Oulu, located on the shores of Finland’s Bothnia Bay, is all about cross-country skiing, cycling and – come summer – lapping up rays on the beach. There’s a great selection of hotels, too. Savour some good old-fashioned hospitality in a century-old city villa, opt for a downtown location with quintessentially Lappish decor or enjoy a unique stay in a former vodka distillery.
Hospitality has always been at the heart of De Gamlas Hem. Dating from 1906, the Art-Nouveau villa began life as a retirement home for widowed aristocratic women, before transitioning to a refuge for Swedish fighter pilots during World War II. Today, it welcomes guests from around the world – and in the true spirit of old-world hospitality, they can enjoy complimentary afternoon tea in the lounge.
There’s a theme to suit every guest’s mood at Original Sokos Hotel Arina. Inspired by the time-honoured traditions of Oulu, its rooms include the warm-toned Summer Night that is based on thousands of folk stories and songs, the typically Scandi-style Luonto that tells the story of life on the islands and the PlayStation-equipped Routa, which channels the spirit of playing and succeeding through strength of the northern character. A striking wood-panelled wall in the restaurant further emphasises this ethos on promoting local traditions.
With light green walls, brown leather bedheads and pinkish armchairs, this Radisson Blu Hotel flirts with early 1970s design while managing to stay contemporary. Book a standard room with a view over the market square, Oulu River or the sea. Or, splash out and stay in the top-floor Presidential Suite for your very own sauna and Jacuzzi with a panoramic view over Oulu.
Nallikari Holiday Village is located close to the popular beach of the same name. Stay in the cute and cosy, light blue Masto cottage, or book yourself a modern villa with your own sauna and fireplace. Nallikari Holiday Village also includes a caravan and camping site if you’d like to sleep under the stars – plus a modern bistro serving up freshly baked cakes and tartlets as well as burgers and salads.
Scandic Oulu City promises an authentic Finnish experience you’re unlikely to forget. Not only are rooms finished in typical Scandi-style, but historical landmarks such as the nearby Rotuaari Promenade and the timbered buildings of Market Square are just a short walk – or cycle – away. You can borrow one of the hotel’s bikes and take in the scenery, then soothe aching limbs in the hotel’s sauna later on. Or, if you’ve checked into one of the Junior Suites, you can enjoy a sauna experience all on your own.
The Best Western Hotel Apollo is a great option for business travellers who like to work and play hard. The speedy wifi reaches across all three bars – Bar Apollo, Night Club Yöhuikka and Karaoke Bar – where you can work during the day and let off some steam in the evenings. If you’re not in the mood for karaoke and cocktails, then treat yourself to a session in the sauna instead.
Lapland Hotels Oulu brings a slice of the subarctic region to the city, with walls displaying antlers and photographs of reindeer tied by reigns to sleighs. Rooms are dark and subdued to help you sleep soundly, and many come with views towards the majestic Oulu Cathedral for a big curtain reveal in the morning. There are some good restaurants nearby, but try dining-in at the on-site restaurant Oula at least once for a veritable flavour of Lapland – icy lingonberries, anyone?
From life as a Georgian-era vodka distillery to serving as a hospital for the whole of the 20th century, Hotel Lasaretti is preserved in decades of Finnish history. Today, hotel guests can expect luxury touches like Molton Brown toiletries and superb views over the Oulu River from their room. The highlight is the organic daily breakfast, with local produce varying from cottage cheese and smoked fish to honey and fresh berries.