2011's tourism hotspots: what to do in Turku, Finland

Turku is stepping into the limelight again - after being somewhat sidelined by Helsinki as Finland's major city - with its role as the European Capital of Culture 2011 (a title shared with Tallin in Estonia).

Last year, the city was selected by guidebook publisher Rough Guides as one of the top ten places to visit in 2011, thanks in part to the "veritable feast of artistic and cultural events" planned to celebrate its cultural accolade.

Trying to take in the packed calendar for the year (available at http://www.turku2011.fi/) is mind-boggling enough and that's before visitors even open a guidebook to this ancient city which seems to boast more for visitors to see every day.

So what can visitors look forward to doing on a visit to 2011's European Capital of Culture?

1. Learn. The history of Turku castle goes back to the 1200s, when the city was first founded, although unfortunately much of the rest of Turku's architecture was destroyed in the 19th century. Still, visitors can visit the Turku Historical Museum at the castle which illustrates the history of the city.

2. Meet Moomin. Nope, deadly serious. These lovable trolls have become a worldwide children's sensation and can be found living and playing at the Moominworld theme park, some 16 kilometers outside of Turku.

3. Use a sauna. An integral part of life in Finland, there are around half a million saunas in the country and they're practically a prerequisite for hotels in Turku.

4. Attend an event. €50 million is being spent on Turku's 2011 Capital of Culture program, with 1,500 events scheduled from approximately 15,000 artists, of which around 70 percent will be free of charge

5. Go island-hopping. The Turku Archipelego is comprised of over 20,000 islands off the coast of Finland in the Baltic sea, linked by bridges, ferries and sea taxis and considered by many the largest archipelago in the world. Some are deserted, some are home to spas, restaurants or other attractions and they make for an excellent walking or cycling tour.

6. Party. With two universities, Turku unsurprisingly has a buzzing nightlife scene, with plenty of bars and clubs open until the wee hours.

See http://www.visitfinland.com and http://www.turku.fi for further information

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