was not always the Finnish capital – all attention now turns to the newly appointed European Capital of Culture: Turku, Finland’s oldest city.
So if you want to know what all the fuss is about and why you should book Turku hostels for a city break to this exciting and hotly-tipped destination, read on…
5 Reasons to visit Turku
1. Quirky Buildings
The town hall in Vanha Suurtori (Old Great Square) now houses arty shops and the chilled out Book Cafe. St Henry’s Ecumenical Art Chapel is one of the most applauded pieces of modern architecture in Scandinavia. Built in 2005, the structure resembles an ordinary village church, yet at the same time resembles an upturned boat. The Puutorin Vessa (N of Aurajoki) proudly claims to be the first public toilet officially authorised to sell alcohol. Watch out for lavatory events such as jazz and acoustic nights. There is also a converted bank ( Old Bank, Aurakatu 3) and a former school (Koulu, Eerinkatu 18) now pulling pints on the premises.
2. University Buzz
Turku University gives this city its flair. The large student population means there is always something going on. Humalistonkatu is a bustling street with good bars to hop to and from. Alternatively, catch on of the annual music festivals including the Turku Music Festival, Ruisrock and Down by the Laituri, which is Northern Europe’s largest electronic festival.
3. Summer Living is Eeeasy
As the summer months bring the warmer weather, the river Aura starts to stir too. Floating bars and restaurants make the riverside a hub of activity both day and night. Summer is also the time to take to the water. The Turku archipelago is on your doorstep and is one of the most spectacular sights in Finland. Spend your days floating between the many thousands of islands or hop on a bike and explore dry land.
4. Art & Design
The city’s shiny new Capital of Culture status pull in some big exhibitions, but Turku has always been a creative centre. Turku Art Museum sits within parkland atop a hill lovers of Nordic design will enjoy browsing Marimekko and Artek creations in the boutiques of the main square.
5. Capital of Culture 2011
Head to Logomo, a former engineering workshop in the heart of the old industrial shipbuilding area. The venue will hold major concerts, exhibitions and will be the centre for all Capital of Culture operations. Exciting events include the Abduction of Europe, a performance to be held in an outdoor Turk swimming pool and presented by puppetry students at the Arts Academy at Turku University. Also check out the River Aura Pavilion – the winning construction in an architecture competition – which will host Capital of Culture events in the summer.
Turku Weather: It may lie on the Baltic coast but the city is sheltered by the archipelago islands. Turku in summer experiences temperatures up to 22° and cold winters guarantee snowfall with temperatures dropping to -8°. May is the driest month, and August the wettest.
Turku Transport: The Turku port is busy with ferries operating between the rest of Finland and Sweden. There is a Stockholm Turku ferry and the express Helsinki Turku train takes about 2 hours. Bus 32 ferries visitors between the town centre and the main train station.
From Turku airport take bus no. 1 in to the town centre. All bus tickets cost €2 for a 2-hour ticket or €4.50 for a 24-hour ticket
Where to Stay: Situated next to the river Aura, HI Hostel Turku is a short walk from the city centre. It has two self-catering kitchens, ideal for backpackers or families who don’t want to pay for three meals out a day. You can rent bicycles or bus no. 1 stops nearby which can take you to Turku airport, the market place and Turku port. The 6 or 8-bed dorm rooms have sturdy wooden bunks and guests who bring their own padlock can use a personal locker. Travellers can opt to stay in mixed or single-sex dorms but this Turku hostel also offers private twin or quad rooms for €18 per person per night.
Images courtesy of Turku European Capital of Culture 2011.
Check out Tallinn Estonia: Capital of Culture 2011 no.2 also jam-packed with exciting events and a top budget destination!