Oulu (Swedish: Uleåborg; ) is a city of 190,000 inhabitants in Oulu province, northern Finland. On 01.01.2009, the municipality of Ylikiiminki  was consolidated with the city of Oulu, increasing Oulu's land mass nearly quadruple-fold. As one of the results of the merger, Oulu is now officially an area where one might encounter reindeer.
Midnight sun shining over Oulu
Oulu is the capital of the province of Oulu and the region of Northern Ostrobothnia. It is the sixth largest (fourth largest if you exclude Espoo and Vantaa) city in Finland, and the largest and most important in Northern 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 City Old Library
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 (almost 20 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 €20 or a return ticket for less than €50 when bought months in advance. Norwegian is often cheapest, but airlines compete on price for this route so be sure to check others. There are also some services to Riga, Rovaniemi, Tampere, Turku and Kemi.
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 30 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 (€72), 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.
Trip duration from Helsinki varies between 9½ and 15 hours and costs around €70-80. Timetable and information from Matkahuolto
Onnibus offers low-cost long distance coach lines to Oulu from different cities of Finland.
Public transportation is operated by Koskilinjat . Single ticket (kertalippu) in the city of Oulu costs €3.30 (€1.60 for children ages 4-11). Between 23:00-04:00 a single ticket costs €6.20. 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 €14.40 (€7.20 for children). To plan your route in the city, try Linjakas . 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 generally do not speak English, so plan your trip beforehand.
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. Also if you are on budget you will find bikes just laying next to road.
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. (Un)fortunately 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.
Dockyard & Old Buildings
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.
The city theatre
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 €9-10.50, before 17:00 on weekdays €6.80. Add €2 for 3D movies. Ticket sets of 5 or 9 tickets are available, bringing the price per admission down to €8.40 or €8 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, from the french word trottoir, meaning pedestrian street, is 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.
International Air Guitar Festival, beginning of August.
Nallikari and its Eden sea resort. Summer visit is preferred, but you can bathe outside all year round in Eden'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.
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 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 either ride or walk back to the center for a total of 8km trip or take the bus number 7 back to the center.
Oulu swimming pool (Oulun uimahalli), (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, Asemakatu 28. Play billiards or snooker right in the city center. B-license.
Pelibunkkeri, Kansankatu 47, . Indoor minigolf, air hockey and fussball tables.(65.007682,25.472564)
Oulu bowling alley (Oulun keilahalli), . 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), . 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.
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. Also there are many restaurants that have a pizza buffet for around €7-12 which includes a drink. Arguably, Finland's biggest pizzas are served in Oulu's Pizzeria Romeo. There is also the Pannu pizza joint in town - a bit more up-market pizzas for the discerning.
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.
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. For finnish cuisine, head over the pedestrian bridge from the library to Pikisaari for Ravintola Sokeri-Jussi, offering traditional courses like Rössypottu (potatoes, blood and pork).
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 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 serves food for reasonable prices. Lunch restaurants and lists in Oulu can be found at lounaat.info.
1bar, Kauppurienkatu 5. Probably the best cocktails in town, a small dancefloor, sofas and electronic/rap/house music.
45 Special, Saaristonkatu 12,. (08) 8811 845, Open every night. Weekdays gigs and meeting place of modern drunkards after 1.30am, weekends crowded.
Amarillo, Kirkkokatu 15, (08) 312 3100, . Nice bar in the 1st floor and a night club underground. Also, the texmex-style kitchen is open Mon-Thu 11-00.30, Fri-Sat 11-23.30, Sun 12-23.00.
Apollo Live Club, Torikatu 21-23, . A discotheque with two different rooms of different styles. Meatcounter for 20+. Wed,Fri,Sat 22-04.00.
Gloria, Torikatu 21-23. Connected to Apollo Live Club, a pub with no cover charge featuring karaoke and live music in separate rooms. Gets quite crowded on saturdays.
Caio, Sammonkatu 10, (08) 556 2286, 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.(65.012192,25.465794)
Hevimesta, Torikatu 11, . Hard Rock / Metal club. 1e 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.
Kuluma, Kauppurienkatu 5, 11am-2am. . If you fancy cocktails, this is the place to go. Some coctails 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". Meatcounter for 18 to 20 year olds.
Oluthuone Leskinen, Kirkkokatu 10, ☎ (08) 311 7993, . 12-02. Irish-style pub with the best selection of beers in the city.
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 €.
Bar Becksu, Asemakatu 20, . Another gay friendly nightclub, bigger than Yöhuikka, often hosting theme parties. Open every second weekend or so. 7€ entrance inc. cloak room.
Kauppuri 5, Kauppurienkatu 5, . A well-known and usually crowded burger bar serving burgers and a nice selection of beers. Check out a shot called "lökö".
Holiday Inn, Kirkkokatu 3, (08) 883 9111.
Holiday Club Oulun Eden, Vellamontie 10, 020 1234 905. Spa hotel on Nallikari beach, a few kilometers (3.5km by foot, 5km by car) from the city center.
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