Difference between revisions of "Turku"
Revision as of 17:51, 5 November 2006
Turku  is a city in the Southwest of Finland. The Swedish-language name of Turku is Åbo. Turku has approximately 175 000 inhabitants, and was the most important city in Finland until the early 19th century, when the Russians made Helsinki the capital city. Today, Turku is the third most significant city in Finland, after the Greater Helsinki metropolitan area and Tampere. Some of the main draws of Turku are its history and historical significance and the great natural beauty of the neighboring archipelago. Turku is at its best during the summertime, and hosts a great number of festivals, including rock festivals, chamber music festivals and a renaissance faire.
The Finnish road and bus network is generally very flexible and provides many ways of getting to Turku. Most significantly the stretch between Turku and Helsinki has been undergoing considerable renovation in recent years, and there is now a motorway for nearly the entire distance. Travel time by car should be 1.5 to 2 hours, and by bus about 2.5 hours. Salo is about 2/3rds of the way from Helsinki to Turku. You can also approach Turku from an easterly route from the Tampere region (about the same distance from Tampere as from Helsinki) and from Rauma in the north, about 90km away.
Significant train connections are to Tampere and high-speed Pendolino trains to Helsinki. The travel time is approximately 2 hours.
Perhaps the most scenic way to get to Turku is by taking a passenger ferry across the Baltic, from Stockholm in Sweden. The two biggest ferry lines are Viking Line and Silja Line. Each one has a morning and an evening departure from Stockholm. For a scenic view, a morning departure is advisable. Evening departures provide adequate night club activities on board if you want to cut loose before arriving in Turku.
Like most Finnish cities, Turku does not have a huge city centre. The vast majority of the city's sights are within 0-2 miles of the "Kauppatori", the market square that serves as the heart of the city. The River Aura passes through the center of the city, and its banks are very popular for walking along on, allowing for a pleasant stroll from, say, the city centre to the Turku Castle.
Turku has an excellent public transportation system, and its buses can reach nearly every corner of the city. Almost every bus is centered on the Kauppatori market square, and bus lines radiate outwards from it. There are no significant 'circle lines', so usually if you need to transfer, you will need to take one bus to the Kauppatori, then transfer there to the bus taking you to your final destination. A one-time ticket is 2 euro, and is valid for unlimited transfers within two hours of the ticket's purchase. If you intend to take the bus more than twice a day, it becomes economical to ask the bus driver for a 24 hour ticket, priced at 4.5 euro. There are no 48 hour tickets, but the tourist office sells Turku Cards (of 24h and 48h varieties) which, in addition to providing free admission to most sights, also provides you free bus rides for the validity period. Some of the more important bus lines are the number 1, which goes from Kauppatori to the airport to Kauppatori to the passenger harbor (and Turku Castle) and then all over again, and the numbers 50-54 which will take you to the spa hotel Caribia. Buses generally go in two directions from Kauppatori, so check and make sure that you are taking the correct numbered bus in the correct direction as well.
Taxis are generally well available. There are generally three crunch times when they might be slightly problematic, and those are the morning and evening ferry departure times (particularly during summer), around 8 am and 8 pm, and the bar closing times (particularly on weekends), around 3:30-4:30am. A normal taxi will carry about 4 people and a moderate amount of luggage. For significant amounts of luggage, you may want to order a "farmari" taxi which has a roomier luggage compartment. There is also a third common type of taxi available, the "tilataksi", a van which will comfortably carry about 8 people. Taxis charge a base cost of 4-7 euro depending on time of day, and 1-2 euro per mile, depending on amount of passengers (more passengers, higher mileage charge). Quick 1-2 mile trips will cost in the 8-13 euro vicinity. There is a central dispatch for all Turku taxis at phone number 02-10041, and bookings can be made in advance, though more than one day in advance is overkill and unnecessary. Advance bookings less than 30m before desired departure time are not accepted -- in that case, just phone the dispatch when you are ready to go. Outside the worst rush hours, a taxi should take no more than 5 minutes to arrive. If you are out late at night, plan ahead! During weekend bar closing hours, wait times in excess of 1 hour are not unheard of! Flagging taxis on the street is rare and may not work; calling the central dispatch is the commonly accepted method.
There is no subway, tram or train line for transit within the city. Bringing a car, owned or rental, is not a bad idea, but parking may be a problem at times in the very center of the city. During the summertime, there are multiple boats at the banks of the River Aura who make trips into the archipelago. The tourist office rents bicycles.
For proper restaurant meals, expect to pay 10-30 euro - lower end with some simple pasta or soup with water or a soft drink, and the higher end with a high-grade steak meal with good wine. For fast food or pizzeria meals, you will generally be paying under 10 euro. Burger meals are around 5-8 euro (including drink and fries), kebabs and pizzas are about the same.
Generally, proper restaurants are open until 10-11pm, on weekends maybe an hour longer. There are no proper restaurants open in Turku after midnight. Fast food chains, pizzerias and other such places are open later at night, some as late as 3-5am.
Hesburger is the dominant burger chain in Turku, and you will find several of these in downtown. Pizzerias are frequently kebab-pizzerias, offering both Turkish kebab and Italian pizza dishes on their menu. You will also find a lot of these downtown. Unfortunately, the restaurants offering the finest kebabs are not located in the core downtown.
Panini Caffè Ristorante, adress: Linnankatu 3. Good Italian food at reasonable prises.
Restaurant quality food is readily found in Turku. Most famous are the restaurant boats on the banks of the River Aura. Some of them close for the winter, but others remain open throughout the year. Other famous restaurants include:
Please note that it is difficult to find a restaurant late in the evening. During weekdays, restaurants often close around 9-11pm, and even during weekends they are usually only open an hour longer. In some estabilishments, the bar may remain open for drinks even though the kitchen has closed and no food is available. After 1am, there are no restaurants open, so if you are out late at night, the only food available is fast food and kebab-pizzerias.
Restaurants and bars have varying closing hours, but generally, the popular night spots are open until 4am. Last call always occurs half an hour before closing, and is indicated by the bar staff turning the lights off for a few seconds, then turning them back on. They may repeat this a few times in quick succession to make sure the patrons get it. It's generally smart to leave about ten minutes before last call, to avoid being caught in the rush of everybody trying to leave at once.
Night clubs tend to have guarded coat rooms where you can leave any of your outer garments in exchange for a ticket. Using the coat service is generally considered mandatory even if this is not explicitly pointed out. There is usually a small change fee, an euro or two, for this service. Do not lose the ticket; the bar staff will often not want to hash out ticket confusions during closing time when things are at their most chaotic. If you lose the ticket, you may be told to come back tomorrow to get your things.
The legal drinking age in Finland is 18 for mild alcoholic drinks (up to 20%/40-proof) and 20 for stronger drinks than that.