Oulu ( OH-loo, Finnish: [ˈou̯lu] (listen); Swedish: Uleåborg [ʉːlɛɔˈbɔrj] (listen); Latin: Uloa) is a city and municipality of 208,939 inhabitants (31 December 2020) in the region of North Ostrobothnia, Finland. It is the most populous city in Northern Finland, and the fifth most populous in the country after Helsinki, Espoo, Tampere and Vantaa, and the fourth largest urban area in the country after Helsinki, Tampere and Turku. Oulu's neighboring municipalities are Hailuoto, Ii, Kempele, Liminka, Lumijoki, Muhos, Pudasjärvi, Tyrnävä and Utajärvi.
Oulu is considered one of Europe's "living labs", where residents experiment with new technology (such as NFC tags and ubi-screens) on a community-wide scale. Oulu has also been very successful in recent urban image surveys; in a study published by the Finnish Economic Survey in 2008, it received the best ranking of large cities in image ratings across the country, including ratings from respondents in all provinces.
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.
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, 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. 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.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.
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 1 January 2009. Oulu and the municipalities of Haukipudas, Kiiminki, Oulunsalo, and Yli-Ii were merged on 1 January 2013.
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.”
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. The nearby island Hailuoto is just off the coast, 53 kilometres (33 mi) away in the Bothnian Bay.
Oulu is divided into 106 city districts. The largest of these are Haukipudas, Oulunsalo, Kaakkuri, Ritaharju, Tuira, and Kello.
Oulu has a subarctic continental climate (Köppen: Dfc). 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 warm summers. Average annual temperature is 2.7 °C (36.9 °F). The average annual precipitation is 477 mm (18.78 in) falling 105 days per year, mostly in late summer and fall. The warmest temperature ever recorded in Oulu was 33.3 °C (91.9 °F) in July 1957, while the coldest temperature on record was −41.5 °C (−42.7 °F) in February 1966.
|Climate data for Oulu, 1981-2010 normals, records 1921 - present
|Record high °C (°F)
|Average high °C (°F)
|Daily mean °C (°F)
|Average low °C (°F)
|Record low °C (°F)
|Average precipitation mm (inches)
|Average precipitation days
|Average relative humidity (%) (daily average)
|Mean monthly sunshine hours
|Source 1: FMI
|Source 2: FMI (record highs and lows 1961–present)
FMI(record highs and lows 1921–1961)
In 2008, there were 316 Swedish speaking inhabitants, which was 0.2% of the total population, making the city unilingual. In 2007, there were 2,417 foreign citizens living in the city, of whom 618 were from elsewhere in the EU. 51.1% of the population is female.
|The population growth of Oulu (and merged municipalities) 1980–2015|
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.
Kalmah is a melodic death metal-band from Oulu that formed in 1998.
Other points of interest
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.
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.
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 29 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.
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. Oulu is often touted as an excellent city for bicycling.
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. 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.
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.
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.
Snow is not necessarily cleared from rooftop solar installations.
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.
has an important paper manufacturing plant in Oulu.
premises in Peltola.
Technopolis Linnanmaa is home to nearly 200 corporations.
As of 31 December 2008, the active working population was employed as follows:
|Farming, forestry and mining
In 2011, the most important employers were:
wins the Finnish championship in 2005 after beating Jokerit
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 Ykkönen, the second tier of the Finnish league system. 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.
Notable people from Oulu
- Saara Aalto, singer, X Factor UK finalist
- Peter von Bagh, film historian and director
- Vladislav Delay, electronic musician
- Lars Gallenius, 17th century painter
- Matti Hautamäki, ski jumper
- Aaro Hellaakoski, poet
- V.A. Koskenniemi, poet
- Leevi Madetoja, composer
- Frans Michael Franzén, poet
- Impaled Nazarene, nuclear metal band
- Iivo Niskanen, Olympic champion cross-country skier
- Kerttu Niskanen, cross-country skier
- Leena Peltonen-Palotie, geneticist
- Susanna Pöykiö, figure skater
- Mika Ronkainen, filmmaker
- Keke Rosberg, 1982 Formula One world champion
- Kauko Röyhkä, author and rock musician
- Sara Wacklin, teacher and writer
- Mikael Toppelius, church painter
- Three former Presidents of the country, Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg, Kyösti Kallio and Martti Ahtisaari, also a Nobel Peace Prize laureate
- Ice Hockey players, Kari Jalonen, Mikael Granlund, Markus Granlund, Joni Pitkänen, Reijo Ruotsalainen, Mika Pyörälä, Lasse Kukkonen, Sebastian Aho
- Football players, Aki Lahtinen, Seppo Pyykkö, Antti Niemi and Mika Nurmela
Twin towns and sister cities
Oulu is twinned with:
Partnership and twinning cities
In addition Oulu has eight 'Partnership & Twinning cities':
International municipal projects
The educational department was apart of the Lifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013 in Finland.
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