Table of Contents
- What to Expect When You Visit Turku
- Turku Restaurants and Beyond
- Further Afield – The Finnish Archipelago
- Where to Stay in Turku
- Where to Stay in the Finnish Archipelago
- Book a Cooking Class
- Hungry for More Finnish Food?
- Pin It for Later
- About the Authors
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Turku Finland is a city that takes its food seriously.
From super fresh salmon at the city’s historic market to chef-driven dishes at the best Turku restaurants, the food in Turku impressed us with every bite during our recent visit.
This shouldn’t be a shock since Turku, Finland’s oldest city and original capital, was named a European Capital of Culture in 2011. As we quickly learned, Turku’s commitment to the arts extends to gastronomy.
Travelers who visit Turku will quickly find a thriving culinary environment, especially in the warmer months when the city hosts a variety of Finnish food festivals and the banks of the Aura River come alive with people enjoying the city’s cafe culture.
But winter is a fine time to visit Turku when restaurant reservations are easier to secure. Plus, the outstanding Turku Market Hall is less crowded when the summer tourists are in hibernation mode.
What to Expect When You Visit Turku
With a documented history dating back to the 13th century, Turku has a rich past influenced by the early Finns along with the Russians and Swedes. Visitors can explore the medieval city by strolling through the ancient cobblestone streets and wandering along the banks of the Aura River.
Though Turku suffered devastating damage during the Great Fire in 1827, the city maintains a sense of history and place.
If you’re wondering what to do in Turku, popular attractions include the Market Square, the Turku Castle and the Turku Cathedral. Not surprisingly, considering the city’s European Capital of Culture designation, Turku also has several worthy museums like Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, a unique museum concept that combines the city’s history with modern art in a way that engages visitors of all ages.
After exploring Turku, adventurous travelers will want to venture a bit further to see a bit of Finland’s natural beauty. We recommend a day trip to Kurjenrahka Park, a national park located less than an hour from Turku. The park has several trails including the six-kilometer Savojärvi Lake trail that we traversed in the snow.
Another outdoor option awaits at Saaronniemi, just a twenty-minute drive from Turku on the nearby Ruissalo Island. Saaronniemi offers the ultimate Finnish experience of sweating in a sauna with a stunning view of the sea and then swimming in the sea’s icy water.
Turku Restaurants and Beyond
Turku may be Finland’s fifth largest city, but the city is virtually bursting at the seams with a range of culinary offerings at all price points from casual cafes to white-tablecloth restaurants.
Once you add the nearby Finnish Archipelago to the equation, Turku food choices are impressive with chefs flexing their Nordic culinary muscles with an eye toward refined gastronomy. Artistically plated dishes feature native ingredients like locally foraged mushrooms and herbs as well as fruits like sea buckthorn and cloudberry.
When most travelers think about things to do in Turku, the city’s restaurant scene is probably not at the top of their lists. However, the restaurants in Turku are an integral part of the city’s ethos, catering to both local diners and visiting gourmands.
Some are located on boats that float on the banks of the Aura River while others serve food in intimate refined spaces that display the best elements of Finnish design. We ate at several restaurants in Turku and recommend the following:
Recognized by both the Michelin Guide and the Nordic White Guide, Chef Erik Mansikka is preparing exciting dishes in his cozy Turku restaurant. Diners flock to Kaskis’ sleek yet intimate dining room for the chance to indulge in Mansikka’s multi-course meals.
The colorful fish circle, the restaurant’s most famous dish, artfully combines white fish ceviche with cloudberries, carrots and roe, while other dishes feature ingredients foraged from local forests. The multi-course dinners at Kaskis ranged from € 55 to € 66 at the time of our dinner. Curated wine pairings are available for an additional fee.
Kaskis is located at Kaskenkatu 6a, 20700 Turku, Finland.
Mixing old and new elements, Smör serves modern Scandinavian dishes in a restored stone library building with cave-like rooms that ooze with character. Our three-course lunch, priced at € 30,included a starter of rainbow trout tartar and a choice of fish or glazed ox cheek as a main course.
We barely had room for the almond cake dessert served with blueberry ice cream. However, we somehow powered ahead with gleeful gluttony.
Smör is located at Läntinen Rantakatu 3, 20100 Turku, Finland. This restaurant was a Food Walk Card participant at the time of our visit.
At first glance, Nooa looks like yet another touristic restaurant due to its Turku Guest Harbour location. In this case, however, looks can be deceiving. Much to our pleasant surprise, the food at Nooa is as outstanding as its waterfront view.
During our four-course meal priced at € 53, we ate dishes like parsley root custard, rainbow trout mousse and Angus beef sirloin. Each dish highlighted local ingredients, though none more so than the chocolate ganache dessert with tangy sea buckthorn ice cream.
Nooa is located at Läntinen Rantakatu 57, 20100 Turku, Finland.
Situated in the city center, di Trevi serves locally inspired tapas and global wine in a social setting. With a relaxed atmosphere, the restaurant provides a welcome respite from a day of hectic touring. Starters like the flavorful salmon pastrami and herb-encrusted lamb chops are the stars of the show at di Trevi.
di Trevi is located at Aurakatu 1, 20100 Turku, Finland. This restaurant was a Food Walk Card participant at the time of our visit.
M Kitchen & Cafe
Located inside the Aboa Vetus & Arts Nova museum, M Kitchen & Café is a great spot to try a range of Finnish food followed by desserts baked by award-winning MBakery. The cafe serves lunch buffet style with cold salads, hot dishes and colorful desserts. Drinks are available for an additional charge.
M Kitchen & Cafe is located at Itäinen Rantakatu 4-6, 20700 Turku, Finland.
Though we drank wine with many of our meals, Turku has a variety of drinking establishments for people looking for additional libations. We recommend these spots for drinks beyond wine in Turku:
Our first priority in a new city is to find the best specialty coffee shop. In Turku, we found Café Art.
Open since 2009 and catering to some of the world’s most prolific coffee drinkers, Café Art serves the best coffee in town in a space tastefully speckled with art. The Turku coffee shop roasts its own beans, and its award-winning baristas serve coffee with meticulous detail. Café Art also serves a range of desserts and savory snacks.
Café Art is located at Läntinen Rantakatu 5, 20100 Turku, Finland. This cafe was a Food Walk Card participant at the time of our visit.
Set in a school dating back to the 19th century, Panimoravintola Koulu is a large yet intimate brewery restaurant serving its own German-style beer and cider. The brewers take their beer seriously procuring the finest malted barley, hops and yeast for their brews.
For those who don’t drink beer, Panimoravintola Koulu’s ciders are worthy options. The ciders incorporate local fruits like blueberries, cranberries and black currants depending on the season and recipe.
We tasted a sampling of beers during our beer lesson in the former school decorated with chalkboards on the walls and lecterns in the corners. We tasted a Czech style Pilsner, a special anniversary beer, a dark wheat beer and a pale ale. Now, this is our kind of education!
Panimoravintola Koulu is located at Eerikinkatu 18, 20100 Turku, Finland. This bar was a Food Walk Card participant at the time of our visit.
The Cow is a great spot in Turku to enjoy a cocktail or two while embracing a zero-waste philosophy that is beneficial for both business and the environment. Even better, The Cow’s bartenders create creative cocktails using foraged ingredients like blueberries, mushrooms and flowers.
Adding a twist to the usual cocktail lounge, The Cow offers cocktail classes for its customers. During our class, Tanja Raunio and Janette Bertényi-Hynynen expertly taught us to craft our own cocktails – a zero-waste Negroni and a Finska Sour with Laplandia Vodka. Who knew that helping the environment could taste so good?
The Cow is located at Aurakatu 3, 20100 Turku, Finland.
Turku Market Hall
The Turku Market Hall (Kauppahalli) is a great spot for a self-guided food tour. Built in 1896, following the city’s devastating fire, the market has a wide array of vendors selling excellent local products like cheese, meat, seafood, pastries and candy.
Despite its age, the recently renovated market added bistros for visitors who want to stay for lunch after shopping for food.
Visitors can connect with market vendors, many of whom are second or third generation participants in their businesses. These artisan producers are proud to share their products with inquisitive shoppers.
A mandatory market stop is Juustopuoti for locally produced cheeses like red mold brie, home cheese, goat cheese and a unique cheese spiced with brandy and nuts. Another necessary stop is Herkkunuotta, a fish stand that serves homemade soup and bread in addition to fresh seafood.
Turku Kappahalli is located at Eerikinkatu 16, Turku, Finland.
Further Afield – The Finnish Archipelago
After visiting the sweeping Swedish archipelago, we were surprised to learn that the Finnish archipelago is the world’s largest.
Knowing that Travel + Leisure named the area as one of the top places to visit, we weren’t surprised to find an enticing island landscape dotted with charming guest houses, local markets and stunning views of the Baltic Sea.
Though days are short and cold during the winter season, the limited light and snow added a mystical aura to the area’s natural beauty during our visit.
Summer days in the archipelago are as endless as the sunlight, making it easy for visitors to enjoy all kinds of water activities. But don’t count out the winter when its possible to enjoy long, snowy walks and hot soaks in the sauna, with the more adventurous trying their hands at ice fishing.
Like nearby Turku, food options in the Finnish archipelago embrace local ingredients and creative cooking. Here are a few food spots to try during your visit:
Patrick and Eva Reuter have created a strikingly beautiful home on the shores of the Baltic Sea and are kind enough to open their doors to visitors who want to experience the beauty for themselves.
At Villa Reuter, guests can enjoy typical archipelago activities like fishing, sailing and a traditional Finnish sauna. Special food-related activities at the villa include classes for cheese making, beer and chocolate.
Our lunch at Villa Reuter was a grand affair in a sunlit room with a blini bar featuring homemade pancakes along with salmon, and two types of fish roe as well as homemade soup, bread and ice cream.
Visitors should plan to linger over lunch and a glass or two of Reuter’s freshly brewed beer. The reward for lingering is a breathtaking view of the sun setting over the sea.
Villa Reuter is located at Fallbölenpolku 17, 21600 Parainen, Finland.
Back Pocket at Hotel Nestor
Chef William Hellgren showcases the available bounty of local ingredients at Back Pocket in his family’s inn, Hotel Nestor. Whenever possible, he uses products that are local to the archipelago, Finland and Scandinavia.
Hellgren serves his food in a rustic dining room with a piano, the ideal environment for dinner and merriment in the archipelago.
Back Pocket is located at Österretaisintie 45, 21710 Korppoo, Finland.
Tove and Gunnar Bornemann escaped the Helsinki’s corporate world for a simpler, albeit busy, life in the Finnish archipelago where they produce cider and apple juice using 10 of Finland’s 400 apple varieties.
Their business, Bornemanns Musteri, doesn’t stick to the basics. This creative duo pushes the envelope by storing cider in white wine barrels and operating Finland’s only mobile cider machine.
Bornemanns Musteri is located at Kårlaxvägen 234, 21610 Pargas, Finland.
Where to Stay in Turku
We recommend Radisson Blu Marina Palace Hotel in Turku for its comfortable rooms, abundant breakfast buffet, prime location and pretty views. Plus, the Turku hotel has an onsite sauna. Need we say more?
Where to Stay in the Finnish Archipelago
Hotel Nestor is a pleasant hotel in the Finnish Archipelago that serves as a convenient base for exploring the area. The rooms are comfortable and the breakfast is invigorating.
Book a Cooking Class
Karelian pastries are a local favorite in Southern Finland with recipes handed down from generation to generation. Though visitors can buy this local specialty at the Turku Market Hall, it’s more fun to learn to make Karelian pastries from scratch.
Click here to arrange a fun cooking class with two generations of Turku locals.
Pin It for Later
About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.