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Kokkola (Swedish: Karleby) is a town in Central Ostrobothnia, Finland, with a population of 48,000. It's the largest town in the region, with industry based on chemicals and metals. The old wooden town (Neristan) has been well-preserved, and is the main reason to visit.


It was Swedish when it was founded in 1620 and much of it was then underwater: this area is still rebounding from glaciation, at almost 9 mm a year, so the coastline visibly alters. Kokkola was important in the 18th & 19th century for export of tar, an essential commodity in a world built of wood. But it was always losing a race with the receding sea, as its offshore archipelago became a narrow peninsula then a broad headland, and the harbour dwindled to a narrow creek. The modern dockland and industry are now 5 km to the west.

Get in

By plane

Kokkola-Pietarsaari Airport (KOK IATA) (20 km south of Kokkola). This has two direct flights daily from Helsinki operated by NyxAir, taking just over an hour. A third flight is triangular, Helsinki > Kemi-Tornio > KOK > Helsinki, taking 2 hr 30 min, and one of the direct flights from Helsinki is the reverse triangle. There are also a few summer charters from holiday destinations around Europe. There's no bus to Kokkola / Karleby or Pietarsaari / Jakobstad, book a taxi via city.taxi10@gmail.com or +358 45 1211 515 for €20 each way, taking 15 min, see here for more information. There's a small cafe open for the early morning and midday flights down to Helsinki. (updated Jun 2019)

By train

There are six direct trains daily from Helsinki via Tampere, taking just under 4 hours, and continuing to Oulu (Uleaborg) and other far-north towns. A couple of sleeper trains to the far north also call at Kokkola in the small hours. 2 Kokkola railway station is central, but cold and shuttered at those hours. The waiting room is open Su-F 07:00-18:00, Sa 07:00-15:30 with a couple of ticket machines and a Sixt car rental office. See Finland#Get around: By train for advice on fares and ticket purchase.

By bus

Kokkola has direct buses from Helsinki (8-9 hr), Turku (7 hr), Jyväskylä (4 hr), Vaasa (2 hr 30 min), Jakobstad (1 hr) and Oulu (3 hr). Bus is the quickest way to Vaasa and Jakobstad as the railway route is indirect. The town bus station is just across the road from the railway station.

By car

The main highways into town are E8 Turku - Vaasa - Kokkola - Oulu - Kemi - Tromsø, and E12 Helsinki - Tampere - Kokkola.

By boat

There are no ferries to Kokkola, the nearest port is Vaasa with ferries taking 5 hours to Umeå in Sweden.

Get around

The town is fairly small, so the easiest way to see the sights is walking.

Pyöräliike Lybäck Oy on Isokatu 21 do bike repairs and rentals. They're open M-F 09:00-17:00 and Sa 10:00-14:00.

A small number of city bus lines circle Kokkola. There is a route planner for local transport trips. The only two a visitor is likely to want are Bus 4 and 5, which run hourly from town centre via the market to Halkokari (east of the river outlet) and west to dockland. Routes and Tickets mobile app has an address based routing and also a ticket purchase option directly from the app.

  • Taksi Kokkola, ☏ +358 100-85-111 (extra charge: €1.42+€1/min+pvm). €5.90/9.00+€1.70–2.23; waiting time €47.04/hr; prebooking €7.10. (updated Jul 2020)
  • Kokkolan Aluetaksi, ☏ +358 440-568-887 (by voice or SMS), timo.pajunpaa@netikka.fi. €5.90/9.00+€1.70/km+€0.78/min for 1–2 persons. (updated Jul 2020)
  • iTaksi, ☏ +358 102 120 000, info@itaksi.fi. Also bookable by app or web. Fixed price based on calculated route and time if destination address given when booking by app or web. €4.00/6.00+€0.90/km+€0.85/min. 
  • Smartphone apps: Valopilkku, 02 Taksi


  • Neristan is Swedish for "lower town", the artisan and sailors' quarter (Finnish Vanha kaupunki.) This is a fine old district of wooden houses, one of the best preserved in Finland, laid out on a grid pattern. Oppistan or "upper town" was the more prosperous merchant quarter but less of this has survived. The station area is bland and modern, go north a couple of blocks back to come into the attractive part, bounded to the east by the river and park and to the north by Chydeniuksenkatu. The tourist map suggests a walking route but you can just quarter the streets at random.
  • 1 Museum Quarter, Pitkänsillankatu 28. Tu-Su 11:00-16:00. This is a small city block just south of the new church with four buildings around a grassy square with cafe. The four are Pedagogium the old school house, Lassander House showing life of a prosperous 18th-century family, the natural history collection, and the gem and mineral collection. The latter two (east side) are closed for rebuilding following a fire in Jan 2019. Free. (updated Jun 2019)
  • K.H. Renlund Art Museum (Roos' House), Pitkänsillankatu 39 (just east of Museum Quarter). Tu-Su 11:00-16:00. Councillor Karl Herman Renlund (1850-1908) donated his art collection to the city, and gives his name to the museum sited at several locations. The bulk of the collection is here in Roos House, built in 1813 by the merchant & shipping Roos family to show off their wealth and classical leanings. Plus modern exhibitions on the ground floor. Free. (updated Jun 2019)
  • 2 The English boat: 19th C Finland was part of the Russian Empire, and in 1854 during the Crimea War a force of British Royal Marines raided the town. They were beaten off, nine were killed, and one boat was captured. It's by the creek along Isokatu, in a boathouse which is locked but has a shop-window front. The British ask for the boat's return, but the Finns decline. It's being looked after nicely (the boathouse is being re-painted in mid-2019) and is safe enough where it is.
  • 3 West Park: this area was outside town until the 19th century when it was laid out as a public park. At its northwest corner, the Katarina Cemetery is a walled graveyard set up in 1770 on the site of the earlier plague pits. It's surrounded by charnel houses, where those who died in winter were stored until the ground thawed in spring and they could be buried. North a block, note the Orthodox Chapel and 1930-style filling station.
  • 4 Kaarlela Church (600 m south of railway station). Attractive stone church built circa 1460 and extended in the late 18th C; now Lutheran. (updated Jun 2019)
  • 5 Kaarlela Museum of Local History and Culture (Karleby hembygdsmuseum), Kirkkopolku 4 (1 km south of railway station off Ventuksentie). June-mid Aug: Tu W F-Su 11:00-16:00. Displays local rural life from the 19th century. There's a windmill, stable, workshop and forge, a smoke sauna, drying barn, cottage, tannery and carding works. (updated Jun 2019)
  • 6 Tankar Island. A charming little island with a lighthouse, an old church and a seal-hunting museum plus cafe; it was formerly the base for pilot boats. The lighthouse, built 1889, is an automated steel tower, you can't go inside. The island's main buildings can be reached with strollers or wheelchairs from the jetty by boardwalk and decent track, but other paths (eg the nature trail) are rough going. The ferry MS Jenny makes regular trips June-Aug. It usually leaves at noon for a 90 min crossing, returning at 15:30 for 17:00. Trips sail June-Aug on W F Sa Su, plus late June-mid Aug on Thursday evenings and Tuesday noon. The boat sails from Meripuisto 2.5 km north of the centre, west bank of the creek (same side as the camp site). Bus 7 runs partway there but it's a pleasant 40-min walk from town centre, see "Do". Adult fare €20. (updated Jun 2019)


  • 1 Kokkola City Theatre (Kokkolan kaupunginteatteri), Torikatu 48. The theatre has a regular programme of entertainment, but only in Finnish. (updated May 2019)
  • Walk or cycle north along the creek to the sea shore, 2.5 km. There are tarmac paths both sides, but the west bank is more pleasant, a bosky parkland of native birch and fir. At the ring road Pohjoisväylä / Norraleden (where in mid-2019 the creek is culverted for construction works) you need to swing briefly onto the east bank. Then take the footbridge by the supermarket to return to the west bank path, for the campsite and ferry to Tankar Island.
  • Kokkola Cup is an annual football (soccer) tournament for under-18s held in and around town in July. The next event is 18-21 July 2019.
  • The Venetian Festival (Venetsialaiset) at the end of August is when people close up their summer cabins and cottages and have a party, before the September nights and cold winds set in. There's a lot of bonfires, lights and fireworks - hence the name, as fireworks were introduced to Finland from Italy and became known as "Venetian lights".
  • Live music is often on at local bars and pubs, e.g. at Bar West Coast on Rantakatu 16.
  • Classical music: the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra often play at Snellman Hall, Kokkola.
  • Anniversary: The city's anniversary is celebrated on 7 Sept.


There are many larger stores and smaller shops as it is regional centre.


There are at least three fast-food franchises, over ten pizzerias and many small cafés and food stalls, plus Italian, Chinese and (sort-of) Mexican. The main concentration is in and around Chydenia mall near the railway and bus stations.

  • Rosso, Isokatu 4 (in Chydenia mall). M-Sa 11:00-21:00, Su 12:00-21:00. Mid-range chain restaurant with Italian food. (updated May 2019)


  • West Coast Billiard, Rantakatu 16 (corner with Torikatu). Downstairs bar with pool tables and live music. Tu-Th Su 18:00-00:00, F Sa 18:00-04:00. (updated Jun 2019)
  • Corner's Pub, corner of Rantakatu and Torikatu (by Hotel Seurahuone). Tu-Su 20:00-03:00. Small mellow place. (updated Jun 2019)
  • Huismann, Torikatu 27, Kauppatori. M-Th 16:00-00:00, F Sa 14:00-02:00. Sports bar with good selection of beers. (updated Jun 2019)
  • Calle Nightclub, Kauppatori 4. Gets awfully crowded and difficut to get served. (updated Jun 2019)
  • Reino Nightclub (formerly Socis) is in Hotel Seurohuone (listed below), F Sa 23:00-03:30.
  • 1 Vanha Kippari, Satamakatu 12 (out west in Ykspihlaja near docks). M-F 15:00-23:00, Sa 12:00-02:00, Su 12:00-23:00. Handy for industrial zone. (updated Jun 2019)


  • 1 Kokkola Camping (Karleby Camping), Meritie 10 (On sea shore 2 km north of centre), ☏ +358 6 831-4006, info@kokkola-camping.fi. Open year-round with chalets, trailer park, tenting area. tents €14–16 + €4/3 per person (children 5–12); caravans €24+€4/3 per person; cabins €45–185. (updated Jun 2020)
  • 2 Hotel Kokkola (formerly Best Western), Rantakatu 14, ☏ +358 6 824-1000, fax: +358 6 8241 010, info@hotelkokkola.fi. Decent 3-star, gets mostly business travellers, free parking. B&B double €100. (updated Jun 2019)
  • 3 Hotel Seurahuone, Torikatu 24, ☏ +358 20-795-9600, myynti@seurahuone.com. Decent central 3-star, but noisy nightclub at weekends. B&B double €100. (updated May 2019)
  • 4 Hotelli Nukkumatti, Nahkurinkatu 2, ☏ +358 6 824-3200, fax: +358 6 822 4733, hotelli@nukkumatti.kpnet.com. 3-star motel at east edge of centre. Double room from €105. (updated May 2019)
  • 5 Sokos Hotel Kaarle, Kauppatori 4, ☏ +358 20-780-8900, kaarle.kokkola@sokoshotels.fi. Central clean hotel with good restaurant Amarillo. Double room €130. (updated May 2019)

Go next

  • Kalajoki 68 km north has sandy beaches where you can swim in the Gulf of Bothnia in the summer.
  • Raahe 126 km north is an industrial town.
  • Oulu 200 km north is the largest city in Northern Finland with many sights and activities, eg the excellent Science Museum.
  • Jakobstad (Pietarsaari) 36 km south, which still has a Swedish-speaking majority, has an extensive wooden town, the ship replica Jacobstads Wapen and the botanical garden.
  • Vaasa (Vasa) 121 km south is Ostrobothnia's "capital", with plenty of history and with a ferry across the gulf to Umeå in Sweden.

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