The River Aura is the heart and soul of the city, at the estuary of which Finland's oldest city began to grow in the early 13th century. Over 800 years of urban history has not reduced the significance of the river to the image of Turku – quite the opposite.

Explore Turku’s city scene on a walk 3.5 km long from the Turku Cathedral to Turku Castle. Over a walking tour of a couple of hours you’ll get an excellent overview of Turku’s history and present day.

Begin at Turku Cathedral. When you stand on the steps of the church and gaze toward the river, you’ll see the final stop of the walking tour – Turku Castle to the left. Cross Uudenmaankatu street to the Great Old Square. At the edge is Brinkkala Mansion where the Declaration of the Christmas Peace, an important tradition for many from Turku and Finland, is given from the balcony every year. Looking up from Brinkkala’s balcony standing on the hill is the Vartiovuori Observatory. Adjacent is Luostarnimäki Handicraft Museum, which offers a great setting for traditional handicraft demonstrations during summer.

Walk from the Old Square towards the river and you’ll see Turku’s oldest restaurant, Pinella. The view in front is of Vähätori square, flanked by restaurants, with the old and new coming together nicely at the library quarter. Built in 2007 the newer part of the City Library building offers all that you’d expect from a modern library, for free every day. The library also hosts many cultural events, from exhibitions to movie nights. Located between Vähätori and the Aura Bridge are many good restaurants including Gustavo, Tiirikkala, Mami and Smör as well as wine bars E. Ekblom and Tintå. Along the riverside of Vähätori is also Låna, from where you can hire an electric picnic boat to cruise up the river.

Continuing along Itäinen Rantakatu street to the left of Pinella you’ll come to the Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova museum. Read the information board outside to get a picture of how the museum combines events, history and modern art. During summer you’ll see big, colourful eiders bobbing on the water. The environmental artwork of Reima Nurmiko, they were introduced during the 2011 Capital of Culture year to liven up the landscape.

I have chosen Turku after living in Stockholm, London and New York. Doesn’t that say something about this city.

- Michael Monroe, rocker

Further on, you’ll see the Library Bridge for pedestrians and bicycles, with modern light architecture that helps to accentuate the national landscape environment. At the other end of the library bridge is the sculpture by Andrei Kovalchuk entitled A Meeting in Turku in 1812. Further down the eastern shore at the foot of the Aura Bridge is the Paavo Nurmi statue, a duplicate of the one in Helsinki. Here you are very close to the New Pharmacy pub, the favourite hangout of fictional detective Jussi Vares. Further up Kaskenmäkihill you’ll find Kaskis. The restaurant of master chef Erik Mansikka, Kaskis was rated the public’s favourite as soon as it opened in spring 2014. Be sure to reserve a table in good time!

Cross the river at the Aura Bridge, look up the street and you’ll see a large grey stone building at the top of the hill. The Turku Art Museum stands tall over the city. The tour continues left, and along Läntinen Rantakatu, between the Aura Bridge and Theatre Bridge, development has begun on a row of appetising street food kiosks. On the opposite shore are a number of anchored boats. These riverboats are a speciality of Turku’s restaurant culture. There are total of 12 restaurant riverboats, full to the brim on a warm summer’s evening.

Continuing along the western shore the next site is the Pharmacy Museum, housed in Qwensel House built in the 1700’s. When walking across the Theatre Bridge, at the other end is the renovation of Turku City Theatre, due to be completed in Autumn 2017. Located behind is the Biological Museum in a splendid Art Nouveau building, the Sports Park and the Paavo Nurmi Stadium. After the city theatre and government offices on the river’s eastern shore you will see the Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art.

On the hill behind the museum stands the old windmill, at the foot of which is the Samppalinna Open Air Theatre. Here you cross the river over the Myllysilta Bridge, whose predecessor nearly collapsed into notoriety in 2010. At either end are four anthropomorphic bronze statues by Kari-Petteri Kakko entitled Star Gazing. Once passed Martinsilta Bridge the River Aura view changes. There are no more bridges meaning even large vessels have passage to this point. Here, in front of Vaakahuone guests are taken out to sea aboard boats such as Steamship S/S Ukkopekka and M/S Rudolfina.

Moving forward, you are greeted by an authentic slice of Turku. The little orange ferry Föri has linked the riversides for more than a hundred years. Jump aboard – it’s free! Turn your back to Föri and the river and you’ll see a parkland slope rising to the top of a hill. This is Kakolanmäki, where standing at the summit is the stone fortress in which Finland’s most notorious criminals were carrying out their sentences as late as 2007.

Now Kakola is being converted into residential use and you can move freely about the area. Watch over the city scenery from the hill and enjoy a coffee and the exhibition that sheds light on the prison’s history in Café Kakola. Along the west bank next to Föri is the Turku Guest Harbour. At the other end is a huge tail fin rising from the river; Achim Kühn’s art work Harmony.

Next stop is Varvintori sqaure. At the edge is a former rope factory, renovated for use by the Turku Conservatory and Arts Academy. Micha Ullman’s North is a part of the Turku city sculpture project, as are a series of illuminated numbers on the Turku Energia chimney. The work is known as the Fibonacci Sequence 1–55 by Mario Merz.

Continuing the tour you’ll notice the approaching port. Here Turku Castle is visible, the monument marking the end of the journey. Nowadays you can admire the castle as well as the permanent and temporary exhibitions. However, before the castle you’ll pass the sailing ships the Suomen Joutsen, the Sigyn barque as well as other museum ships of the Maritime Centre Forum Marinum. Also moored here is the hostel ship S/S Bore. It has a wonderful history as a cruise ship from the 1960’s as well as an atmospheric interior of brass and mahogany.