164km (102 miles) W of Helsinki, 155km (96 miles) S of Tampere
On the western coast, at the confluence of three rivers, the seaport of Turku (Åbo in Swedish) is the oldest city in Finland and was once the most important city in the country; it was both an ecclesiastical center and a trade center. In addition to the cathedral, the city acquired a citadel in the late 13th century, making it a power player by the standards of the Middle Ages. Turku's cultural and financial power was assured when the king of Sweden, who then ruled over Finland, made Turku the seat of government and installed his representative here.
In the 17th century, an academy was established in Turku, and in 1808, Russia conquered Finland and moved its capital to Helsinki, which was closer to St. Petersburg and theoretically easier to administer. In 1827, a fire destroyed many of Turku's old wood buildings.
But Turku bounced back, becoming not only a major port and industrial city but also a university town, with both a Swedish and a Finnish Academy. It was rebuilt by Carl Ludvig Engel, who designed Helsinki, with stone-and-brick buildings, a grid plan, and wide streets.
The legendary long-distance runner, Paavo Nurmi (1897-1973), known as "The Flying Finn," was the most famous son of Turku. He won a total of nine gold and three silver medals in three different Olympics.