Have you ever visited somewhere at the “wrong” time of year but had an absolute blast anyway?
When I asked locals about the best time to visit Southern Finland off-season, March was described as grey and dull to me. Of course, I had secretly hoped to still find snow around, and even though the odds for that were slim at best, late March was the only time slot I had available for my trip, so I went anyway.
What can I say? Did I encounter snow on my visit? Yes. Was it as much as I’d hoped? No. Did I have a lovely time exploring Finland anyway? Abso-freakin-lutely!
*I was a guest of Visit Turku on this trip, however, all opinions remain my own.
Where to visit in Finland in March
Of course, if you’re looking for a ski vacation and/or dream of seeing the Northern Lights, Northern Finland and Lapland is where you should be heading. I, for instance, had a lovely time cuddling with reindeer and frolicking in the snow in Ruka-Kuusamo one January - a region that’s equally stunning in late winter!
If you’re, however, looking for a city trip in off-season, Southern Finland has much more to offer than just Helsinki; Turku, for example!
Finland’s oldest and 3rd largest city makes for the perfect weekend trip - either as a stand-alone or as an extended weekend with an additional day or two in nearby Tampere (Finland’s sauna capital), Helsinki or even Stockholm.
You see, Turku is just a 2-hour train or bus ride from Helsinki and can also comfortably (and cheaply) be reached by ferry from Stockholm - a journey where you also get to experience the stunning Åland Islands!
I was honestly surprised by the fact that most museums and attractions in the city were open even in the midst of winter - and many of them even until 6 or 7 pm! Here in Western Norway, most attractions shut down for the winter and the ones that are open, often already close their doors by 4 pm.
So, don’t let off-season be the reason not to visit Turku and Finland in March - in fact, it might just turn out to be a much better vacation than if you’d go during the summer, as you’ll skip the crowds and save money on accommodation and transport.
Read on for what there’s to discover and take in when heading to Turku!
Highlights of my visit to Turku, Finland, in March
Turku was a city of surprises to me! The town centre is super small and walkable, giving you the feeling that you’re really visiting a small town but then again, the restaurant and cafe scene of Turku is definitely that of a big city. From fresh and delicious seafood at the new Bassi restaurant, to Finland’s second oldest market hall, to delicious vegan cupcakes at M Bakery - no wonder they call Turku the foodie capital of Finland!
Visit Turku even offer a Food Walk Card, which enables you to have one dish for free at 5 out of 10 restaurants. Dinner at one place, dessert at another - what a wonderful way of getting to know the city and making the most of late-winter!
Turku isn’t just a foodie heaven, though - the city also has plenty of architecture and scenery to offer! Going for a stroll along the alleyway of Luostarin Välikatu made me feel like I was transported back to Stockholm - no wonder, considering the history of Turku as Finland’s most important city in medieval times when Finland was still part of Sweden.
Speaking of history and medieval times, Turku Castle and the history/modern art museum Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova are two places that might very well be reason enough to visit Turku at any time of year. The castle felt like something straight out of Romeo and Juliet and even features a love story that’s way more dramatic than what Shakespeare came up with; while Aboa Vetus exhibits the actual remains of what’s left of medieval Turku.
I honestly didn’t expect to find so much medieval history in one place, but Turku really manages to keep the old times alive! And as if that weren’t plenty of reasons for a winter trip to Turku, the region also offers its own national park Kurjenrahka, which I’d argue might very well be at its best covered in snow and completely empty (read: peaceful).
All in all, I would say that despite what the March weather might throw at you (everything from rain to snow to sunshine), Turku makes for a great weekend/city trip even if it’s cold and/or nasty outside. After all, the city has plenty of museums and restaurants/cafes to keep you warm, entertained and full - meaning you can leave exploring all that scenery for when the sun does decide to come out.
Where to stay in Turku
I got to stay at the Radisson Blu Marina Palace right by the river Aura, just a short walk from most museums and attractions. Their rooms are super cosy and their in-house restaurant Grill it! Marina is even part of Turku Food Walk.
The Radisson Blu Marina Palace is a 4-star hotel, but visiting in March means you can make a pretty good deal compared to main season in the summer!
What kind of weather can you expect from Finland in March?
While the country is super cold in winter - and when I say super cold, I’m speaking of temperatures around -20 degrees Celcius - visiting Finland in March comes with the added advantage of milder temperatures than mid-winter, while there’s still a relatively good chance of there at least being a little snow around in the south.
Generally speaking, early March should give you the best snow guarantee, though in times of climate change, that isn’t really a given anymore - at least not in the south of the country. If you aren’t planning to go skiing but would just be happy over a little coating of snow because you never get any at home (like me), then March should definitely make you happy, though!
When I visited Turku in late-March, temperatures ranged from -2 to plus 5 degrees Celsius and I pretty much experienced all the seasons in one day, from sunshine to snow to rain and back to sunshine - meaning it wasn’t quite spring-like just yet, but with the right clothing really not that bad at all!
What to pack for March in Finland
Layers! If you’re planning to go for a hike, you won’t get around bringing thermal underwear, otherwise woolen sweaters, a good winter jacket, warm and comfortable boots and snugly scarfs/hats should definitely be on your packing list.
Other than that, spikes/crampons should also be on your list if you’re planning to go hiking. The trails at Kurjenrahka National Park were still quite icy in some parts, and even though that doesn’t mean that you can’t go for a hike, crampons will just make the hike a little safer and less adventurous…
Also, an umbrella makes a lot of sense to bring with you. Believe me, those March downpours of snow/rain are no joke!
Last but not least, wherever you decide to head in Finland, my travels in the country have shown me that Finland offers the most scenic spots where you least expect them - aka off the beaten path. And in the end, it doesn’t really matter at what time of year you visit if you just pack and dress appropriately and are willing to make the most of your time, even if that means going out in the rain.
Plus, I really think there’s beauty in watching the seasons change. After all, a Finnish late-winter/early-spring is probably completely different to what you’re used to, so what locals might describe as dull could possibly still feel very new and exciting to you!
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