Uppsala must be a strange name for many travel lovers. When mentioning Sweden, many people will think of the capital Stockholm. But Uppsala has a gentle and peaceful Swedish look in its Fika culture (if you don’t know about the Fika culture, scroll down to the bottom for more notes). Less tourists, most are just locals and students, so Uppsala still retains its peace and quiet. Today, I will take readers to discover a different Sweden in Uppsala. So, where to go and what to do in Uppsala? Let’s check out our Uppsala guide with the best things to do in Uppsala, best places to visit in Uppsala to explore a Sweden’s very different place.
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Uppsala guide: Overview
Uppsala is the Sweden’s fourth largest city, after Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö – is located 71 km to the north of Stockholm. Since 1164, Uppsala has been the center of the Catholicism of Sweden, where the Archbishop lived. Uppsala Domkirke is the largest Catholic Cathedral in Northern Europe.
Located on the fertile Uppsala flatlands of muddy soil, with the small Fyris river (Fyrisån) flows through, the landscape is surrounded by lush vegetation. Parallel to the river that runs on the glacial slopes of Uppsalaåsen at an altitude of about 30 m (98 ft), the site of Uppsala’s castle is located, from there you can see a large part of the town. Stadsskogen Central Park (literally “City Forest”) stretches from the far south into town, offering recreational opportunities for many residential areas within walking distance.
In addition, Uppsala is also famous for education, here you will see a lot of local students or international students because Uppsala University is also a school with a long history dating back to 1477. It is interesting that just the scale of degrees Celsius was invented at Uppsala. You can learn more about this in the Gustaviaum museum next to the city cathedral.
When to come?
In Uppsala, summers are comfortable and cloudy and winters are long, cold, dry and overcast. Throughout the year, temperatures typically vary from 20°F to 71°F and are rarely below 1°F or above 80°F.
Uppsala guide: Where to go, what to do in Uppsala and things to do in Uppsala
The city has the oldest university in Scandinavia, founded in 1477, Uppsala University and where Carl Linnaeus, one of Uppsala University’s prominent scholars lived for many years. Today, both his home and garden are still open to visitors. Uppsala is also home to the 16th-century Uppsala castle. The city was devastated by a fire in 1702. Historical and cultural treasures have also been lost as in many Swedish cities, from the demolition in the 1960s and 1970s, but many historic buildings remain, especially in the west side of the city.
This is the largest church in the Scandinavia Region. The church was designed in the French Gothic style by the French architect, Étienne de Bonneuil. So when I passed by, I saw something similar to Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon, just different in the color of red bricks. From the central station you absolutely can walk here, more than 500 meters.
Address: Domkyrkoplan, 753 10 Uppsala, Sweden
Height: 119 m
Gustavianum — Uppsala University Museum
Gustavianum is a place to visit I was especially impressed with in Uppsala, although it’s small, there are many exhibits worth visiting. This is the museum of Uppsala University, which used to be a learning place but since 1997, it has been turned into a museum.
In the museum there are artifacts of ancient Vikings, Egyptians, Greeks and even contemporary Japan. The most interesting area to visit is the 2nd floor – where the history of Sweden is reproduced, along with the development of science subjects in this country.
Entrance fee is 50 SEK ($5.85)/person. If you have a student card, you will get a discount. The museum is located next to the cathedral, so if you go to the church, don’t hesitate to visit here.
Address: Akademigatan 3, 753 10 Uppsala, Sweden
Construction started: 1622
Opened as a museum: June 17, 1997
Strolling along the poetic Fyris River
This lovely river is very small, you can walk along the river and admiring the typical Scandinavian architectural houses. If your legs are tired, remember to visit a bakery and order Swedish Cream Bun Cake (Semla) to eat with tea, here all fikas are sold, just add a few cents, you can add your own coffee and tea and want to sit for as long as you want (as long as the table is available). I’ve been sitting here and reading a few chapters of a book. That’s the true Swedish style, isn’t it?
The river Fyris divides Uppsala into two parts: The historic areas to the west and the administrative, residential and commercial areas to the east.
Crossing the river are beautiful bridges with lots of plants and colorful flower balls hanging on both sides. Near the bank of Fyris is the largest church in Scandinavia with a height of 118.7m, the interior is designed in neo-Gothic style.
In autumn, the leaves turn yellow and reflect on the water, creating a very poetic scene. Going to the downtown area, you will encounter a lovely scene: Soft sofas and warm blankets are displayed outside the coffee shops, allowing guests to sit and sip a cup of coffee in the cold air of Northern Europe.
Due to the majority of the population in Uppsala are university students, thus, wherever you go, you will easily see beautiful blonde girls and cute and friendly boys. If you have a chance to start a conversation, they will definitely be excited to tell you about Uppsala University, founded in 1477. This is also the oldest university in Scandinavia.
The Fyris River is just 200 meters from Uppsala Central Station, so you’ll be freely walking.
Visit Hågahögen (Håga mound) to explore the countryside scenery
It’s my most favorite spot in Uppsala is because it’s away from people and not too “touristy”. Here, to find a shadow of people is also difficult. Maybe it was cold, so everyone stayed indoors. Here you can comfortably see the colorful wooden houses along the road.
Don’t forget to go into the forest to enjoy the atmosphere of a Nordic forest like. When entering here, I could hear birdsong but absolutely no sign of them anywhere.
To getting here, from Uppsala church, you walk to the bus stop and take bus number 2 and sit down to the last stop, Håga. Buses in Uppsala do not run very often, you have to wait about 10-15 minutes for one.
Address: Hesselmans väg 15, 752 63 Uppsala, Sweden
Gamla Uppsala village
Gamla Uppsala is a parish village located in the north of Uppsala. It was the religious, economic and political center of the city in the early 3rd century AD. Gamla Uppsala is famous in Norse history because it was the residence of the Swedish kings of the legendary Yngling dynasty.
You will surely be amazed by the peaceful beauty of this ancient village. The church here was built in the 11th century and completed in the 12th century, with the architecture like an ancient castle with many wooden sculptures from the Middle Ages and more than 1,000 archaeological sites from Viking times.
Around the church is the burial place of the heads of the great families at Uppsala. Gamla Uppsala is also a burial place for the dead in the past 2,000 years, that is, since the village was still floating on water, not on land as it is now.
Stepping outside the church area, you will immediately want to open your arms to receive the liberal beauty of the hills and vast stretches of grassland. The cool green color of the plants blends with the clear blue of the sky, alternating with brilliant clouds in the afternoon sun, creating a beautiful picture of nature. You will clearly feel the peaceful and comfortable atmosphere when you strolling along the path surrounding the hills. Even more interesting to know that inside those hills is the royal tombs.
And not yet, sometimes visitors also come across lovely red-painted wooden houses and old windmills.
In addition, you can also visit the museum at the entrance to Gamla Uppsala, learn the legends about this ancient village along with interesting archaeological analysis.
Weekend flea market
An interesting feature of Uppsala is the Saturday morning market near the city’s conservatory.
Here, you can find almost anything, from delicate European-style dishes and tapestries to lovely Winnie the Pooh paintings, or ordinary household items.
Uppsala guide: Getting to Uppsala
From Stockholm, you have 2 train options: SL and SJ. But I recommend using the SJ train which costs 95 SEK, instead of SL, up to 160 SEK. You can buy tickets at tickets vending machines at Stockholm Central Station. It takes 40 minutes by train to get to Uppsala. There is a train ride every 30 minutes. In general, it is easy to get lost in Central Station Stockholm, you should ask staff the platform which train will depart for sure.
Bonus part: Swedish Fika culture
In Swedish, Fika means “drinking coffee”. But that’s not all of Fika. Fika doesn’t stop at going to the shop and ordering a cup of coffee and then stepping in the street in a hurry and without any taste. Fika is a Swedish way of life, drinking coffee or tea with pastry, often Swedes love semla a lot. And when enjoying cake and tea, they are very slow to enjoy, not in a hurry way. The shops that sell cakes often have their own prices for Fika, it often will add a few dozen cents and you will have your own cup and get for yourself coffee and tea and sit for as long as you like. Swedes may be working but suddenly they go to a shop and sit “Fika” all day and then come back to work. Simple is that!
Read more Fika culture here.
Read more Sweden travel guide here.