Founded in 1229, the city of Turku on Finland's southwest coast served as the nation's capital until Helsinki took the reins in 1812 – and signs of the 13th century still define the city. Although Turku's influence has waned over the years, it's still a major port town with plenty of attractions to keep visitors busy.
Get a glimpse of Turku's former glory at Turku Castle and Turku Cathedral – two of Finland's most important medieval monuments. Dating back to 1280, Turku Castle is the country's largest fortress. Inside, you'll find banquet halls, dungeons, sculptures and tapestries. The 14th-century, Gothic-style Turku Cathedral is considered the 'mother church' of the nation's Lutheran faith. Although the church has been rebuilt many times due to fire damage, you can still get a sense of its beauty through its stained-glass windows and religious art and artefacts housed inside the small on-site museum. Afterwards, take a stroll down the Luostarinmäki district's cobbled streets to see centuries-old wooden houses and a handicrafts museum where artisans craft shoes, pottery and more.
Modern Turku offers a wealth of distractions for sightseers beyond its historic quarters. The city's energy reaches a peak during the summer, when art and music festivals become the talk of the town and outdoorsy types take to the Aura River to escape city life for the Turku Archipelago. The university crowd also keeps the atmosphere young and lively, whether you're relaxing at a café during the day or bellied up to a bar at night.