Uppsala is probably the student capital of Sweden and maybe Scandinavia. However, there are more than only students in the city, even though they play a big part in everything that goes on. After all, Uppsala University is the oldest center for higher education in Scandinavia.
You will find Uppsala less than an hour’s drive from the capital Stockholm. Its population of around 140.000 inhabitants makes it the fourth largest city in Sweden, after Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö.
A Short History of Uppsala
Originally Uppsala was not located where it is today, but at the location that is today known as Gamla Uppsala. That means Old Uppsala. At that time today’s Uppsala went by the name Östra Aros. The name was changed around the year 1280 when the seat of the archbishop was moved from Gamla Uppsala to Uppsala.
Uppsala university was founded in the city in 1477, making it the oldest university in Scandinavia. Several well-known people are affiliated with the university. There is the chemist Svante Arrhenius, former UN secretary-general Dag Hammarskjöld, the Swedish king Carl XVI Gustaf, the diplomat Hans Blix, the physician and chemist Jöns Jakob Berzelius, and the father of taxonomy Carl Linnaeus.
The look of the city has changed dramatically during the last centuries. A fire in 1702 severely damaged large parts of the city. Swedish towns and cities underwent a transformation in the 1960s and 1970s and several buildings in the city were demolished to make way for new construction projects.
Uppsala: 7 Places of Interest
Uppsala Slott / Uppsala Castle
Together with the cathedral, the castle is one of the landmarks that you will not miss when visiting the city. Laying on a hill overlooking most of central Uppsala it is both a spectacular sight as well as a perfect viewing point.
The construction of the castle began already in 1549 during the reign of Gustav Vasa and the first parts were finished in 1567. The castle has been remodeled multiple times and it has been consumed by fire at least once. This happened in 1702 when the damages were considered great enough to close the castle. It was rebuilt in 1744 but some parts had been demolished and others were not rebuilt due to lack of funding.
Three important historical events have occurred at the castle. The first event took place in 1567 when king Erik XIV ordered the murder of count Svante Sture the Younger together with four other nobles. The murders are today known as the Sture murders. In 1630 the castle was the place where the king decided that Sweden would join the Thirty Years’ War. And the third was the abdication of the Swedish queen Kristina in 1654.
Uppsala Domkyrka / Uppsala Cathedral
This is one sight that is possible to see from a long distance. The two towers measuring 118,7 meters will welcome you when arriving in Uppsala. This is actually the tallest church in the Nordic countries. The construction of the cathedral started in the 13th century and the cathedral opened for visitors in the year 1435. The cathedral has also been the site for several coronations of Swedish kings and queens during the centuries.
Being one of the oldest buildings of Uppsala University, the Gustavianum boasts a lot of vivid history. The building is nowadays a museum displaying artifacts from several countries. These items have been a part of the university’s collections. Inside the building, you will also find the anatomical theater of medical professor Olof Rudbeck. It was here that students and teachers dissected bodies in front of spectators. Splendid fun, we say ironically.
Linnéträdgården / Linnaeus Garden
Carl Linnaeus or Carl von Linné was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist. It was he that created the modern system of naming plants, animals, and other organisms, the binomial nomenclature. You will find the Linnaeus Garden in the central part of the city and the garden has been kept to the specifications left by Carl Linnaeus. It is a very nice place for a picnic or a weekend stroll.
The oldest part of the city is actually a village with a high historical value. The village is just outside the city of Uppsala. It was early on an important religious, economic and political center. It was here that the “Thing of all Swedes” gathered up until the middle ages. Here you will find several signs from the old times, especially burial mounds. Three of these mounds stand out from the hundreds of others. These are the three royal mounds where the tale has it that three kings lay.
This is one more building that is a part of the University of Uppsala. It is the main part of the University Library. And who wouldn’t love a good library? Construction of the building began in 1820 and was completed in 1841.
Fyrishov is a complex with several sports arenas as well as a water park. This might be a good destination for some fun in case the weather is not welcoming you to explore the city.
Interesting events in Uppsala
Valborg or Walpurgis Night is the main night of celebration for all the students in the city. It always occurs on the last day of April and the parties begin in the early morning. Usually, people go up early and head to the parks for a small picnic consisting of champagne, strawberries, and other delights. You probably don’t have to be a student to enjoy that! The day continues with festivities during the whole day and it culminates in students participating in some river rafting in the stream Fyrisån.
Translated it would be the Night of Culture. There are several activities during this day. There are bands playing, food trucks along the streets, and a lot of happy people around. The best thing though is that most museums offer free entry for the day.
Let’s return to the topic of school and studying. This is the time when pupils in the Swedish upper-secondary school graduate. The graduation ceremonies spread out over several days as classes of pupils await their turn. During these days the streets will be filled with pupils as well as their friends and family members. Traditionally caravans of decorated lorries will be driving the celebrating pupils around the town.
Uppsala: How to Get There?
Do you plan a vacation, visit, or just want to travel to Uppsala? Here are a few ways of going there:
Car: The highway E4 is passing by Uppsala and connects the city with several of Sweden’s major places. In the north, it goes to for example Gävle as well as Sundsvall and Umeå. To the south, you will find Stockholm.
Bus: There are buses from several destinations in Sweden and Upplands Lokaltrafik (UL) has buses to most places in the region around the city.
Train: Trains connect the city with several larger destinations to the north and Stockholm is less than an hour away to the south.
Flights: Closest airport is Stockholm Arlanda (ARN). There are regular trains connecting Uppsala with the airport.
The driving distance to Stockholm from 4 other major Swedish cities, according to Google Maps:
Stockholm – 71 kilometers (51 min)
Gothenburg – 453 kilometers (4 h 47 min)
Malmö – 678 kilometers (6 h 15 min)
Luleå – 835 kilometers (8 h 21 min)
Linköping – 266 kilometers (2 h 40 min)
Find out more about other destinations in Sweden by visiting our page Exploring Sweden