The Charming Appeal of Uppsala, Sweden
By Chris Kane
The fourth-largest city in Sweden, Uppsala, has a population of just above 233,000 and lies 30 minutes north of the Swedish capital of Stockholm.
Indeed, Uppsala is so close to the capital but rarely visited by Stockholmers, even though it offers a quiet and charming escape from the cacophony of big city nuisances.
This surprise is further compounded by the fact that there are departures to and from Uppsala at least twice an hour for around $10 each way (between Uppsala central and Stockholm central stations).
My journey and eventual settlement in Uppsala were fortuitous. After pursuing my dream of moving from the US to Europe, I wound up working in Liverpool.
The stars were aligned for my move across the Atlantic, so I took the opportunity. After numerous trips to Sweden as a tourist and meeting other Swedes abroad, I found the culture to be quite intriguing.
I did my research and delved in further as to how someone like me can find themselves calling Sweden home. After interviewing for positions in Sweden’s 2nd largest city of Gothenburg, I was offered employment in Uppsala with its most prestigious university. My timing could not have been better. The beginning of May is the start of a special time in these parts: the Swedish summer.
Taking in the city sights and learning more about my new home with pleasant temperatures and long daylight hours made acclimating much easier. My camera never left my side whenever I cycled through the city center, hoping to capture a morsel of the Swedish experience for my own memories and loved ones back home.
I look forward to sharing my favorite places in Uppsala as well as the unique cultural aspects that I have come to appreciate while living here. My dwelling is just near the city center, which is loosely defined as the area between the train station and around the Fyris river.
A walk along the river is what is most recommended to do in this city as it boasts many of the city’s attractions, restaurants, cafes, and parks.
This area will be teeming with just about everyone in the summer. Don’t be surprised if you find a Swede sitting on a park bench, soaking in the sun with their eyes closed, taking in all the vitamin D that they were so deprived of during winter.
Don’t Forget Fika
Another important note about the Swedish culture is that Swedish Fika is an institution.
It is a time for socializing, for togetherness, and casual discussion about (usually) non-serious topics. You can have fika among friends, among colleagues, but the centerpiece is usually a baked treat and a good quality coffee.
One of the best places to do this in Uppsala is at Güntherska (Hours: Mon – Fri 9 am-7 pm, Sat-Sun 10 am-6 pm, Address: Östra Ågatan 31, 753 22 Uppsala, Sweden, Phone: +46 018 13 07 57.
Their menu provides all types of meals but they were best known for their baked goods such as a ‘kardemummabulle’ or cardamom bun. Cardamom is a citrus-like spice that is popular in Scandinavia.
Other fantastic places to try for Fika include:
- Café Linné – Hours: Mon – Sat 8am-10pm, Sun 9am-10pm, Address: Svartbäcksgatan 22, 753 32 Uppsala, Sweden, Phone: +46 18 15 55 10, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: http://www.cafelinne.com
- Café Cardamom – Hours: Mon-Fri 9am-7pm, Sat 11am-5pm, Sun 12-4pm, Address: Svartbäcksgatan 17, 753 20 Uppsala, Sweden, Phone: +46 18 10 43 02, Website: https://bibliotekuppsala.se/web/arena/valkommen-till-kafé-kardemumma
- Kafferummet Storken – Hours: Mon – Fri 9am-10pm, Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 12pm-9pm, Address: Stora Torget 3, 753 20 Uppsala, Sweden, Phone: +46 18 15 05 22, Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kafferummet-Storken/175487385807249
The most dominating feature in Uppsala (well there are actually two), happens to be Uppsala Slott (‘castle’) and Uppsala Domkyrka (‘cathedral’). Both are old, both are striking, and both are what makes this city special. Both landmarks are seen from just about anywhere in the city so navigating towards them will be simple.
Obviously enough, the Uppsala Castle is positioned at the highest point in the entire city (strategically of course).
It is also a faded but refreshing pink color, guaranteed to instill much fear into whoever decides to conquer it.
All joking aside, walking up towards it takes you through Tornerparken which is the most pleasant experience if you time it right with the changing fall foliage.
The history of the castle is substantial, climaxed by its near destruction in a fire in 1702.
Reconstruction efforts and evolution over time has now made the castle an art museum. Upon reaching the castle plateau, you’ll get a glimpse of the Gunilla Bell on a bastion (named after Swedish King John III’s wife). Sunsets here are very popular and among one of my favorite places especially.
PROTIP: try to commit around 2 hours here on a sunny Swedish summer day. Because there is more daylight overall, the sunsets you see last much longer and change color every 15 minutes or so.
Looking West (with the castle behind you), the well-manicured botanical garden in front of Linneanum will fill your view.
These gates are always open during daylight hours and you are free to roam around the grounds. You can even get married there!
Hågadalen-Nåsten Naturreservat is a nature reserve a little bit further from the city center, but if you want to truly immerse yourself in nature, then head this way.
I was taken there for the first time by my friend Matilda and found it so convenient to have an entire reserve like this not too far from where I live.
It’s great to get the modern conveniences of the city and also the calming nature of well, nature!
The Uppsala Cathedral in my opinion is even more stunning. It is a sight for sore eyes when I bike to work and pass it every morning/evening. Its history is longer than my home country and is the burial place of Gustav Vasa, the father of modern Sweden. He is the Swedish equivalent to George Washington, so he’s a pretty big deal here!
The best place in the entire city (saved the best for last) for a great view of the Uppsala cathedral has to be from Gotlandsparken. It is located in a small tucked away area right on the Fyris river. You’ll know why it’s the best after seeing the photos I have taken from there.
Lastly, though the town is small compared to Stockholm there is a great selection of bars throughout the city.
For whichever drink I am looking for, I have a different place of preference. For example, for:
- Beer – Bryggeriet Ånkvarn – A great place, conveniently located on the Fyris river with benches and seating along the water.
- Hours: Mon – Tue 4pm-10pm, Wed – Thu 4pm – 12am, Fri – Sat 3pm-12am, Sunday – Closed, Address: Östra Ågatan 59, 753 22 Uppsala, Sweden, Phone: +46 18 418 02 00, Email: email@example.com, website: https://bryggerietangkvarn.se/home/
- Wine – Vinbaren – A cozy and comfortable atmosphere with a great selection of wines:
- Hours: Tue 3-10pm, Wed – Thu 3-11pm, Fri – Sat 12pm-12am, Sun 5pm-10pm, Mon – Closed, Address: Drottninggatan 1B, 753 10 Uppsala, Sweden, Phone: +46 18 14 41 60, website: http://www.vinbarenuppsala.se
- Spirits – Miss Voon – A chic and metropolitan restaurant/bar with the best views over all of Uppsala.
- Hours: Mon – Thu 5pm-12am, Fri 4pm-1am, Sat 5pm-1am, Sun-Closed, Address: Suttungs gränd 6, 753 19 Uppsala, Sweden, Phone: +46 18-472 25 00, website: https://missvoon.se/en/
I give Uppsala tours to my friends that come to visit and most of these places can be seen in 1 long day or two more relaxed ones! Here is a guide to Driving in Sweden from the International Drivers Association.