The city has a population of , growing to 313 058 people in the urban area, and 364,000 in the metropolitan area (Tampere sub-region) on an area of 4,977 km2 as of 2011. Tampere is the second-largest urban area and third most-populous municipality in Finland, after the Greater Helsinki municipalities of Helsinki and Espoo. In 2007, the entire Pirkanmaa region had around 470,000 residents, of which 230,000 were employed, and a turnover of 25 billion euros.
Tampere is located between two lakes, Näsijärvi and Pyhäjärvi. Since the two lakes differ in level by , the rapids linking them, Tammerkoski, have been an important power source throughout history, most recently for generating electricity. Tampere is dubbed the "Manchester of Finland" for its industrial past as the former center of Finnish industry, and this has given rise to its Finnish nickname "Manse" and terms such as "Manserock".
Helsinki can be reached in 1.5 hours by train and 2 hours by car. The distance to Turku is approximately the same. Tampere Airport is the third-busiest airport in Finland, with 800,000 passengers annually.
Tampere was founded as a market place on the banks of the Tammerkoski channel in 1775 by Gustav III of Sweden and four years later, 1 October 1779, Tampere was granted full city rights. At this time, it was a rather small town, consisting of only a few square kilometres of land around the Tammerkoski.
Tampere grew as a major market town and industrial centre in the 19th century. During the latter half of 19th century Tampere had almost half of Finland's industrial labour. The town's industrial nature in the 19th and 20th centuries gave it the nickname "Manchester of the North", Manse for short (in Finnish).
Tampere was the centre of many important political events of Finland in the early 20th century. On 1 November 1905, during the general strike, the famous Red Declaration was proclaimed on the Keskustori, the central square of Tampere, subsequently leading to universal suffrage in Finland and the Tsar of Russia granting larger freedoms to Finns. In 1918, when Finland had recently gained independence, Tampere also played a major role, being one of the strategically important scenes during the Civil War in Finland (28 January – 15 May 1918). Tampere was a red stronghold during the war, with Hugo Salmela in command. White forces captured Tampere, seizing about 10,000 Red prisoners on 6 April.
Prevalent in Tampere's post-World War II municipal politics was the so-called Brothers-in-Arms Axis (aseveliakseli), the alliance of conservatives and social democrats against the communists and Agrarian party. During this era some of the most renowned city managers of Tampere were Erkki Napoleon Lindfors (who was responsible for many ambitious construction projects such as the Näsinneula tower and the construction of the suburb of Hervanta, Tampere's "daughter town"), Pekka Paavola (who gained some notoriety in corruption scandals) and Jarmo Rantanen. From 2007 on, Tampere switched to a new model of having a mayor and four deputy mayors, chosen for a periods of two years. Timo P. Nieminen was elected as the first mayor of Tampere for the years 2007–09. He was re-elected in 2009 and was succeeded by Anna-Kaisa Ikonen in 2013.
After World War II, Tampere was enlarged by joining some neighbouring areas. Messukylä was incorporated in 1947, Lielahti in 1950, Aitolahti in 1966 and finally Teisko in 1972. Tampere was known for its textile and metal industries, but these have been largely replaced by information technology and telecommunications during the 1990s. The technology centre Hermia in Hervanta is home to many companies in these fields.