An early start to the day and a chance to see a little more of Sweden by visiting Uppsala, Sweden’s 4th largest city. Getting there was quick and easy as we took a bus to Odenplan station where we had been the previous evening. From there, we connected to a train to Uppsala. At the ticket office we just needed to purchase supplementary tickets for the extra journey outside the Stockholm region as we were already in possession of our SL-Access travel cards. The supplementary charge was SEK 90 (£7.75 each) for a single ticket valid on any commuter train. For some unknown reason, returns are unavailable so passengers need to request this ticket in reverse before returning to Stockholm.
Odenplan station has only been open since July 2017 and its gleaming, steel structure is light and airy with ample platform seating whilst waiting for trains to arrive. Our train departed on time and we enjoyed viewing the changing scenery from its windows as we travelled to Uppsala in only 50 minutes. We had picked up a map and some leaflets on the city from the Stockholm tourist information office enabling us to plan our day in advance.
Leaving the railway station we could see the cathedral spires in the distance so we headed there first taking around fifteen minutes gentle walking across the Fyris river. Uppsala Cathedral is both the largest and tallest Gothic cathedral in the Nordic region dating back to 1270. The cathedral has played an important role in Swedish history with the coronation of several of Sweden’s kings taking place there. It also contains the tombs of kings and other dignitaries including that of King Gustaf Vasa. Entrance to the cathedral is free of charge and its adjacent cafe Katedralkafeet was a good choice afterwards for our morning coffees.
Facing the cathedral is Uppsala University’s oldest building, the Gustavianum Museum which was built between 1622-1625 and used as the main university building between 1778-1887. Entrance to the museum is SEK 50 (£4.30) and it contains a collection of historical scientific instruments, Viking swords and Egyptian mummies. Climbing the stairs to the very top of the building we were able to view the anatomical theatre built in the 1660’s for dissections.
These were carried out for the benefit of medical students and the paying public. This theatre was, for its time, a modern space for research and the teaching of medicine and was used until the 1750’s when it moved to more modern facilities nearby. Students stood on the steep, narrow steps observing the dissections and clambering up there myself it looked very scary from above but it was an incredible sight and one I recommend you include on a visit to Uppsala.
Continuing uphill, it didn’t take too long to reach the Kasåsen Ridge, the site of Uppsala Castle. The castle started life in the 16th century as a fortress to defend the city but on the orders of King Gustav III’s three sons it was later modified into a renaissance castle. In 1792 it was ravaged by fire and large parts had to be destroyed.
The castle that we we see today was rebuilt on a smaller scale in the 1740’s in French Classicist style. Wandering around the exterior we could see ruins of the bastions standing as a reminder of the castle’s defensive role. Several companies and three museums now occupy the castle but only the Art Museum was open during our visit.
Facing the castle, and down a steep stone staircase lies the Uppsala Botanical Garden (free admission). This large garden was donated to the university by King Gustav III in 1787 and is laid out in a formal style with the neo-classical styled Linneanum building as its centrepiece which houses the Orangery and Linnaeus Hall. The building was opened in memory of the 100th anniversary of Linnaeus’s birth. Carl Linnaeus was Sweden’s most famous scientist and was professor of medicine at Uppsala University in the 18th century. He is renowned for his method of classifying plants which is still used today.
The garden was full of colour and we enjoyed strolling along its paths. Located across a road in the far corner of the garden is the Tropical Greenhouse which is more precisely a series of interconnecting greenhouses kept at differing temperatures. Entering the greenhouse, we began by exploring the Winter Garden which contains plants from the Mediterranean before moving through to The Victoria Hall. This was my favourite section as its pond contained the giant water lily Victoria Amazonia with its enormous leaves.
Next, we entered the Tropical Rainforest where a fine mist was keeping the greenhouse humid and our tour continued with visits to the Orchid and Succulent rooms which were also beautiful.
Returning outdoors we were surprised to find that in the Swedish heatwave it actually felt hotter outdoors than in some of the tropical greenhouses which was hard to believe. It was approaching 1.00 p.m. and we were feeling hungry so we retraced our steps to the cathedral as near there we had spotted the perfect place for our lunch.
The Domtrappkällaren Restaurant is located in the most beautiful part of the city, nestled in the cathedral walls. Its rooms, with low ceilings and archways were originally used as storage areas for the cathedral and now provide a cosy setting for a meal. Although the interior looked inviting, we decided to make the most of the good weather and opted to eat out on the terrace under the shade of a large striped canopy.
Our waitress, Elinor was lovely, making helpful suggestions from the summer menu and recommending local craft beers to accompany our lunch. To begin we both decided on Gravlax, cured salmon fillet filled with pink pepper and basil cream cheese which was accompanied with individual loaves of rye and sourdough bread. This dish was beautifully presented and tasted absolutely delicious.
For our main courses I opted for the creamy fish and seafood casserole with lemon aioli and fresh herbs whilst Mr. C. was tempted to try Raggmunk which are traditional Swedish pancakes served with fried pork and lingonberries. As with our starters, the attention to detail was superb and I savoured every spoonful of my fish casserole, it was so rich and creamy and without a bone in sight. Mr. C. was also in seventh heaven with his pancakes and after passing me a little to try, I could easily see why.
We couldn’t manage a dessert but did relax with cups of coffee before continuing our tour of Uppsala’s main sights.
Consulting our map, it was a short walk through town to our next attraction, the Linnaeus Garden which is located to the north of the town centre just beyond the pedestrianised zone. Entrance is SEK 80 (£6.90) which covers both the garden and the former home of Carl Linnaeus.
This garden is the oldest of the botanical gardens belonging to Uppsala University dating back to 1655. It is laid out in the French style and has been restored to Linnaeus’ original designs from 1745 and arranged to his classification system. This garden is much smaller than the one near the castle we had visited earlier in the day but is equally beautiful especially during our visit when so many plants were in flower.
To one side of the garden stands the house which served as the official residence of university tutors and where Linnaeus himself lived between 1743-1778. The house has been preserved as a museum displaying items depicting both his personal and professional life. In addition to household items and furniture we were able to inspect his personal medicine cabinet, insect cabinet and herbarium.
To complete our day out in Uppsala we decided to spend some time looking around the shops which are arranged along attractive pedestrianised streets. There was a good mix of large stores and smaller independent retailers where we found several items to take back home with us.
It was then back to the station for our train back to Stockholm. Uppsala had made a lovely day excursion from Stockholm and we very much enjoyed our visit. It has its own charm and being much smaller than the capital, many of its points of interest can be accessed on foot. I liked the city so much that it would be nice to return to Uppsala for a short break sometime as I’m certain I would find plenty to see and do.
During our visit we were guests of Destination Uppsala and as always all views and opinions are my own.
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