Six outdoor activities to enjoy in Uppsala this summer

Finally! Summer is here and it’s time to enjoy Sweden’s great outdoors. After all the restrictions so far this year, you're now free to enjoy travel within Sweden so long as you don't have coronavirus symptoms and follow other health and safety rules.

Six outdoor activities to enjoy in Uppsala this summer
Photos: Destination Uppsala/Getty

The historic cultural gem of Uppsala has plenty that’s open to visitors – and is little more than 30 minutes from Stockholm by train or an hour by car. Sweden’s fourth-biggest city, Uppsala has something for everyone in summer – urban explorers, culture vultures, families, history buffs and those looking for something more adventurous.

With a wide choice of bars, cafes and restaurants as well, why not make a weekend of it?

1. Stroll through glorious gardens – and ‘meet’ a legend

Now the sun is here, why not follow in the flower king’s footsteps? That’s the catchier nickname for botanist Carl Linnaeus, otherwise known as the ‘father of modern taxonomy’ for his classification of plants, animals and minerals. Uppsala’s beautiful green oases are the legacy of 50 years as his home and research base.

Get a guided tour of the Linnaeus Garden from the great man himself, played by an actor in the finest 18th century attire. Look out for the huts on poles once occupied by his beloved monkeys!

Photo: Linnaeus Garden/Destination Uppsala

The city’s Botanical Garden – at a different location but still within walking distance from the city centre – is home to more than 8,000 plant varieties. The Baroque garden and park is filled with brightly coloured flowers, alpine plants, trees and shrubs. 

Something for everyone: find out more about Sweden’s cultural gem with these essential guides

2. Be charmed by Swedish castles

Like many mid-1500s Swedish castles, Uppsala Castle’s past is full of conflicts and bloody episodes – some of them major events in national history. But don’t let this imposing landmark’s less than lovely history stop you from being charmed by it today.

Photo: Uppsala Castle/Destination Uppsala

The brightly-coloured façade, faithful to its 1740 reconstruction following a devastating fire in 1702, can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. So, it’s easy to work out where to head for a picnic in its gardens, a guided walk on the castle roof or a visit to one of its three museums. 

A short distance to the north lies Salsta Castle, built in 1670 and boasting a Baroque exterior. Venture inside to find out why it’s known as a castle of All Times due to its varied interiors reflecting different periods.

3. Entertain the kids – on the trail of No-Tail

Kids within a whisker of sending you mad? Don’t worry. Uppsala is home to an unusual cat long known as one of Sweden’s best-loved children’s characters. 

Set out on the trail of Peter-No-Tail (Pelle Svanslös to Swedes) and his friends and foes from the classic books and animated film. Take a walk around key locations as you learn more about characters to cherish (like Molly Cream-Nose) or avoid (like Mean Mike).

Photo: Destination Uppsala

You’ll find a portal to this magical world through the playground in Carolinaparken. Just don’t blame us if the kids refuse to leave. Nearby, you’ll find Sweden’s only crossing for cats – and eagle-eyed children may glimpse Peter’s home on Åsgränd through a basement window.

Find out more about the unforgettable sights and experiences Uppsala has to offer

4. Take a time machine to meet a Viking

Walk along the fabled Royal Mounds dating back to the 6th Century at Gamla Uppsala, one of Scandinavia’s most important archaeological sites. Legend has it that the three most impressive contain pre-Viking kings. The area is steeped in centuries-old myths, including claims from one 17th century professor that it was the site of the lost city of Atlantis. 

Photo: Gamla Uppsala/Destination Uppsala

Exhibits at Gamla Uppsala Museum include finds from archaeological digs and tales of Viking victims, pagan gods and Iron Age conflicts. During summer, it offers daily guided tours in English.

Download Augmented Reality apps to transform your mobile or tablet into a time machine – then explore areas close to Uppsala Cathedral in the Middle Ages or perhaps run into a Viking as you wander the streets.

Get top tips for the best trips outside Uppsala city centre

5. Get active (but not wet) with Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

Discover the natural beauty of the landscape along the winding Fyris river, while also getting a workout. Starting at one of two locations just outside the city, you’ll paddle at your own pace for 4.5 kilometers or 8 kilometers (about two or three hours).

Photo: Getty

Book with Aktivt Uteliv and you’ll be met in central Uppsala or at your hotel by adventure guides and taken to your starting point. Never been on a Stand Up Paddle Board before? It’s easier than it might look and you’ll be given full instructions. If you can swim, you’re in! You’ll also have time to enjoy a Swedish fika, as well as the magnificent views.

6. Hit the Swedish heritage trail

Home to the country’s first university, Uppsala and its surroundings offer a wealth of heritage delights. Browse your way through artisan offerings and antiques at the handicraft village of Ulva Kvarn, just 7km north of Uppsala.

Built around a mill house dating back to the 1300s, Ulva Kvarn is also home to a silversmith and Sweden’s finest master glassblower. You can enjoy a picnic or go fishing – but will you be bold enough for a cooling dip at Fyrisåns beach?

If you want cultural heritage and the chance to kick back for a few hours, try the Lennakatten Heritage Railway

Photo: Lennakatten Heritage Railway/Destination Uppsala

You’ll be transported back to the early 1900s as you travel by steam locomotive, old-fashioned railcar or vintage bus on one of Sweden’s most stunning rail routes. Heritage that’s a hit with all ages!

Want to discover something new in Sweden? Find out more about the incredible variety of attractions and activities you can do in Uppsala this summmer.


IN IMAGES: Spain’s ‘scrap cathedral’ lives on after creator’s death

For over 60 years, former monk Justo Gallego almost single-handedly built a cathedral out of scrap materials on the outskirts of Madrid. Here is a picture-based ode to his remarkable labour of love.

IN IMAGES: Spain's 'scrap cathedral' lives on after creator's death
File photo taken on August 3, 1999 shows Justo Gallego Martinez, then 73, posing in front of his cathedral. Photo: ERIC CABANIS / AFP

The 96-year-old died over the weekend, but left the unfinished complex in Mejorada del Campo to a charity run by a priest that has vowed to complete his labour of love.

Gallego began the project in 1961 when he was in his mid-30s on land inherited from his family after a bout of tuberculosis forced him to leave an order of Trappist monks.

Today, the “Cathedral of Justo” features a crypt, two cloisters and 12 towers spread over 4,700 square metres (50,600 square feet), although the central dome still does not have a cover.

He used bricks, wood and other material scavenged from old building sites, as well as through donations that began to arrive once the project became better known.

A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

The building’s pillars are made from stacked oil drums while windows have been cobbled and glued together from shards of coloured glass.

“Recycling is fashionable now, but he used it 60 years ago when nobody talked about it,” said Juan Carlos Arroyo, an engineer and architect with engineering firm Calter.

Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid.
Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid. Photo: (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

The charity that is taking over the project, “Messengers of Peace”, hired the firm to assess the structural soundness of the building, which lacks a permit.

No blueprint

“The structure has withstood significant weather events throughout its construction,” Arroyo told AFP, predicting it will only need some “small surgical interventions”.

Renowned British architect Norman Foster visited the site in 2009 — when he came to Spain to collect a prize — telling Gallego that he should be the one getting the award, Arroyo added.

Religious murals on a walls of Justo's cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Religious murals on a walls of Justo’s cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

The sturdiness of the project is surprising given that Gallego had no formal training as a builder, and he worked without a blueprint.

In interviews, he repeatedly said that the details for the cathedral were “in his head” and “it all comes from above”.

Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

The complex stands in a street called Avenida Antoni Gaudi, named after the architect behind Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Familia basilica which has been under construction since 1883.

But unlike the Sagrada Familia, the Cathedral of Justo Gallego as it is known is not recognised by the Roman Catholic Church as a place of worship.

Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral's completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral’s completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

‘Worth visiting’

Father Angel Garcia Rodriguez, the maverick priest who heads Messengers of Peace, wants to turn Gallego’s building into an inclusive space for all faiths and one that is used to help the poor.

“There are already too many cathedrals and too many churches, that sometimes lack people,” he said.

“It will not be a typical cathedral, but a social centre where people can come to pray or if they are facing difficulties,” he added.

A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

Father Angel is famous in Spain for running a restaurant offering meals to the homeless and for running a church in central Madrid where pets are welcome and the faithful can confess via iPad.

Inside the Cathedral of Justo, volunteers continued working on the structure while a steady stream of visitors walked around the grounds admiring the building in the nondescript suburb.

“If the means are put in, especially materials and money, to finish it, then it will be a very beautiful place of worship,” said Ramon Calvo, 74, who was visiting the grounds with friends.

FIND OUT MORE: How to get to Justo’s Cathedral and more amazing images