Oulu, Finland: A Photojourney to a Subarctic City

Pop quiz:  What’s the most populous city in northern Finland?  If you guessed Oulu you’d be right!

Despite it being northernmost larger cities in the world with a population just under 200,000, I confess to have never heard of it until recently.

I had few expectations of one of the world’s largest sub-arctic cities, except that it would be so cold that your skin would freeze to metal in a matter of seconds. That may be true some of the year, but when I was there it was a refreshing and dare I say pleasant (subarctic speaking) 5+ degrees.

City Hall in Oulu, Finland

City Hall in Oulu, Finland

The previous few days had been action packed in nearby Iso-Syöte. I had tested my need-for speed at snowmobiling (only to discover that most grannies probably need more speed than I do).  My ice-fishing skills were also less than formidable.  Our guide had pointed out that a real fisherman would have his back towards the sun.  I have no doubt this was excellent advice, but the warm sun on my face felt so good that I continued to fish facing the sun and shock of all shocks didn’t catch anything. Fortunately I fared much better at dog sledding.  As an animal lover it’s impossible not to connect with the Huskies who greet you by  jumping on you.  I appreciate that much enthusiasm in a greeting!

But after all the excitement I was looking forward to some peace and quiet, which is exactly what I got as I explored Oulu early one Sunday.  Besides a few hearty souls, I had the city to myself.  Perhaps everyone else still in bed after a late night of karaoke (Finns love karaoke, one of the Five Fun Facts about Finland I learned !) and a few too many Lonkeros (my new favorite Finnish drink). Whatever the reason, Oulu’s quiet vibe seemed to match my own need for something low-key:

Market Hall in Oulu, Finland

Market Hall in Oulu, with the famous policeman statue to the right.

Market square in Oulu, Finland

The market square was quiet the day I visited, but I imagine it would be bustling later in the day.

Old Observatory in Oulu, Finland.

The old observatory was built in 1875 on top of the ruins of the Castle of Oulu. Such a cool history and one of my favorite buildings in Oulu.

Typical wood houses in Oulu, Finland.

Despite being an old city (founded in 1822) much of Oulu was burnt in a fire in 1822, so many of the buildings are newer than I was expecting.

Yellow wood building in Oulu, Finland

I did stop and chat with one local though. I wouldn’t say he was exactly friendly, and he practically rolled his eyes as he told me his name:

A reindeer named Rudolf who lives in Oulu, Finland.

Meet Rudolf, an Oulu local.

It was Rudolf. After my visit to the Reindeer Farm, I should have known.  Given my need for quiet though I forgave him for his conversational skills.  We looked each other in the eye, saying nothing and appreciating the silence.


  1. says

    Rudolf is adorable! I have a friend that just returned from Rovinemini, and now I’ve got Arctic Circle fever. Thanks for adding to it :)

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