18 Best Things to Do in Turku – By a Local Guide!

Sunset view of the Turku Cathedral by the Aura River in Finland, with blooming cherry trees along the riverbank and a clear blue sky

Are you looking for the best things to do in Turku, Finland? Great, you came to the right place!

I lived in Turku during my University exchange days, so believe me when I tell you I have the BEST recommendations and hidden gems you cannot miss to make your days in the city a dream come true!

I gathered the best 18 things to do in Turku (also known as Åbo in Swedish), from historical sites, stunning nature, and fun festivals, so by the end of this article, you will have a full itinerary for your vacation!!

Stay until the end to uncover the best hotels in the area, and remember to book them in advance to get the best deals!

NOTE: If you are traveling around Finland or planning to visit most museums and attractions in Turku, I recommend you get the Museum Card. It costs €79 and lasts a year, and you can go to all the museums(in all Finland) and other attractions, including all the ones mentioned in this article. A great deal!

1. Travel back to the Middle Ages visiting Turku Castle

Aerial view of the historic Turku Castle at dusk, surrounded by lush greenery with the cityscape in the background

One of the most iconic things to do in Turku is visiting Turku Castle! It is located an easy 40-minute walk along the Aura River from the city center. The area where the castle is located is beautiful! You can access the gardens surrounding the castle for free, but there is a fee to go inside the castle.

This medieval castle was built in 1280 during the Swedish Kingdom times for the Swedish Royalty and served as a fortress since it is located at the end of the Aura River. Part of the castle had to be reconstructed after the Winter War with Russia between 1939 and 1940.

It is the largest surviving medieval building in Finland!

The Castle is huge, so there is a lot to explore and see, especially for those who want to learn about Finnish history and read all the historical information in every room! The place is actually big, so plan at least 2 hours to properly discover it!

By the way, apparently, there is a functioning church there, too, where you can get married!

PRO TIP: for some sick and panoramic views of the city, head to the west tower! From here, you can take the best Instagram pics and feel like a princess or a knight in the castle!

In this area, you have the Viking Line ferry terminals in case you are visiting Stockholm or Åland Island!

LOCAL TIP: If you visit during Vappu (May 1st), this garden area will be filled with students wearing overalls enjoying a picnic and drinking!

If you wish, you can book an insightful guided group tour of the castle that lasts about an hour to understand its rich history better! There are guided tours for adults and some dedicated to children, so pick accordingly! The entrance ticket and tour are paid separately.

You can check Turku Castle’s opening times and directions here.

CASTLE PRICE: from €14 per person
TOUR PRICE: from €80 per max of 25 person group

2. Visit Turku Cathedral – Finland’s oldest medieval basilica

Turku Cathedral against a clear blue sky in winter, flanked by bare trees with sunlight casting a warm glow on the brick façade

Turku is the oldest city in Finland and used to be the capital city of the country. This beautiful cathedral was, during the 13th century, the main cathedral in Finland and was the seat of the catholic bishop of the city.

Inside Turku Cathedral, on the second floor, there is a small museum (€2 entrance), and it showcases historical artifacts that will help you understand the cathedral’s history! The cathedral is located in the heart of the city, and if you visit in the summertime, in front of the cathedral, you can find nice food stands and live musicians playing almost daily!

Part of the Cathedral had to be rebuilt after the Great Fire of Turku. The fire took place in September 1827 and lasted around 18 hrs. Most of the city was destroyed since all the houses, including Turku Cathedral, were made of wood!

A lot of Swedish Royalty is buried in the church, for example, Queen consort Karin Månsdotter. In case you didn’t know, there is a big Swedish heritage in the city from the time they colonized Finland, and many Finns only speak Swedish.

PRICE: free

3. Try local food at Turku Market Hall & Turku Market Square

Vibrant Turku Market Square bustling with people shopping for flowers and produce, with the classical architecture of the Old Great Square in the background

Okay, so the Turku Market Hall and Turku Market Square Have different locations, and both are worth a visit!

So, on one hand, you have Turku Market Hall (map), which is an indoor market where you can get from fresh produce to traditional street food, and souvenirs. And then at Turku Market Square (map), which is outdoors, you can find fresh food, street food, and flowers.

Some traditional Finnish foods you can try here are Reindeer, meatballs, and Salmon Soup, which is typical of the country. Herkkunuotta in the market is known for this soup. Then you have Karelian pastries, which is a pastry with butter and potato or rice. You can also get cheese at Juustonpuoti. I recommend you get a cheese slider to do it like Finns do it!

LOCAL TIP: Buy a Posankka figure as a souvenir; this pink pigduck is the city’s mascot. There is a big sculpture a few minutes away from Aura River near the uni student housing (map)!

For those who like sweet things, try Munkki, a Finnish sugary donut, and depending on the time of the year, you can get a Runeberg Torte, which is usually made out of almonds which you can find everywhere in January and the beginning of February. And Laskiaispulla, which is a bun that comes with jam and whipped cream, NOM!

PRO TIP: If you want to have a fancy meal, make a reservation at Kaskis restaurant. You need to do it months in advance if you actually want to dine here! They have amazing traditional Finnish food.

PRO TIP 2: During December, you can visit and explore the Christmas Market in Turku Market Square! It is usually open from November until the 25th of December!

If you want to get a little taste of Turku by the hand of lovely locals, I recommend Turku Food Tours, which has tours all year round. You need to book it by email, and the minimum number of travelers for a tour is 4 people. If you have any food allergies, they will accommodate the tour according to your needs!

4. Relax along the Aura River

Scenic view of the Aura River in Turku, with riverside cafes and people strolling along the promenade on a sunny day

If I have to be completely honest with you, Aura River is one of the main characters of the city! There is nothing nicer than a relaxing stroll next to the Aura River. During the winter time you can get coffee to keep you warm during the walk in one of the many little food trucks by the river.

Did you know that in Finland, you can experience the Midnight Sun? During the summer, you have long summer days. Up North, the sun never sets, and during the wintertime, sometimes you don’t get any sunlight!

During the summertime, the vibe by the river is a completely different story. You have crowds 24/7 having picnics with a view of the River. And there is nothing nicer than enjoying the Finnish long summer days this way! Especially during midsummer!

LOCAL TIP: Don’t forget to take the Föri in Turku when you are walking around the Aura! Föri is a very special ferry that connects the east side of the river to the west side, and it is completely free! The ferry is the oldest transport vehicle in Finland; it was finished in 1903 and used for the first time the following year!

PRO TIP: Along the River Aura, when you walk towards Turku Castle, you can find tiny funny statues. If you are traveling with your family, you can play a game and try to find as many as you can on your walk!

Renting an electric boat is possible in Turku as well. Låna Boat is a great option in the city, and the renting service is located super central. Rentals start from €70 an hour, and they have room for up to 8 passengers.

If you want to enjoy the amazing views of Aura River in style, you can always book a serene river cruise that lasts around 2 hours. On this cruise you can learn about the city as well as enjoy the city’s beauty. If you want something a bit more special, you can book a dinner cruise which lasts 1 hour and a half. These are available from May until the end of September, and you can book them here.

TURKU CRUISE: from €16 per person

5. Discover the beautiful Botanic Garden of Turku University

Serene setting of the Botanic Garden at Turku University, featuring a red gazebo surrounded by lush water lilies and reflective pond
photo credit: @utubotgar

The Botanic Garden of Turku University (map) is not in the middle of the city, but it is totally worth the trip. It is located in Ruissalo, which is in the Turku Archipelago and only a 30-minute bus drive from the city! I recommend you download Föli to your phone. It is the official public transport in Turku, and you will need to have it on your phone if you take the bus!

The botanic garden is around 57 acres (23 hectares), and it comes with a greenhouse, where you can see tropical plants all year round, as well as gardens and a café. While you can check out the outdoor gardens all year round, the flowers bloom from April to November. You can check the times here

PRICE: from €9 per person

6. See unique art pieces at the Turku Art Museum

The ornate façade of Turku Art Museum, a distinctive building on a quiet street lined with lush trees under a clear blue sky

This museum is one of the most beautiful in Turku. It is located in the middle of the city, on a hill surrounded by a beautiful park where people have picnics with a view during the summer! If you are interested in learning and seeing art from the Nordic countries, you will love visiting this museum!

The permanent exhibitions feature 20th-century art from the Nordics, including pieces from the golden age of Finnish art. Some of the most iconic paintings are from Helene Schjerfbeck and Antti Nieminen, both Finnish painters! They also have changing exhibitions of contemporary Nordic artists!

PRICE: from €13 per person

7. Have a unique meal on a boat overlooking the Aura River

Boats moored along the Aura River in Turku, one transformed into a floating restaurant with patrons enjoying meals on deck

This one is a quintessential thing to do in Turku. All along the Aura River, you can find boats that are, in fact, restaurants and bars. Some of these party boats are open during the winter. But the really good and ideal time to enjoy these boat bars and restaurants is the summertime!

You can sit down on the deck and enjoy the view with your friends. Most of these boats also have live performances from the afternoon on. Which is super fun. Some of the most popular ones are Donna for drinks and music and Svarte Rudolf for a meal!

8. Visit Moomin world in Naantali

The whimsical towers and colorful façades of Moomin World in Naantali, near Turku, under a bright blue summer sky

This one is a complete must when you come to Turku!

Not only is Naantali one of the most picturesque towns around the city, but it is also home to the iconic Moominworld!

It is especially lively during the summer, with its beautiful waterfront, beach, and cute downtown area with lots of restaurants and ice cream shops!

I am sure that when you were a kid, you watched the Moomins, so you cannot miss visiting this theme park dedicated to the iconic novels and series. Even if you have never watched the Moomins, you need to know every single Finn loves it, and they grew up with its stories. So, if you want to get involved with the local popular culture!

LOCAL TIP: It is super easy to reach it by bus (number 6 or 7). You can get the tickets with the föli app from Turku Market Square. It’s located only 9 miles (14 km), and it will take you only 45 minutes to get there!

You can check prices and hours from Moominworld here

MOOMINWORLD: from €40 per person

9. Have the time of your life at Kakola Prison

The imposing stone structure of Kakola Prison on a hill in Turku, with its fortified walls and arched windows, on a clear day

I know you are probably wondering: what are you talking about, Dani? Well, this red brick building located on top of a hill used to be a former prison. You can reach the top by foot or take the Kakola Funicular (free of charge!) to the top! The prison was built in 1890 and functioned as a prison until 2007!! So, not long ago!

The most dangerous criminals were imprisoned in Kakola Prison (also known as Kakolanmäki in Finnish).

Leaving its history behind, the prison was moved to another location, and the building was renovated and now it is one of the coolest places in the city!

The prison was turned into a hotel called Hotel Kakola with a spa where you can try a traditional Finnish Sauna. You can actually stay there!

The rest of the prison area has loads of bars and restaurants. One of my favorites is Kakola Brewing Company Oy. They have the best craft beers and a pizza that slaps! During the weekend they usually have live DJs with funky tunes! Super fun!

10. Fall in love with Ruissalo’s natural beauty

Aerial view of the lush Ruissalo Island in Turku, showcasing a festival setup with tents and stages beside calm waters

Ruissalo is one of my favorite places in the world, and it is ridiculously easy to reach it from Turku. So promise me you won’t miss it!

If you are visiting in the summer and you are fond of walking like me, it will be a 2-hour walk to the city, and it is completely worth it. You will be walking amongst the most stunning landscape; you will see cute cows and sheep, and lakes. When I didn’t feel like walking, I used the city bikes with the Donkey Republic App (these are the city Föri bikes!). If you want to get there fast, get on the number 8 bus (€3 a single trip), which you take in the market square.

In Ruissalo you have many beaches, such as Saaronniemen Uimaranta, there is a cute cafe in the area, and there is a public Sauna you can use all year round. Even in the winter, if you want to try Avanto, also known as winter swimming, this is a unique chance!

For winter swimming, you need to warm up in the sauna and, right after get in the ice-cold water for a few seconds at least! Some Finns stay for a long time! They say it is great for your health and helps you relax! If you are traveling during the winter, you can also do cross-country skiing in Ruissalo.

LOCAL TIP: If cycling is your thing, you need to know that there are many biking trails in Turku and its surroundings. You can check more biking trails here. I highly recommend the Turku and Ruissalo trail, which is super easy and picturesque, and you can even do it with the city bikes!

PRO TIP: If you want to have more flexibility during your trip and are thinking about renting a car, then RentalCars is a great option for you!

11. Travel in time at Luostarinmäki Handicraft Museum

Vintage blue street clock hanging on a dark wooden beam with a historical alleyway in the background in Luostarinmäki, Turku

This one is quite a gem in the city! Like I told you early on, there was a big fire in Turku back in 1827. This fire, known as the “Great Fire of Turku ” lasted 18 hours and burned down the whole medieval city! But luckily, a few houses survived and were preserved in the city!

This open-air museum showcases a set of wooden houses from the 18th century that survived the fire and how people used to live there back in that time.

What is super cool about the museum is that it is so interactive. It transports you to what life was like back in the old days! You can walk around the mini towns and even go inside the houses, which are decorated as they were in the 18th century. There will be actors dressed like villagers and music that will add a lot to the whole experience.

PRICE: from €10 per person

12. Uncover art and the world underneath at Aboa Vetus Ars Nova

Elegant Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova museum, a mix of historical and modern art, surrounded by manicured gardens and classic European architecture in Turku
photo credit: @aboavetusarsnova

Aboa Vetus Ars Nova is a museum located in front of the Aura River, and it is quite peculiar since it combines an archaeology museum and a contemporary art museum in the same building!

So, on the one hand, you can see art from the 1950s from Finnish or Western artists. They have changing exhibitions, and every single time it exceeds your expectations.

The archeological museum is super cool. Under the Museum, a medieval town was found, where you can see houses’ foundations from the 14th and 15th centuries. These ruins have been buried underground even after the Great Fire of Turku in 1827, when the city had to be rebuilt.

MUSEUM PRICE: from €16 per person

13. Discover the Turku Archipelago

Autumn colors touching the trees on a small island in the Turku Archipelago, with calm sea waters and a navigation mark in the foreground

In case you didn’t know, the most special and precious thing in Finland is probably nature. Locals and travelers from all around the world fall in love with it (including me; I love it!!!). So, if you are traveling in the winter or the summertime, make sure you make the time to appreciate it!

The Turku archipelago is formed by many little islands, all of them equally beautiful and offering a wide range of activities. During the summer, you can go kayaking in one of the many rivers or enjoy the cycling trail amidst the most stunning forests overlooking the Baltic Sea!

One of the most popular islands in the archipelago you can visit is Nagu, and definitely one of the most visited by the locals. There is a ferry from Turku; you can check the timetable here.

14. Feel like a sailor at Forum Marinum

The majestic white sails of the 'Suomen Joutsen' ship at Forum Marinum, with blue skies and crane structures in the backdrop in Turku's maritime museum

Maritime Museum one would be perfect for the whole family! First, you should know that sailing is quite popular amongst Finns, and usually, most families have a sailing boat that they use to get to their summer cottages or simply to sail around. It is a pastime over here!

You can reach Forum Marinum walking along the Aura River in the direction of Turku Castle. You will know you are there when you see a big flower statue by the river.

Forum Marinum has 2 museums: the National Special Nautical Museum and the Finnish Navy Museum; in both, you can learn everything about the nautical culture, as well as see beautiful ships of all sorts. During the summer you can visit the tall ships that are outside the museum.

If you are traveling with kids, they will love checking out ships, and on top of that, the museum has a special set of activities and guides for kids of all ages!  But to be honest, everyone will love checking out some old, beautiful vintage ships. They have a total of 100 ships exhibited!

To end the day on a high note, you can have dinner at the onsite restaurant, which is super fancy and nestles the sailboat Daphne, which belonged to Göran Schildt, a famous Finnish author and historian!

ENTRANCE PRICE: from €14 per person

15. Go to Ilmiö in the summer, a free music festival

This is a great one if you are visiting in the summertime! Luckily, Turku is quite amazing, offering free cultural events. In this case, the Ilmiö festival lasts 2 days and has a HUGE arrangement of DJs and bands playing free of charge, which is simply unique! Did I also mention it is free? 🙂

It usually takes place by the end of July, so the weather is also amazing, not hot and not cold!

Keep in mind there are big lines usually to get in, but everyone does, and it doesn’t take that long! Inside you can buy food and drinks! Also, this is a great chance to make Finnish friends; their English is perfect, so don’t be shy!

Oh, BTW, if you are visiting at a different time, there is a vegan café Book Cafe or Kirjakahvila in Finnish that also offers free events and concerts all year except the winter time. Either way, visit the café, their carrot cake slaps!!!

16. Go for a hike to Kurjenrahka National Park

Wooden boardwalk winding through the tranquil pine forests of Kurjenrahka National Park near Turku, under a clear sky

I have only been to this park (map) during the summer, midsummer to be more precise, and It is probably one of the most beautiful places I have been to! The trip from the city to the National Park doesn’t take very long, only 40 minutes, and you can easily reach it by bus (F21), and you take it at Turku Bus station (map).

The national park has many trails with the most beautiful views, stunning beaches where you can go swimming, and a designated area where you can go berry picking, which is such a lovely thing to do in Finland!

PRO TIP: bring water, snacks, sunscreen, and mosquito repellent!!!

17. Visit the unique Pharmacy Museum and The Qwensel House

Charming view of the Turku riverside, featuring the historic Pharmacy Museum and the Qwensel House with lush greenery and people enjoying the riverbank

There are many cool things about the Pharmacy Museum and The Qwensel House, but first, you need to know that it is located in the middle of the city, right by the Aura River!

The Qwensel House is part of the museum, and it is one of the best-preserved houses from the 18th century in the Nordics. This one showcases how the nobles used to live back in the day. The first owner was Wilhelm Johan Qwensel, so the house was named after him! The next owner was Josef Gustav Pipping, a doctor and Finland’s first surgery teacher. So you will get a great understanding of life back then!

The pharmacy museum, on the other hand, showcases artifacts as old as 200 years! The interiors are from 1858, literally living history! The museum also shows how people used to make their own medicine, and how laboratories and herb rooms used to look like in the 18th century!

PRICE: from €7 per person

18. Enjoy the Finnish summer at Turku’s picnic parks

Twilight over Vartiovuori Observatory, enveloped by the vibrant autumn foliage of Vartiovuori Park, with the cityscape of Turku in the distance

I think by this point of this article, we have established that during the summertime, you need to be outside enjoying the 22 hours of daily sunlight.

There are many lovely popular parks around the city, so I will tell you which ones have the best vibes for a nice aesthetic picnic with friends or family.

  • Samppalinna Park:  This one is located right in front of the Aura River. It is super hilly, so keep in mind there will be stairs. The view from it is completely stunning! Apart from being a great spot for a picnic, there is a public swimming pool, and Samppalinna, a fancy restaurant. And FUN FACT: it is the second oldest hill park in Turku.
  • Urheilupuisto: If you like to play sports apart from relaxing on the soft green grass on a hot summer day. Then you will find loads to do in this park. They have several fields where you can practice sports, which is super nice. Most of them are completely free to use, and some of them you pay per hour, but it is usually less than €10 per hour. On the Turku City official site you can find more info. 
  • Vartiovuori Hill: This is quite an iconic one! Yes, it is super picturesque and has playgrounds, paddling pools, and all. But the special thing about this one is that during Vappu (May Day), all Finns gather on this hill for a picnic. They all will be wearing their white high school caps, and students their overalls, which makes a cute picture. This is a great chance to meet Finns and try Sima, a honey wine that they drink during this festivity… oh, and funnel cakes!
🏛️ Best museum:Turku Art Museum
🎢 Top paid attraction:Botanic Garden
🚶🏽‍♂️ Best free activity:Relax by Aura River
👧 Best attraction for kids:Moominworld
🕺 Nightlife:Turku Center
🥟 Must-try food:Runeberg Torte

BONUS: where to stay in Turku

Riverfront apartment buildings basked in golden sunset light, reflecting off the Aura River in Turku, with a clear sky above

I want to make things simple for you, so if you are still looking for the best accommodation in the city, here are some of the best hotels where to stay in Turku, Finland!

Lucky for you, prices in Turku are way cheaper than in Helsinki. Here are some options!

  • Luxury (from €170 and up): Hotel Kakola – Stay in a hotel with abundant luxury near Turku Castle! This hotel used to be a prison, and now it is one of the most iconic hotels in the city! You can book a room with the most iconic views and deluxe amenities or stay in a renovated cell! Either way, the service will be amazing!
  • Mid-Range (from €100 to €170): Centro Hotel Turku – This hotel is located in the middle of the city and is near all the main attractions! The best way to start the day will be by enjoying the hotel’s breakfast, which includes cakes and savory options!
  • Budget (up to US100): Forenom Aparthotel Turku – This aparthotel can be enjoyed by those who want to feel at home or have a bit more privacy! The property is located in the middle of the city and offers stylish and budget studios for up to 2 guests!

Check the rates for Turku hotels

FAQs about top things to do in Turku

Aerial view of Turku at dusk, showing the dome of the Turku Art Museum amidst a tapestry of autumn-colored trees and urban landscape

🗓️ How many days are enough to see Turku?

Turku is a small city; you can probably see most of it in 2 days. But I recommend staying a bit longer to explore Ruissalo, Naantali, and Kurjenrahka National Park!

💭 What’s the best time to visit Turku?

Honestly, it depends! Finland is unique all year round. If you want to experience a beautiful winterland, then December and January are the best months. If you want to experience long summer days, June is amazing, but anytime from April to September, the weather is nice, not too hot, not too cold!

☀️ What are the best things to do in Turku over the summer?

The best thing you can do during the summer in Turku is enjoy the weather like the rest of the locals! Go to a nearby beach (I recommend Ruissalo), explore the city by bike, or have a picnic at one of the many beautiful parks around!

👑 Is Turku worth a visit?

Definitely! Turku is Finland’s former capital and the oldest city in the country! Turku has a unique charm, amazing nature, architecture, and friendly locals! BTW, Fins have excellent English; even older generations speak it perfectly!

💶 Which are the best things to do in Turku for free?

One of the best things to do in Turku for free is walking along the Aura River by the city and enjoying a picnic with the lovely summer vibe! Even if you have to pay, prices in Turku are cheaper than in other cities like Helsinki!

❄️ What are the best things to do in Turku in the Winter?

One of the best things you can do in the winter is Avanto swimming, also known as ice swimming! First, you get all cozy and warm in the sauna, and then you get into freezing water by making a hole through the ice!

🚶 Is Turku a walkable city?

Yes, Turku is without a doubt walkable, everything can be reached by foot in 30 minutes. Still, you have buses that take you anywhere, including Turku Airport (with bus 1). You just need the Föli App.


Riverside promenade in Turku during twilight with the illuminated façade of Turku Cathedral reflected in the still waters of Aura River, under a dramatic sky

That is all for today, my sweet angels! Those were the best 18 things to do in the lovely city of Turku, Finland! I am sure by now you have a full itinerary planned for a wholesome time in Finland.

Without a doubt, Tuku is a great city worth visiting all year round! It almost feels like a different city whether you visit in the winter or the summer; either way, it is beautiful, so you will love it as much as I do!

Which of these things to do in Turku are you most excited to try out? Let me know in the comments!

Until the next adventure,


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