Oulu rises from the ashes and heads toward the future

Since prehistoric times, Oulu has been moving forward. From the beginning, the city has been a significant trade and transport hub, bringing people – and opportunities – together. In the past centuries, Oulu has burned down ten times, but the city has always risen from the ashes towards new possibilities. 

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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.

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Inside Oulujoki church.

Oulujoki Church

Oulu

Nature trip to the Stone Age

Oulu

Ancient survival skills: Archery

Oulu
Oulu cathedral from outside.

Oulu Cathedral

Oulu
Old wooden houses in Karjasilta.

Wooden Karjasilta from the reconstruction era

Oulu

Ancient survival skills: Canoeing

Oulu
Turkansaari museum church.

Turkansaari Museum Church

Oulu

Archaeological exhibition

Oulu

Ancient survival skills: Stone grinding

Oulu
people laughing and listening to storytelling at a fantasy tavern

Spirits of Hearth and Home - Tonttu in Finnish Folklore

Oulu
Oulu market square policeman.

Oulu Market Square Policeman statue

Oulu
Policeman Statue in front of the Market Hall.

Oulu Market Hall

Oulu
Local tradiotional Pulla

A Unique Cafe Huvila in Oulu

Oulu

Ancient survival skills: Red ochre painting

Oulu
nuori henkilö ampumassa jousipyssyllä

Kierikki

Oulu
Rantakortteli block seen from above.

Historical Rantakortteli blocks of Oulu

Oulu
Tähtitorni cafe.

Tähtitorni Observation Tower

Oulu
Kuusiluoto presents heritage of wood building in Finland.

Many layers of history in Kuusiluoto

Oulu
The white lighthouse in Hailuoto Marjaniemi against the blue sky.

Minivan Trip to Hailuoto

Oulu

Archaeological exhibition

Oulu

Stone Age race of tribes

Oulu
The old red wooden church in Turkansaari in summer. Foreground green grass, background green birch trees.

Minivan Trip to Turkansaari Open Air Museum

Oulu
Farmyard. A red log building in the background.

Turkansaari Open Air Museum

Oulu

Go Arctic activities - Stories from Oulu

Oulu
Oulu market square and market hall.

Oulu Market Square

Oulu

Meeting Day at the Maikkula Mansion

Oulu
Brownish Oulu city hall with three main doors and two little towers. Background blue sky.

Guided Transportation from Oulu Airport to Oulu

Oulu

Nature trip to the Stone Age

Oulu

Ancient survival skills: Stone grinding

Oulu
Koiteli rapids area in summer. Blue water flowing between rocks. Foreground green grass on the bank. Background green spruces.

Minivan Trip to Koiteli Rapids

Oulu
Scottish fountain in front of Oulu City Hall in summer. Background Oulu Cathedral and clear blue sky.

Guided Bike Tour from Nallikari to Oulu City Center

Oulu

A day in the Stone Age

Oulu
People resting in Finnish woods

Nature Power from a forest in Sanginjoki - Naturest Oy

Oulu

Ancient survival skills: Canoeing

Oulu
A family of four with a guide walking in front of the Oulu City Hall

Guided Walking Tours in Oulu

Oulu

Stone Age race of tribes

Oulu

Kierikki: Guided tours

Oulu
Row of pastel colored houses in Raksila with autumn foliage.

Pastel-coloured wooden Raksila

Oulu
A family looking at the scale model of a sailing ship.

Northern Ostrobothnia Museum

Oulu
The old red wooden church in Turkansaari in summer. Foreground green grass, background green birch trees.

Minivan Trip to Turkansaari Open Air Museum

Oulu
The white lighthouse in Hailuoto Marjaniemi against the blue sky.

Minivan Trip to Hailuoto

Oulu
Koiteli rapids area in summer. Blue water flowing between rocks. Foreground green grass on the bank. Background green spruces.

Minivan Trip to Koiteli Rapids

Oulu
Yellow Oulu Cathedral church tower against blue sky in summer.

Oulu Quickly Walking Tour

Oulu
Maikkula Mansion´s courtyard.

Maikkula's Manor the Charter Restaurant

Oulu
Piirros, jossa vanhantyyliset kahvikuppi ja kahvipannu.

Cafe Krypta

Oulu

Ancient survival skills: Red ochre painting

Oulu
Northern lights.

Restaurant Nallikari

Oulu
Yellow Oulu Cathedral church tower against blue sky in summer.

Oulu Quickly Walking Tour

Oulu
Varjakka island fire station.

Varjakka industrial heritage site and nature trail

Oulu
Pikisaari island from air.

Wooden old town in Pikisaari Island

Oulu