Oulu (Swedish: Uleåborg) is a city of more than 190,000 inhabitants in Oulu province, Northern Finland. As a result of two consolidations of neighbouring municipalities, first Ylikiiminki on January 1st 2009, and then Haukipudas, Kiiminki, Oulunsalo and Yli-Ii on January 1st 2013, Oulu is now the fifth most populous city in Finland, with land area of over 3,000 square kilometers.
Oulu is the capital of the province of Oulu and the region of Northern Ostrobothnia. It is the fifth largest (third largest if you include Espoo and Vantaa in Helsinki) city in Finland, and the largest and most important in Northern Finland. Population density is low as the land area is 5-10 times the size of other similar sized cities in Finland. Oulu is known for its high-tech focus, with free wireless internet access, Panoulu, in the city center. A lot of Finnish IT companies, including Nokia, have offices in Oulu or nearby areas.
Oulu Airport is the busiest in the country after Helsinki, and the Helsinki-Oulu sector is the country's most popular domestic flight with frequent services (around 10 flights per day each way) on Finnair and Norwegian. A fully flexible return economy ticket might cost more than €200 but a non-changeable one-way ticket can go as low as €39 or a return ticket for €78 when bought months in advance. Norwegian is often cheaper, but airlines compete on price for this route so be sure to check Finnair, too. There are also some services to Stockholm on SAS.
The terminal has recently been expanded and now has jet bridges to get you in the planes without having to walk in the freezing cold tarmac. The airport has an automatic map dispenser that provides free maps, but sometimes it doesn't work.
Bus 19 (~€5) connects the airport to the city center in 40 minutes. Buses operate quite frequently from 06:25 to about 21:00 on weekdays. After 21:00 buses operate infrequently to 01:30. A taxi will cost you around €30 for the same distance. Bus 19 also takes you to the University of Oulu.
Oulu is on the railway main line between Helsinki and Rovaniemi. The fastest Pendolino trains complete the journey from Oulu to Helsinki in about 6 hours (starting at around €40 when bought in advance), while direct sleepers take around 9 hours (€64 plus optional sleeper at €12-€31 per bed). The newest type of sleeper train carriages have a shower and a toilet in each 2-person cabin. As when going to Rovaniemi, you can also take your car with you on the overnight train. Train tickets are at their cheapest exactly two months in advance, as the advance tickets (ennakkolippu) become available at that time.
Trip duration from Helsinki varies between 9½ and 15 hours and costs around €70-80. Timetable and information from Matkahuolto
For being the fifth largest city in Finland the city center is small compared to, say, Tampere or Turku. The whole of the city center is easily walkable.
Public transportation is operated by Koskilinjat. Single ticket (kertalippu) in the city of Oulu costs €3.30 (€1.70 for children ages 4-11). Between 23:00-04:00 a single ticket costs €6.60, but night services are limited. A single ticket allows one transfer within 60 minutes. A 24-hour ticket (matkailijalippu) allows unlimited use of the buses for the 24-hour period for €11.80 (€5.90 for children), but for longer periods or multiple travellers consider a bus pass of 20 trips for €40, which can be used for multiple travellers at the same time. To plan your route in the city, use Google Maps' public transport features. It gives you the most convenient route to where you want to go, including walks to/from bus stops, which bus lines to use and where to switch buses. Bus drivers might understand some English, but best plan your trip beforehand.
By hop-on hop-off bus
To get a good look around Oulu, with English commentary, try Potnapekka. Half train, half bus, it operates during summer months (June to August) on two routes, via Nallikari or Hupisaaret, through roads for light traffic. Both routes leave from the stone ball at Rotuaari (at the center of Oulu) and the journey lasts about one hour. You can hop off and in on the way.
Oulu is renowned for its good bicycle routes, which get you around the city easily and safely even through the cold winter. To rent a bicycle try Pyörä-Suvala, Lekatie 27. If you're staying at Nallikari Camping, Leiritie 10, they also have bikes to rent for visitors costing €12/day.
- Oulu Market Square (Kauppatori). Market square is a often debated juxtaposition of old red granaries, renaissance revival architecture and seventies brutalism style concrete-slab buildings. Nevertheless, during summer months, people of all ages flock to the square and it's terraces, cafes and marketplace booths to enjoy the (few) warm days every year. Check out the often photographed statue of "Toripolliisi", the Market Square Policeman.
- Oulu City Art Museum (Oulun Taidemuseo), Kasarmintie 7 (within walking distance from the city center), ☎ 358855847450. Tues-Sun 10-17. Two story museum with a wide variety of modern artwork. Around 8 exhibits a year. Plenty of information in English, except for small, temporary exhibits. 3 euros.
- Science Centre Tietomaa (Tiedekeskus Tietomaa), Nahkatehtaankatu 2. Mon-Sun 10–19. The world's first science centre. Unfortunately a 'social invention' such as a science centre wasn't to be patented and the idea was copied all over the world. €13 for single adult ticket, €10 for children aged 6-15.
- Oulu Castle (Oulun linna). There is almost nothing to describe as the Castle of Oulu was destroyed in an explosion of gunpowder deposit (by a bolt of lightning) in the 18th century. Nowadays it is a public park where the castle used to be. The park is big, though, so it's a nice walk beside the river. Their rustic café on the foundations of the 'castle', Linnankahvila open daily in the summer, is well worth the visit however.
- Toripoliisi. A statue of a police officer at the market square.
- Oulu Cathedral (Oulun tuomiokirkko). A neoclassicist cathedral drafted by Carl Ludwig Engel (the architect of the buildings around the Senate square in central Helsinki) built in 1832.
- Oulu Automobile Museum (Oulun Automuseo), Automuseontie 1 (next to national road 847, 5 km south of the city center), ☎ . Mon-Sat 9:00-17:00, Sun -15:00 (summer, closed on Sundays in the winter). A car museum with 40 cars and 20 motorcycles and some traffic related paraphernalia on display. A couple of really interesting vehicles like the largest car ever built in the Nordic countries (a truck for a dam company), the remains of a Ford "killed in action" during WW2 and a "motorcycle" where the rider sits inside a large wheel. The car museum also has a restaurant open for lunch. adults: 7€, children 5€.
- Oulu City Theatre (Oulun Kaupunginteatteri), Kaarlenväylä 2. Recently renovated theatre offers plays in Finnish. Prices vary from €15 to €40 for a single adult ticket. Significant (half price) discounts are available for people under 26.
- Cinema Plaza (Elokuvateatteri Plaza), Torikatu 32. Completed in 2007, Plaza movie theater features one of the biggest movie screens in Finland. Most of the movies shown on theater's eight screens are original English versions and are subtitled in Finnish and Swedish, though some children's movies are dubbed in Finnish. Admission €10.30-13, before 17:00 on weekdays €7. Add €2 for 3D movies. Ticket sets of 5 or 9 tickets are available, bringing the price per admission down to €9.90 or €9 respectively and no extra for 3d showings.
- Cinema Star (Elokuvateatteri Star), Kalliotie 6 (Tuira region, northern-side of Oulu river), ☎ 08 554 2711. The oldest still functioning (yet very modern) movie theater in Oulu, Star movie theater features 3D digital movies. Most of the movies shown on the theater's three screens are original English versions and are subtitled in Finnish and Swedish, though some children's movies are dubbed in Finnish. Star has been nominated as Finland's most disabled-friendly establishment in 2007. Admission €7.5-10. Sets of 5 tickets are available for 37€, bringing the price per admission down to €7.4 to all shows except for 3D movies, which cost extra.
- Rotuaari, Kirkkokatu. ...from the French word trottoir, meaning pedestrian street, is the main shopping street of the city a place for live entertainment mainly during summertime, but also on weekends all year round. Part of the street has been renovated and refitted with heating in 2011, which should keep the street ice free even during the coldest winter months.
- Qstock. Rock Festival, late July.
- International Air Guitar Festival. Yearly,beginning of August. Just as the name tells, a competition where the objective is to pretend to be playing a guitar as lively as possible.
- Nallikari. Summer visit is preferred, but you can bathe outside all year round in Eden SPA's cozy temperature of +26°C. A bone-chilling dip in the freezing Oulu river can also be taken at the swimming spot (maauimala) of Tuira all year round.
- Cycle or walk. In the summer, either rent a bike or walk to the beach in Tuira on the north side of the river Oulujoki, a popular place with locals, passing through Ainola park and over the dam on the way. From there head eastwards, crossing back to the south side of the river and onwards to Värttö. Visit Koivurannan kahvila in an old house by the river, Kasamintie 51. Then head back to the center for a total of 8km trip or take the bus number 7 back to the center.
Public swimming pools
- Oulu swimming pool (Oulun uimahalli), Pikkukankaantie 3 (Raksila), ☎ (08) 558 48100. Mon-Wed&Fri 6:15-22:00, Thu 7:00-22:00, Sat-Sun 8:00-16:45. One of the largest public swimming pools in Finland. In addition to the pools facilities include separate gyms for weight training, gymnastics, judo and boxing. Cafe upstairs with a view to the pools. €4.50 for the pools or the gym.
- Raatti swimming pool (Raatin uimahalli) (Raatti, northwest from the city centre), ☎ (08) 558 48105. Mon, Wed-Fri 6:15-21:45, Tue 7:00-21:45, Sat-Sun 8:00-20:45. Public pool and gym. Smaller than Oulu swimming pool, but recently renovated (2010). €4.50 for the pools or the gym.
- Snooker Time, Kauppurienkatu 9. Play billiards or snooker right in the city center. B-license.
- Pelibunkkeri, Kansankatu 47. Indoor minigolf, air hockey and fussball tables.
- Oulu bowling alley (Oulun keilahalli), Isokatu 97. Over twenty bowling lanes near the city center. €15-18 per hour per lane, plus €2.50 for shoe rental. Also pool and snooker tables.
- Oulu Market Hall (Kauppahalli). Mon-Thu 8-17, Fri 8-18, Sat 8-15.. Atmospheric interior in over a hundred years old building. Largely a food market, offering fresh and conserved foods varying from reindeer meat to Asian specialities. The market and the surrounding 'aitat' (or barns) also offer a variety of souvenir-type items.
- Verkkokauppa.com (Verkkokauppa.com), Kaakkurinkulma 4. Mon-Fri 9-21, Sat 9-18 and Sun 12-18.. Very large home-electronics located 8 km from Oulu center. The best spot for electronics, computers, digital cameras, mobile phones, etc. in Oulu.
- Zeppelin (At freeway 4, 10km south of the city). The largest shopping mall of northern Finland with over hundred different stores.
- Kodin Ykkönen, Paljekuja 5. A shopping mall for home appliances and furniture in the district of Taka-Löyty. You can walk there from the city center or take bus number 8.
- Stockmann, Kirkkokatu 14. Upscale department store in central Oulu.
Oulu is a place for eating pizza and other fast foods. For as low as €4-7 you can get a pizza with your choice of (usually three) toppings. Try one of the more interesting choices of toppings such as reindeer, kebab and mayonnaise. Also there are many restaurants that have a pizza buffet for around €7-12 which includes a drink. A number of restaurants serving international cuisine or fast food are found in Oulu, including Indian, Greek, Mediterranean, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, Thai and Chinese kitchens. For American style fast food there is McDonald's and Finnish equivalent Hesburger, but best burgers can be had at a tiny and ever-crowded Kauppuri 5 (Kauppurienkatu 5).
- Pizzeria Romeo, Hallituskatu 22. Arguably, Finland's biggest pizzas are served in Oulu's Pizzeria Romeo.
- Ravintola Pannu, Kauppurienkatu 12. There is also the Pannu pizza joint in town - a bit more up-market pizzas for the discerning.
- Stands at the Market Place. During the summer months, head down to the marketplace and have some fried vendace (muikku) or salmon in one of the stands there.
- Pannukakkutalo Renesans, Aittatori 9. An interesting little restaurant is Pannukakkutalo Renesans near the market square, serving Dutch style pannekoeken, or for the unfamiliar, crêpes. More than a hundred of either sweet or savory toppings to choose from.
- RAX Pizzabuffet, Isokatu 23, Kauppalinnankuja 3 (Linnanmaa). The pizza buffet chain has two restaurants in Oulu. Buffet 9,95 €.
- Katri Antell-lounasravintolat. The local bakery operates several lunch eateries both in central Oulu and the suburbs. lunch about 6-8 €.
- Bisketti, Kirkkokatu 8, ☎ (08) 375 768. Mo-Th 8-22, Fr 8-01, Sa 8:30-01, Su 11-22. A cafe which also serves breakfast and lunch.
- Café Provence, Hallituskatu 25, ☎ (08) 882 1414. Mo 8-18, Tu-Fr 7:30-18, Sa 10-15. Another cafe serving breakfast and lunch.
- Koivurannan kahvila, Kasarmintie 51, ☎ (08) 333 944. Open only in the summer months. A cafe right at the Oulu river, that also has rowing boats for rent.
- Tähtitornin kahvila. In 1793 the gunpowder storage of Oulu castle exploded, turning it into a ruin. Almost a hundred years later, in 1875, an observatory was built on the ruins, and today the observatory is used as a cafe. In the basement there is a small museum about the history of the castle.
During the lunch time, usually from 11AM to 3PM, most restaurants serves food for reasonable prices. Lunch restaurants and lists in Oulu can be found at lounaat.info.
For typical, if a bit boring, French-Scandinavian dining, hotel restaurants such as Sassi (Radisson SAS) and Fransmanni (at the recently-built Arina hotel in the town center) provide.
- Ravintola Toripolliisi. Offers gastropub-style fare in nice surroundings both inside and outside, just in the corner of the marketplace.
- Crecian, Kirkkokatu 55. A "taverna" serving Greek food in an Greek-styled environment.
- Oskarin Kellari, Uusikatu 26 2 krs., ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Large servings of non-nonsense food, steaks and such at reasonable prices. It used to be right across the street from the railway station, but nowadays neighbors the hotel Omenahotelli.
- Sokeri-Jussin Kievari, Pikisaarentie 2. Finnish "countryside food" restaurant on the island of Pikisaari, accessible by pedestrian bridge from the Market Square. It operates in a former storage building, which is on of the oldest buildings in Oulu. The seaside outdoor seating is a nice place to dine in the summer.
Good experiences in a bit more upscale dining would be either Uleåborg or Puistola Dining, for a bit more affordable but still nice dining head near the Oulu Cathedral to Ravintola Hella.
- Ravintola Uleåborg 1881, Aittatori 4-5.
- Ravintola Puistola, Pakkahuoneenkatu 12-15.
- Ravintola Hella, Isokatu 13. Classic Finnish food, lunch is good value for money.
Drinking in Finland can be an expensive activity, a typical pint (either 0,4l or 0,5l) of domestic macro lager is typically around €6 and up. Typical Finnish beer is European lager, but also more interesting Finnish craft beer is available at a few pubs, as is imported stuff. Do try lonkku, a long time Finnish favorite long drink of gin and grapefruit juice.
- 1bar, Kauppurienkatu 5. Probably the best cocktails in town, a small dancefloor, sofas and electronic/rap/house music.
- 45 Special, Saaristonkatu 12, ☎ . Open every night. Weekdays gigs and meeting place of modern drunkards after 1:30AM, weekends crowded.
- Amarillo, Kirkkokatu 15, ☎ . Nice bar in the 1st floor and a night club underground. Also, the Tex-Mex-style kitchen is open Mon-Thu 11-00.30, Fri-Sat 11-23.30, Sun 12-23.00.
- Apollo Live Club, Torikatu 21-23. Wed,Fri,Sat 10PM-04AM.. A largish discotheque with two different rooms of different styles. Age restriction: 20+.
- Gloria, Torikatu 21-23. Next to Apollo Live Club, a bar with no cover charge featuring two dancefloors in separate rooms. Gets quite crowded on Saturdays.
- Caio, Sammonkatu 10, ☎ . Nice and quiet bar with music, billiards and food near the University of Oulu.
- Graali, Saaristonkatu 5. 14-03. Cozy pub with atmosphere and a fireplace.
- Hevimesta, Asemakatu 20. Hard Rock / Metal club. €1 beer on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays til 1AM.
- Kaarlenholvi/Jumpru, Kauppurienkatu 6. Genuine Oulu. Pub downstairs with warmed up patio offers the authentic overview of locals. Nightclub upstairs attracts younger clientele and exchange students. Long queues weekends, so arrive early (before 11PM) to avoid waiting.
- Kuluma, Kauppurienkatu 5. 11AM-2AM. If you fancy cocktails, this is the place to go. Some cocktails include a fire-breathing display.
- Never Grow Old, Hallituskatu 17. Sun-Thu 6PM-2PM, Fri 4PM-3AM,Sat 6PM-3AM. Chilled out bar with a Jamaican vibe. Red Stripe and Reggae.
- Nuclear Nightclub, Uusikatu 23. Wed-Sat 8PM-4AM. Best place for smaller live music acts in city: indie, jazz, metal, electronic etc. Live music in the basement every Friday and Saturday, occasionally on weeknights.
- Tivoli, Isokatu 35. Four different rooms with different styles: Disco, Rock, Suomipop and "Saucepan".
- Oluthuone Leskinen, Kirkkokatu 10, ☎ (08) 311 7993. 12-02. Irish-style pub with the best selection of beers in the city. Very crowded on Friday and Saturday nights.
- Public House Pivo, Asemakatu 21. A Czech inspired (at least in name) pub near the cathedral. Better than average beer selection and friendly staff. Interesting and sometimes eclectic music choices.
- Sarkka, Hallituskatu 13-17. 9AM-2AM. You think you are pro? Come here at 9AM and see if you have what it takes!
- Yöhuikka, Mäkelininkatu 13. Fri-Sat 11PM-4AM.. A small gay friendly nightclub. Fresh decor, no entrance fee. Cloak room 2 €.
- Hotel Lasaretti, Kasarmintie 13, ☎ . One of the cheapest hotels in Oulu. Located in Hupisaaret, the recreational area of Oulu, just 1km from center.
- Nallikari Lomakylä-Camping, Leiritie 10, ☎ . Absolutely the cheapest place to stay in Oulu. Located next to Nallikari beach 4km from center. 79 cottages with douche, toilet, cooking equipment and television. No breakfast served, but you can purchase breakfast at nearby Hotel Eden. 36€/4person cottage.
- Omenahotelli Oulu, Uusikatu 26. A hotel of the budget chain Omenahotelli in the city center of Oulu. from 45 €/room (1-4 persons).
- Kempeleen Moottorimaja, Sohjanantie 3, Kempele, ☎ . Clean rooms with refrigerator, microwave oven, coffee machine and television. Breakfast 4€/person. The motel is situated 9 km south from the city center, access by car, bus no. 9 or taxi. single 25 €, double 40 € or 50 €, quad 65 -75 €..
- Sokos Hotel Eden, Holstinsalmentie 29, ☎ . Spa hotel on Nallikari beach, a few kilometers (3.5km by foot, 5km by car) from the city center.
- Best Western Hotel Apollo, Asemakatu 31-33, ☎ , fax: (08) 372 060, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Good value for money, a clean and modern hotel in the city center. The restaurant is open just for breakfast, not for dining. There are 70 rooms, 29 of which are equipped with private sauna (and they're more expensive). from 69 €/night including breakfast.
- Cumulus Oulu, Kajaaninkatu 17, ☎ . The Cumulus Oulu is a cosy hotel for a pleasant business or leisure visit.
- Airport Hotel, Vihiluoto 10, ☎ (08) 5145 100, fax: (08) 5145 200, e-mail: email@example.com. reception open 7AM-midnight. A decent hotel 5 minutes by car from the airport. weekdays: single rooms 100 €, double rooms 120 €. Weekends: single rooms 75 €, double rooms 85 €..
- Radisson Blu, Hallituskatu 1, ☎ . One of the best hotels in the city with quite luxurious rooms.
- Scandic Oulu, Saaristonkatu 4, ☎ . A brand new but overpriced hotel of the Scandinavian mid-range chain in the city center. double room 146 € (May 2010).
Oulu is on the whole a very safe city, but avoid getting into arguments late in the night in fast food joints.
The panOULU (public access network OULU) network provides wireless broadband Internet access to everybody in its coverage area.
The tourist information centre has a computer with free internet access.
- Hailuoto is the largest island in the Gulf of Bothnia and a good destination for day trip. Accessible by ferry, either with own car or by bus.
- Iso-Syöte is the closest destination for downhill skiing. Koskilinjat arranges day trips during winter season .
- Kuusamo is also a place to visit if you continue your journey to the north towards the Finnish Lapland.
- Koitelinkoski-rapids of Kiiminkijoki-river, about 25min by car from Oulu.
|Routes through Oulu|
|Tornio ← Kemi ←||W E||→ Raahe → Turku|
|Rovaniemi ← Kemi ←||N S||→ Jyväskylä → Helsinki|