Amazing Oulu

A spherical light art installation made from glowing fibres lights up its surroundings with blue colour in a park. There are people around it, and a person in the foreground is touching the installation.

Hey, have you heard about Oulu? The amazing, big city that is still so cosy and com­pact?

Read about the laid-back home of more than 200 000 inha­bi­tants, whe­re you can tra­vel from any loca­tion to anot­her in 20 minu­tes. Find out about the educa­tion and research hub that is also repre­sen­ted around the world as the birthplace of wild cul­tu­ral ideas – as it hap­pens, Oulu is also the Euro­pean Capi­tal of Cul­tu­re for 2026!

Basic cour­se about Oulu – 10 + 1 impor­tant facts

1. The ave­ra­ge Oulu resi­dent is easy-going, sociable, hos­pi­table, help­ful, and fair. Howe­ver, they often have a slight­ly quir­ky sen­se of humour (qui­te nor­mal by local stan­dards) and do not hesi­ta­te to show it.

2. An Oulu resi­dent is also crea­ti­ve, some­ti­mes in their own pecu­liar way. Besi­des the wire­less tech­no­lo­gy that has revo­lu­tio­ni­sed glo­bal com­mu­nica­tions, the people of Oulu have also come up with inno­va­tions such as the Air Gui­tar World Cham­pions­hips, pitc­hing busi­ness ideas from a hole in the sea ice, and a male choir that does not sing but shouts.

3. Oulu Air­port is so vivid­ly ope­ra­ted that it is almost the busiest one in Fin­land. Wit­hout the Hel­sin­ki Air­port, this would actual­ly be the case.

4. Oulu people love cycling regard­less of the sea­son. In fact, Oulu has unof­ficial­ly been cal­led the win­ter cycling capi­tal of the world. Many media from abroad have visi­ted Oulu in the win­ter for amazed reports about the season’s bike traf­fic and cycleway main­te­nance in any weat­her.

The cycleway network in Oulu is qui­te exten­si­ve, too: Toward the end of 2021, the­re are near­ly 1000 kilo­met­res of cycleways in and around the city, and more are being built all the time. Besi­des the regu­lar cycleways, new Cycling Super­highways are being con­struc­ted for the busiest rou­tes from the city cent­re to outer districts.

5. The wind in Oulu is a clas­sic: it will always blow against you, no mat­ter which way you are hea­ding. The people in Oulu have even deve­lo­ped a special Oulu expres­sion that you may see on the faces of bikers in a headwind. Howe­ver, the bene­fits of wind are vital to the area. Nowa­days, the Oulu region is the most sig­ni­ficant hub of wind power con­struc­tion that crea­tes sus­tai­nable ener­gy and brings new jobs.

6. Some­ti­mes you may hear geo­grap­hical­ly incor­rect sta­te­ments about Oulu being part of Lapland. Alt­hough this is not the case, we are not all that far. The dis­tance between Oulu and the bor­der of Lapland is only about 80 kilo­met­res. From the­re on, the jour­ney to the sta­te­ly moun­tains up north is easy and quick. If you want to have a holi­day in the Swe­dish or Norwe­gian Lapland for a chan­ge, the dis­tance is not much lon­ger eit­her.

7. Win­ter sport lovers do not even have to go to Lapland to conquer new hills or visit fami­liar ones. The sout­hern­most fell in Fin­land, Iso-Syö­te, is only about a 1.5‑hour dri­ve nort­heast of Oulu – about halfway to an even big­ger fell, Ruka in Kuusa­mo. If skiing down from such high peaks turns your knees into jel­ly, the­re is a ski cent­re even in Oulu. Belie­ve it or not, the Rus­ko­tun­tu­ri ski cent­re was built on land­fill. The gent­le and short slo­pes the­re are per­fect for smal­ler children and tho­se who fear heights, whi­le the more reckless can enjoy fas­ter speeds in the snow parks.

8. In Oulu, you can expe­rience all the sea­sons at their most beau­ti­ful. Spring and sum­mer are nice and warm, and autumn covers the city in all the colours the sea­son has to offer. For a big part of the year, though, snow and sub-zero tem­pe­ra­tu­res dic­ta­te the con­di­tions. Here you do not have to wor­ry about not get­ting a whi­te Christ­mas.

9. Eve­ry day, you pro­bably use wire­less tech­no­lo­gy that was deve­lo­ped in Oulu. Actual­ly near­ly three bil­lion other people around the world do, too. Oulu has pio­nee­red this tech­no­lo­gy glo­bal­ly for half a cen­tu­ry. As a result, 5G lives in Oulu, and 6G research has also been kic­ked off here. Nokia is the big­gest pri­va­te emplo­yer in the region, but in Oulu they do not make rub­ber boots or car tyres.

10. Do you know which nort­hern city will beco­me the Euro­pean Capi­tal of Cul­tu­re in 2026? Well, Oulu, of cour­se. We alrea­dy have a mul­ti­tu­de of fabu­lous events throug­hout the year. When it comes to music, the­re are big fes­ti­vals for tens of thousands of visi­tors as well as more com­pact events orga­ni­sed by local associa­tions and clubs. In the metal capi­tal of Fin­land (if not the world), the­re are also special fes­ti­vals to ser­ve true gen­re ent­husiasts. The two-week Oulu Music Fes­ti­val offers somet­hing for all tas­tes eve­ry spring.

Fes­ti­vals in Oulu are not just about music, though. Held annual­ly toward the end of Novem­ber at the dar­kest time of the year, Lumo Light Fes­ti­val can att­ract more than 100 000 spec­ta­tors to admi­re inter­na­tio­nal light art ins­tal­la­tions.

+ The­re are many big things under deve­lop­ment in Oulu right now – befo­re Oulu beco­mes the Euro­pean Capi­tal of Cul­tu­re in 2026, the city has the honour of hos­ting the natio­nal housing fair in 2025. This means buil­ding a who­le new resi­den­tial district on the waterfront in the Oulu River estua­ry, of cour­se kee­ping in mind the principles of sus­tai­na­bi­li­ty, the values of natu­re, and the needs of eve­ry Oulu resi­dent.

Com­mu­ni­ty & Demo­grap­hic Data