Category Archives: Around Uppsala

Around Uppsala: The Botanical Garden

The large, elegant botanical garden of Uppsala is a place you’ll probably discover quite soon once you’re living here. Located centrally, opposite the famous and iconic Slott, and between several buildings of Uppsala University, it’s hard to miss. In winter time the garden seems quite sober and is for a large part not even open to visitors. However, it took me long enough to find out one of the garden’s best kept secrets: The Orangery.

“It’s such a pleasure to visit the place, a little bit like an escape to another world.”

Three different plant species in one photo  – the fruits on the left are figs

Most of the garden’s plants are housed in extremely large pots and live outside only seasonally. Before the cold Swedish winter kicks in they are moved into the orangery. This beautiful 200 years old, baroque building has high ceilings and plenty of windows to keep the plants and trees happy. It’s such a pleasure to visit the place, a little bit like an escape to another world. We recognised several species, such as fig trees, agave plants and freshly smelling laurel.

Such massive plant pots! Me for scale.

When my friend and me visited last week, we ran into one of the friendly staff members who told us enthusiastically about the plants. He explained that in springtime, about the beginning of May, there is a fun event day when the plants are moved back outside. A bit like the ‘ko-släpp‘ – the cow’s dance when they are allowed outside for the first time after winter – but for plants. I bet there will be a bit less of running and bucking but it sounds like it would still be worth a visit!

Feel like going for a wander yourself? During winter the orangery is opened Tuesday to Friday from 9 am to 3 pm. Want to read more? You can find further information on the website of Destination Uppsala and Uppsala University. If you have any questions feel free to leave a reply below.


Around Uppsala: Hågadalen

On the Western side of Uppsala, close to the Flogsta neighbourhood lays a beautiful nature reserve. This area is called Hågadalen and consists of forests, swamps and a more open valley area around the Håga river. It’s a popular place for a hike, bike, run or horse-ride alike. Personally I am very impressed by such a beautiful and peaceful place being this close to town. During the welcoming weeks, one of the most popular activities is our ‘Let’s go to the forest!’ adventure, at which we show this wonderful piece of Uppsala county to the new students.

Winter scenery at the Hågaån (= Håga river) on a sunny Sunday last week.

Not only is Håga stunning for it’s nature, it’s also impressive for it’s cultural value. For example there is the viking grave of the mythical King Björn, which takes shape in the form of a burial mound. From here you have quite a great view over the area as well. Though this is the most famous burial mound of the area, several more graves can be found more upstream. The fertile valley area around the river is known to have been used for pastoral purposes for thousands of years. The Uppsala municipality has published a really nice leaflet about the place, which you can find on their webpage.



Around Uppsala: Fjällnora

“Tracks are plowed on the ice, turning lake Trehörningen into an ice-skating valhalla.”

It’s a little bit further away compared to the other places I’ve described thus far, but I think Fjällnora deserves a page on this blog. Surrounded by lakes and hidden between forest-covered hills, this recreation area is appreciated at all times of year. During summer people go swimming, hiking or kayaking, whilst at winter it’s the ultimate place to go cross country skiing or ice-skating. If it gets cold enough, tracks are plowed on the ice, turning lake Trehörningen into an ice-skating valhalla.

Lake Trehörningen, February 2016.

Fjällnora lays about 25 km east of Uppsala, and is luckily accessible by bus. Take bus 809, but be aware that you’ll have to walk the last 3 km. Make sure to go early, so you’ll have enough time left to spend to enjoy the nature. It might sound a little challenging, but you’ll be glad you went there. Once you arrive you’ll find a campsite, fika place and some other facilities. The atmosphere is really friendly and people are all very helpful. You’ll be able to rent gear for seasonal activities all year round.

My friends skating ahead over lake Trehörningen, photo was taken last winter.

Last year I went with some friends on an ice-skating trip and it was a wonderful experience. After enjoying some hours on the ice we brought back our gear and ordered some hot drinks in the cafe. A lady overheard us talking about which bus to take and what time to leave for the hike to the bus stop, and spontaneously offered the four of us to join her in her car back to Uppsala. We were delighted! Not only was it convenient to us, we also had some nice conversations on our way back. I can’t wait to go there again this year 🙂

For more information take a look at the website of Destination Uppsala (in English) and Uppsala Kommun (in Swedish). Or ask your questions in a reply below.


Around Uppsala: Ultuna

The first day I visited our campus Ultuna, I fell in love with it. I remember it well, biking down along Fyrisån river through fields and forest and finally finding myself surrounded by houses again. Beautiful old houses. But when biking a little further I stumbled upon impressive modern buildings. I don’t always like modern, but these were in their own way quite pretty. That first day I walked into Ulls hus – the main building – I noted the light, the space, the amazing use of wood and the funky furniture immediately. Talking to the receptionist I learned that this building had been taken into use just now, it had been finished over summer.

Colourful patch of flowers in front of VHC last spring. In the background you see
part of the Biocentrum (left), Ulls hus (right) and a bus approaching.

Not only Ulls hus is ‘new in town’. Recently Ultuna campus has grown a lot as a result of moving several departments and studies within SLU towards Uppsala. Other really stunning education buildings are the Biocentre and the MVM. One of the buildings I visit often as an animal science student is the ‘Veterinärmedicinskt och husdjursvetenskapligt centrum’, which everybody simply calls VHC. This building is not education and research only, it is directly connected with the university animal hospital. In practice this means that some days after class we walk straight into the veterinary clinic without leaving the building. However the passing through doors is strictly regulated so you’d better not forget your electronic keycard or you might find yourself waiting for a long time in front of some closed doors – I am telling you that from my own experience, ahum.

The last rays of sunlight reflecting on the windows of the illuminated Biocentre,
photo was taken yesterday.

Yes, Ultuna campus is definitely worth a visit. Whether you’re a student or not, there is a lot to see. There are some nice parks and there is a historical walk as the area used to be a Viking settlement in earlier times. If you’re into architecture make sure to visit during the opening hours so you can see the buildings from the inside as well. Curious already? Check out this article I found about the amazing woodwork within Ulls hus. Ultuna campus is easily accessible by public transport, but there are also excellent biking trails.

Any questions or simply want to know more? Leave a reply below.


Around Uppsala: Fyrisån

Lund and Uppsala seem to be in a continuous competition about which of the two is the nicest student city of Sweden. A friend of mine who has lived in both places for a while told me that Uppsala wins to him without any doubt. The reason? Lund doesn’t have a river. This might sound a little strange, but also to me the river of Uppsala – named Fyrisån – is the heart of the town. It was one of the first things I heard about this place, that a river crosses through town. Neighbours of my parents had travelled through all of Sweden and had totally fallen in love with Uppsala in particular. I remember them say that they felt it was almost ‘French’; with beautiful small bridges decorated by flowers hanging over the river. Needless to say this is one of my favourite places around Uppsala – and I think it’s a top pick from locals and tourists alike.

The flower decorations reflecting in the water, summer 2015

Snowy trees hanging over Fyrisån in the city centre, last week

The river has not always been named Fyrisån. It was renamed in the 17th century to honour the Fyrisvellir plains. Before that it was called both Full and Sala. The river is about 80 km long and ends in lake Mälaren, at lake Ekoln (which I described in an earlier post). If you are in Uppsala and follow the beautiful bike tracks south along the riverside you will stumble apon our SLU campus Ultuna. This area is popular among bikers, hikers and usually there are many young parents here running while pushing their babies in those children-wagons. A sight that took me some time to get used to, haha. You can find many bird species and other wildlife as well as stunning sights around here. During summertime you may see people rowing or kayaking downstream.

The South-Eastern banks not far from town
Summer 2015

And finally for students Fyrisån has a special meaning because of the Valborg celebration. Every year at the the last day of April a river-race is being organized by students on homemade rafts – which rarely make it to the finishline. This crazy tradition is extremely popular, the whole town seems to come out to watch.  My friends and me were there last year and it was so much fun. Absolutely worth it to sit on a stone bridge for hours to claim a good spot!

Fyrisån full of students on homemade rafts during Valborg 2016

Feel free to leave a reply if you have any questions or comments 🙂




Around Uppsala: Lunsentorpet

Southeast of Uppsala there is a beautiful forest area called Lunsen. It is not far away from campus at all, next to lake Ekoln and on the border to Sävja, where I went picking mushrooms a little while ago. In the middle of this forest there is a clearing where people have built some basic facilities to rest and refresh before continuing your hike. There is a pump providing drinking water, places to build a fire, an old fashioned hut-type toilet and… a cabin!

The hut of Lunsentorpet
Photo: Roos Goessen, edited by me

At first arrival you may think the place does not look extremely inviting. But don’t judge too quickly. The outside of the hut may appear a little grim, but once you’re inside it’s extremely cosy. There is a small living room, including some cooking facilities and a wood stove. Besides that there is a small bedroom offering mattresses for six people. Its all extremely basic, but its robust and appreciated by many people. Having a look at the guestbook will make you realize how a lot of different people have happy memories here 🙂

You don’t have to pay to stay here, but you can’t make any reservations. If you want to make sure you have a place to sleep go early, or bring some air mattresses with you, just in case. Besides the hut there is a grass area where people can also camp. If you want to have a very Swedish experience; gather some friends and hike through Lunsen, build a fire and sleep over in this cabin. It will be worth it.


Around Uppsala: Flogsta

Flogsta… where to begin? First of all, Flogsta is not a touristy place. There won’t be a page in the lonely planet, there is no natural wonder or any real must-see around here. Yet I would like to add Flogsta into this category I started of places worth a visit in and around Uppsala. Flogsta is one of the main living areas for students and ‘a little special’. It is rumoured for it’s wild party’s, famous for it’s 10 o’ clock scream but actually a really nice area to live.

Flogsta during autumn. In front the low-rises, the skyline is dominated by the high-rises.

A long, long time ago Flogsta was not a neighbourhood of Uppsala, but a former village on its own. The name shows up in literature dating back to the 1300’s, and is based on the old Swedish word Floe meaning something like a ‘body of water, less swamp’. There is still a swampy area, sort of mini-river running along here. Nowadays Flogsta is easy to recognize due to the seven story high buildings, built on top of a hill. There are sixteen of these so called high-rises and twelve of them are home to students only. The apartments date back from the sixties and on each floor you will find two corridors with twelve student rooms each. Corridor parties – BYOB! – can go really crazy here. Last year at the end of the spring term, a whole building teamed up and organized a massive party, offering different types of music on each floor.

Next to the high-rises there is also an area of low-rises, which offer more apartment style housing to a mixture of students and other people. These blocks of houses look very uniform and the numbering system is supposed to be based on the shape of a snailhouse, but in practice everybody simply gets lost. Even the dog of a friend of mine who lives here consequently messes up to find its way home…

“Every night starting at exactly 10 pm, students will go out on their balconies to scream as loud as possible.”

Then there is this Flogsta scream. Every night starting exactly at 10 pm, students will go out on their balconies to scream as loud as possible. The exact history is unknown, but the behaviour started somewhere in the seventies and it is nowadays a long standing tradition. Screaming at any other time of day or night will not be appreciated nor replied to by other screamers. And make sure you’re ready at 10 pm, punctuality is everything in Sweden. Perfect let-out for all your exam stress!

If you search ‘Flogsta scream’  on youtube you will find several homemade movies like this one, by fabianll

So now you’ve heard enough about Flogsta’s ‘wild side’. I want to add a little to this post showing you what I appreciate most: The stunning location. Flogsta is situated on the Western edge of Uppsala and surrounded by hilly fields and forest. There is a very popular loop that goes roughly from the low-rises to Kvarnbo(an old mill), Håga and back. Any time of day you will walk into people walking their dogs, bikers, runners and horse-riders. I enjoy going running here but this time I took my camera with me and went for a hike instead, so I could make a good shot of my favourite spot:

My favourite place, from the bridge near Kvarnbo

Anything to add on this topic? Reply below.


Around Uppsala: Ekoln

I was thinking it could be nice to start a small series of places worth a visit in and around Uppsala. After all, the place where you are going to live can be an important factor when choosing a studies abroad. I knew very little about Uppsala – and actually about Sweden in general – but found myself very lucky with this cosy, vibrant student town, surrounded by beautiful nature. So once in a while I will give you a small impression about my favourite spots. Starting with this beautiful lake, or should I say, sea?

View from the terrace at Skarholmen restaurant, which offers very fancy fika

Ekoln is the most Northern part of lake Mälaren, which is the third biggest lake of Sweden. And actually, you might question if you can really call it a lake, as it is directly connected to the sea. In theory you could kayak all the way from this lake to Stockholm, on to the Baltic. Might take a few days though! Ekoln is located about 10 km southwards of Uppsala city, but only 3 km away from our campus Ultuna. This makes it a perfect place to go for a hike or picnic in the weekend, or just to clear your mind after a busy day at university.

“Ekoln is located about 10 km southwards of Uppsala city, but only 3 km away from our campus Ultuna.”

Though in summer it can get really crowded, during the rest of the year you will find it peacefully quiet around here. There are several activities to do in and around the lake. But beware that most of them are only open in the summer season. Unfortunately we found ourself in front of a closed kayak rental the other day, so beware! Next to renting kayaks you can also rent little boats, there are several nice swimming areas and there is an outdoor climbing facility. In summertime there are possibilities for windsurfing whereas in winter ice-skates are rented out in case the lake is fully frozen.

Someone kayaking between the ice left-overs last Easter

To get to the lake you can either hike, bike or take a bus (to Sunnersta). If you are hiking or biking, there is a beautiful path going along the Fyrisån river which you can follow from Uppsala southwards. You simply can’t get lost, or you’d have to try really hard, haha. In a next post in this ‘mini-series’ I would like to tell you more about Fyrisån river and the special traditions around it. Feel free to question or comment below.