Culture Walk 2

Puolalanmäki Hill
Turku
Puolalanmäki (also known as the Turku Art Museum Hill) is particularly well known in relation to the Finnish tradition of Vappu (May Day). The second section of the Culture Walk guides visitors to this beautiful hill, where, in addition to the stunning Turku Art Museum and the heritage of May Day, there is lots of beautiful architecture. Take time to rest and enjoy the idyllic park environment.

1. Finnish May Day (Vappu)

Puolalamäki is the focal point of the Finnish May Day celebrations, known as Vappu. Turku students and other May Day merrymakers gather together in front of Turku Art Museum and all the way down Aurakatu Street to celebrate Vappu Eve on 30th April. It’s the venue for the culmination of the student Vappu parade. The chair of the Student Union executive from the University of Turku holds a speech, during which students wave their black and white caps in the air, cheering the speaker on. The speech symbolically ends with the donning of their student caps, a key event that comes accompanied by the popping of champagne corks. The sight of many thousands of students, past and present, toasting in their treasured caps, as well as their colourful overalls (another idiosyncratic piece of student attire), is a sight to behold.

  • Top Tip: Celebrate your own mini-Vappu by putting on colourful trousers, opening a sparkling bottle of wine and waving your cap in the air.

2. Wooden Shacks and Stone Palaces

During the 1900s Puolalamäki Hill was the centre of an architectural change. Many old wooden houses were located on the hill, having survived the Great Fire of Turku, several of which dated from the late 1700s. A new architectural wind blew through Puolalamäki with many big stone buildings built there, including the Turku Art Museum and other apartment buildings in the Art Nouveau style. It became a trendy new place to live with the old wooden houses taken down during this period. The demolishing of the old wooden houses was seen as a part of progress and a way to make Turku more European. Only one building, the Iso-Puolala house, survived and is still there to this day.

With the new apartment buildings came new technology. Located in an building named Albatross is one of the first elevators in Turku. During the 1900s this was the height of modern life, attracting neighbourhood kids to such a degree access to the elevator door had to be locked. In these days it wasn’t necessary to lock the doors to a building.

  • Top Tip: Walk around the park and imagine which house you would like to live in.

3. From Hill to Hill

The view of Turku from in front of the Turku Art Museum is truly impressive. The road, Aurakatu, which leads down the hill to the Aura Bridge and the street of Kaskenkatu is a busy Turku thoroughfare. Around the bustling marketplace passengers depart and arrive on buses. From this vantage point there is a great view of city centre activity, all year round year. During the day you can admire the beautiful buildings and the people going about their business, and at night you can see all the lights of the city. The view is also great from the other side of town in the middle of the hills of Samppalinna and Vartiovuori. From here you can see the Turku Art Museum building rising majestically above the city.

  • Top Tip: Take a selfie with the view from hill to hill as your background.