Turku, Finland

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Along the banks of the Aura River in southwest Finland lies the oldest city in the country, Turku, whose founding dates back to 1229. The former capital—until Russia seized the country in the 1800s and moved it to Helsinki—Turku has a long, storied history that’s evident in its remarkably well-preserved medieval-era castle, cathedral and cobblestoned market square. But Turku has a vibrant, modern side as well, with a cutting-edge arts scene and spirited nightlife thanks to its sizable university population. Museums abound here, from the Sibelius Museum, a sleek modernist building dedicated to all things music, to the Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, with artifacts spanning from the Middle Ages to contemporary times.The heart of Turku is its picturesque river, lined with charming riverboats, bustling restaurants and shops, and crisscrossed by pedestrian bridges. An easily strollable riverfront promenade leads you to the city’s main sights: The east bank (popularly referred to as “this side of the river”) is the older part, where you’ll find the cathedral, the university and Old Great Square, while the newer, western side (known as “the other side of the river”) is where much of the shopping is concentrated. You can quickly travel between the two by hopping on the free Föri ferry, a 100-year-old vessel that traverses the river in just 1½ minutes.
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