Turku Introduction Walking Tour, Turku

Turku Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Turku

Turku is the oldest city in Finland. The city served as the capital of Finland from September 1809 through April 1812. It is a popular tourist destination because of its long history and impact on Finnish culture.

The name "Turku" derives from the Slavic word for marketplace. Not surprisingly, Turku has popular markets like those held at the Turku Old Market Hall and Market Square.

It is unknown when the city of Turku was officially founded. The oldest mention of Turku is in the Al-Idrisi world map of 1154. The oldest road in the city, Hameen Harkatie, was constructed in the 9th century. Archaeological digs have shown a human presence in the area dating to the Stone Age.

The landscape of the city changed greatly after the Great Fire of 1827. A large portion of the city was destroyed and needed to be rebuilt from the ground up. Architect Carl Ludvig Engel made plans for most of the new city structures. Many of those that survived the fire are now part of the Luostarinmaki open-air museum.

Turku is known as the Christmas City of Finland and the Food Capital of Finland. It shared the title of European Capital of Culture of 2011 with Tallinn, Estonia. Finns refer to Turku as "the Paris of Finland" because it has such a diverse restaurant scene and a large number of galleries and museums.

Turku Cathedral is known as the most important religious building in Finland. Located next to the Old Great Square, it is easy to reach for anyone on a walking tour. Another important spot for visitors is Turku Castle. Now a museum, Turku Castle is one of the oldest surviving structures in the country.

Take this self-guided walking tour to see these and many other exciting places in Turku, Finland.
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Turku Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Turku Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Finland » Turku (See other walking tours in Turku)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.9 Km or 1.2 Miles
Author: sabrina
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Market Square
  • Turku Orthodox Church
  • Yliopistonkatu (University Street)
  • Turun Kauppahalli (Turku Old Market Hall)
  • Pharmacy Museum and Qwensel House
  • Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova Museum
  • Old Great Square
  • Turku Cathedral
Market Square

1) Market Square

Market Square is Turku's central square, surrounded by cafes, restaurants, shopping centers, and historic buildings. It is also home to a bustling market, which gives the square its name.

The site of the existing Turku Market Square began as a place of commerce in the 17th century. At that time, the area surrounding the Market Square served as a home to the artisans and craftsmen that sold their wares in the central square.

The square ceased use during the Great Wrath, the Russian invasion of the 18th century. Though the Great Wrath ended in 1721, the place did not immediately return as a market. Instead, homes were built in the square. Most of these buildings were destroyed in the fire of 1827. With the homes leveled, Turku Market Square returned.

Visitors to Market Square can buy fruit, vegetables, bakery products, clothing, and crafts. The shops are open on weekdays from 7 AM to 6 PM and on Saturdays from 7 AM to 3 PM.
Turku Orthodox Church

2) Turku Orthodox Church

Turku Orthodox Church, or the Church of the Holy Martyr Empress Alexandra, is the main church of the Turku Orthodox parish located on the northeast corner of Turku Market Square in Turku, Finland.

The church was built under the order of Nicholas I of Russia in 1838 and designed by architect Carl Ludvig Engel. Construction of the Neoclassical church began in 1839 and was completed in 1845. The church was consecrated on September 2, 1846.

Turku Orthodox Church was dedicated to Alexandra, the spouse of Diocletian, Roman Emperor. She had publicly become Christianised and suffered a martyr's death. It is thought, she was chosen as the patron saint since Nicholas I's wife was named Aleksandra.

The church was built in the late Empire architectural style, in the shape of an equal-armed cross. The exterior consists of Doric porticoes with four columns. The dome is crowned with a cross lantern. The total height of the church is 102 feet.

The interior of the church features 16 composite columns made of artificial marble. The walls are white, while the space under the dome is blue and studded with golden stars. The church has a two-story iconostasis. The bottom row consists of nine icons, and the top - of the four. Most of the icons came from Valaam Monastery located in the Russia's Karelia region.

The religious services are held in Finnish and once a month in the Church Slavonic language. The Turku Orthodox Church building is protected as an architectural monument of state importance.
Yliopistonkatu (University Street)

3) Yliopistonkatu (University Street)

University Street is a street of about one mile in length that has a significant historical and cultural meaning in Turku. It runs between Kutomonkatu and Koulukatu streets.

As it exists today, University Street was designed by German architect Carl Ludvig Engel. It was first known as Russian Church Street after the Church of the Holy Martyr Empress Alexandra or Turku Orthodox Church. It was renamed in 1924 after the University of Turku began holding classes in the Hotel Phoenix.

A favorite tourist street has a section, about 400 meters long, between Aurakatu and Humalistonkatu streets, which turned into a pedestrian-only street in 2001. This safety measure allows tourists to walk unencumbered by traffic as they view the numerous historic buildings, such as the City Hall, the Hospits Betel Hotel, and the Atrium apartment building. The latter two were designed by Erik Bryggman, a well-known Finnish architect.

Numerous works of art are found throughout University Street. The bronze sculpture Europe donated to the City of Turku by Dutch artist Jits Bakker was inspired by Greek mythology. There is a steel sculpture called “Barcarola” designed by artist Ukri Merikanto. Another sculpture is the Lucky Horse by Russian-Finnish sculptor Rafael Saifulin. Many believe happiness comes to anyone who touches this statue.
Turun Kauppahalli (Turku Old Market Hall)

4) Turun Kauppahalli (Turku Old Market Hall) (must see)

The Turku Old Market Hall is a shopping hall that opened in 1896 in Turku. It holds approximately 40 merchants.

The shopping hall was designed by Gustaf Nystrom, an architect who specialized in shopping malls. It is the second-oldest market hall in the country. It was built to bring market trading indoors, which the city thought would help merchants and their customers avoid physical fights and horse traffic.

The hall had space for 151 shops when it was newly constructed. The first cafe opened there in 1902. Some 70 years later, the Old Market Hall underwent a massive remodel to update cooling and heating systems. Another renovation in 2013 transformed the interior into up-to-date shops and a food court.

Consumers may purchase bread, dairy, meat, fish, handicrafts, flowers, toys, clothes, or jewelry. Cheeses, teas, and spices are popular items with tourists who want to save a sample of Finnish cuisine.
Pharmacy Museum and Qwensel House

5) Pharmacy Museum and Qwensel House

The Pharmacy Museum is a museum that honors the history of pharmacology. The exhibition includes items like pharmacy materials, pharmaceutical research, and the historic strides in pharmacy. Temporary exhibits are also offered on a rotating basis.

The Pharmacy Museum once functioned as a regular pharmacy. Along with the shop, the pharmacy had a material room, an herb room, labs, and an office. Visitors may view the offices when they visit the museum. It is the oldest pharmacy in Finland.

The museum is located inside the Qwensel House. This house is the oldest wooden house in Turku. It was built in 1700 following the city plan made up by Count Peter Brahe, a Swedish statesman and author, who was a Governor-General of Finland in 1637–1640 and 1648–1654.

Near the house are the stable, toilet, and barn. There is also a children's pharmacy, a courtyard, and an authentic pharmacy cabinet. The museum has a cafe that serves pastries using 18th-century recipes and methods.

The museum and house are open from 10 AM to 6 PM, Tuesday through Sunday.
Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova Museum

6) Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova Museum (must see)

Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova Museum is a museum that pays homage to the history and culture of Turku. Aboa Vetus shares the story of the city dating to medieval times, while Ars Nova focuses on contemporary art. The Latin name of the museum means "Old Turku and New Art."

The museum was originally opened in 1885 as two separate entities. Ars Nova was the first museum envisioned. As items were collected for the contemporary exhibition, many historical artifacts were uncovered. An archaeological dig unearthed even more relics, leading to the creation of Aboa Vetus. The two museums, Aboa Vetus and Ars Nova, were combined in 2004.

The museum is located in a building designed by architect Walter Jung, known as the Rettig Palace, on the east bank of the Aura River. It was built for the Rettig family with an additional area for hosting public events.

The museum is also home to St. Anne's Chapel. The chapel includes an icon of St. Anne painted by artist Mirjam Laine and an altar designed by architects Frank Schauman and Ulla Reunanen. It was consecrated in 2001.
Old Great Square

7) Old Great Square

The Old Great Square is a medieval market square in Turku city center. It served as the administrative and commercial center from the 13th century until the Great Fire of Turku in 1827.

The square is surrounded by several historic buildings in the Neoclassic architectural style preserved by the city. They are mostly used for cultural events.

Old Great Square houses the Old Town Hall, designed and built by architect Samuel Berner in 1736. The Old Town Hall was destroyed in the fire of 1827. On the ramparts of the old building was built a private house. It was remodeled into a factory and later used as a police department. Today it hosts events and concerts along with an art gallery.

Brikkala Mansion, another building in the Old Great Square, is a former hotel that now functions as an art gallery with banquet halls and a courtyard coffee house. There is also Hjelt Mansion, built for sea captain Hjelt, and the only surviving stone Petersburg Empire architectural-style building in Finland. The Hjelt Mansion has served as a private home, police department, library, and cultural center.

Juselius Mansion is the youngest of the Old Great Square buildings. It is a New Renaissance-style mansion built by Carl Fredrik Juselius in 1892 as a residential building. Over the years, the Juselius Mansion has had many different occupants. The Mayor of Turku has lived there, and doctors have kept their practices in the building. Among the others, a restaurant opened in the Juselius Mansion’s cellar in 1924, which became a popular meeting place for artists, students, and academics. The legendary restaurant was closed in 1963 and reopened after 30 years in 1993.
Turku Cathedral

8) Turku Cathedral (must see)

Turku Cathedral is a cathedral of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. It was first consecrated as a Catholic church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Henry, the first bishop of Finland, in 1300. It is the only medieval basilica in Finland.

Turku Cathedral is the most important religious building in the country and one of the most recognizable places in Turku. The cathedral was converted from Catholic to Lutheran during the 16th century.

The cathedral showcases Gothic, Romanesque, and Gothic Revival architectural styles. It was built from wood but expanded with grey stone and clay bricks in the Middle Ages. The Great Fire of Turku in 1827 caused extensive damage to the cathedral. Much of the church was rebuilt, including the 330-foot spire.

Some of the most notable people buried in the cathedral are Princess Sigrid of Sweden, Scottish mercenary Samuel Cockburn, Swedish army officer Torsten Stalhandske, Swedish politician Ake Henriksson Tott and bishops Paulus Joosten and Blessed Bishop Hemming. Queen Karin Mansdotter of Sweden is interred in a black marble sarcophagus in the Kankas Chapel.

Turku Cathedral is known for its architectural beauty and its paintings and frescoes. The walls and roof in the chancel are adorned with Romantic frescoes painted by Robert Wilhelm Ekman, a significant Finnish painter. The three organs of the cathedral are also notable. Manufactured by organ builder Veikko Virtanen Oy in 1980, the main instrument has 81 ranks.

The bells of Turku Cathedral chime at noon daily and can be heard on Finnish national radio every noon hour.

Walking Tours in Turku, Finland

Create Your Own Walk in Turku

Create Your Own Walk in Turku

Creating your own self-guided walk in Turku is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Turku's Architectural Jewels

Turku's Architectural Jewels

The oldest city in Finland, Turku, has several attractive old buildings that catch the eye and showcase the city's rich history and culture.

Prime among such jewels are the Turku Orthodox Church, characterized by its distinctive onion-shaped domes, the historic neoclassical Swedish-language Abo Svenska Theater, and the beautiful late 19th-century Turku Old Market Hall (Turun Kauppahalli)....  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 Km or 1.1 Miles