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Turku, Finland

Finland’s oldest city, and for most of its history the ex officio capital is also the gateway to the country for countless visitors arriving from other Baltic cities on the plentiful ferries. Founded in the late 13th century on the banks of the Aura River, it was the site of Finland’s first university and consistently a cosmopolitan cultural center. Even today, some five percent of Turku’s citizens claim Swedish as their mother tongue. Architecturally, the city has preserved a sadly small percentage of its historic structures, many were demolished in the 1950s and 60s to make room for much-needed apartment blocks. Those that remain are worthy examples, the Turku Castle with its square tower and Turku Cathedral’s unique cupola. The city is rich in museums, with two notable art museums, a Sibelius Museum dedicated to music, and a pharmacy museum. The Luostarinmäki museum is a preserved original neighborhood of wooden houses and workshops, combined with a handicrafts museum. The site won Scandinavia’s coveted Golden Apple tourism award. The Forum Marinum is a fine maritime museum with a large fleet of museum ships moored in the river that you can board. Michael’s Church is a startlingly vertical structure with needle-like steeples, and the copper-clad Taidekappeli outside the city is an architecturally unique chapel.