Oulu – Arctic Europe is already in 2026

March 7, 2024

Oulu – city in northern Finland and one of the biggest cities near the article circle will be European Capital of Culture in 2026. ECoC team of Oulu is preparing a lot of cultural manifestations and cultural infrastructure is already building so everything can be rady for the title year in 2026.

What is different in Oulu then in other European Capital of Cultures that had opportunity to showcase their art and culture scene? Oulu is thinking out of the box and very creatively wants to show Europe and to the whole world that culture is not just about galleries, classic art and museums. It is also about culture of living, culture of food, sport, daily activities and many other aspects that builds our lives.

Together on Oulu’s journey is 32 municipalities from Northern Finland. With co-operation Oulu want’s to bring to the North more culture and wellbeing, create new jobs and develop the region. The European Capitals of Culture (ECoC) are the most
visible form of the European Union’s cultural support. It highlights the importance of cities as centres of cultural life. The selected city will have the opportunity to develop its activities culturally, socially and economically. The year brings with it a wide range of positive activities, such as international guests to the tourism and business sector, projects aimed at improving
cultural infrastructure, national and international seminars, cross-border cooperation and cultural events. For many cities, being The European Capital of Culture has led to long-lasting positive changes in culture, tourism, co-operation and urban landscape.
The capitals of culture have been named since 1985 and are funded by the Creative Europe Programme. The nomination emphasizes the diversity of European cultures and enhances cultural exchange throughout Europe.

The main message of our culture programme is Culture-climate change that is present through three main programme themes: Brave Hinterland, Wild City and Cool Contrasts. Cultural climate change creates an inspiring future for northern Europe in a sustainable way. It highlights the importance of art and culture in the future of cities, villages and regions. Cultural climate change also reunites us in crisis-ridden Europe. We need cultural climate change more than ever.

Wild City: Oulu 2026 brings wildness into the city by celebrating the wilderness around it. Creating a new cultural approach with unique northern vibe. Oulu as a cultural laboratory, going wild for Europe.

Brave Hinterland: Far away from everything, on the periphery of Europe Oulu faces an uncompromising nature, extreme climate (change), enormous distances and wild vastness, excessive light and excessive darkness.

Cool Contrasts: Oulu is the kingdom of great contrasts – the nightless nights of the midnight sun and sunless days in the heart of winter. Contrasts have the power both to connect and disconnect, but also to create something new.

Northern Finland’s short but intensive summer ripens local ingredients. Arctic Food Lab is a program that brings forth the ingredients that have grown under the Oulu2026 region’s Northern sky, and the uniqueness of traditional food born under arctic circumstances. Oulu wants to offer local and international guests Arctic Food Lab experiences that cannot be experienced anywhere else. Arctic Food Lab brings together those operating in gastronomy and food culture in the Oulu region and celebrates Northern cuisine and gastronomy. Food is not just nourishment but a way to provide experiences and demonstrate hospitality. Arctic Food Lab creates images of clean arctic nature and its ingredients that have been refined with local know-how into high-quality products and services. Local food supports sustainable development and achievement of climate goals.

What to see in Oulu:Tähtitorni Observation Tower Just a stone’s throw from Oulu Market Square, you can find the lovely, pastel-coloured Tähtitorni Café, which has served as a summer café since 1912. The idyllic setting invites you to experience an interesting piece of history while enjoying a nice cup of coffee – you are sitting on top of the renovated foundations of Oulu Castle which was destroyed in 1793 when the gunpowder storage blew up. From the observation tower, you have a nice view of Pikisaari Island where a stone from the castle landed in the explosion. The stone is still there.

Hupisaaret Islands city park It is a snow-covered wonderland in the winter. The park is a must for any outdoor person, culture enthusiast, and romantic to visit. Here locals and visitors alike can find enjoyment, adventure, games, picnics, and tranquillity. Spot the new Oulu letters in the park and snap a photo with them as a memento of your trip to Oulu. For indoor activities the Oulu Museum of Art is located near the park. The Hupisaaret Park consists of several small islands in the Oulu River estuary. It became a public park after the 1850s, and its history holds industry, watermills, cattle pastures, French gardens, and child’s play.

Oulu Market Hall and Policeman statue Over centuries, Oulu Market Square has offered its visitors lively meeting and trading place which has also required guarding. A peculiar feature in the local policing history were the Market Square policemen who kept an eye on the Market Square and maintained order there. Through them, the townspeople and those who came from the province became acquainted first-hand with the authorities. The era of Market Square policemen in Oulu lasted from 1934 until 1979. After the patrolling ended, the policemen were commemorated through a citizen’s fundraiser for
erecting a bronze statue in front of the Market Hall. The Market Square Policeman’s statue was designed by sculptor Kaarlo Mikkonen.

Nallikari – the Riviera of the North The beautiful pearly beach, spectacular sunsets, high-quality accommodation, and vast selection of recreational outdoor activities have earned Nallikari the nickname ‘Riviera of the North’. The Nallikari beach
attracts not only sunbathers but also beach sports lovers. A family seeking adventure can try out the gigantic climbing net on the beach or storm the well-equipped playground. In the winter, the vastness of the Bothnian Bay offers a range of possibilities for walking, skiing, or snowshoeing on the sea ice. You may also catch kite skiers or fatbikers speeding on the ice. If you fancy a day trip, discover the trails, birdwatching tower, and campfire sites around Hietasaari Island for recreation throughout the year. Accessibility has been considered for the summertime routes.

Frozen People festival Frozen People is a festival of electronic music and northern art held at Nallikari in Oulu. The event defies the weather conditions during the winter on the frozen waters of the Bothnian Bay. The frozen sea provides the brutal and unique Arctic conditions for the world’s most chilling dances and art experiences. The annual music program comprises both local and international talents. The artistic content consists of performances, installations, light art, and various interactive program items.

Polar Bear Pitching Polar Bear Pitching has grown to be an internationally acclaimed startup event. Basic idea of the competition is that startup entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to judges, investors and audience while standing waist deep in an ice hole carved in frozen Baltic sea. At the same time it’s a competition and a marvellous way to get funding and visibility to your business. Jumping to a frozen sea is a very concrete way of demostrating just how serious you are with your business. In addition to the adrenaline-bumping finals, Polar Bear Pitching offers a conference with world class workshops and the most
inspiring keynotes not to mention all the side events and evening parties for expanding your network.

You can read more about Oulu and European Capital of Culture 2026 in free online book OULU 2026.