Top Historic Sights in Oulu, Finland

Explore the historic highlights of Oulu

Oulu City Hall

The Oulu City Hall was completed in 1886 as a restaurant (“Seurahuone”). The neo-Renaissance building was designed by J. E. Stenberg. The city council moved to the house in 1921.
Founded: 1886 | Location: Oulu, Finland

Oulu Castle

Oulu castle ("Uleåborg") was built in 1590 for a stronghold to Swedish soldiers on their way to fight against Russian Karelia. The castle was mostly made of wood and earth walls. There probably was an earlier medieval castle on the same location. The Russian Sophia Chronicle has recorded that men from Novgorod tried to conquer a new castle in the Oulu River delta in 1377 but were unsuccessful. King of Sweden, Charle ...
Founded: 1590 | Location: Oulu, Finland

Oulu Cathedral

The Oulu Cathedral is an Evangelical Lutheran cathedral and the seat of the Diocese of Oulu. The church was built in 1777 as a tribute to the King of Sweden Gustav III of Sweden and named after his wife as Sofia Magdalena's church.The wooden structures burned in the large fire of the city of Oulu in 1822. The church was built again on top of the old stonewalls with famous architect Carl Ludvig Engel as the designer. T ...
Founded: 1777 (restored 1832) | Location: Oulu, Finland

Museum of Northern Ostrobothnia

The museum of Northern Ostrobothnia was established in 1896. The basic exhibition will tell you the history of the city of Oulu and its surroundings. Between the years 1911-1929 the museum operated in an old wooden villa Villa Ainola, which was destroyed in a fire on July 9th, 1929. Some of the collections of the museum were also destroyed. Soon after the fire the current museum building was started to be built on the sit ...
Founded: 1896 | Location: Oulu, Finland

Turkansaari

The Turkansaari Open-Air Museum consists over 40 museum buildings. The buildings include for example a church built in 1694 and the old country manor house of Ylikärppä, completed in 1894. In Turkansaari, you can see the old trades that the region’s economy used to revolve around, including tar-making, salmon fishing, lumbering and log floating.Turkansaari church was built as the chapel in 1694. At that ti ...
Founded: 1922 | Location: Oulu, Finland

Ylikiiminki Church

Ylikiiminki Church was probably completed in 1786. The cruciform church was designed by Jacob Rijf, the famous church builder from Pietarsaari. The altarpiece was painted by Gustav Holmqvist in 1839.
Founded: 1786 | Location: Oulu, Finland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.