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What to do in Oulu, Finland - 20 tips

What to do in Oulu, Finland? Located at the mouth of the Oulujoki River in the Gulf of Bothnia, this city has a lot to offer. Here are all our top tips for things to see and do in Oulu.

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Oulu, Finland

Oulu is the largest municipality in northern Finland and the fifth largest in the country. We came here by campervan, at the end of our campervan trip along the Finnish coast, and discovered the city for a few days. In addition to finding a lot to see and do, we reacted to the city's many fine bridges, both large and small. At the mouth of the Oulujoki River there are many islands, and thus many bridges.

Att göra i Uleåborg i Finland

Oulu, or Oulu as the city is called in Finnish, is located at the mouth of the Oulu River in the Gulf of Bothnia, in Northern Ostrobothnia, Finland.

What can you do in Oulu?

So what can you do in Oulu? Being a slightly larger city, there is also a relatively wide range of sights and experiences. Here are our top tips for things to do in Oulu and the surrounding area.

1. Discovering the Market Square and "Toripoliisi"

One of the places you'll definitely want to discover in Oulu is the Market Square, a lively meeting and trading place. In the past, from 1934 to 1979, the 'Market Square Police' kept a watchful eye on everything that happened here. Today there is only the bronze statue 'Toripoliisi', created by sculptor Kaarlo Mikkonen. The statue is now a popular photo and selfie subject.

Att göra i Uleåborg i Finland
Att göra i Uleåborg i Finland

2. Shopping in the market hall

One of Oulu's most important heritage buildings, and perhaps one of the most beautiful, is the Market Hall. Designed in neo-Gothic style by Karl Lindahl and Valter Thomé, the building has served as a market hall since 1901. Here you can buy local foods and delicacies, but also crafts and gifts, or perhaps pause for lunch.

Att göra i Uleåborg i Finland - Saluhallen

3. Check out Oulu Cathedral.

Oulu Cathedral is located right in the city centre, on the same site where previous church buildings have stood since the 16th century. The church you see today was completed in 1832. If you look inside, you can see a portrait of Johannes Messenius from 1611.

4. shopping

Since Oulu is a slightly larger city, you can of course go shopping here. There are several shopping centres, such as Valkea Sopping Center. For more specialised products, check out the Design Shop Proto in the Design Centre Proto, which offers domestic design products.

Att göra i Uleåborg i Finland - shoppa

5. Coffee at the Oulu Old Castle

Perhaps one of the most charming and remarkable places in Oulu is the salmon pink Tähitorni Café. This turreted little building was completed in 1875, and has served as a café since 1912.

Att göra i Uleåborg i Finland

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the café is that it sits on top of the renovated foundation of Oulu Castle, which was destroyed when the gunpowder store was blown up in 1793. In the summer, there is an exhibition on the history of the castle in the castle cellar.

Modell
A model showing what Oulu Castle looked like, from the Museum of Northern Ostrobothnia.

6. Strolling in the park Hupisaaret

Hupisaaret Park is a beautiful green park located in the centre of Oulu. There are walking and cycling paths, flower beds, rippling water, and lots of charming white bridges. There is also a café in the park and several museums are located here.

WIFI.se

7. Take a look at the Museum of Northern Ostrobothnia

At the Museum of Northern Ostrobothnia you can learn more about the history of Oulu, Northern Ostrobothnia and Finland. It is most interesting if you go in chronological order and follow the history from prehistory to the present. The museum is free to visit, so it's easy to just drop in.

8. See art at the Oulu Art Museum

Another museum that might be worth visiting, at least if you like art, is the Oulu Art Museum. The museum shows different exhibitions, sometimes with different themes. For example, when we were here, there was an art exhibition with the theme "seasons".

9. Experience the Tietomaa Science Centre

Tietomaa is a science centre where children, young people and adults can learn more about animals, nature and science, mostly in various interactive ways. We were here looking around on one of the very last days before the centre closed for a long period of renovation. Tietomaa plans to reopen in about two years, in 2025, and it will be completely remodelled and brand new.

Att göra i Uleåborg i Finland - Tietomaa

10. Walk on the island of Beckholmen (Pikisaari)

Beckholmen, or Pikisaari as it is called in Finnish, is a charming little island in the centre of Oulu that can be reached by walking across a few small bridges. There are a lot of historic buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. Despite several fires on the island, some of the old charming wooden houses remain, along with newer buildings.

Beckholmen
Beckholmen

11. Check out the sailor's home at Beckholmen.

On Beckholmen you will also find the "Seamen's Home Museum" (Merimiehenkotimuseo), located in Oulu's oldest preserved wooden house. This is a small but nice museum. It's completely free to visit, and when we were here there was a guide who was happy to tell us more.

12. Experience the creative atmosphere at Beckholmen

Beckholmen is not only known for its historic wooden houses, but also for its creative atmosphere. For example, there is a nature trail, which is partly decorated with art. We also saw a lot of cool street art. In addition, there are many popular eateries here.

13. Sunbathing and swimming on Nallikari beach

Nallikari is perhaps Oulu's most popular beach, nicknamed the 'Nordic Riviera'. In addition to sunbathing and swimming, it is also popular for water sports and watching the sunset. We never made it here, but still want to mention the beach because it seems to be so popular. There is also a large holiday village and campsite here, with a nice location right next to the beach.

Nallikari beach. Image from image bank.

14. Experience the Owl River

The Owl River runs right through Oulu and can be experienced in many different ways. We saw and passed it a few times, both inside the city and outside. During the summer, you can also travel on the river by water taxi from the market square. There are also companies that offer the opportunity to rent a canoe or SUP board, for longer or shorter adventures.

Ule älv

15. Check out fine cars at the Oulu Car Museum

The Oulu Car Museum is located in the southern part of Oulu. This museum pleasantly surprised us with a nice collection of beautiful and special old vehicles. The oldest vehicles are from the 1910s and there are also, for example, fire engines and motorcycles.

16. visit the open air museum Turkish karaokei

Just southeast of the centre of Oulu, on an island in the River Oulu, is the Turkansaari Open Air Museum. Here you can see a wide range of historical buildings from different eras. There is also a cosy café and several play areas for children.

17. Shopping in camping shops

Travelling with a motorhome or caravan? If you need a spare part, or need to stock up on detergent or something else, Oulu is the perfect place to do so. Here you can find a whole bunch camping shops. We visited three and found the stuff we needed at all of them:

  • Best Caravan Oulu, Zatelliitintie 12, Kempele
  • Rinta-Jouppi Huolto Oulu, Tikkasentie 2, Oulu,
  • Vesami Oy, Takojantie 1, Oulu
BestCaravan

18. Take an excursion to Karlö (Hailuoto)

Karlö, or Hailuoto as the island is called in Finnish, is a large inhabited island located in the Gulf of Bothnia off Oulu. During the summer season, free car ferries run here regularly. The ferry journey takes about 25 minutes and when we were here they left every half hour.

Att göra i Uleåborg i Finland - färja till Karlö

Visiting Karlö in the summer is popular. It has beautiful scenery and in Marjaniemi, on the westernmost tip of the island, there is a lighthouse, a caravan park and some restaurants.

19. Experience the Qstock festival and other events

When we arrived in Oulu, it was just about time for Qstock - a two-day rock festival held at the end of July every year. However, it seems far from being the only event. On the contrary, in the summertime there seems to be something going on almost all the time, from markets to music events. Other festivals include 'Better People' in Karlö (Hailuoto) and the Air Guitar World Cup, which has been organised in Oulu since 1996.

Att göra i Uleåborg i Finland

20. Discovering nature around Oulu

There are many opportunities to experience nature in the vicinity of Oulu. Pilpasuo is a popular wetland area for hiking, with both short and long trails. Another nature area is Sanginjoki, where there are coniferous forests and rare bird species. Koitelinkoski is also a popular recreational area, where the Kiminge River flows.

Natur

Things to do in Oulu in winter

We visited Oulu in the summer, which was nice, but it is also a winter destination. Here are some suggestions for things to do in Oulu in winter.

  • Sauna bath is popular at all times of the year, but especially in winter.
  • Dog teams is an experience that can be done on different Siberian husky farms.
  • Northern Lights can be seen in mountainous areas in winter, if you're lucky.
  • Reindeer farms there are several around Oulu, where you can meet reindeer and reindeer herders, and perhaps go reindeer sledging.
  • Skiing is popular, both in terms of downhill and cross-country skiing.
  • Scooter safari are organised in different places in the mountains.
  • Syöte mountain area offers winter landscapes and the possibility of skiing, both downhill and cross-country.
Syöte in winter. Image from image bank.

More to see and do in Oulu

Of course, there is even more to see and do in Oulu than our tips. Here are some more suggestions.

  • Botanical garden is one of the northernmost scientific gardens in the world (Kaitoväylä 5).
  • Kierikki Stone Age Centre is located on the iijoki river and takes you back in time (Pahkalantie 447).
  • Mourunkijärvi is a lake with bathing beaches in Kempele.
  • Church of Uleälv is built in the national romantic style and was completed in 1908 (Oulujoentie 69).
Peter från FREEDOMtravel

Where can you stay in Oulu, or park your campervan?

In Oulu there are many different hotels and other accommodation options in Oulu. If, like us, you're travelling by motorhome, there are also a whole bunch of different options in and around Oulu, such as, among others:

  • Camping Nallikari Lomakylä, Leiritie 10, Oulu
  • Free camping/parking at Koskitie 3, Oulu
  • Matkaparkki car park in Marjaniemi, Karlö (Hailuoto)
  • Free camping/parking in Potti, Potinhamina 6, Karlö (Hailuoto)
  • BestPark car park in Varessäikkä, Varessäikäntie 162, Siikajoki
Free camping/parking at Koskitie, in a central location
Free camping/parking in Potti on Karlö Island
BestPark car park in Varessäikkä - a nice spot an hour southwest of Oulu

More things to see and do around Oulu

From Oulu, it is not too far to Brahestad, which is an incredibly charming little town with wooden houses and great museums. If you head in a north-westerly direction instead, you can get to... Tornio and Haparanda, and to the marvellous Kukkola Rapids. Below you will find even more tips for things to do in Finland.

All our top tips about Finland. Click on the image!

More tips for things to do in Oulu?

Have you visited Oulu in Finland? Do you have any other suggestions for what to see and do in Oulu? Let us know!

Facts about Oulu

  • Country: Finland
  • Landscape: Northern Ostrobothnia
  • Population: Just over 209 000 (2021)
  • The name: Uleåborg in Swedish and Oulu in Finnish. The Finnish name comes from a Sami word for flood water.
  • Language: 94.9 % Finnish and 0.2 % Swedish
  • Currency: Euro
  • Neighbouring municipalities: Karlö, Ijo, Kempele, Limingo, Lumijoki, Muhos, Pudasjärvi, Tyrnävä and Utajärvi.
  • Read more: You can find more information at tourist office website.

History of Oulu

  • 1605: The city was founded by King Charles IX.
  • 1610: The city was granted city privileges.
  • 1765: The city was granted staple city rights.
  • 1776: The city became the county seat of Oulu, which it was until 2009.
  • 1793: The castle was destroyed by a lightning strike.
  • 2013: The neighbouring municipalities of Haukipudas, Kiminge, Oulunsalo and Överijo were included in the City of Oulu.

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