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Bask in radiant Ruissalo

Pink and yellow villas line the shore on the island of Ruissalo.
Photo: Kathleen Cusack

With some 40,000 islands and islets, the archipelago is a maze of vibrant villages and breathtaking beauty. And the best part? It is within easy reach.

A local favourite

Just a few kilometres from Turku, you will find the island of Ruissalo. Once used as farming land and hunting grounds for the aristocracy, Ruissalo soon became a popular playground for the local townsfolk. From the 19th century, residents took to strolling along the promenade, while those more fortunate spent the summer months in lavish villas. 

Ruissalo is still beloved today. Even now, sun-seeking crowds flock to the promenade, known as kansanpuisto, at the mere mention of warm weather. But on any given weekend, you are likely to come across Turku locals hiking, cycling, or even skiing along the island’s vast network of trails.

Captivating nature

So, why has Turku had such a long-standing love affair with Ruissalo? Yes, the island is, broadly speaking, in the city’s backyard, but Ruissalo is also home to the largest oak forests in Finland, flourishing with species rarely seen elsewhere. It’s a treasure chest for nature-lovers, so make like a local and set out on a trail to explore the island.  

Once you’ve wandered through the ancient woodlands, be sure to stop by the Botanical Garden. Run by the University of Turku, this enchanting oasis houses more than 5,000 plant species from across the globe. Here, you can venture to the Mediterranean, where grapefruit grows in abundance, or even step into the tropics to admire the brightly coloured birds circling overhead.

A cockatiel sits on a plank of wood at the Botanical Garden.
Pick up a map during your visit to the Botanical Garden and then explore the island's winding paths.

Uniquely Ruissalo

As well as its natural beauty, Ruissalo is renowned for its shipbuilding past. Once home to the largest boatyard in the Nordic countries, which saw ships sent as far as South America, the Ruissalo Boatyard is now a popular marina. Grab a seat at Zaké Pizzeria & Wine Bar to enjoy the view or browse through the best of Nordic design at Avelia

If you are passionate about live music, set aside three days in July for your mind to be blown as 105,000 like-minded fans descend on the island to celebrate Ruisrock. First held in 1970, Ruisrock is the oldest music festival in Finland with artists like Metallica, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Cure, and U2 taking the stage over the years.

An aerial shot of Ruissalo Boatyard, where boats have been anchored a summer's day.
The Föli waterbus will take you straight to Ruissalo Boatyard in the summertime.

How to get there

Ruissalo is one of the most easily accessible islands in the archipelago. You can take a Föli bus straight from the city centre or visit Carfield Bike Rental to set out on two wheels. Come summertime, you can also sail to Ruissalo aboard the Föli water bus. Want to stay longer? Check into the Ruissalo Spa & Hotel or pitch a tent at the Ruissalo Camping area, situated at the far end of the peninsula near Saaronniemi Beach.

A wooden signpost points the way on the island of Ruissalo.
Follow the path to Saaronniemi Beach, where you'll find a sauna, playground, and BBQ facilities. Photo: @paiviseppalassila