The university city of Uppsala is an easy train ride from Stockholm and it makes a great place for a day trip – especially if you fancy escaping the capital for a while and want to experience a more relaxed side to Swedish city life.
Although it’s officially the fourth-largest city in the country, Uppsala doesn’t feel rushed and it has a nice, picturesque location on the banks of the Fyris River.
There are lots of fun ways to spend time here, from ogling at old buildings to exploring the great outdoors, and the big student population helps to push down prices, making it easy to eat and drink well without spending too much money.
Best of all, some of the best activities are totally free. Use this guide and the map below to find your feet.
Take a walk along the river
The Fyris River cuts right through the centre of Uppsala, marking the divide between old and new.
The old buildings of the historic city are to west of the river, and the modern commercial centre is to the east.
On a sunny day the riverfront is a gathering place for sunbathers, walkers and bike riders – and a stroll here is the ideal way get your first taste of life in Uppsala.
Kick back in Stadsträdgården
As you make your way along the banks of the river, stop off for an ice cream or a cup of coffee at Stadsträdgården, a pretty landscaped park that’s full of mature trees.
The café in the middle of the park does lots of veggie and organic food and is the perfect place for a bit of rest and relaxation before setting off to see the oldest part of town.
Visit Scandinavia’s oldest uni
Uppsala’s uni was founded by Bishop Jakob Ulvsson in 1477 and is the oldest university in Scandinavia.
Start your exploration with a visit to the Carolina Rediviva building, the main part of the university’s library, which houses more than five million books.
Check out the stunning reading rooms here before heading over to the university’s main building, Universitetshuset, which dates back to 1887 and has some impressive vaulted ceilings in its grand entry hall.
Brush up on your botanicals
The botanical gardens are also part of Uppsala University – they’re tucked away in a sleepy part of the city, close to the castle.
The gardens were created on land that King Gustav III donated to the university in 1787, and it’s been part of the campus ever since. For a time Carl von Linné, the Swedish botanist who came up with the modern naming system for plants, was in charge here.
When you’re done exploring the big, baroque-style gardens, make time for a look around the 200-year-old orangery, which is still home to figs, olives and agaves.
Find art (and peace) at Uppsala Castle
Uppsala Castle is a short walk from the botanical gardens, set on a low hill. Built in the 16th century, the original castle was all but destroyed when a fire ripped through the city in 1702.
Visit the tallest cathedral in Scandinavia
Uppsala’s gothic cathedral is a whopper, with two tall towers soaring high above the city. Situated between the river and the university, it dates back to the 13th century and is the tallest cathedral in Scandinavia.
It’s also Sweden’s most important church, serving as both pilgrimage site and tourist attraction – around half a million people visit the cathedral every year.
Entry is free. The cathedral’s museum, Skattkammaren, has a rare collection of medieval textiles and costs 50 SEK to visit.
Take a hike in Stadsskogen
Just to the southwest of the city centre, Stadsskogen is a large nature reserve and outdoor recreation area, perfect for a bit of hiking.
The reserve has two well-marked trails – on one of them, you can learn all about the ‘raw materials’ of the forest and what they can be used for.
Meet the local wildlife
Biotopia is a free natural history museum featuring lots of interactive exhibitions that encourage young ones to get involved.
Spend an hour or two here and you’ll learn all about the critters inhabiting Uppland’s forests and islands, including Ural owls and golden eagles. It’s free to get in and there’s a café serving classic Swedish sandwiches and fika.