Just to the north of Stockholm is the university city of Uppsala. Dissected by the river Fyris, this is the fourth largest city in Sweden and one of its oldest, with a local history dating back to the time of the Vikings. Despite being one of the bigger cities in the country, it still manages to retain that town feeling and can feel more relaxed compared to the hustle and bustle of other cities around the world.
This is an ideal place to visit if you want to experience a unique slice of Swedish culture, especially on Walpurgis Eve, when the city plays host to a unique celebration where a race down the river is organised. We previously mentioned Uppsala in a piece about day trips to take from Stockholm, which you can check out here. We’ll cover the most noteworthy sites in this itinerary, but if you’re more curious about what Uppsala has to offer, click here.
Know Before You Go
The nearest airport to Uppsala is Stockholm Arlanda Airport to the north of Stockholm. You can then use public transport to reach Uppsala, which is about an hour away by bus. Stockholm Arlanda is the largest airport in Sweden and is served by airlines like Eurowings, Finnair, Norwegian Air Sweden, and Ryanair.
Sweden has a great public transport network, and Uppsala is no different. There is only one train station in Uppsala. The city is very walkable and bicycle friendly, with options available for renting bikes. Otherwise, the city bus network is the best way to get around. Though you can pay by card and use ticket machines, a good app to have is the UL (Upplands Lokaltrafik) app. This is for the buses within the Uppland’s region, where you can purchase tickets online.
To rent a car in Sweden, you must be at least 18 years old and have held your license for at least two years. Drivers under the age of 25 may incur a young driver surcharge. Seatbelts are mandatory, and cars travel on the right-hand side.
Sweden is well known for its cold, snowy winters and warm summers with blossoming flowers everywhere. The warmest time of the year in Uppsala is between early June and early September, while the coldest is between mid-November to mid-March.
The national currency of Sweden is the Swedish Krona, or Krowns. Sweden can be a bit pricey, especially if you decide to go out for a drink with friends. You will be able to get away with using your credit or debit card without lifting cash, but as always, we recommend carrying some just in case.
Day 1: Uppsala City Centre
One advantage when it comes to exploring this city is that, despite being under 50 square kilometres big, many of the attractions worth visiting are closely packed together in Uppsala City Centre. The university is one of the most prestigious in all of Sweden and is the beating heart of Uppsala. The museums and iconic landmarks are all within short walking distance of the uni, so it is very hard to get lost here.
There are many ways you can indulge in what Uppsala has to offer. As with the rest of Sweden, you can treat yourself to some fika if you need a little pick me up on your travels. Take a walk through the Stadsträdgården, which translates to a city park or garden, an especially lovely location in spring and summer. Whatever you decide to do, there is plenty here for you to enjoy your trip here!
Where to eat
As with any student city, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes trading here. In Uppsala, there are plenty to choose from, where you can sample Swedish dishes like Gravlax. Have a walk up Dragarbrunnsgatan and see if any of the many restaurants take your fancy. My personal pick, though, is Légume on Drottninggatan. It’s decently priced and just the place for a light lunch.
The place to start is Uppsala’s most iconic feature. As you approach Uppsala, one of the first things you’re likely to notice is the twin spires of the Uppsala Cathedral looming over the city. This cathedral is the most recognisable feature of Uppsala and is also one of the largest and tallest religious buildings within the whole of the Scandinavian region.
Originally built in the 13th century, its towers were constructed in the 15th century and is just one of the many reconstructions the cathedral has been subject to throughout the years. Though it is still a marvel in the modern day, you can use the Visir Uplandia app to see what it was like during the middle ages, as well as other features to add to your experience visiting Uppsala.
Though it may not be as tall as the Uppsala Cathedral, another landmark of Uppsala is the pink Uppsala Castle. Built in the 16th century by King Gustav Vasa, it was originally meant as a defensive fortress, and it’s easy to see why. Perched on a hill overlooking the whole city, there are still some of the defences surrounding the castle, though these are decorative pieces. Nowadays, it houses two museums - the Uppsala Art Museum and Vasaborgen, the ruins of the original castle, which open up every summer and detail the history of the original castle.
As well as the rest of Uppsala, the Uppsala Castle overlooks the Baroque botanical gardens. Elements of the garden are centuries old, and the Tropical Greenhouse is home to Uppsala's only rainforest. If you want one of the best views of Uppsala, you can book yourself in for a walk along the castle’s rooftop, start by walking through the gardens and climb your way up.
Now the reason that many people choose to come to Uppsala. As you walk through the town, you’ll notice that a lot of the people who live here are students or young families. That is because they either study or have graduated from the local Uppsala University. Founded in 1477, this is the oldest university still running in Sweden and the Nordic countries.
It is regularly ranked amongst the top 100 universities in the world by ranking agencies, including the ARWU (Academic Ranking of World Universities). Some of its alumni include Nobel prize winners and notable scientists like Carl Linnaeus, the scientist who came up with the scientific naming scheme used for biological organisms (or taxonomy) and Anders Celsius. Guess what he is known for. Feel free have a wander about the campus and through the halls of some of the buildings, such as the Carolina Rediviva Library, which amongst its collections include a first edition of Isaac Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica.
One of the buildings on the Uppsala University Campus is the museum of the university, the Gustavianum. Built in the early 1600s, it is the oldest standing university building on campus. Though it used to be the main building of the university, it has been a museum since 1997, housing many exhibitions and artefacts worthy of note to the university, not just from Sweden but from around the globe as well.
The collection the Gustavianum houses includes all manner of items, from Viking artefacts to the thermometer designed by Anders Celsius. The Gustavianum is currently closed for renovations and is due to be open to the public in the spring of 2024. During its opening time, though, it is an excellent museum to enjoy.
Sweden is split up into several regional districts, and Uppsala is the seat of the Upplands district, which sits on the eastern coast. The Upplands Museum, otherwise known as Upplandsmuseet, is a museum housed in an old mill in the centre of Uppsala, and it documents the millennia of history that Uppsala and the surrounding county. The museum has permanent and temporary exhibitions, which you can see here.
Of all the museums in the city, this is probably the most significant one outside of the university in regards to the history of the region, considering this institution focuses specifically on the preservation and research of the area in terms of cultural history and archaeology. The Upplands Museum is open every week from Tuesday to Sunday, from 12pm to 5pm.
Among the gardens worth visiting in Uppsala, while the botanical gardens across from the castle might be the largest, the Linnaeus Garden is the oldest. Named after Carl Linnaeus, this smaller garden lies on the Fyris River opposite the much larger Uppsala botanical gardens. The Linnaeus Garden, also known as the Linnaean Garden houses species of plants that Linnaeus cultivated during his lifetime.
The former home of Carl Linnaeus, which is on the property, is now the Linnaeus Museum, and is managed on behalf of the Swedish Linnaeus Society. The museum is open from the beginning of May to the end of September.
Bror Hjorth's House
One of the smaller museums that is worth checking out is Bror Hjorth’s House, which is a studio museum of the artist and sculptor Bror Hjorth (1894 - 1968). Hjorth is one of Sweden’s most significant artists, serving as a professor of art at the Royal University College of Fine Arts in Stockholm from 1949 to 1959.
This museum is where he spent 25 years of his life living and working in Uppsala. In addition to Hjorth’s work, artwork from other artists is also featured here. There is free admission to the museum, but it is only open for a limited time, between 12pm and 4pm from Thursday to Sunday.
Where to stay
Budget - Foundry Hotel Apartments
This hotel is ideal for solo travellers and families, with cheap apartments, its location just a stone’s throw away from the city park in Uppsala.
Mid-Range - Grand Hotell Hörnan
This 20th-century hotel is within walking distance of many of Uppsala’s attractions, as well as some of their rooms featuring a private balcony with stunning views of the city.
Luxury - Elite Hotel Academia
Uppsala Castle may offer amazing views of the city, but so does the rooftop bar of this hotel, along with deluxe rooms. Each of them has a minibar and there is access to a gym and sauna.
Day 2: Outside Uppsala City Centre
Though the city centre of Uppsala is where many of its tourist attractions lie, it is not the only location worth visiting. Did you know that back in the day, where the modern city of Uppsala is now, actually used to be another town? Outside Uppsala city centre, you’ll find loads more about the history of the city, from its origins in Old Uppsala to the stunning countryside which makes Sweden such a naturally beautiful country.
Though you can reach a lot of the locations by car, that’s not really necessary for Uppsala as there is a solid bus network that connects the city centre to the outskirts and beyond. Though we recommend checking out the attractions in this itinerary, you could also easily spend the day exploring one of the towns neighbouring Uppsala. The choice is yours!
Where to Eat
Before you venture outside of Uppsala, you might want to check out Stationen Brasserie, bar and cafe. Housed in the old station building in Uppsala, it is one of the better-rated eateries in the city.
The first stop worth visiting is Linnaeus’ Hammarby. This is one of the other gardens owned by the university, effectively the sister garden of the Linnaeus Garden. Located a few kilometres outside of Uppsala, these gardens are situated on the site that used to be Carl Linnaeus’ summer home, where he would spend time with his family.
If you’re going by bus, take the 102 from Uppsala to Knivsta. It stops about 2km from the actual museum on the turnoff for it, or take the 186 which stops closer to the museum. Like its counterpart, it is also only open from May to September. You can buy tickets here.
Fjällnora Nature Reserve
The area around Uppsala is covered by some forests. To the west of Uppsala is one such area, the Fjällnora Nature Reserve. There are two lakes in this area, Trehörningen and Ramsen, the latter of which has a dog beach if you’re bringing a furry companion on your adventures. The nature reserve is about a half hour's drive by car from the Uppsala city centre.
This is a worthwhile area to visit as it highlights Swedish outdoor past times - in the summer, this is ideal for canoeing or swimming, and in the winter, it makes for fantastic ice skating when the lake has frozen solid. To get to Fjällnora, the 809 bus will take you as close as possible, however, the closest bus stop is 3km away from the visitor’s centre.
Gamla Uppsala, or Old Uppsala, is an area of historic significance to the region. Located north about 4km from the city of Uppsala, one of the largest collections of burial mounds in Sweden are found here, spanning throughout the centuries. There is a museum in this area highlighting some of the archaeological finds that were discovered in this area. There is even a play corner for the children!
The Gamla Museum is open every day from 11am to 5pm, excluding certain holidays. To get there by bus, you can take the number 2 to Kungshögarna.
Museum of Medical History
Located in one of the southern districts of Ulleråker is the Museum of Medical History. It, as the name says, details the history of medicine, ranging from traditional medicines used in the past and the modernisation of these remedies, as well as highlighting the work of some of the Nobel prize winners from the area. There are even some exhibits you can participate in yourself.
Though as worthwhile as any other museum in Uppsala, the Museum of Medical History is only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 1 pm and 5 pm. Admittance is free, though, and there are temporary exhibits here, as well as lectures and other activities available. To get here, take the number four bus to Kronparksgården.
If you want to enjoy the countryside between Uppsala and Stockholm, you could hike a portion of the Uppland Trail. Also known as Upplandsleden, the full Upplands Trail is 500km long, but it is split into 31 different sections, so you don’t need to do the full thing to enjoy it (however, it is possible due to wild camping laws in Sweden. Be sure to double-check which laws apply to you before you plan a trip, though).
This route highlights the natural beauty of the region. In fact, there is a section of this trail which passes by the Fjällnora nature reserve. If you are curious about the Uppland Trail and want more information about hiking in this area, click here.
Where to stay
Budget - Hågadalens Hostel & Vandrarhem
For places to stay around Uppsala, let's start with this comfy little spot. Easily reachable by bus from the city centre, this decently priced location also offers free parking.
If you’re looking for a quieter spot after your adventures around Uppsala, this B and B has you covered.
Luxury - ArenaHotellet i Uppsala
This hotel has got it all. From dog-friendly accommodation to a games room and playground for the kids, this will make for a really good hub for a family trip.