Life in Finland’s Most Infamous Prison – Kakolanmäki Hill Museum

Next our road trip in Finland brought us to Turku where we tested a Turku Food Walk cards. We had driven from my hometown Kokkola to Heinävesi, and visited the Valamo Monastery, and from there to a summer cottage in Rääkkylä. We saw Nightwish exhibition at Kitee, travelled to Vyborg, Russia via Saimaa canal, and spent a day in Porvoo. It was time to go back to Helsinki, and why not since we were lucky to be able to test the famous Rock’n Rose Room in Radisson Blu Aleksanteri.

*Our trip was made possible by Visit Turku, but as always, all opinions are my own.

For some reason, I was interested to see the Kakola area in Turku which is rapidly changing. I had read from some Finnish blogs about tours they make into old Kakola Prison which is no longer in use. I was thinking that the tour might be a little bit challenging for us, since we were travelling with a baby, so we didn’t book it. But now later I have realised that our baby has travelled so much already, that she probably would have been fine in a carrier. However, we didn’t want to risk it and went for an easier option. We found out that there is a museum in the prison area which will show you what life in old Kakola was like. So we decided to head over to Kakolanmäki Hill Museum. 


Kakolanmäki Hill Museum is located in the prison warden’s old barn. At first it was a little bit difficult to find the place since the whole Kakola hill is one big construction site and there were no road signs to guide us. We stopped at the Kakola souvenir store to ask directions and they told us that the museum is right around the corner. This store sells all kinds of prison related stuff and items made by prisoners. So if you are interested in things like that, you should give this shop a try.

The tickets to the museum are sold in the prison warden’s house next to the barn. Visit Turku provided us a Museum Walk card which gave us access to most museums in Turku. After getting the ticket they unlock the museum door and the self-guided tour begins. The museum is very small but very interesting. Most of the items there have been donated by the families of Kakola’s former prison guards. Kakola’s priest, Ellilä photographed his work and his photos are now showcased in the museum. They truly show what prison life was like back then in Kakola. 




In the last room of the museum you will get to know about Kakola granite, known as ‘Kakoliitti’. The prisoners were sentenced to hard labor to quarry it. Kakoliitti was used in many buildings inside and outside of Kakola. It was interesting to read about it since after visiting the museum we ended up visiting St Michael’s Church in Turku where they also used this granite.



Kakola prison was first built on order of Emperor Nikolai I, that Finland should have some prisons with hard labor. The facility opened in 1853 and in the beginning it was used to accommodate Russian soldiers who came to Finland from the Crimean War. They left in 1859 and the building become a prison. Over the years, many more buildings were built in Kakola, and at the most, there were 1,320 inmates. In 1911, a huge Jugend style granite building was built. It become the place where all the most feared inmates were placed. Kakola inmates would take part in such jobs as gardening, wood work, metal work and quarrying. 



One of the most infamous inmates in Kakola was for sure Ruben Oskar Auervaara. He scammed numerous women by getting them to fall for him and then stealing everything from them. He used newspaper ads to find women and preferred wealthy ladies. We still jokingly call men who seem to be going after many ladies at the same time “Auervaara”. Another famous inmate was Matti “Volvo” Markkanen who robbed numerous banks in Denmark while driving only Volvos. Some Swedish people told him that a Volvo can not be broken into, and he believed them. The worst murderer in Finnish history is Matti Haapoja who killed at least 18 people. He also tried to escape from Kakola several times.

In 2007 a new, Saramäki Prison was opened in Turku, and all the inmates were transferred there from Kakola. Kakola was not considered to be very practical and the location in the city center was not convenient. Now there are many kinds of plans for Kakola’s buildings. Part of them will be renovated into apartments and some part will become a hotel. For a few years now there have been prison tours arranged for visitors, but it is not known if a part of the prison will be saved for this kind of purpose. It is sure that every Finn knows Kakola, and there would probably be demand for the tours. Also the fate of the Kakolanmäki Hill Museum is still undecided. 


I really liked the cafe that was situated in the prison warden’s house. The Cafe is only open during summertime, but it felt like we were sitting in someone’s home. The furniture was old and there were photos on the walls from Kakola prison. There is one decision to make when purchasing coffee: Do you want to drink it like prison guards from fine porcelain or like a prisoner from a tin cup? They were also serving a special muffin which had a file sticking out of it.



I have to say that we were not expecting much when coming to Kakola, but the visit was actually very interesting. Definitely worth a visit!


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  1. Ha-ha! How funny that they serve muffins with files sticking out! I enjoy learning the history of an area, even if it is an old prison. Sometimes it is sad and somber to learn of places like this, but it is always good to know the truth.

  2. It is an interesting museum indeed. I am reminded of the Kalapani – a cellular jail of our Indian Freedom movement located on the Andaman Islands that has now been converted into a museum of sorts. Of course, these two places are similar yet dissimilar in more than one way. And, I am glad you have penned your experience and shared with us 🙂

  3. It’s not a common plane to visit but then a great place and offbeat. Insight how how these inmates lived and get a feel of their life. It’s full of stories and history and if you are interested in prisons then this is a great place. The cafe in the warden’s room looks really interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  4. We’ve visited old prisons but not like Kakolanmäki. I don’t think there are hard labor prisons anymore where they quarry granite. I like the option of buying items made by the prisoners. And that’s pretty funny that you could choose your coffee cup. I think I would have tried the prisoners’ tin!

  5. I never visited any prison but it would be interesting. To know how the inmates are treated and what they are convicted seems inquisitive. That blue colored cafe in Kakola prison looks cute but they serve coffee in same coffee mugs of jail.

  6. This is somewhat an offbeat place to visit – a prison museum.. Have never really been familiarized to such a concept in our country (India). Our ideas of a prison are shaped by the ones they show in movies – however real or unreal it might be. But yes, going thru’ the post and also the pics – it really makes a person realise how hard life in prison can actually be…

    1. I think that there are quite a few prisons that have been converted into museums here in the U.S. In Finland I think this must be the only one. It can be a pretty depressing subject but it is also part of our history.

  7. I visited the prison in San Francisco and came out crying after the guide took us trough some detailed tour. I have never visited a prison after that though the idea of visiting the museum is far better. I liked the way they have added some warmth through the homely feel of cafe.

  8. Such an interesting find! I have never visited a prison and what’s even more surprising you can have a coffee there 😀 Thanks for sharing this, I would love to visit this place, just for curiousity

    1. I have never visited a prison either but the museum was a good indicator what it would be like there.

  9. What an interesting tour of a prison. To learn about the prisoners that resided there and what their crimes were, must’ve been an intriguing experience! The cafe in the warden’s room looks really cute.

    1. Actually we did not tour the prison, just the museum. I think the warden’s house was decorated again after they build the cafe, so this was not the original interior.

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