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Oulu (pronounced ; , literally “Ule River Fort”) is a city and municipality of inhabitants ( ) in the province of Oulumarker and the region of Northern Ostrobothniamarker, in Finlandmarker. It is the largest city in Northern Finland and the sixth largest city in the country. Its population growth rate is almost comparable with that of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Oulu has a namesake in the USA (Oulu, Wisconsinmarker, which is a village with a population of about 540).


Oulu was founded on April 8, 1605, by King Charles IX of Swedenmarker opposite to the fort built on the island of Linnansaari. This took place after favourable peace settlements with the Russians, which removed the threat of attack via the main east-west waterway, the river Oulu. The surrounding areas were populated much earlier. Oulu is situated by the Gulf of Bothniamarker, at the mouth of river Oulujokimarker, which is an ancient trading site. One possible source for the name Oulu is a word in the Sami language meaning 'flood water', but there are other suggestions. Oulu has been the capital of the Oulu Provincemarker since 1776.

Drawing of central Oulu from the 19th Century.

In 1822, a major fire destroyed much of the city. The architect Carl Ludvig Engel, chiefly known for the neoclassical (empire style) buildings around Helsinki Senate Squaremarker, was enlisted to provide the plan for the rebuilding of the city. With minor changes, this plan remains the basis for the layout of Oulu's town center. The Oulu Cathedralmarker was built in 1832 to his designs, with the spire being finished in 1844.

From being a town known for wood tar and salmon in the past, Oulu has evolved into a major centre of competence in the field of high technology, particularly IT and wellness technology. Other prominent industries include wood refining as well as paper and steel industry. The University of Oulumarker is located six kilometres north of the city center. The Oulu Airportmarker, located in neighbouring municipality of Oulunsalomarker, is the second busiest in Finland.

The municipality of Ylikiiminkimarker was consolidated with the city of Oulu on January 1, 2009.



Cultural life

The cultural life in Oulu is rich and varied. The best known cultural exports of the city of Oulu are Air Guitar World Championships, Mieskuoro Huutajat (also known as Screaming Men), and the now defunct metal band Sentenced. Oulu is home to the most northerly architecture school in the world. The school is best known for its strong regionalistic ideas for developing architecture. This movement is named "the Oulu school" ("Oulun koulu") of architecture.

There are many artists, writers and musicians resident in the city. A variety of concerts, both rock, classical music, and jazz, as well as other cultural events take place each year; for example, Oulu Music Video Festival – the host of the Air Guitar World Championships and Musixine Music Film Competition – in August, annual rock festival Qstock in July, the Oulu Music Festival in winter, the Oulunsalo Music Festival in summer, The Irish Festival of Oulu in October and the International Children's Film Festival in November. Many people who have made a significant contribution to the cultural and political life of Finland have been born or have lived in Oulu, for example, the composer Leevi Madetoja, and the writer Paavo Rintala. Three former Presidents of the country, Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg, Kyösti Kallio and Martti Ahtisaari also went to school there, attending the Oulu Lyceum.


  • Tietomaa, a science center with over 150 exhibits
  • Ainola Park, formerly a university botanical garden before the university was moved to Linnanmaa
  • The Rapids Center, the area in the estuary of the Oulu river consisting of small islands connected with bridges, fountains in the middle of the river, and including a housing area of building blocks planned by Alvar Aalto
  • Rotuaari pedestrian street
  • The Market Square with the City Library, the City Theatre and old salt and tar storehouses
  • Mannerheim Parkmarker
  • The Oulu Cathedralmarker
  • Hupisaaret, a large park area located in the estuary of the Oulu river
  • The F. M. Franzen memorial
  • The Northern Ostrobothnia museummarker
  • The Pateniemi Sawmill Museum
  • The Vehicle Museum
  • The University of Oulu Botanical Garden (situated in Linnanmaa)
  • The Oulu Art Museum
  • The Arctic Gallery
  • Technopolis, the technology village
  • Turkansaari ( website) (historical outdoor museum)

Other points of interest

Railway station area in Oulu, looking southwest along Hallituskatu.



Oulu is served by Oulu Airportmarker, the second biggest airport in Finland by passenger volume. There are non-stop scheduled flights to Helsinki-Vantaa Airportmarker (around 18 daily flights with Finnair and Blue1) and Rovaniemi Airportmarker (1 daily with Finnair) as well as charter flights to Southern Europe, Canary Islesmarker and Phuket in Thailandmarker.

In October 2007, Air Baltic begun flying to Oulu Airport, offering a direct connection to its main hub Riga International Airportmarker in Latvia, and connecting flights to airports in most European countries.

Oulu Airport is located in the neighbouring county of Oulunsalo, from the city centre. It can be reached by bus number 19 from the centre of the city and Technopolis.


Port of Oulu is one of the busiest harbours within the Bothnian Baymarker. Port of Oulu includes four separate harbour areas: Vihreäsaari oil and bulk docks, Nuottasaari docks, Oritkari docks and the Toppila docks.


The shortest travel time from Oulu Railway Stationmarker to Helsinki Central Railway Stationmarker is 5 h 44 mins, operated by VR. There are also night trains with beds taking 8–11 hours; the newest night train cars are double deckers and have showers and toilets in the cabins. Other destinations include, for instance, Kolarimarker, Rovaniemimarker, Seinäjokimarker and Tamperemarker.


The most important road in Oulu is highway 4 (E8/E75) that runs from Helsinki to Utsjokimarker via Lahtimarker, Jyväskylämarker, Oulu, Kemimarker and Rovaniemimarker. Other highways running to and from Oulu are highway 20 to Kuusamomarker and highway 22 to Kajaanimarker.

Distances to other Finnish cities:
City Distance Direction
Helsinkimarker 612 km S
Jyväskylämarker 339 km S
Kajaanimarker 181 km SE
Kemimarker 106 km N
Kokkolamarker 196 km SW
Kotkamarker 585 km S
Kuopiomarker 286 km SSE
Kuusamomarker 212 km NE
Lahtimarker 507 km S
Lappeenrantamarker 551 km SSE
Porimarker 509 km SSW
Raahemarker 78 km SW
Rovaniemimarker 222 km N
Tamperemarker 491 km SSW
Torniomarker 130 km NNW
Turkumarker 633 km SSW
Vaasamarker 318 km SW


As of December 31, 2005, the active working population was employed as follows:
Industries Working population
Services 36,616
Industry 11,439
Commerce 9,394
Construction 4,659
Transport 4,469
Farming and forestry 471
Unknown 1,200
Total 68,248

In 2008, the most important employers were:

Employer No. of employees
City of Oulu 9,760
Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District 5,546
Nokia Group 4,700
University of Oulumarker 3,050
The Oulu Region Joint Authority for Education 1,651
Stora Enso Group 1,155
Kesko Group 1,054
Itella Corporation 920
Cooperative Arina Group (S Group) 830
Deaconesses' Institution 694


The Oulu ice hockey team Kärpät have won the Finnish Elite League (SM-Liiga) Championship title five times (1981, 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2008). They have also been the runner-up in the European Champions Cup twice, in 2005 and 2006.

Oulu has 2 teams in the highest bandy division. Oulun Luistinseura, OLS, has become Finnish champions 14 times, and Oulun Palloseura, OPS, 7 times. In 2001 the city was the main venue for the Bandy World Championships.

Terwa Marathon & Run event in late May (since 1989)

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Oulu is twinned with:

Friendship cities

See also


  1. Bursa Metropolitan Municipality Web Site; Sister Cities.

External links

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