Oulu is a city and municipality in the region of Northern Ostrobothnia, in Finland. It is the most populous city in Northern Finland and the sixth most populous city in the country. It is one of the northernmost larger cities in the world.
In 1822, a major fire destroyed much of the city. The architect Carl Ludvig Engel, chiefly known for the neoclassical (empire style) buildings around Helsinki Senate Square, was enlisted to provide the plan for the rebuilding of the city. 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.
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, paper, and steel. The University of Oulu is located six kilometres north of the city center. The Oulu Airport, located in the neighboring municipality of Oulunsalo, is the second busiest in Finland.
The municipality of Ylikiiminki was merged with the city of Oulu on January 1, 2009. Oulu and the municipalities of Haukipudas, Kiiminki, Oulunsalo and Yli-Ii will be merged on January 1, 2013.
During the summer months, head down to the marketplace and have some fried vendace (muikku) or salmon in one of the stands there. 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, Hesburger and Movie Diner which is decorated in the style of a 50's American diner.
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.
Ravintola Toripolliisi offers gastropub-style fare in nice surroundings both inside and outside, just in the corner of the marketplace. During the lunch time, usually from 11am to 15pm, most restaurants serve food at reasonable prices.
- The Oulu Cathedral is an Evangelical Lutheran cathedral and the seat of the Diocese of Oulu. The church was built in 1777 as a tribute to the King of Sweden Gustav III of Sweden and named after his wife as Sofia Magdalena's church. The wooden structures burned in the large fire of the city of Oulu in 1822. The church was built again on top of the old stonewalls with famous architect Carl Ludvig Engel as the designer. The restoration works were completed in 1832, but the belfry was not erected until 1845.
- Tietomaa. The best way to keep one’s mind alert throughout your life is to constantly strive to learn more. An exceptional place for discovering new things is the Tiedekeskus Tietomaa. Theme exhibitions along with over 150 objects guarantee that you’ll have things to see and experience for the whole day. The giant movie theatre will capture audiences, along with the Sirius science store, Saturnus café-restaurant, and the observation tower, accessible by a glass elevator
- Observatory Café. By the bridges of Tuira, you can visit the remains of Oulu Castle, rebuilt in 1605 by decree of Sweden’s King Carl IX. In 1875, the Oulu Marine Institute’s Observatory was built on the rock base of the castle. These days the place is where the Observatory summer café stands. The basement holds a small exhibition about the castle’s history, produced by the Northern Ostrobothnia Museum.
- The Northern Ostrobothnia museum is a museum of cultural history. This provincial museum focuses on the city of Oulu and its the surrounding province Northern Ostrobothnia. The museum was founded in 1896 and it was maintained by a museum society until 1969, when the ownership was handed over to the city of Oulu. Between the years 1911–1929 the museum operated in an old wooden villa Villa Ainola, which was destroyed in a fire on July 9th, 1929. Some of the collections of the museum were also destroyed. Soon after the fire the current museum building was started to be built on the site of the old villa. The new stone house was completed in 1931. The building was designed by a Finnish architect Oiva Kallio. Oulu City Library was also located in the building until 1982.
- Turkansaari is an island in Oulujoki river with an open air museum in the Madekoski neighbourhood. The museum is run by Northern Ostrobothnia museum. Turkansaari island has been an ancient market place for Russian traders in Oulujoki river. The open-air museum was started out when the old church, from the year 1694, was restored on the island in 1922. Every summer there is a tar kiln lit to produce tar in the traditional way.