It’s about a 55-minute train ride to Uppsala from Stockholm Central Station. In that time you witness the busy maze of densely packed Stockholm streets gradually give way to tranquil, verdant countryside.
We got very lucky with the weather on the day of our visit. Despite it already being early October, there was just a hint of autumn crispness in the air and the electric blue sky was perfectly clear save for the odd wispy cloud or two.
View from atop one of the Royal Mounds in Gamla Uppsala
The first stop on our day trip to Uppsala lay outside the boundaries of the city itself. A 15-minute bus ride away, Gamla Uppsala is best known for its ‘Royal Mounds’ (pictured above and in the top image).
This was the seat of power for the Ynglings (don’t ask me how to pronounce that), Sweden’s oldest known dynasty. The region was also held in high esteem by early Scandinavians, who believed Uppsala to be the home of the Norse god Freyr. Legend has it that under these sizeable grassy lumps rests Freyr, and alongside him Odin and Thor.
A bit of leaf peeping in Gamla Uppsala
The Royal Mounds are open to the public and free to access. The locals treat is as a park replete with jogging trails and shady trees for family picnics. For tourists like ourselves there is a small museum on site that provides a size overview of the significance of the area.
As much as I found the mounds and museum interesting, I derived more enjoyment from simply walking around, breathing in the fresh air, and admiring the autumn foliage.
Historic Central Uppsala
Following our visit to the Royal Mounds, we journeyed back to Uppsala. It didn’t take long before we found ourselves in the heart of the city’s historic district. Bisected by a narrow river, Uppsala’s two halves are connected by beautiful bridges.
Buzzing with activity on a Saturday afternoon, we stumbled across a riverside cafe with a line out the door – we knew this place had to be good.
As it turned out. We were right. The cafe, called Guntherska Hovkonditori & Schweizeri (again, don’t ask me to pronounce it!), was well worth the wait.
Raksallad, kanelbulle, and other selected goodies
Decided on what to order was difficult, so I was left with only one option: order much more than I needed. My “main course” was räksallad (Swedish shrimp salad) with a side of bread and butter. For dessert, I opted for kanelbulle (cinnamon roll), a Swedish favourite. Then I admittedly went completely overboard and ordered a trio of tiny desserts.
With our stomachs full and the afternoon wearing, we made it a point to stop by Uppsala University.
The university was a short walk from the centre of town and was founded in the 15th century, making it the oldest in Scandinavia. The campus has strong links to the sciences and is best known for its Museum of Evolution and connection with Carl Linnaeus, credited as the father of modern taxonomy one of the fathers of modern ecology.
The university’s main hall (Universitetshuset) is its most impressive building and stands opposite the towering Uppsala Cathedral. Separating these powerhouses of science and religion is a small park, strewn with rune stones.
In total we probably spent around seven hours exploring Uppsala and were back in Stockholm in time for dinner. With its pointy church steeples, historic sites, and charming centre, Uppsala has all the hallmarks of the kinds of places I like to visit – close enough to a major city to access, but far enough to keep most tourists away.
Getting to Uppsala
Trains to Uppsala Centrum depart from Stockholm Central Station several times an hour throughout the day from Stockholm. The journey takes 55 minutes on the commuter train and 38 minutes on the express train. Find out more information about reaching Uppsala here.