The Old Capital, Finland

11:53 Melissa G 0 Comments

Two hundreds years ago Helsinki became the official capital of Finland after Emperor Alexander I wanted the capital to be closer to Russia. However, under Sweden's rule, the capital was Turku. Having never visited, it was time to make a little trip to see Finland's oldest city.

Turku was founded in the end of the 13th century, and is situated in the South West, only 168km away from Helsinki. It is traversed by the Aura River, which gives the city a bit of a Parisian vibe.

We were lucky enough to have been blessed with a clear sky and sunny weather, something that's after all quite rare in Finland, even in July or August. The summer temperatures made everyone run to the parks and to the waterside, terraces were full with people enjoying cold beers and ice cream.

I found the boats with an outdoor restaurant quite cute, they filled the streets with music and the sound of people laughing and enjoying themselves.

After walking along the river we settled down at a terrace in the Linnankatu Street, and even made a couple of friends.

What makes the city exceptional is the mix of different architecture styles, you can find anything from Medieval, Art Nouveau, Neo-Renaissance, Ancient Greek inspired to Neo-Classical. Taking a stroll around the town without even venturing far from the river will show you examples of all these types.

Notice how buildings of completely different styles or time periods stand right next to each other.

In 1827 the largest recorded urban fire in Finland, and the whole of the Nordic Countries, erupted in Turku. It managed to jump from one side of the river to the other, destroying 75% of the city, including the historical downtown area and the Turku Cathedral.

The Turku Cathedral, originally constructed in the year 1300, was rebuilt after the fire and stands today as the seat of the Archbishop of Finland. It is recognised as the most important religious symbol in the country.

We somehow managed to do all of this on the first day, you can bet we were all exhausted, but it was fantastic.

The second day we went on to visit the Turku Castle, the largest surviving medieval building in all of Finland.

The castle was initially intended to be a fortress by the Swedish conquerors, but living quarters were added when Turku became the administrative centre. The castle was actually a used for its defensive purposes only once; when Russian invaders destroyed Turku in 1318. Today its used as a museum and is owned by the state, its definitely a must see if visiting Turku.

In the bottom right of the next picture you can see my dad, its only then that you truly understand the size of it all.

If you do end up visiting Turku, I highly recommend eating at Ludu. It has a great tasting menu with 5 courses, the menu changes very often but proves to always have a scandinavian feel, while simultaneously not being scandinavian at all. Each dish is carefully explained, the portions aren't big but they're delicious and would definitely visit again. I took loads of pictures but the lightning wasn't great so here are the two that managed to look acceptable.

Overall our little getaway to Turku proved to present a charming and historical city, I highly suggest visiting it, its definitely a top destination in Finland.