Turku (in Swedish, Åbo) is a city situated on the southwest coast of Finland at the mouth of the Aura River. The Finnish name Turku originates from an Old East Slavic word, tǔrgǔ, meaning "market place". The Swedish name Åbo seems easy to explain, as it contains the words "å" (river) and "bo" (nest, dwelling) which could mean something like "the house by the river". The eastern side, where the Cathedral of Turku is located, is popularly referred to as "täl pual jokke" (this side of the river), while the western side is referred to as "tois pual jokke" (the other side of the river). The city center is located close to the river mouth, on both sides of the river, though development has recently been expanding westward. One of the best-known landmarks of Turku is the Föri, a small ferry that transports pedestrians and bicycles across the river for free of charge.
As of 31st of December 2016, Turku’s population was 188,584, which makes it the sixth largest city in Finland by population. The city is officially bilingual as 5.2 percent of its population identify as speaking Swedish as a mother-tongue.
The city of Turku was founded at the end of the 13th century, making it the oldest city in Finland. The Cathedral of Turku was consecrated in 1300, and together with Turku Castle and the Dominican monastery (founded in 1249), established the city as the most important location in medieval Finland. Under the Kingdom of Sweden Turku was Finland’s provincial capital. It quickly became the most important city in Finland and retained that status for hundreds of years until Finland became part of the Russian Empire in 1809 and the capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland was transferred to Helsinki in 1812. After that Turku continued to be the most populous city in Finland until the end of the 1840s. Today Turku remains a regional capital and is an important location for business and culture.
In 1827 there was a great fire in Turku, after which Finland’s first volunteer fire brigade was formed. It was the most widely spread city fire throughout history in the Nordic countries. The fire destroyed the historical downtown area of Turku, including Turku Cathedral and the main building of the Imperial Academy of Turku, which were badly damaged. 780 out of the city’s 1126 houses burnt down.
Because of its long history Turku has been the site of many important historical events and has extensively influenced Finnish history. Nowadays the City of Turku is an important center for southwestern Finland when it comes to employment and education. It is also a center of cultural life with its theatres and events focusing on music, literature, arts and architecture. During the year 2011 Turku was the European Capital of Culture together with Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia. In 1996 it was declared the official Christmas City of Finland. For a period of six weeks, starting on the first day of Advent and ending on January 13, more than 400 events are offered for the public to join in. At noon on Christmas Eve thousands of people gather at the Old Great Square, close to the Cathedral, to witness the Christmas Peace Declaration, which is also broadcasted to all of Finland. This tradition has been kept alive since the Middle Ages, and was originally a municipal act.
Due to its location, Turku is a notable commercial and passenger seaport city with over three million passengers travelling through Port of Turku each year to Stockholm and Mariehamn. Turku is also one of the centers for the shipbuilding industry in Finland. Other major industries include pharmaceuticals, electronics and high technology. The areas of top expertise in Turku are biosciences, ICT, logistics and tourism. Turku is also the regional and administrative center of southwestern Finland.
Turku has longer educational history than any other Finnish city – the first school in the city, the Cathedral School, was founded along with the Cathedral of Turku in the late 13th century. The first university in Finland, the "The Royal Academy of Turku" (now University of Helsinki), was established in the city in 1640. Turku is home to about 35,000 higher education students. The University of Turku is the second largest university in Finland, as measured by student enrollment.
Experiencing the archipelago when in Turku is definitely worthwhile. With some 20,000 islands to choose from, you are bound to find peace and quiet in addition to breathtaking Finnish scenery regardless of the season. Getting around is easy thanks to the many bridges, ferries and vessels that are at your disposal. Many inhabitants of the islands engage in tourism so there are plenty of places to stay and eat in the archipelago.
Map of Turku: opaskartta.turku.fi/