Oulu is a city built over water, with a network of breezy pedestrian bridges connecting the islets that comprise the city. In the summer, it’s a lovely place for walking and cycling, and locals turn out in great numbers to savor the daylight. Comfortable hotels in Oulu city center place visitors in prime position to take it all in.
Kauppahalli, the city’s lakeside market square, teems with shoppers from the early morning onward. It hinges on a food and produce market, where merchants sell everything from Arctic berries to reindeer meat. Flanking the square is a rambling collection of wooden houses that sells souvenirs and handicrafts.
Sightseeing attractions in central Oulu include the city’s 19th-century cathedral and Oulu castle (Oulunlinna). The latter was built in the 16th century and literally exploded in a freak lightning-meets-gunpowder accident. The castle was never rebuilt, but an on-site café still attracts visitors.
Oulu has plenty to offer on the modern front as well. It’s a booming research and development hub for the IT industry, and everyone enjoys wide-ranging Internet access thanks to the publicly funded wireless network in the city center. The Tietomaa Science Centre is a perennial family-pleaser with dozens of interactive exhibits.
Four- and five-star hotels in Oulu stick close to the waterfront near the marina and frigid (but popular) swimming spots like Tuira Beach. Staying in the center of this affluent town allows for impromptu visits to art galleries, museums and fine-dining restaurants. Golf is also a popular pursuit.
Oulu Airport is Finland’s second-busiest, and it operates flights to Helsinki, Kemi, Turku, Riga and several regional hubs across Scandinavia. Traveling by rail is twice as fast as taking the bus, with trains connecting to Helsinki in about six hours.