Uleåborg (Swedish)
Oulun kaupunki
Uleåborgs stad
City of Oulu
From top, left to right: Rantakatu in downtown Oulu; Oulu City Hall; Lyseo Upper Secondary School and the Oulu Cathedral; Shops along Kirkkokatu; Radisson Blu Hotel along Ojakatu
From top, left to right: Rantakatu in downtown Oulu; Oulu City Hall; Lyseo Upper Secondary School and the Oulu Cathedral; Shops along Kirkkokatu; Radisson Blu Hotel along Ojakatu
Flag of Oulu
Coat of arms of Oulu
Capital of Northern Finland;[1] Capital of Northern Scandinavia[2]
Location of Oulu in Finland
Location of Oulu in Finland
Coordinates: 65°00′51″N 25°28′19″E / 65.01417°N 25.47194°E / 65.01417; 25.47194
Country Finland
Region North Ostrobothnia
 • City managerSeppo Määttä
 • City3,817.52 km2 (1,473.95 sq mi)
 • Land2,972.44 km2 (1,147.67 sq mi)
 • Water103.2 km2 (39.8 sq mi)
 • Urban
187.1 km2 (72.2 sq mi)
 • Rank17th largest in Finland
 • City214,651
 • Rank5th largest in Finland
 • Density72.21/km2 (187.0/sq mi)
 • Urban
208 939[4]
 • Urban density915.8/km2 (2,372/sq mi)
Demonymoululainen (Finnish)
Population by native language
 • Finnish94.5% (official)
 • Swedish0.2%
 • Sami0.1%
 • Others5.2%
Population by age
 • 0 to 1417.4%
 • 15 to 6466%
 • 65 or older16.6%
Time zoneUTC+02:00 (EET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+03:00 (EEST)
Websitewww.ouka.fi Edit this at Wikidata

Oulu (/ˈl/ OH-loo,[9][10] Finnish: [ˈou̯lu] ; Swedish: Uleåborg [ʉːlɛɔˈbɔrj] ) is a city in Finland and the regional capital of North Ostrobothnia. It is located on the northwestern coast of the country at the mouth of the River Oulu. The population of Oulu is approximately 215,000, while the sub-region has a population of approximately 263,000. It is the 5th most populous municipality in Finland, and the fourth most populous urban area in the country. Oulu is also the most populous city in Northern Finland.

Oulu's neighbouring municipalities are: Hailuoto, Ii, Kempele, Liminka, Lumijoki, Muhos, Pudasjärvi, Tyrnävä and Utajärvi. Oulu is the third northernmost city in the world with a population of over 100,000, after Murmansk and Norilsk in Russia.

Due to its large population and geopolitical, economic and cultural-historical position, Oulu has been called the "capital of Northern Finland".[1] Oulu is also considered one of Europe's "living labs", where residents experiment with new technologies (such as NFC tags and ubi-screens) on a community-wide scale.[11] Although only in the top 2% of universities,[12] the University of Oulu is regionally renowned in the field of information technology.[13][14][15] Oulu has also been very successful in recent city image surveys; in a study published by the Finnish Economic Survey in 2008, Oulu received the best image rating among large cities in the country, including ratings from respondents in all provinces.[16] In the 2023 T-Media survey, Oulu was tied with Kuopio as the second most attractive city in Finland, while Tampere was ranked first.[17]

Once known for wood tar and salmon,[18] Oulu has become a major high-tech centre, particularly in IT and wellness technology.[19] Other important industries include wood processing, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, paper and steel.[20]

Oulu has been selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2026.[21][22]


The city is named after the river Oulujoki, which originates in the lake Oulujärvi. There have been a number of other theories for the origin of the name Oulu. One possible source is a word in the Sami language meaning 'flood water', but there are other suggestions. At minimum, the structure of the word requires that, if originally given by speakers of a Uralic language, the name must be a derivative. In all likelihood, it also predates Finnish settlement and is thus a loanword from one of the now-extinct Saami languages once spoken in the area.

The most probable theory is that the name derives from the Finnish dialectal word oulu, meaning "floodwater", which is related to e.g. Southern Sami åulo, meaning "melted snow", åulot meaning "thaw" (of unknown ultimate origin). Two other word families have also been speculated to be related. The first is seen in the Northern Savo dialectal word uula and its Sami counterpart oalli, both meaning "river channel". The second is the Uralic root reconstructed as *uwa, meaning "river bed" (reflected as vuo in modern Finnish, also in derivatives such as vuolas "heavy-flowing"). To either of these roots, some Sami variety would have to be assumed having added further derivational suffixes.[23]


Drawing of central Oulu from the 19th century

Oulu is situated by the Gulf of Bothnia, at the mouth of river Oulujoki, which is an ancient trading site. The city proper was founded on 8 April 1605 by King Charles IX of Sweden,[24] opposite the fort built on the island of Linnansaari. This took place after favourable peace settlements with Russia, which removed the threat of attack via the main east–west waterway, the river Oulu.[citation needed] The surrounding areas were populated much earlier. Oulu was the capital of the Province of Oulu from 1776 to 2009.

In 1822, a major fire destroyed much of the city.[citation needed] The architect Carl Ludvig Engel, chiefly known for the neoclassical (empire style) buildings around Helsinki Senate Square, was enlisted to provide the plan for its rebuilding. With minor changes, this plan remains the basis for the layout of Oulu's town center. The Oulu Cathedral was built in 1832 to his designs, with the spire being finished in 1844. During the Åland War, part of the Crimean War, Oulu's harbour was raided by the British fleet, who destroyed ships and burned tar houses, leading to international criticism.[citation needed]


Satellite image of the Oulu region.

Oulu is located in northern Finland, a considerable distance from the other cities in the country. It is located 607 kilometres (377 mi) north of the capital city Helsinki. Mainland Finland's northernmost and southernmost points are roughly equidistant from Oulu. Oulu's coast sits at the Bothnian Bay (Perämeri in Finnish) and the Swedish mainland is about 180 km directly west across the Bothnian Bay. From the center of Oulu in the direction of Oulunsalo, there is Kempeleenlahti [fi], a smaller but wide, meadow-belted bay,[25] and part of it has been listed as a nature conservation area.[26] The nearby island Hailuoto is just off the coast, 53 kilometres (33 mi) away in the Bothnian Bay. Along the coast to the southwest, about 75 kilometres (47 mi) of Oulu is Raahe (Brahestad), known for its historic wooden town, and about 130 kilometres (81 mi) of Oulu is Kalajoki, known for its popular sandy beaches.


See also: Category:Districts of Oulu

The map of Oulu from 1886.

Oulu is divided into 106 city districts. The largest of these are Haukipudas, Oulunsalo, Kaakkuri, Ritaharju, Tuira, and Kello [fi].

The municipality of Ylikiiminki was merged with the city of Oulu on 1 January 2009. Oulu and the municipalities of Haukipudas, Kiiminki, Oulunsalo, and Yli-Ii were merged on 1 January 2013.[27]


Oulu has a subarctic climate (Köppen: Dfc), bordering a humid continental climate (Köppen: Dfb). It is the largest Finnish city entirely in this climatic zone as well as one of the largest such in the world. The typical features are cold and snowy winters with short and mild summers.[28][29] Average annual temperature is 3.3 °C (37.9 °F). The average annual precipitation is 477 mm (18.78 in) falling 105 days per year, mostly in late summer and fall.[citation needed] The warmest temperature ever recorded in Oulu was 33.3 °C (91.9 °F) in July 1957,[30] while the coldest temperature on record was −41.5 °C (−42.7 °F) in February 1966.[31]

Due to Oulu's far northern location, and its frequent overcast skies, it only sees on average 15 minutes of sunlight per day in December. During the winter solstice days only last 3 hours and 34 minutes with the sun rising 1.9 degrees over the horizon. On the other hand, during the summer solstice days last 22 hours and 3 minutes, with the sun dipping 1 degree below the horizon. This gives Oulu white nights during the summer.[32]

On June 21, 2021, Oulu was struck by the Ahti thunderstorm, causing flooding and fall of trees with the wind blowing at more than 30 meters per second.[33] The storm is known to have killed one person and injured two people.[34][35]

Climate data for Oulu, 1991–2020 normals, records 1921–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 9.3
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) −4.8
Daily mean °C (°F) −8.2
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) −11.9
Record low °C (°F) −37.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 32
Average snowfall cm (inches) 33
Average precipitation days 9 8 7 6 8 8 10 10 8 10 10 10 104
Average relative humidity (%) (daily average) 87 86 82 73 67 66 71 76 82 86 90 89 80
Mean monthly sunshine hours 24 69 137 208 273 296 283 212 133 69 28 8 1,740
Average ultraviolet index 0 0 1 2 3 4 4 3 2 1 0 0 2
Source 1: FMI[36]
Source 2: FMI (record highs and lows 1921–1961)[37]

FMI (record highs and lows 1961–present)[38]

Source 3: weather2travel.com (average monthly UV index)[39]



The city of Oulu has 214,651 inhabitants, making it the 5th most populous municipality in Finland. The Oulu region has a population of 262,753, making it the fourth largest region in Finland after Helsinki, Tampere and Turku. Oulu is home to 4% of Finland's population. 5.8% of the population has a foreign background, which is lower than in the major Finnish cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Tampere, Vantaa or Turku.[40]

Population size of Oulu (and merged municipalities) 1980–2020[40]
Year Population


Population by mother tongue (2022)[40]

  Finnish (94.5%)
  Russian (0.6%)
  Arabic (0.5%)
  English (0.4%)
  Chinese (0.3%)
  Farsi (0.2%)
  Swedish (0.2%)
  Other (3.3%)

Oulu is the second largest monolingual Finnish-speaking municipality in Finland after Tampere. There are 480 Swedish speakers in Oulu, or 0.2% of the population.[40] The number of Sámi speakers, Finland's third official language, is 143 inhabitants. As English and Swedish are compulsory school subjects, functional bilingualism or trilingualism acquired through language studies is not uncommon.

At least 100 different languages are spoken in Oulu. The most common foreign languages are Russian (0.6%), Arabic (0.5%), English (0.4%) and Chinese (0.3%).[40]


Population by country of birth (2022)[40]
Nationality Population %
 Finland 199,613 94.2
 Sweden 1,913 0.9
 Soviet Union 842 0.4
 China 610 0.3
 Iraq 528 0.2
 India 509 0.2
 Vietnam 377 0.2
 Thailand 374 0.2
 Russia 361 0.2
 Iran 336 0.2
 Somalia 311 0.1
Other 6,074 2.9

In 2022, 11,192 people with a migrant background lived in Oulu, or 5.3% of the population.[note 1] There are 12,235 residents who were born abroad, which or 5.8% of the population. The number of foreign citizens in Oulu is 7,869.[42] Most foreign-born citizens come from the former Soviet Union, Sweden, Iraq, China and India.[40]

The relative share of immigrants in Oulu's population is below the national average. Nevertheless, the city's new residents are increasingly of foreign origin. This will increase the proportion of foreign residents in the coming years.


In 2022, the Evangelical Lutheran Church was the largest religious group with 68.8% of the population of Oulu. Other religious groups accounted for 1.9% of the population. 29.5% of the population had no religious affiliation.[40]

Oulu, as well as other parts of North Ostrobothnia, is well known as a strong support area of the Conservative Laestadianism revival movement.[43] A Laestadian background has been estimated to be common in construction sector management.[44] Oulu was the site of the 2018 Oulu child sexual exploitation scandal. Prime Minister Juha Sipilä declared that “Sex crimes against children are inhumane acts of incomprehensible evil.”[45]


Stora Enso has an important paper manufacturing plant in Oulu.
Former Nokia premises in Peltola.
Technopolis Linnanmaa is home to nearly 200 corporations.

As of 31 December 2008, the active working population was employed as follows:[46]

Industries Working population
Services 43,049
Industry 11,111
Commerce 10,848
Construction 5,449
Transport 3,698
Farming, forestry and mining 582
Unknown 431
Unemployment rate 16.3% (2016)
Total 75,158

In 2011, the most important employers were:[46]

Employer No. of employees
City of Oulu 9,709
Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District 6,144
University of Oulu 3,045
Nokia Networks 2,100
Nokia Group 2,000
The Oulu Region Joint Authority for Vocational Training 1,955
Kesko Group 1,426
Cooperative Arina Group (S Group) 1,107
Stora Enso Group 1,155
Itella Corporation 780
ISS Palvelut Oy 730
ODL Group 653


Air Guitar World Championships 2012, an annual event held in Oulu since 1996

The best known cultural exports of the city of Oulu are the Air Guitar World Championships held annually in August, Mieskuoro Huutajat (also known as Screaming Men), the now defunct metal band Sentenced, and one of the best ice hockey teams in Europe, Oulun Kärpät.

Many artists, writers, and musicians live in the city. A variety of concerts — rock, classical, and jazz — as well as other cultural events take place each year. Examples include the Oulu Music Video Festival, the Air Guitar World Championships, and the Musixine Music Film Competition, all in August. In July, the annual rock festival Qstock takes place. The Oulu Music Festival is held in winter and the Oulunsalo Music Festival in summer. The Irish Festival of Oulu takes place each October, and the International Children's Film Festival each November.

Museums in Oulu include the Northern Ostrobothnia museum, the Oulu Museum of Art (OMA), the Tietomaa science center, and the Turkansaari open-air museum.

Notable statues and sculptures in Oulu include a sculpture of Frans Michael Franzén and The Bobby at the Market Place statue.

Finlands' Eurovision representatives 2021 rock band Blind Channel are from Oulu. They placed 6th in the competition.

Kalmah is a melodic death metal-band from Oulu that formed in 1998.


In the 1980s, rössypottu, salmon soup and sweet cheese (juhannusjuusto) were named Oulu's traditional parish dishes.[47]


Rotuaari pedestrian zone
Oulu Market Hall
Uusi Seurahuone restaurant on the Ahtisaari Square


Oulu Cathedral

Other points of interest


Finnair is one of the main operators of the Oulu airport with regular flights to Helsinki.

Oulu is served by Oulu Airport, the second largest airport in Finland by passenger volume. It is located 15 kilometres (9 mi) south-west of the city centre.

The Port of Oulu is one of the busiest harbours on the Bothnian Bay. It includes four separate harbour areas: Vihreäsaari oil and bulk docks, Nuottasaari docks and Oritkari docks. There is also a ferry service in Oulu, which is mostly used between Oulunsalo and the Hailuoto Island.[48]

The shortest travel time from Oulu railway station to Helsinki Central railway station is 5 h 34 min, operated by VR. Other destinations include Kolari, Rovaniemi, Seinäjoki and Tampere.

The most important road in Oulu is Highway 4 (E8/E75) that runs from Helsinki to Utsjoki via Lahti, Jyväskylä, Oulu, Kemi and Rovaniemi. Other highways running to and from Oulu are Highway 20 to Kuusamo and Highway 22 to Kajaani.[49]

Oulu Bus Station

Oulu is notable for its transportation network dedicated to non-motor vehicular traffic, including pedestrians and bicycles (termed "light" traffic in Finland). In 2022, the city contained more than 950 kilometres (590 mi) of pathways and more than 300 underpasses and bridges devoted exclusively to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. The network is used year-round. The ratio of walking and cycling traffic pathways to residents is the highest in Finland and the cycling mode share is 20 percent.[50][51][52]

Parked bicycles on Kirkkokatu Street in January

Even in winter, bicycle commuting remains strong in Oulu, in spite of the cold, dark, and snow. About 12% of winter trips are by bicycle, and about half of trips to school or university are. The city has a robust system for keeping bike paths maintained and clear of snow, and bike paths and lanes are plowed before roadways to encourage such human-scale winter transit in the city where 12% already do so.[53] The Winter Cycling Federation was founded in Oulu in 2013, and the first Winter Cycling Congress was held there.[54]

In 2015, a large underground parking facility, Kivisydän (Stone Heart), opened in the city center directly beneath main shopping streets. The network of parallel roads for cars and pedestrians was drilled in the rock at the depth of 30 meters (98 ft). The parking facility includes two ramps, 900 visitor parking lots (expandable to 1500), six access points to the ground served by 19 elevators (expandable to nine and 25), a service facility for commercial delivery vehicles, and ubi-screens that guide the driver to the selected ground access point and help locate the parked car by its license number.[55][56]

Solar power

In 2015, the Kaleva Media printing plant in Oulu became the most powerful photovoltaic solar plant in Finland, with 1,604 solar photovoltaic (PV) units on its roof. Although the city of Oulu, located near the Arctic Circle, has only two hours of weak sunlight in December, the photovoltaic cells work almost around the clock in the summer. The cold climate means the PV panels can get up to a 25% boost per hour, as they don't overheat.[57]

Because the sun is quite low in the sky at this latitude, vertical PV installations are popular on the sides of buildings. These solar walls also capture light reflected from snow.[57]

Snow is not necessarily cleared from rooftop solar installations.[57]

The local utility, Oulun Energia, is owned by the city of Oulu. The energy mix it receives from the Nordic-wide grid includes wood pellets, waste incineration, bioenergy, hydro-electric, geothermal, wind, nuclear, peat, natural gas and coal.[57]


Kärpät wins the Finnish championship in 2005 after beating Jokerit.
Oulun Luistinseura beat Jyväskylän Seudun Palloseura in the 2014 Finland men's national bandy championship final at the Raksila Artificial Ice Rink Pakkalan kenttä.

Ice hockey is the most popular spectator sport in Oulu. The local club Kärpät has won the SM-liiga championship title eight times (1981, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2014, 2015 and 2018). It has also twice been the runner-up in the IIHF European Champions Cup, in 2005 and in 2006.

In football AC Oulu plays in Veikkausliiga, the premier division of Finnish football. So far OPS has claimed the Finnish football championship only twice by winning Mestaruussarja in 1979 and in 1980. Other notable football clubs include OLS, OTP and JS Hercules.

Oulu has one well-known bandy club, OLS, which plays in Bandyliiga and has become Finnish champions 14 times, most recently in 2014. The other bandy club, OPS, with its 7 championships and a bronze medal as late as in 2009, announced it would be closing down after the 2009–10 season. In 2001 the city was the main venue for the Bandy World Championship.

Oulu is also home to several other sports clubs such as Oulu Northern Lights (American football), Oulun NMKY (Basketball), Oulun Lippo (Pesäpallo), Oulun Pyrintö (Track and field), SK Pohjantähti (Orienteering)), OYUS (Rugby union), Oulu Irish Elks (Gaelic football) and ETTA (Volleyball).

Oulun Tervahiihto is an annual ski marathon event held since 1889.

Terwa Run & Marathon is an annual running event held since 1989 in late May.

A former motorcycle speedway track known as the Iinat Motor Sports Center was located north of the Pirttilammentie and east of the Iinatintie (64°57′31″N 25°34′23″E / 64.95861°N 25.57306°E / 64.95861; 25.57306).[58] The Center opened in 1979 and hosted many events, including the Finnish Final, as part of the qualifying round of the Speedway World Championship in 1983.[59][60]


University of Oulu main building.

The University of Oulu and Oulu University of Applied Sciences have their main campuses located in Oulu.

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.[citation needed]

Oulu Vocational College has over 13 000 students. It houses several different study subjects in different units which are spread over Oulu and neighbouring municipalities. Oulu Vocational College School of Business Studies is one of the few vocational schools which has game programming in its curriculum.

Oulu International School is one of nine schools in Finland offering basic education in English. There's also a Swedish-speaking private school (Swedish Svenska Privatskolan i Uleåborg) for students up until high school. The school is the northernmost Swedish-speaking school in Finland.[61]

Notable people

International relations

See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in Finland

Twin towns and sister cities

Oulu is twinned with:[62]

Oulu also maintains relationships with cities twinned to former municipalities merged with Oulu in 2013:[62]

Partnership and twinning cities

In addition Oulu has eight 'Partnership & Twinning cities':[67]

International municipal projects

The educational department was a part of the Lifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013 in Finland.

See also


  1. ^ Statistics Finland classifies a person as having a "foreign background" if both parents or the only known parent were born abroad.[41]


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