Vaasa, Finland (Swedish: Vasa) is one of Bellingham’s seven sister cities. This sister city relationship has existed since 2006. As part of that relationship the Vaasa symphony orchestra performed in Bellingham in 2008. In 2015 a Western Washington University student spent a semester in Vaasa doing her student teaching practicum. Under the direction of Maestro Sharon Peterson, the Mount Baker Youth Orchestra performed in Vaasa in 2017. Within the past decade Vaasa has twice sent cross country skiers to help teams compete in Bellingham’s Ski-to-Sea race. In 2019, the Honorable Mayor Tomas Häyry of Vaasa visited Bellingham along with mayors from many of our six other sister cities. It is our sincere hope to expand the scope of our relationship with the people Vaasa in the upcoming years.
Vaasa is located on the west coast of Finland and is adjacent to the beautiful Kvarken Archipelago. The latter is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Finland. Weather-wise, Vaasa is statistically the sunniest city in Finland. Moreover, the Vaasa region is the Nordic leader in the research and development of energy technology. The city is also the educational and cultural center of Western Finland, and every fifth resident is a university student. With Finns being recognized once again as one of the happiest people in the world, it is now the goal of Vaasa’s inhabitants to have their city be recognized as the happiest city in the happiest country. Much of this happiness comes from the Finns close connection to nature, a connection that is easy to maintain since Finland has one of the most extensive and unspoiled natural environments in all of Europe.
Historically, Vaasa received its charter in 1606 during the reign of Charles IX of Sweden and is named after the Swedish Royal House of Vasa. Today, Vaasa has a population of 67,636 (31 December 2019) and is the regional capital of Ostrobothnia. The city is bilingual with 69.8% of the population speaking Finnish as their first language and 24.8% speaking Swedish, but the surrounding municipalities have much higher rates of Swedish-speakers than that. These circumstances make the region as well as the city an important centre for Finland-Swedish culture.