Oulu’s new cultural strategy emphasizes social, cultural, economic and ecological sustainability.

A view over Nallikari seaside resort in Oulu, Finland. Photograph: Dmitry Kirillov/Flickr

Oulu has been selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2026. The selection is recommended by a European expert panel composed of nine independent experts in the field of arts and culture. The panel, having visited the candidate cities, announced its recommendation at the end of its two-day meeting in Helsinki on Wednesday.

The concept of the European Capital of Culture project of the City of Oulu and the municipalities in Northern Finland is “Cultural Climate Change,” which is about reconnecting with the world and creating new kinds of togetherness. The project’s main goals are to inject new energy into the region by means of arts and culture and to meet cross-border demands through cooperation.


Oulu’s new cultural strategy is built around three themes: Wild City, Cool Contrasts and Brave Hinterland. It emphasizes social, cultural, economic and ecological sustainability.

Antti Kurvinen (the Centre), the minister of science and culture, said in his speech that he hopes that each of the candidate cities make use of all the good work they have already done and continue to develop their cultural life in innovative and sustainable ways.

“The European Capital of Culture event is a unique opportunity to create new kinds of arts and culture, boost operating conditions and encourage people to participate in and experience arts and culture together. It is a year-long cultural program by which the selected city showcases its arts and culture for Finnish and European audiences,” Kurvinen said.

“The best part of the event is that it helps people discover the culture of the selected city and its neighbors and learn about the identities, customs, arts, cultural heritage, food culture, celebrations and large and small events of the local people. These are linked to the many opportunities for European cooperation,” he continued.

Three Finnish cities, Oulu, Savonlinna and Tampere, bid to be nominated as Finland’s candidate for the European Capital of Culture for 2026. After a pre-selection process last summer, the three cities were shortlisted for the final selection.

Another 2026 European Capital of Culture will be selected from Slovakia.

European Capitals of Culture have been designated since 1985. Finland’s two earlier European Capitals of Culture were Helsinki in 2000 and Turku in 2011.

Oulu inhabits about 208,939 people in the region of North Ostrobothnia. It is the most populous city in Northern Finland.