2 Days in Turku: Winter Wonderland Edition
As many of you know, I am currently in a long distance relationship with a Finnish man. Once a year we take turns visiting each other in our own countries.
This past year I was able to take off work and visit him for both Christmas and New Years. I am so thankful for the therapy company I work for as I was able to enjoy a month in Finland with my Snowman.
However I know not everyone would spend an entire month in Finland like I did so I comprised a 2 day itinerary based on my favorite things we did in Turku, Finland.
When to Visit
Obviously at Christmas time!! Well if you ask any Finn they would say I was crazy and needed to come back in the spring but it was truly magical to see everything covered in snow.
But in all seriousness your best time to visit for all things Christmas would be at the end of November and beginning of December.
Turku starts their Christmas festivities a bit earlier than Helsinki so when I got there Dec 18 I had just missed the Turku Christmas Market but was able to go to Helsinki and visit theirs.
The entire time I was in Finland I felt like I was in a Hallmark Christmas movie, everywhere you looked there was snow and Christmas trees and I even sampled some Christmas flavors including wine glögi.
My experience in Finland made me really appreciate winter time and found an all new love for Christmas. Especially since the winters I am used to only last for a few days and everyone is complaining about how the schools close for less than a foot of snow.
Where to Stay
I am not going to lie, when I go to Finland I have free accommodation at my Snowman’s tiny ass shoe box looking apartment, did I mention it was tiny AF? Sorry I mean economical it’s very economical
But it’s free and I don’t really mind sleeping on a mattress on the floor and am totally not daydreaming or REM dreaming of nice places to stay while I am there visiting my boyfriend, but meh free is free so I am done complaining… well until the next time I visit him.
For Budget Travelers
Poshtel Turku Hostel : Located right along the Aura River which is minutes away from some of the best sights, restaurants and nightlife in Turku. You are literally in the center of everything if you stay here.
This hostel is 5 minutes walking distance from the train station so perfect place to stay if you are visiting from Helsinki, which is about a 2 hour train ride away.
For Mid-Range Travelers
Omena Hotel Turku : This hotel has a very contemporary and minimalist vibe which truly envelops it’s Scandinavian roots. This hotel is located next to one of the main malls in Turku and is about a 15 minute walk from the city center. It also has a bus stop about 5 minutes away.
Majatalo 22: As the website says this is a very charming guest house and is visually pleasing and easily instagrammable place to stay. I didn’t want to put it on my list because I am needy and want my own bathroom if I am staying in a hotel so think of this as a bougie hostel.
Also they do not do overnight check in so please plan accordingly On the plus side they have free parking which is rare in Turku and free wifi so I would recommend if you are driving to Turku or using Turku as a stop to the archipelago.
Oh AND they have a sauna, and if you do not come to Finland and do sauna can you really say you went?
For Fancy Travelers
I mean c’mon I’m broke AF sleeping on a mattress on the floor and these are like the hotels of my dreams, you gotta let me throw some shade.
Scandic-Julia Hotel: Located in the freaking center of ev-ver-ry-thing, and I mean everything. You walk outside and Moikka Turku you are freaking here. This hotel has everything you want, you got your dog? Bring em! You got your kids? Play area! You got a car? Free parking!!
Breakfast is included in the rates and they have a Sauna and wait, let me recheck they got freaking bicycles to borrow. Wow, let me go back to my mattress on the floor now. I would recommend booking this hotel far in advance because it fills up fast.
How to get to Turku
As an American I am really jealous of Finland’s public transportation system. There trains are very affordable. The buses are super reliable and really really affordable, and their roads don’t have any potholes on them at all. If anyone out there ever rode up through I-95 on you’d know what I’d mean about some damn potholes.
Bus: Once again I love Finland’s public transportation system it is so simple to use and you can pretty much buy all your tickets online. Oh not to mention a lot of their buses have free wifi
Helsinki-Vantaa Airport: 20-28 EUR or $22-32 USD
Time: 2 hrs 15 mins
Onnibus – Helsinki: 10 EUR or 12 USD
You have to pay with card so I highly recommend you purchase online
Time: 2 hrs 10 minutes
Train: Helsinki -> Turku: 17 EUR or 19 USD
Time: 2 hours
Driving to Turku
Time: 1.5 hours
Cars Available for Rental at Airport
Or you could just fly to Turku Airport from Helsinki Vantaa the flights are around 80 EURs and only last for 30 mins. Also you can get reasonably priced flights from Turku airport to Gdansk, Poland so it’s a great airport to be near.
I know I already said before that Turku is a very walkable, bikeable city with excellent public transportation access located throughout the city. I would also recommend downloading the Foli app during your stay in order to know the times and which bus to take.
If you want more information on accessibility in Finland please check out VisitFinland
2 – Day Travel Itinerary
So I am not going to lie I am a bit of a klutz when it comes to walking on ice/in the snow.
I will say though Finland does a great job at sanding and placing gravel on the sidewalks on the daily. I would still be extra cautious if you’re walking around especially if you are from an area that does not get much snow or closes everything down as soon as snow is in the forecast.
Visit Turku Tourism center recommends looking at this website if you have any additional information about accessibility. It has carefully tailored what places accommodate those with service animals, wheelchairs, and if you also have any specific allergies.
Also Finland is a great country to visit if you follow gluten free, lactose free, and vegan diets. I would say a vast majority of restaurants cater to these diets, but always call ahead if you have additional questions.
Turku Market Hall
But first coffee. Start your day visiting Turku Market Hall and ogle at it’s lovely brick work and timeless window designs, your girl loves herself some architecture.
Turku Market Hall was built in 1896 and is the second oldest market hall in Finland the first being in Helsinki.
This place is great for early risers as it opens at 8:00 and will have coffee all day until they close, some places even have happy hour coffee specials.
They have so many options and it’s a nice place to stroll around and see local crafts, free smells for all the delicious food. If you see yourself cooking during vacation they have a lot of specialty meats and seafood.
I would recommend doing a complete loop before settling in and grabbing breakfast. Also while you are here grab some Karelian Pies or karjalan piirakka – they are wonderful and a staple of Finnish food.
If you have enough time in your adventures in Turku I would come back for lunch and their wine glögi, a must at Christmas time.
Check out the Visitor Center
Turku’s visitor center is located right across the street from the Market Hall so once you’re fully awake from coffee and food head across the street to check out what Turku has to offer.
Make sure to grab a kiss my turku t-shirt and ask them to explain why Turku is the butt of Finland’s jokes, ba dum tsss.
They also have a Turku Cards that give you discounts at museums and restaurants, and will give you more information on how to visit the Archipelago. They will also be able to tell you about Christmas Markets in the area, but more on that later.
After you’ve gotten a map of Turku and learned about all the extra activities in the area make your way to the Aura River and basque in awe at the Turku Cathedral. During Christmas Time they have a ginormous Christmas tree in front adorned with twinkling lights that will be beautiful to see at night. But go inside it’s free and it has some breathtaking views.
Lunch at Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova Museum
At this point in the day you might be feeling a little hungry luckily the next place has a cafe and offers warm lunches and salad bar combination. Or if you come on the weekends they have BRUNCH which will make all you #brunchgoals.
This museum is divided into 3 parts. This first part takes you into the day and life of the previous home owner and gives you the history before it became the museum it is today, sorry no historical spoilers here.
The other part of the museum consist of a modern art exhibit that has video art exhibit as well. What I enjoyed most about the art exhibit is that kids picked the art work!
They showed pictures of the art to kids throughout Finland and asked them to express how the artwork made them feel and which one would they put up.
It was nice having my Snowman translate what all the kids said and I’m sure if you do a guided tour the guide will as well.
Visit the Christmas Market
Finnish winters are dark but because it is so dark there are many warm and inviting Christmas lights around that make you forget about the darkness.
That’s why Christmas markets are truly a wonderful experience. Having warm spiced drinks going from stall to stall finding unique gifts for the ones you love.
Ahh take me back, I want more reindeer meat -drools uncontrollably- so find yourself a warm drink and stroll through the Christmas market.
They typically have a little one in the alley in between the church and the Aboa Vetus & Art Museum and they also have on in market square which is located next to the mall.
Dinner at Cantina Azteca
So you must be wondering why, why is it I am going halfway across the globe and I want Mexican food?
Well it’s simple, your girl loves some margaritas and I really wanted to see the Latino culture in Finland. On my dad’s side of the family I am Puerto Rican so I just love to see Latino culture in my travels it’s what makes me who I am.
They have menus in English, Swedish and of course Finnish here so it’ll be easy to figure out what you want.
My boyfriend and I got the chicken fajitas because you can’t go wrong there and we were right they were delicious!!!
They also have a DJ on some nights but we went during the middle of the week so no DJ.
Drive Around Turku
After my boyfriend and I met up with his grandparents and drove around Turku to check out all the christmas lights, there was one spot where the bridge was beautifully decorate and had light show on it.
Just be careful because this bridge is really icy his grandmother and I were holding onto each other for support the whole time XD.
So do yourself a favor and catch some nightly views in this peaceful city. Also note that you can drink in public as long as you don’t act a hot mess but once again be careful because I also slipped #overdramatic
So I am not going to lie I am not really a breakfast and coffee person, actually I don’t drink coffee at all. My boyfriend jokes and says the only thing I really drink is water and wine because you know life is all about balance.
With that being said I would much rather grab a karelian pie from a bakery and some water and keep my day moving. I’d honestly would consider myself more of a brunch kinda gal mostly because I love mimosas, again balance.
Drive out to Ruissalo
This is a great way to get out of the city for a little bit and see some countryside. The drive is probably about 20 minutes from the city center and it’s well worth the trip.
This restaurant is in a log cabin that was moved from Karelia (yes like the pies I don’t ever shut up about) Which was part of Finland but is now part of Russia.
So get out a map and just think about that for a bit.
Not only is the history of this cabin deep but the food here is the ultimate Finnish comfort food by far. If you want some down home cooking you should definitely stop by they have the classics; pea soup, meatballs, and finnish pancakes!
Oh did I mention it’s also a lunch buffet? So if you are a person who tends to skip breakfast this is definitely your place to go.
If you want to check out more about this restaurant check out my instagram story from Finland!!!
Now that you’re bellies are full and you have a car drive out to Turku Castle. What I love about the castle is you can make your visit there whatever you want it to be. If you want to be cheap like me and I just explore the inner ground, and outside you can do that.
However if I am being cheap somewhere I at least like to buy a souvenir even if it’s tiny. At the gift shop they have postcard and stamps what a perfect way to say hey to your family right? You could also get a tour and explore the inside of the castle.
Being at the castle is very awe inspiring. You have this structure that was built around 1280, just the fact that this castle was built way before the US even became a country and will be around for many centuries to come is just too surreal.
Find the Mermaid Tail
Close by Turku Castle there is a statue in the water that represents a mermaid tail. I really do not know much about it other than I saw it in a picture once, thought it was cool and had to go see it. So go check it out – it’s right next to the castle and easy to get to from the sidewalk.
Plus it’s cool to see how far the aura river comes out connecting to the archipelago and how great of a location the castle was in for trade and military presence.
Stroll along the Aura River
Once you’ve made it back into the city find somewhere to park and stroll along the aura river. There are tons of beautiful views among the snow and lots of statues to check out as well.
Now that you’ve been outside for pretty much the whole day come inside and warm up to some mouthwatering Indian food at Delhi Darbar.
We went to this restaurant with my Snowman’s billiards team to celebrate the holidays and the food was delicious.
They also give you so much food here so you’ll probably will be taking some leftovers back to the room when you are done. My Snowman and I shared the vegetarian dosas and I got the Darbar Mixed Grill which included lamb, chicken, and shrimp and my boyfriend got the Seekh Kebab.
We both finished everything as he is a skinny bottomless pit and I just love food.
Now that your full, go work out some of that food at Aurabiljardi. This bar is my home away from home while in Finland. As I mentioned before my boyfriend is in a billiards club so we frequent this spot a lot. Which I don’t mind at all because this bar is nothing like I have seen before. They have 15 pool tables, 9 snooker tables, and a Chinese 8-ball, kaisa and carom (3-cushion) tables.
Yeah don’t ask me about the last three because I know nothing. Well, one of them has really big balls but no holes to shoot them in, yes please all the puns are welcomed there. They also have two dart boards and a poker table.
Also their drink prices are really good and they have quite a selection of alcohol as well as offer seasonal drinks.
Did I mention I love this bar, there is truly none other like it in Finland or in Virginia – it’s a one of a kind place that everyone should go to.
Oh yeah they even have board games!!
If you are still reading thank you so much and wow, that was surprisingly hard to combine a month of things I did for just 2 days.
This is also my first time writing out an itinerary. I think the hardest part about writing this is, I am writing literally 5-6 months after spending in Finland and I am doing everything based of memory.
Most of my time spent in Finland was not this clear and concise as my boyfriend and I tended to sleep in.
Damn his room darkening curtains,
I also visited his family and friends a lot. I just really wanted to share how magical Turku is and my love for this city.
This was my second time in Turku and still was so magical to me, this city is a very comfortable city to be in, it’s not very crowded and it is very clean.
The people of this city may look at you like you are crazy if you smile and wave at them, wait am I crazy or am I just an American at this point, or both… definitely both, but they are very kind and hospitable. I cannot wait to go back next spring.
Have you ever been to Turku? If so what were some of your favorite spots? Let me know in the comments below.