Turku, Finland: next year’s capital of culture.

Turku, admittedly, is hardly a household name, with even the quick-witted often mistaking it for a town in Turkey. Yet this strategically placed coastal town was Finland’s most important city for five centuries when, according to the locals, Helsinki was ‘a fisherman’s village with six huts’. Helsinki was made the new capital by the Russian’s when they seized the Grand Duchy of Finland after the Finnish War of 1808 and 1809, reports the New York Times.

But Turku is now hoping to be put firmly on the map as it becomes, along with Estonian capital Tallinn, European Capital of Culture for 2011. This tidy, orderly but laid-back and inviting city boasts cultural events that are eclectic and at times unconventional. 1,500 cultural events are planned for 2011 including operas, concerts, art exhibitions, environmental workshops and the wackier ‘accordion wrestling’ (Finnish accordion maestro Kimmo Pohjonen will play while two wrestlers perform).

Central Turku is quietly sophisticated, it’s streets lined with bars and restaurants where you can try the local beer and eat locally sourced seafood. People gather in Market Square with its open-air stalls and architectural jewels such as the Russian Orthodox Church and the neo-Classical Swedish Theatre. The city centre is cut through by a narrow waterway, the Aura, flanked by restored 19th-century buildings, the new Main Library made of glass and the renovated Old Library Square, the planned venue for next year's outdoor plays and concerts.

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