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!
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!