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For other uses, see Oulu (disambiguation).
Oulun kaupunki
Uleåborg stad
Montage Pokkinen Oulu.jpg
Coat of arms of OuluUleåborg
Coat of arms
Official logo of OuluUleåborg
Location of Oulu in Finland
Location of Oulu in Finland
Coordinates: 65°01′N 025°28′E / 65.017°N 25.467°E / 65.017; 25.467Coordinates: 65°01′N 025°28′E / 65.017°N 25.467°E / 65.017; 25.467
Country Finland
Region Northern Ostrobothnia
Sub-region Oulu sub-region
Charter 1605-04-08
 • City manager Matti Pennanen
Area (2011-01-01)[1]
 • City 1,513.37 km2 (584.32 sq mi)
 • Land 1,410.17 km2 (544.47 sq mi)
 • Water 103.2 km2 (39.8 sq mi)
 • Urban 187.1 km2 (72.2 sq mi)
Area rank 67th largest in Finland
Population (2014-11-30)[3]
 • City 196,260
 • Rank 5th largest in Finland
 • Density 139.17/km2 (360.4/sq mi)
 • Urban 190,000[2]
 • Urban density 915.8/km2 (2,372/sq mi)
Population by native language[4]
 • Finnish 97.3% (official)
 • Swedish 0.2%
 • Others 2.4%
Population by age[5]
 • 0 to 14 17%
 • 15 to 64 70.5%
 • 65 or older 12.5%
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Municipal tax rate[6] 19%
Website www.ouka.fi

Oulu (pronounced [ˈoulu], Swedish: Uleåborg [ˌʉːleɔˈbɔrj]) is a city and municipality of 196,260 inhabitants (30 November 2014)[3] in the region of Northern Ostrobothnia, in Finland. It is the most populous city in Northern Finland and the fifth most populous city in the country. It is one of the northernmost larger cities in the world. Oulu is considered one of Europe's "living labs", where residents experiment with new technology (such as NFC tags and ubi-screens) at a community-wide scale.[7]


Oulu was founded on April 9, 1605, by King Charles IX of Sweden opposite 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.[citation needed] The surrounding areas were populated much earlier. Oulu is situated by the Gulf of Bothnia, at the mouth of river Oulujoki, which is an ancient trading site. Oulu was the capital of the Province of Oulu from 1776 to 2009.

Drawing of central Oulu from the 19th Century.

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 the rebuilding of the city. 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.

Once known for wood tar and salmon, Oulu has evolved into a major high-tech centre, particularly in IT and wellness technology. Other prominent industries include wood refining, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, paper, and steel.

The municipality of Ylikiiminki was merged with the city of Oulu on January 1, 2009. Oulu and the municipalities of Haukipudas, Kiiminki, Oulunsalo, and Yli-Ii were merged on January 1, 2013.[8]


The city is named after the river Oulujoki, which originates in the lake Oulujärvi. There have been a number of theories for the origin of the name Oulu. One possible source for the name Oulu 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 Saami 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 Saami 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 Saami variety would have to be assumed having added further derivational suffixes.[9]



Oulu has a subarctic climate with cold, snowy winters and short, warm summers. Average annual temperature is 2.7 °C (36.9 °F). The average annual precipitation is 508 mm (20.00 in) falling 105 days per year, mostly in late summer and fall.

A satellite image showing the Oulu region in 2007.
Climate data for Oulu, Finland
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) −6
Daily mean °C (°F) −9.6
Average low °C (°F) −13.6
Precipitation mm (inches) 31
Avg. precipitation days 10 8 8 6 7 7 9 10 9 10 11 10 105
Mean monthly sunshine hours 24 69 137 208 273 296 283 212 133 69 28 8 1,740
Source: FMI[10]


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

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.

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 is the annual rock festival Qstock. 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.

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

Notable people from Oulu[edit]


  • 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 and fountains in the middle of the river, and including a housing area of building blocks planned by Alvar Aalto
  • The Market Square with the City Library, the City Theatre and old salt and tar storehouses
  • Hupisaaret, a large park area located in the estuary of the Oulu river
  • The F. M. Franzen memorial
  • The Northern Ostrobothnia museum
  • The Pateniemi Sawmill Museum
  • The Vehicle Museum
  • The University of Oulu Botanical Gardens (situated in Linnanmaa)
  • The Arctic Gallery
  • Technopolis, the technology village
  • Turkansaari (historical open-air museum)


Other points of interest[edit]


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 it´s curriculum.

Oulu International School is one of nine schools in Finland offering basic education in English.


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.

The shortest travel time from Oulu railway station to Helsinki Central railway station is 5 h 44 mins, 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.[11]

Oulu is notable for its transportation network dedicated to non-vehicular traffic including pedestrians and bicycles (termed "light" traffic in Finland). In 2010, the city contained more than 600 kilometres (370 mi) of pathways and more than 100 underpasses and bridges devoted exclusively to light traffic. The network is used year-round. The ratio of light traffic pathways to residents is the highest in Finland and the cycling mode share is 20 percent.[12][13]


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

As of December 31, 2008, the active working population was employed as follows:[14]

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
Total 75,158

In 2011, the most important employers were:[14]

Employer No. of employees
City of Oulu 9,709
Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District 6,144
University of Oulu 3,045
Nokia Siemens 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


Kärpät wins the Finnish championship in 2005 after beating Jokerit.

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

In football AC Oulu is playing in Ykkönen, the second tier of Finnish league system. Up to date only OPS have claimed Finnish football championship by winning Mestaruussarja twice in 1979 and 1980. Other notable football clubs include OLS, OTP and Tervarit.

Oulu has two well known bandy clubs. OLS which has become Finnish champions 14 times, and OPS with their 7 championships. Currently only OLS is playing in Bandyliiga, the top level in Finnish bandy. In 2001 the city was the main venue for the Bandy World Championship for men.

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), OYUS (Rugby union), Oulu Irish Elks (Gaelic Football) and Etta (Volleyball).

Terwa Marathon & Run is an annual event run in late May (since 1989).

International relations[edit]

Twin towns — Sister cities[edit]

Oulu is twinned with:[15]

Partnership & Twinning Cities[edit]

In addition Oulu has eight 'Partnership & Twinning cities':[19]

International municipal projects[edit]

The educational department takes part in Lifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013 in Finland.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Area by municipality as of 1 January 2011" (PDF) (in Finnish and Swedish). Land Survey of Finland. Retrieved 9 March 2011. 
  2. ^ Tarkoma, Jari (2008-01-15). "Taajamissa asuu 84 prosenttia väestöstä". Tiedote (in Finnish). Statistics Finland (Tilastokeskus). Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "VÄESTÖTIETOJÄRJESTELMÄ REKISTERITILANNE 30.11.2014" (in Finnish and Swedish). Population Register Center of Finland. Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  4. ^ "Population according to language and the number of foreigners and land area km2 by area as of 31 December 2008". Statistics Finland's PX-Web databases. Statistics Finland. Retrieved 29 March 2009. 
  5. ^ "Population according to age and gender by area as of 31 December 2008". Statistics Finland's PX-Web databases. Statistics Finland. Retrieved 28 April 2009. 
  6. ^ "List of municipal and parish tax rates in 2011". Tax Administration of Finland. 29 November 2010. Retrieved 13 March 2011. 
  7. ^ Saylor, Michael (2012). The Mobile Wave: How Mobile Intelligence Will Change Everything. Perseus Books/Vanguard Press. p. 63. 
  8. ^ "Uusi Oulu" [New Oulu] (in Finnish). Oulu: City of Oulu. 9 September 2011. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  9. ^ "Oulu-nimen etymologia". Scripta.kotus.fi. Retrieved 2011-09-16. 
  10. ^ "Climatological Information for Oulu, Finland". FMI. 
  11. ^ Autoilijan Tiekartta 2007 – Road map (Map). 1:800,000. AffectoGenimap Finland Oy. 2006. ISBN 978-951-593-047-7. 
  12. ^ Jeffrey Pratte, "Mainstreaming Bicycling in Winter Cities: The case of Oulu, Finland", Masters thesis, University of Manitoba (Canada), 2011. P. 99-100
  13. ^ Anders Swanson, "Winter Cycling for Everyone", (Video, 21:30 min.), Vimeo, 2013
  14. ^ a b "Business and industry". Information about Oulu. Oulu: City of Oulu. 2012-01-01. Retrieved 27 June 2012. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Ystävyyskaupungit (Twin Cities)". Oulun kaupunki (City of Oulu) (in Finnish). Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  16. ^ "Vennskapsbyer" (in Norwegian). Alta kommune. 
  17. ^ Информация о городах-побратимах (in Russian). arhcity.ru. October 26, 2007. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  18. ^ "Kardeş Şehirler". Bursa Büyükşehir Belediyesi Basın Koordinasyon Merkez. Tüm Hakları Saklıdır. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Partneri- ja kummikaupungit (Partnership and twinning cities)". Oulun kaupunki (City of Oulu) (in Finnish). Retrieved 2013-07-27. 

External links[edit]