One of largest northerly cities in the world, Oulu has grown from an ancient trading centre to a modern city, packed with museums and galleries, and host to numerous cultural and music festivals every year. These include the Oulu Music Video Festival, the International Children's Film Festival and the Musixine Music Film competition, the rock festival Qstock, Jalometalli Metal Music Festival and Jalometalli Winterfest, the Festival of Irish Music, the Oulu Music Festival in winter, the Oulunsalo Music Festival in summer. It is also famed for hosting the Air Guitar World Championships!
Founded in 1605 by King Carl IX in the Bay of Bothnia at the mouth of the Oulujoki River, and facing the castle built on the island of Linnansaari, Oulu has developed from being an ancient trading centre to a modern city with a world-wide reputation for hi-tech competencies. With a population of 130,000, Oulu is Finland's 6th largest city.
It is also the cultural capital of Northern Finland, with many artists, writers, and musicians living in the city, including the 'shouting choir' of Mieskuoro Huutajat, otherwise known as The Screaming Men. Every year Oulu hosts a large number of festivals and concerts, with almost every genre covered, from rock to jazz, classical to folk, even holding a Festival of Irish music in the summer. It is home to the Oulu Music Video Festival, the Musixine Music Film Competition, the Air Guitar World Championships, the rock festival Qstock, the Oulu Music Festival of winter, the Oulunsalo Music Festival in the summer, and the International Children's Film Festival in November.
There are numerous museums in the city, including the impressive Tiedekeskus Tietomaa, Finland's first Science Centre which has themed exhibitions throughout the year, which houses a giant movie theatre, the Sirius science store, the Saturnus café-restaurant, and the observation tower, accessible by a glass elevator. If you are interested in the history of the region then a visit to the North Ostrobothnia Museum will pass many an hour. View a miniature of the city as it was in 1938 or enjoy the ethnological collection of Lappish items, collected by the ethnologist Samuli Paulaharju. Near the city the Turkansaari Open-Air Museum has over 40 museum buildings, including a church built in 1694 and the old country manor house of Ylikärppä, completed in 1894.
60 km to the north, on the shores of Iijoki, is the Kierikki Stone Age Centre and the Stone Age village. Finland's largest prehistoric and cultural history centre's permanent exhibition showcases discovered objects and the history of the region, and gives an insight into how people used to live during the stone age.
The Bay of Bothnia's largest island, Hailuoto, is located around 50 kilometres from Oulu, the ferry trip taking about 25 minutes. Hailuoto is a very popular recreational spot due to the island's intrinsic beauty - it is one of Finland's National Landscapes - with around 600 summer cottages, and a permanent population of 1,000 people. There is a traditional fishing village, wind mills, the lighthouse of Marjaniemi, and magnificent sandy beaches.
The Oulu Music Video Festival, the Musixine Music Film Competion, the Air Guitar World Championships, Qstock, the Oulu Music Festival, the Oulunsalo Music Festival, or the International Children's Film Festival - there always seems to be something happening in the city of Oulu.
Visitors to the city in winter might be reluctant to join the locals who plunge through holes cut in the frozen river and, but this popular insanity will certainly get your circulation going! There are over 70km of ski trails around Oulu, and even trails out onto the sea. Prefer to keep warm? Then visit the local ice hockey stadium, and see Kärpät play, the team who has won 4 of the last 6 Kanada Malja, the Finnish Ice Hockey Championship.
Throughout its history, Oulu has traded with many other coutries and cultures, with foreign ingredients finding their way onto local plates. The influnces of Lapland and Kainuu, and from Southern Ostrobothnia, can be still be tasted here, and there are also restaurants providing traditional Russian fare. With so many university students residing here, and so many festivals every year, you won't be surprised to discover the city has a very lively nightlife, with numerous bars and clubs to explore and enjoy.
Hotel, hostel, holiday cottage, or campsite? Luxurious, comfortable, or budget? In the beating heart of the city, or a room by the sea? With 10 hotels, nearly 1,500 rooms and close to three thousand beds, you'll have plenty to choose from.
Shopping in Oulu is couldn't be more convenient as businesses, stores, cafés, and restaurants are all located just a short walk apart on the streets of Rotuaari, Isokatu, Uusikatu, Kauppurienkatu, Pakkahuoneenkatu and Hallituskatu. The Limingantulli area has several department stores, and Kempele, south of Oulu, boasts the Zeppelin shopping centre and Biltema department store.
With Finland's second largest airport (served by Finnair, Blue1, AirBaltic, and Wingo Airlines) on the edge of town and a train station in the city centre, Oulu is well connected to the rest of Finland and indeed the world. Once there, the city has an extensive bus network, and is a particularly bicycle friendly city.