Co-host of the European Capital of Culture during 2011 (along with Tallinn), Turku was once the national capital, but lost its status in 1812 and most of its buildings in a ferocious fire in 1827. These days it’s a small and sociable city, bristling with history, culture and a sparkling nightlife, thanks to the students from its two universities. If you base yourself here for a few days, you’ll be able to explore the fascinating coastal inlets and islands in the surrounding area.

To get to grips with Turku and its pivotal place in Finnish history, cut through the centre to the Aura River that splits the city. This tree-framed space is, as it was before the great fire of 1827, the community’s bustling heart.

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