The best of Turku

A walk along the riverItäharju industrial areaThe Luolavuori hillThe Kakola prisonThe market hallRestaurant SmörDennisPub Uusi ApteekkiBar KukaSir Okkes PubCafe WäinöCafé SiriusAula CafeThe Greendress boutiqueB-Butik

There’s more to urban Finland than the capital city, so forget Helsinki for a second!  Once Finland’s capital and forever Helsinki’s rival, Turku on the Western coast is definitely worth a visit. In 2011 Turku is the European Capital of Culture, but there’s plenty to see outside the official programme, too. According to these six local cultural figures, the city has laid-back bars, quirky shopping, and the best pizzas in the world—believe it!

The text and images have been published in travel magazine Mondo. Text: Laura Friman, images: Jussi Särkilahti.

A walk along the river

Author Riku Korhonen: “This route, starting from the beginning of Eerikinkatu, is for me a space in the city where you can breathe freely. A part of the route is lit and there are benches if you’re feeling contemplative. Along the route you can spot the ugly Lonttinen railway bridge, the grey student village, and the verdant Koroistenniemi area. Hedgehogs and ducks add a pastoral element. I walk along this route almost daily.”

Start at the northern end of Eerikinkatu. Walk along the river, cross it at the railway bridge and continue following the river until the street called Gregorius IX:n tie.

Itäharju industrial area

Author Riku Korhonen: “The run-down industrial area of Itäharju is located on the northern side of the railway tracks to Helsinki, and on the outer rim of our time. The old hangars, junk depots, and engineering works hunch there in silence. On the other side of the tracks, the shiny IT company offices ooze insincere optimism, but here it’s always recession. As a teenager I used to skateboard and wander around here with my friends on hot summer vacation days.”

The Luolavuori hill

Author Riku Korhonen: “The high landfill in Southern Turku is for me a part of my childhood landscape and a holy place of sorts. You can walk here in about half an hour from the city centre along Uudenmaantie and Peltolantie. This is the favourite spot of windstopper-clad pensioners and suburban dog-walkers. The water tower adds a certain futuristic element to the experience. As a student I used to come here with a bottle of white wine and a book of poems by Eeva-Liisa Manner, a Finnish modernist. The atmosphere was lofty until I realized I was sitting in dog droppings.”

The Kakola prison

Theatre director Mikko Kouki: “Kakola is a legendary prison that is now abandoned. It’s a place I haven’t visited yet, but I’d like to. It contains thousands of stories—although many probably lack happy endings.”

You can ask about guided tours of Kakola at the Turku tourist office, tel. +358 2 262 7444, turku.touring@turku.fi.

The market hall

Theatre director Mikko Kouki: “You’ll find the best sushi in town at the market hall. You can also sample a local delicacy, raisin sausage, which I prefer skipping, myself.”

The building of the Turku market hall dates from 1895. In addition to sushi and sausages, you can enjoy a lunch with the locals and shop for all kinds of necessities from sewing supplies to candy.

Eerikinkatu 16. Open on weekdays from 7 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., on Saturdays from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Restaurant Smör

Minister for Culture Stefan Wallin: “I fell for Smör, a new restaurant built into the cellar of an old building by the river, like a hot knife falls through butter (awkward pun intended: Smör is Swedish for butter). I had fried whitefish—delicious!”

Läntinen Rantakatu 3.

Dennis

Minister for Culture Stefan Wallin: “I’ve been eating pizzas in restaurants around the world since 1976, and I still haven’t found one that would top Dennis’s.”

Linnankatu 17.

Pub Uusi Apteekki

Author Reijo Mäki: “In Uusi Apteekki, the atmosphere is casual and relaxed. My character Jussi Vares frequents it, as it serves as his living room, office (post and otherwise)—and pharmacy. Open 365 days a year.”

The name means “new pharmacy”—and yes, the building used to be one.

Kaskenkatu 1. Open from 10 a.m. until 2 a.m every day.

Bar Kuka

Author Reijo Mäki: “Bar Kuka has a cult following among musicians, artists, writers, and everyone in between. Unpretentious.”

The hip bar hosts live acts almost every night—and a bingo night once a week.

Linnankatu 17. Open Mon-Tue from noon until 2 a.m., Wed-Sat from noon until 3 a.m., Sun from 4 p.m. until 2 a.m.

Sir Okkes Pub

Author Reijo Mäki: “A honest-to-goodness Finnish bar. This is the local of Jussi Vares’s friend, crime novelist Oxbacka (yes, Oxbacka is another character in Mäki’s novels). When Oxbacka was murdered, Sir Okke said of the demise of the only celebrity who frequented his pub: “Emotionally a relief, financially a setback.”

Aninkaistenkatu 12.

Cafe Wäinö

Musician Tuula Amberla: “They have delicious sacher cake at Cafe Wäinö. The interior, dating from the 1970s, has remained virtually unchanged since my childhood. In addition, on the wall there’s a stunning aquarium, which my brother and I used to admire when we were kids—and which my own children admired a few decades later. The café is at the Wäinö Aaltonen museum, which has changing exhibitions in addition to a very good main one.”

Itäinen Rantakatu 38. Open Tue-Sun from 10:15 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Café Sirius

Musician Tuula Amberla: “Sirius, the café of the Turku library, is located in a beautiful historical building, connected ingeniously to the new, modern library. The view is to the courtyard, where they have a patio in the summer. They serve small, light dishes from various cultures—although most of the food is influenced by Italy.”

Linnankatu 2. Open Mon-Fri from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m., Sat from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., Sun from noon until 5 p.m.

Aula Cafe

Musician Tuula Amberla: “Aula Cafe has a great location by the river, in theAboa Vetus & Ars Nova museum, which combines cultural heritage of the Finnish Middle Ages and contemporary art. In the summer you can go see a play in the courtyard. I’ve performed frequently at Aula Café, too, so it feels cozy to me.”

Itäinen Rantakatu 4. Open Tue-Sun from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.

The Greendress boutique

Musician Jori Sjöroos: “The Greendress, selling new and vintage, is one of the only small boutiques in Turku that also sells clothes for men. I’ve bought high-top sneakers and a sweater there. The owners Essi Kotaviita and Jaakko Mäkinen are talented designers themselves and you can find their creations at Greendress, too.”

Kauppiaskatu 3. Open Mon-Fri from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., Sat from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.

B-Butik

Musician Jori Sjöroos: “The tiny B-Butik is located at the back of B-galleria art gallery. I don’t buy things here that often, but I pop in to admire the ingenious products. The underwear and jewellery are especially great! While you’re there, see the exhibition at the gallery.”

Aninkaistenkatu 5. Open Tue-Fri from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m., Sat-Sun from noon until 4 p.m.

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