Less than an hour north of Stockholm, Uppsala has its own character as one of Swedens—and Europe’s—premier university towns, and the university plays a bit part in setting the tone of the city. And while brainiacs among you will find plenty to mull over, the less cerebral will also have lots to discover, because everyone knows university towns are nothing if not diversified.
One of the largest cathedrals in Northern Europe, Uppsala Cathedral dominates the city, towering over everything and it is seen long before you ever cross over the city border. Inaugurated in 1453, the Cathedral holds the relics of St. Eric, as well as the remains of famed botanist Carl von Linné and Gustav Vasa, who more or less established what would become modern Sweden.
Gamla Uppsala (Old Uppsala) has a history that stretches back two thousand years, and includes the ruins of Uppsala’s first cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century, as well as royal mounds, ruins, and burial sites. There is also a great open-air museum, Disagården, just behind the church, which will give you a peek into what real life in Sweden during the mid-19th century was like.
Built in the early 1600s, Gustavianum is the oldest standing building at Uppsala University. In 1997, Gustavianum was inaugurated by King Carl XVI Gustav, with five permanent exhibitions, including the 17th century Cabinets of Curiosities, which includes roughly 1,000 items, as well as The Anatomical Theatre, which, as expected, looks at Uppsala’s medical history.
Bror Hjorths Hus is dedicated to Bror Jjorth, the famed Swedish artist who used the building that houses the museum as both his home and his studio for 25 years. There is an extensive collection of Hjorth’s work and it’s well worth a visit, as Hjorth was one of Sweden’s best known mid-century painters and sculptors and his work remains influential.
This biographical museum dedicated to the 18th-century botanist Carl Linnéaus is located in the Linnaean Garden and run by the Swedish Linnaeus Society. In case you’re not up to speed, Carl von Linné (as he was known after his ennoblement) is best known for formalizing the modern system of naming organisms, called binomial nomenclature—in other words, he’s the father of modern taxonomy.
In addition to being simply gorgeous, the Botanical Gardens host shows, art exhibitions, and a myriad of other events, while also bringing you deep into the plant world. It’s also home to Uppsala’s only rainforest.
The Museum of Evolution is open not just to researchers keen to pore over the University’s extensive and, quite frankly, amazing natural history collections, also to the general public. There are more than five million specimens, fossils, minerals, plants, and animals in the museum’s collections, so if you have any sort of scientific bent, this is the place for you. Note that the Museum of Evolution Zoology is undergoing renovations, with a late 2017 to early 2018 re-opening. The Museum of Evolution Palaeontology remains open.
Uppsala Castle was intended to be a fortress when building began in 1549 during the reign of King Gustav Vasa, and while that didn’t exactly pan out, the castle has been at the heart of a number of major historical events, including the Sture Murders, where noblemen were butchered in the name of the crazed King Erik XIV for alleged treason. Tours are available in both Swedish and English.
Uppsala Art Museum is one of three museums included in the Uppsala Castle complex, but it deserves its own mention due to its extensive collection of Swedish and international contemporary art, which is not really in keeping with the rest of the castle complex or the two other museums on-site. The ceramics from UpsalaEkeby alone are worth a visit, and the rotating exhibitions always bring plenty of welcome surprises.
The burial field at Valsgärde is located about seven kilometers north of Uppsala, along the Fyris river. It rises above the surrounding plains and traces of around 80 graves can be found here. These are the remains of chamber tombs, hist tombs, cremation burials, and boat burials. Those buried here belonged to the social elite and the cemetery was actively used for more than 700 years, from around 400 A.D. to 1100 A.D.
Considered one of the finest Baroque Castles in all of Europe, the building of Skokloster Castle began in the mid-17th century but was never completed. What makes this so interesting is that the main banquet hall not only remains unfinished but many of the builder’s tools remain where they were last set down. There is also an incredible collection of weapons, books, textiles, and many other items, providing an incredible insight into the time period.
Use this handy map to find the 11 top things to do in Uppsala: