Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

Situated on the Gulf of Bothnia, Rauma is one of few medieval towns in Finland. The core of the town is Old Rauma, which is composed of some 600 buildings constructed of wood, most of which are privately owned, and covers an area of 29 ha. Originally situated at the seashore, the Old Town is located some 1.5 km inland from the present coastline due to land uplift. Old Rauma is both a commercial and a residential area comprising the town area within the toll boundaries of Rauma in the 19th century. The town plan structure of Rauma has been maintained since the medieval period, including the irregular street network, city blocks, plots of land and courtyards. The buildings are mainly one storey tall, and date back between the 18th and 19th centuries, while some cellars remain from earlier houses. The residential houses are placed along the street, and outbuildings such as former animal sheds and granaries are built around narrow courtyards.

The present appearance of the buildings is a result of phases of gradual changes and enlargements between the 18th  and the late 19th centuries. At the end of this period, the increased wealth of the town due to ship trading resulted in the extension and modernisation of residential buildings with decorative exterior panels with Neo-Renaissance details, and the characteristic, highly decorative gates of the courtyards.

The commercial area is located along two main streets stretching through the Old Town, while the Market Square, in the middle of the Old Town, forms the main meeting point and commercial place for local people and producers. The medieval church, built around a Franciscan monastery, and the former Town Hall built in 1775-76 in the Market Square are landmarks in the harmonious townscape of one-storey residential and commercial buildings. The architecturally homogenous urban area of Old Rauma is a well preserved and representative example of traditional Nordic wooden town building techniques and traditions.

Criterion (iv): The town of Old Rauma constitutes one of the best preserved and most expansive examples of northern European architecture and urbanism. 

Criterion (v): Old Rauma is an outstanding example of a Nordic city constructed in wood, and acts as a witness to the history of traditional settlements in northern Europe.


Old Rauma includes all elements necessary to express its Outstanding Universal Value, namely the entire urban area dating back to between the 17th and 19th centuries, when the town expanded to the west. The town includes all elements that contribute to its integrity: the street network, city blocks, plots of land, as well as the buildings themselves. The historic fabric of the city has been built over centuries, forming different historic layers. The historic houses, courtyards, fences and gates, as well as the traditional street pavements, form a homogenous urban entity.

The buffer zone of Old Rauma is based on local topography and its scale allows to include all visual and historic elements in the vicinity of the property.

Climate change might cause a threat to the integrity of the World Heritage property.


The authenticity of Old Rauma is based on the well-preserved historic urban fabric, including different historic layers and building traditions. The urban morphology, including street networks, plots of land and historical buildings, such as houses for commercial and residential use, is exceptionally well preserved. The individual houses are well preserved and have been renovated and restored over time, taking into consideration their historic value. The town has maintained a genuine local spirit, as well as a characteristic local dialect. Old Rauma has preserved its function as a residential area and commercial centre with its Market Square and a variety of shops along the main streets. The use of traditional building techniques, skills and materials in maintenance and repairs helps preserve the cultural historic spirit of Old Rauma.

Protection and management requirements

Old Rauma is protected under the national legislation. The site is managed by a steering group with members of the national and local authorities and a local stakeholder. A local site manager has been appointed by the municipality and works from the Tammela renovation centre, providing services and technical assistance in repairs and renovation to homeowners. This service is free of charge to Old Town citizens. The centre also has a bank of traditional building materials and organizes workshops for local inhabitants to build architectural details.

City development is guided by detailed land use plans and cooperation between state authorities and the city, in order to overcome the challenges arising from development pressures.

Climate change may threaten individual buildings of Old Rauma, due to increasingly humid and warm winters that lead to a proliferation of harmful insects in wooden structures. The overall management system foresees appropriate follow-up for this issue.