Just a couple of weeks ago we showed you the beauties of Tallinn, capital of Estonia, and now it's the turn of the Finnish city of Turku, this year's other European Capital of Culture, and another relatvely unknown destination that's due to grab everyone's attention in 2011. Take a look at our photo gallery and discover Finland's oldest city.
Set on the coast on the southwest of Finland, the town of Turku dates from the thirteenth century. Until it was ousted by Helsinki in 1812, it was the capital, and now, two centuries later, it's back in the limelight as European Capital of Culture. The celebrations kicked off last weekend, and over the months ahead, a full programme of more than a hundred functions and events is scheduled. With the icy waters of the river Aura as a backdrop, Turku is set to become a veritable theme park of culture. There will be just about every kind of live performance you can think of: circuses, underwater concerts, aerial acrobatic displays, exhibitions, contemporary opera, theatre... and other activities, too, gastronomic events, sports and multicultural encounters. But even without the special cultural programme the university city would be well worth visiting: it boasts some architectural gems, including the cathedral, which vies with the castle to be Turku's most impressive monument. Then there are the wooden houses of Luostarinmaki, the busy shops and bustling cafes, the Kauppatori market... Why not make this the year you visit Finland, and spend a few days in Turku?
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Turku is set at the mouth of the river Aura; the Swedish name for the city is Abo, which means 'riverside settlement' / Perttu Saksa
Despite the bitter cold, thousands of people attended the opening ceremony that kicked off the exciting programme of events the European Capital of Culture has planned for the year ahead / Olli Suli
One of the many events is a circus show about Count Dracula where many of the performers have worked with the internationally renowned Cirque du Soleil / Timo Jakonen
The inauguration ceremony - under the management of the British company 'Walk the Plank' - blended acrobatics, poetry, dance and fireworks / Kari Vainio
2011 Corner is located in a stunning Art Nouveau building on the riverbank: here you'll find information about the activities and events, tickets will be on sale, and there's also a cafe and gift boutique / Vesa Aaltonen
Turku is situated in a busy commercial shipping lane between Sweden and Finland, and is the gateway to an archipelago comprising over 15,000 islands, most of which are privately owned and uninhabited
Not all the activities planned are cultural: there are also gastronomic events, sports and multicultural encounters / Kimmo Metsaranta
The activities, which are mostly free, will take place throughout the city and in other parts of southwest Finland / Tatu Hiltunen
With the icy waters of the Aura as backdrop, Turku is set to become a veritable theme park of culture / Perttu Sksa
The exterior of Turku's Lutheran cathedral, rebuilt after suffering major damage during the Great Fire of Turku in 1827, is as unrelentingly austere as the castle / Heli Lempa
The Turku 2011 Foundation, responsible for the organisation of the 2011 events, hope to to attract two million visitors to the coastal city this year - a startling target considering that the total population of the whole country is only just over five million
The castle dates from the thirteenth century and was the headquarters of the Swedish governors who ruled the country until superseded by the Russians in 1809. At this time, and until 1812, Turku was the capital of Finland / Perttu Saksa
The river Aura is a focal point of the city. In summer, there are pleasure cruises, and the river banks are popular place for leisure and relaxation / Esko Keski-Oja