About a 40 minute train ride north from Stockholm’s Central Station, Uppsala is largely known as a university town, but it is also home to numerous historical and cultural sites. Uppsala Cathedral (“Domkyrka”), the largest and tallest church in Scandinavia, is located at Domkyrkoplan, a short walk from the train station. The rose-hued Gothic towers loom over the town at nearly 400 feet tall. Construction of the original cathedral began in 1270 and took over 100 years to complete. Consecrated in 1435, the cathedral was severely damaged by a fire in the early 1700’s, having been restored in the late 1900’s. The cathedral holds the tombs of several prominent Swedes including King Gustav Vasa, botanist Carl Linnaeus and philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg among others. Across the way from the Cathedral on an islet of Fyrisån River is Upplands Museet (S:t Eriks torg 10), the county museum of Uppland. The museum is housed in the old Academy Mill from the late 1700’s. The permanent exhibits focus on the cultural history of the region, while temporary exhibits are of an international context and highlight more contemporary events. Carl Linnaeus, Sweden’s best known scientist, resided in Uppsala for 35 years. Visitors can visit his former home, now the The Linnaeus Museum (Svartbäcksg. 27), located within The Linnaeus Garden, which was the first botanical garden in Sweden, founded in 1655.
From the central station where the train arrived from Stockholm, catch the local bus (no. 2, 110, 115, 127) to Gamla Uppsala (“Old Uppsala”), one of the country’s most significant historical sites. Touring the area, visitors can view the royal burial mounds from the 6th century and the 12th century cathedral. The Gamla Uppsala Museum (Disavägen) explains the origins and importance of the ancient monuments in the area and tells the stories of powerful kings, vikings and medieval pilgrims that shaped the history of the old town. Be sure to stop at Odinsborg, a restaurant and cafe located in an old Norse-style building, to enjoy some homemade mead, which they willingly serve in viking drinking horns when enough are on hand.
You can give us herring
And you can give us sill
But you will still be erring
Unless you also will
Give us a glass of Akvavit
That sure smells sweet
To Swedes in heat
It gives the fish its feet
It makes the dish complete
-Herring & Sill, Swedish Drinking Song
An unpretentious museum that gives a thorough history of the country’s drinking culture and production processes. The price of admission includes an audio guide that directs visitors through the museum’s interactive layout. You can tour at your own pace by simply aiming the laser pointer connected to your headset to the corresponding target on each exhibit. During the tour, you’ll pass through a recreated tasting room from the 1920’s, K. A. Nydahl’s wine store and a distillery. There are approximately 7,000 items on display throughout the museum, with one of the most popular being the scent organ, which allows visitors to push a button to release a burst of air scented with one of 50 scents from different aquavit and liqueur spices.
In addition to the self-guided tour, the museum offers the option to specially arrange a tasting tour where you can sample four different Swedish drinks as you tour the museum or you may conclude your visit with a private tasting of wine, whisky, brännvin or champagne.
Dalagatan 100, Stockholm
Hotel Birger Jarl’s creative design concept affords guests the opportunity to have a unique experience each time they stay with the hotel. Specializing in modern design, the hotel recruited the help of numerous Swedish interior designers and tasked them with designing and furnishing each individual room. The result is a variety of meticulously thought out guest rooms that each convey their own personalities. Each room grade has a design touch, even the “retro room (rm.247),” which, as the story goes, was accidentally left out of the renovations due to its inconspicuous location at the end of a hallway. Once the mistake was noticed, the decision was made to renovate the room while staying true to its original furnishings and feel. As a result, walking into Room 247 feels like walking into 1974.
Tulegatan 8, Stockholm
In simple terms, the exhibits at the Nordiska Museum explore the trends and traditions of life and work in Sweden throughout various time periods. Although this is an accurate summary of the museum’s objectives, it fails to highlight the value of the unexpected and varied items on display, which more likely than not will be what most visitor’s remember when they think back upon their visit. Of course, it is expected that a museum depicting day-to-day life will showcase everyday items to aid in the visualization of what life was like, but that being said, the Nordiska Museum seemed to have a special way of sneaking in one or two things to each section of the museum that seemed to detract from the exhibit rather than enhance it. By way of illustration, a small section features popular toys. The items are mostly vintage metal toys, but slipped into the display case amid the other items was a Nintendo Gameboy Color (that’s circa 1998 & not even the original Gameboy). Another unusual feature were the mannequins. Several poor children from different eras were eerily placed throughout the museum. Even the use of mannequins within the actual exhibits seemed odd and made it feel more like walking onto a stage production rather than through a museum. All and all, despite most of the exhibits consisting largely of props and lacking a certain level of authenticity that you may expect from a museum, it is definitely worth a visit for its entertainment value alone.
Suspended 33 meters above the neighborhood of Slussen underneath the Katarinahissen walkway, Gondolen is one of the best and most unique bars in Stockholm. In the bar, cushioned bench seats along the long row of windows offer wide-spanning views across Slussen and Gamla Stan (the Old Town). The near thirty page long cocktail list ranges from classics to more innovative drinks such as the På Kanelen (ginder vodka, cinnamon syrup and lemon juice) or Staroshka (gin, sour grapefruit, fresh lime, fresh ruby grapefruit, sugar and pamplemousse Monin). Although the quality of the drinks is far superior than those of other bars in the city, the prices are not inflated. Between the panoramic views and quality of service, Gondolen is the ideal start or finish to any night out. The bar tends to get busy and with the limited space it’s best to show up early or to make a table reservation for dinner.
Stadsgården 6, Stockholm