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A Wine-Fueled Trip to a Stylish Nordic City

Turku, Finland’s oldest city, has around eight centuries of Swedish, Russian and, of course, Finnish history woven into its medieval cobblestones. Today, Finland’s youngest generation has rejuvenated the metropolis with good food, wine and a strong design aesthetic.

Chef grills food at food and wine festival
Turku Food and Wine Festival / Photo by Matias Happasaari

Wander and Wine

Summer’s a lovely time to visit, but don’t fret if you can’t make the Turku Food & Wine Festival in July. There’s plenty to sip year-round. Just about every bar has caught wine fever.

Starting at sleek Roster Turku, grab a glass of bubbles and park yourself, and your bike, on the terrace. Scan the chalkboard for daily by-the-glass and food options at Tintå wine bar, once an 18th-century stable.

Great spots along the river for wine and a bite include Restaurant Gustavo, which serves Mediterranean-influenced options and runs heavy on the Spanish, French and Italian bottles. There’s also Tårget, popular for its long list of Champagnes and international bubbles. Ask up-and-coming mixologist Riku Hannula at E. Ekblom to shake a fancy cocktail in lieu of wine.

Though Finland hasn’t fermented Vitis vinifera grapes commercially yet, fruit wines have about a century’s worth of history. Pick up a souvenir bottle of Valkia, made in Turku from white currants and blueberries.

Selection of food and wine at Kakolanruusu Restaurant
Kakolanruusu Restaurant / Photo courtesy Kakolanruusu

Have a Bite

Sample some of Finland’s best fish at Herkkunuotta, inside the 123-year-old Turku Market Hall. If offered when you visit, order the cold-smoked pike roe on dense, sweet archipelago bread. Down the way, cheese vendor Juustopuoti Immonen doles out tasty samples of regional products.

In the evening, book a cellar table at Smör, the Swedish word for “butter.” The wine list leans German, and it complements delicate local specialties like wild perch and forest-foraged mushrooms.

The hottest table in town is still at Kaskis, opened in 2014. Small and buzzy, the wine list speaks to the philosophy of the owners: unusual, creative and funky. The owners’ latest venture is Kakolanruusu, which occupies a former prison and features natural, sustainable and biodynamic wines.

Finland boasts a long coast, yet Turku has surprisingly few seafood restaurants. The new Restaurant Bassi brings bubbles and white wine to shellfish-laden tables. 

Turku Archipelago and steamship
Ukkopekka steamship company touring the Turku Archipelago / Photo courtesy Visit Turku

Get Outside

Scattered across the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland are thousands of rocky isles. Many are uninhabited, but plenty in the Turku Archipelago can be accessed by boat and ferry from nearby Naantali.

What to do when you get there? Visit a Finnish winery. Brinkhall’s, owned by a French producer, crafts apple-based sparkling and ice wine from estate orchards. Just be sure to book in advance.

Closer to town, grab bottles from the cute Alko Oyj store in Turku Market Hall, local delicacies from Piece of Cake – MBakery Café (winner of the TV show Finland’s Best Bakery in 2015) and take a picnic cruise. Book a boat from Låna, which runs on electricity, and sail the Aura river. No special license required.

Kui Design Local Shop / Photo by Patrick Selin, Visit Turku
Kui Design Local Shop / Photo by Patrick Selin, Visit Turku

Eye for Design

Finland is a hotbed of modern design. During Helsinki Design Week, art museums and iconic showrooms garner attention, but Turku’s flourishing set of young designers also deserve a nod.

Start at Puf Design Market, a collective of internationally renowned brands and up-and-coming designers that showcases a rotation of homegoods and clothing. Pick up wooden bowties, an unlikely hit from designer Hermanni Vuorisalo. Kui Design Local Shop sells cute clothes, bags and textiles stamped in Turku-themed art.

Check out furniture designed by local sister team BEdesign at Vida Interior & More, or pick up suitcase-size décor. Keep an eye out for textiles by Saana ja Olli, a designer duo and couple that manufactures seat cushions for Kaskis.

Nab fashionable accessories from Televisio Lifestyle Store. Don’t leave without a pair of Iitila’s iconic Ultima Thule sparkling wine glasses, evocative of Lapland’s melting ice. They’ll spark warm memories while you sip bubbles back home.