History of Oulu

Early Stages of the City 

The city of Oulu was founded on the mainland facing the castle on the 8th of April 1605. King of Sweden, Charles IX, gave the order to Isak Bhem to found the city.  

The construction of the castle of Oulu was finished in 1590. When an armory was established next to the castle in 1614, industrial trade began to spark up in the city. In order to ease drilling of gun barrels, the king ordered a drill factory to be built in 1617.  

In 1610 the city received its own city rights, which ordered three blacksmiths, tailors, and shoemakers, two goldsmiths and tanners, one carpenter, painter, chamois maker, and hatter, and as many bakers and butchers as needed. The city had less than a thousand residents in the 15th century.  

Period of Economic Growth 

The salmon, the fish on Oulu’s coat of arms, was a large export product, and well respected in Stockholm’s court. Salmon had a large effect on Oulu’s energy supply by the end of the 15th century. The mills and sawmills in Hupisaaret were ordered to be shut down for the duration of prime fishing seasons. Merikoski rapids could not be locked down, but the multiple small streams at the mouth of the river Oulujoki allowed for enough capacity for the blooming industrial mechanization.  

The 16th century was a period of growth for Oulu. Shipbuilding flourished after the Crimean war in 1856 and Oulu’s merchant fleet was the largest in the country. The Tervahovi storage site composed of three warehouses for export tar was established in 1777 in Toppila. The site burned in 1901. The connections to the world also refreshed cultural life in Oulu.  


On the timeline you will find excerpts of Oulu’s history from the 1300s all the way to the 2000s. Following the years you will find the city’s population at the time and key events of that year. 

Historical Places on a Map 

The map service shows key places from Oulu's history.

This map includes: natural monuments, memorial plaques, monuments, and museums. 

A Map of Historical Places