- Uppsala was called Östra Aros before it was renamed in the 13th century.
- Founded in 1477, Uppsala University is the Nordic region’s oldest university.
- According to legend, every nine years during the Viking era, people flocked to Uppsala’s temple from all over Scandinavia to make their sacrifices to the Nordic gods.
Known as the Cambridge of Sweden, Uppsala is a vibrant university town located a little north of Stockholm, a mere 35-minute train ride away. Students from across Sweden – and the rest of the world – swell the term-time population of the city, giving it a youthful, international feel. (About 20% of its residents are students).
Many a Swede chooses to live in Uppsala, even if they work in Stockholm. And it’s easy to see why – the city is manageable in size yet has a lot to offer. Historically significant, centuries-old sights stud the townscape and its surroundings. No trip to Uppsala is complete without getting to know its former resident Carl Linnaeus, one of the world’s most notable botanists and scientists. He’s left plenty of marks – floral and otherwise – across Sweden and beyond.
Fast-forward to the present day, Uppsala is considered a key innovation city in which academia and a distinct business culture unite to create a fertile breeding ground for new ideas. Pharmaceutical giant Pharmacia has been headquartered here since 1951. And Maria Strømme – Sweden's youngest ever professor of technology – founded nano technology innovation Upsalite here.
As for the city’s green credentials, it won WWF's international One Planet City Challenge in 2018, much owing to its cross-sector sustainability interventions and strong focus on sustainable mobility solutions.
Historic Uppsala – travel back in time to the Iron Age and the Viking era
Wherever you set foot in Uppsala, you’re bound to stumble upon sights of historical significance. On display within the centrally located Carolina Rediviva, Uppsala University’s library, you'll find the astonishing 6th century Silver Bible, one of the world’s oldest and most extensive Gothic codices. A stone’s throw away lies Uppsala Cathedral, the burial place of Swedish royals such as King Gustav Vasa, who died in 1560. Other must-see sights include Uppsala Castle and its expansive grounds. A sprawling affair, this key landmark houses three museums: Uppsala Art Museum, House of Peace and Vasaborgen. Don't miss the opportunity to view the cityscape from high above by joining a guided walk atop the castle roof.
Uppsala University, founded in the 15th century and the oldest university in Sweden, is another draw. The building – bearing the delightfully fancy name Gustavianum – dates back to the 1620s. Even non-students can discover its legacy as it now serves as a museum. Among its highlights, you'll find the intricately constructed Augsburg Art Cabinet, a fine example of early 17th-century cabinetmaking. Gustavianum also houses a significant portion of Uppsala University's heritage in the shape of artworks and archaeological finds, both Nordic and classical.
Further must-see discoveries await at Gamla Uppsala Museum (Old Uppsala Museum), nestled by the royal mounds. A mythical wonderland dating back to the Iron Age, this is one of Scandinavia's key cultural environments. You can wander around the centuries-old royal mounds, as well as taking a closer look at some of the archaeological finds that illustrate a fascinating past. Courtesy of the new virtual reality tour, you’ll be immersed in Viking life as you travel back in time to Uppsala of the 7th century.
Wander in Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus’ footsteps
Set some time aside to get to know the 18th-century botanist Carl Linnaeus. The beautiful gardens, historic buildings and excursion trails he’s left behind will give you a good grasp of his work and legacy.
Linnaeus’ Hammarby is the late botanist's floral haven. A wonderful summertime destination (open May-September), it’s located less than 15 km from the town centre (easily accessible by bike or public transport). Hammarby is home to 40 'Linnaean plants', or their direct descendants, making it the largest collection of his plants anywhere in the world.
What used to be Linnaeus’ garden has now been transformed into a beautiful park, housing a wide array of exotic plants, including the Siberian apple tree that still proudly stands guard in the courtyard. The house itself is one of the best-preserved farms of the 18th century, and, fittingly, some rooms feature walls adorned with blooms and greenery.
To get a glimpse of Linnaeus and his family’s life in the city, head to the Linnaeus Museum (open May-September). Set within the botanist's 18th-century home, perched on the fringes of the expansive Linnaean garden, this well-preserved abode is furnished with much of the family's furniture and treasured objects.
In springtime, Siberian corydalis come into bloom in front of the house – the same type planted by Linnaeus himself centuries back. Keep an eye out for these pretty yellow flowers as you wander round the city; with the help of pollinating ants, they've spread far and wide, like floral tributes to one of the world's foremost scientists.
Enjoy a meal in the city centre or dine on fresh produce in the stunning countryside
Whatever type of cuisine you happen to fancy, you’ll be able to find it in Uppsala. The restaurant at boutique hotel 'Villa Anna' is renowned and award-winning for a reason. The menu is based on locally sourced ingredients (often organic) and while the chefs base their menu on Swedish classics and Nordic cuisine, they take influence from both the Italian and French kitchen, making for memorable dishes. And there are plenty of highly regarded restaurants to discover slightly further afield.
The eco-friendly restaurant at Hotel Kristina in the historic destination Sigtuna is another top foodie choice.