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A small city, just north of Stockholm, Uppsala is dominated by the Uppsala University, which provides the town with an energetic nightlife and cultural institutions like the Museum Gustavianum. The exuberant population throws itself into festivals and parties alike, and Uppsala has many bars and clubs, as well as a variety of cafes and restaurants.
However, there is more to this city with a history stretching back to the Bronze Age. The original settlement was founded on the west bank of the Fyris River, with the more modern and commercial city taking shape across the river to the east.
Uppsala's long past means it has many historical sites and beautiful buildings, including the Uppsala Cathedral, which is Scandinavia's largest church; and the Gustavianum, which contains the Museum of Nordic Antiquities, the Victoria Museum, and the University's cultural history collections. Another site of architectural interest is Uppsala Castle, situated on a hill near the university and home to several more museums.
Uppsala is a pretty city, with a number of botanical gardens and parks, including Carl Linnaeus' personal garden. Pedestrian walkways like Svartbäcksgatan are pleasant to stroll along, amid shops and cafes.
Most of Uppsala's attractions are within walking distance of the city centre. However, there are several interesting places to visit further out, including Hammarby Estate and the beachside town of Älvkarleby. Three miles (5km) north of the city is Gamla Uppsala, the remains of an ancient town of great importance, which is accessible by bus.
Three miles (5km) north of Uppsala, Gamla Uppsala was once an important town, the seat of Swedish royalty and the site of many historic funerals. It was an important religious and cultural centre as early as the 3rd century AD, and ancient sources identify the site as the power centre of the legendary Yngling dynasty of Swedish royalty. The Uppsala temple oversaw rites and sacrifices to the Norse gods in the pre-Christian era, and it was said that Odin himself resided there.
However, as Christianity overtook Europe, the ancient temple was burned and the stone church of Gamla Uppsala was built in the 12th century. The church still stands today, along with a grave field of about 250 burial mounds. Once, between 2,000 and 3,000 ancient burial mounds could be found at Gamla Uppsala but farmlands have encroached on the archaeological treasures. Gamla Uppsala also has a small museum detailing the rich history of the town, and a few historic old buildings.
Today, Gamla Uppsala has a population of under 20,000 and it is a picturesque little town, well worth a visit for its historical atmosphere and beautiful surroundings. Visitors can spend the day on a guided tour (available during the summer months). The main attractions include Gamla Uppsala Museum, Gamla Uppsala Church and the open-air museum behind it, and Odinsborg restauarant. The town is accessible from Uppsala by a quick bus trip.
The Uppsala Cathedral dominates the city skyline as the tallest church in Scandinavia at 390 feet (119m). Also called the Uppsala Domkyrka, it was built in the 14th century for royal coronations and is now the seat of the Archbishop for the Lutheran Church of Sweden. A number of Swedish kings and other prominent citizens are interred inside. The exterior of the cathedral is made of red brick, with a French Gothic interior featuring murals of St Erik, the patron saint of Sweden. In the summer months there are often lunch-time concerts on the tower balcony. Those interested in the cathedral's history should consider hiring a guide as there is a wealth of history on display in the church. There is also a small museum housing ecclesiastical relics and a graveyard with elaborately-carved tombstones. The cathedral has a small gift shop and cafe. Considered by many to be the top attraction in Uppsala, and much-loved by the locals, the cathedral is a hub of activity in the community, frequently hosting events and plenty of live music.
The Linnaeus Garden was founded in 1655 as the first botanical garden in Sweden. It wasn't until the 18th century that Carl Linnaeus, a prominent Swedish botanist zoologist, physician, and father of modern taxonomy and ecology, redesigned the garden and began cultivating plants under his own system. It now contains roughly 1,300 plant species and is maintained by Uppsala University. Within the garden is the Linnaeus museum, which was the scientist's home for 35 years. The garden is a living complement to Linnaeus' work; he designed the plot to demonstrate his theories to his students, choosing each plant for a purpose. Although the garden fell into a state of disrepair for more than a century, it was faithfully restored in 1917 using the detailed plant lists and garden maps of Linnaeus himself. Although in many ways the garden is an academic exercise, fascinating for people interested in subjects like phenology, it is also a beautiful botanical space in its own right and can be enjoyed for its aesthetic quality alone. Guided tours of the garden are available but must be arranged in advance by phone or email. There is a restaurant in the garden for refreshments.
A vibrant university city, Uppsala is a fun destination with history and culture aplenty. The city's most renowned attraction is the Uppsala Domkyrka, the largest cathedral in Scandinavia, which contains a wealth of history. The city also boasts many museums, with the Museum Gustavianum a favourite amongst travellers.
For book lovers, the university library, Carolina Rediviva, is also a wonderful treat. There are many pleasant green lungs in Uppsala, including the Botanical Gardens, the Linnaeus Garden, and the Stadstradgarden. A short excursion up to the ancient Gamla Uppsala is an absolute must.
For those planning some serious sightseeing in Uppsala, the Uppsala Card gives travellers free admission to museums and some other attractions, with discounts on others. The card also allows free travel on public transport in the city and discounts in some shops and restaurants.
Buses and trains to Uppsala arrive at the station in the centre of town, within easy walking distance of most of the popular restaurants and attractions in the city. Driving in Uppsala can be confusing with many rather narrow and winding streets; the city is very bicycle and pedestrian-friendly, so it's a good idea to just park the car while sightseeing.
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