Early signs of life
The Oulu area was inhabited already in the stone age although Oulu became a city only hundreds of years later. Since the beginning, Oulu has brought people and opportunities together: Oulu and the river Oulujoki were a transportation route for fishing and trade. Both the Carelians and Vikings have travelled through Oulu, and some of them must have stopped here as well!The Varjakka island got its name from the Vikings
Trading, fighting and urbanisation
In the 14th century, it wasn’t quite clear which state Oulu belonged to, and that led to some fighting. In the end, Oulu ended up being governed by Sweden and received trading permissions from King Gustav Vasa in 1531. The history books tell us that the city of Oulu was founded in 1605. That created a good amount of buzz and Oulu soon became a centre of tar and salmon trade. The first signs of industry and investments into education were seen in the 17th century, as Oulu’s population doubled from 400 to 800.Boats were being built in Pikisaari already in the 17th century
Rising from the ashes
Oulu has burned down ten times. The city has gotten up and continued towards growth and progress, time after time, with determination. In the 18th century, with the new port and staple town rights, Oulu’s position as a trading town grew even stronger. The most important export goods were tar, timber, salmon and butter. Tar became a significant export product, livelihood and tourism magnet for Oulu – which it is, to some extent, to this day. At the end of the 18th century, Oulu was the capital of the Oulu province and the second biggest city by population in Finland, after Turku.Have a coffee at the ruins of the Oulu Castle
Towards the war through reforms
A couple of important things happened in Oulu in the 19th century. An elementary school started operating, the city’s first newspaper began publication, the railroad was built, and damaged in yet another fire, the city’s cathedral was re-built.
The war years were reasonably easy on Oulu. In the 1918 civil war battle, the Whites won, and the Reds, taken captive, ended up prisoners in the Raatti island prison camp. In the WWII continuation war, Oulu was far from the actual front. The biggest destruction was caused when Russia bombed the city in February 1944. In the mid-20th century, Oulu’s population was over 35 000.The Cathedral, rebuilt in the 19th century
Industrial development and growth
The University of Oulu was founded in the middle of the 20th century, which had a significant impact on the growth of industry, service jobs and population in Oulu. A noteworthy story began in 1973 when Nokia built its factories and industrial facilities in Rusko, Oulu. This was the beginning of a speedy journey of Oulu developing into a hub of high technology.
The population of Oulu reached 100 000 in 1990, making it the 6th largest city in Finland. After municipal amalgamations in 2013 Oulu became Finland’s 5th largest city by population, with 190 891 inhabitants.The Bobby statue arrived in the 1980’s
Living in the now, eyes on the future
Today, Oulu is a versatile tourist destination, the Capital of the North and the future European Capital of Culture. Looking into the future with its head held high but feet on the ground, Oulu continues to develop and grow as the industrial hub of Northern Finland, a university city, a city of events, and maybe just a bit as the ‘sh*tty town’ it’s lovingly called by the locals – always in balance with the northern nature.