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Visit Northern Finland: Oulu, the coast and the Gulf of Bothnia

Northern Finland has variegated traits: the atmosphere is rather rural and becomes almost remote towards the border with Russia, overlooking the Gulf of Bothnia you begin to breathe a more cosmopolitan and maritime air.

That’s how after Karelia, Kajaani, Rovaniemi and Lapland, we discovered another face of Finland, visiting Oulu, Finland’s fourth largest city, boasting a Swedish past and that is now a favorite destination for thousands of tourists and national and international business travellers.

Oulu not only overlooks the Gulf of Bothnia, but is located right in the delta of the river Oulujoki and spread over various islets. Walking through the city, you will understand how important is the role of nature and outdoor activities for those who live in Oulu: beautiful parks, ski slopes and all the nature of the archipelago of the Gulf of Bothnia. If you love to travel by bike, Oulu is the city for you: its network of cycle paths is the most extensive in Finland!

By bike or not, the centre of Oulu is easily reachable and can be visited on foot. You can easily stroll with small children in the pedestrian area of Rotuaari in the center of Oulu, a real urban lounge. Here you will find cafes and restaurants, including high-level shops, department stores (including Stockmann) and boutiques. If you’re afraid of the cold, don’t worry because there is a modern heating system throughout the length of the pedestrian part of Kirkkokatu (including the central square Kauppatori), so that it is free of ice and snow during the winter months.

Among the museums, very interesting to visit with children is Tietomaa Science Center (Nahkatehtaankatu 6, admission 15/11 €), which offers interactive exhibits and a large cinema screen for 3D movies.  Interesting also Oulu Museum Of Art (Kasarmintie 9, admission 5/8 €), which presents regional works, and Northern Ostrobothnia Museum (Ainolanpolku 1, admission 6/4 €), which tells the cultural history of the city.

An excursion to the islands of the archipelago in the Gulf of Bothnia: Hailuoto

A free ferry connects the city of Oulu and island of Hailuoto with its beautiful sand dunes in summer, while in winter you can experience the crossing of the icy sea through an ice road to the island. If you’re in Oulu it’s a must-have experience, a half-day excursion that will not only put you in touch with nature, but also make you understand life on the islands.

The ferry has well-defined schedules, but just head towards Oulunsalon Lauttaranta, where the road ends and you will find vehicles in queue to embark on the ferry. There is a small bar that works also as point of information: here you can ask for a brochure with the timetable of the ferry (especially for the return!). Enjoy the journey, about 20 minutes: once you arrive on Hailuoto, follow the road 816 which will take you to the opposite head of the island, Marjaniemi.

Marjaniemi is infinite open spaces, sun and wind, fishes and sea, history and future. Marjaniemi has been a port and fishing place for hundreds of years. It is still an important port in the Gulf of Bothnia and the signs of the great importance of fishing in the past times for the fishing village and its inhabitants are still present. Even today, large quantities of herring, coregones and salmon are unloaded from ships in the port. Perch has also become important after the increase in the number of seals. One of Hailuoto’s most popular attractions is the Marjaniemi Lighthouse, built in 1871 and inaugurated on 3 September 1872, which has been driving sailors fro a long time.

Where to stay in Oulu: Hotel Lasaretti

In Oulu we decided to stay in a unique hotel, just a short walk from the city center. Hotel Lasaretti is located next to a beautiful park on the Lasaretinsaari Island, on the banks of the river Oulu. The building, originally designed in the ’20s to house the hospital, underwent a exemplary process of renovation and conversion tinto a beautiful hotel. The rooms are large and the view of the park on the river is really great. All the spaces have been redesigned to offer the traveler a modern structure, with excellent facilities such as a sauna (shared), fitness area or business services for seminars and conferences. The Virta restaurant has a very good cuisine, perfect for kids and adults.

Hotel Lasaretti
Kasarmintie 13
90130 Oulu
020 757 4700

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