Anchoring the country's southwest is Finland's former capital, Turku. This striking seafaring city stretches along the broad Aurajoki from its Gothic cathedral to its medieval castle and vibrant harbour. Turku challenges Helsinki's cultural pre-eminence with cutting-edge galleries, museums and restaurants, and music festivals that electrify the summer air.
Throughout the south, the coastline is strung with characterful little towns. The Swedish and Russian empires fought for centuries over the area's ports, and today they’re commandeered by castles and fortresses that seem at odds with the sunshine and sailing boats. Inland, charming bruk (ironworks) villages offer an insight into the area's industrial past.
Scattered offshore, islands provide yachting opportunities, sea-salt retreats and stepping stones across to Åland and Sweden. Most of the charming, history-steeped coastal towns offer summer cruises, guest-harbour facilities, and charter boats to discover your own island.