Umeå: visit the largest city in Norrland

FR FlagDE FlagFR Flag

As the largest city north of Uppsala, Umeå is considered the capital of northern Sweden. As the cultural centre of the region, the European Capital of Culture 2014 is now a real insider tip for Scandinavia fans who want to visit more than just the typical travel destinations in Sweden. If you can imagine travelling to northern Sweden, you can find out everything you need to know about activities, travel and accommodation in Umeå here!

Why travel to Umeå?

Umeå is a city of contrasts: densely populated, it forms the young and modern centre of a sparsely populated region known for its impressive and wild nature. Thanks to its 32,000 students, the city has a lively, intellectual flair and attracts visitors with a number of museums and exhibitions, particularly on art and design. Since Umeå was European Capital of Culture together with Riga in 2014, the cultural offering has expanded once again and the infrastructure and general cityscape have been improved.

If you decide to go on a winter holiday to the north of the country, you can experience plenty of snow, cold and northern lights in the “City of Birches”.

Umeå: Holidays
A trip to Umeå means modern city life in wild nature.

The nickname “City of Birches” comes from the approximately 2,300 birch trees that line the streets and avenues of the city centre. These birch trees were planted after a tragic accident: in 1888, many parts of the city were destroyed by a major fire. As birch wood is half water, the trees were then planted as a natural fire barrier.

Where is Umeå?

Umeå is the capital of Sweden’s second northernmost province, Västerbottens län. The city is located at the mouth of the river Umeälven on the Gulf of Bothnia, the northern part of the Baltic Sea, and thus directly on the Swedish north-east coast. This also means that the Finnish coast is relatively close; the Finnish coastal town of Vaasa, to which there are also ferry connections, is only about 100 kilometres away as the crow flies. Other Swedish cities are a little further away, but if you are planning a road trip through Sweden, you can easily link them together. It is around 570 kilometres to Uppsala and 630 kilometres to Stockholm. To the north, Luleå is around 270 kilometres away and Kiruna is around 600 kilometres away for those who want to go all the way north.

Weather in Umeå

If you are travelling to Umeå, don’t forget to bring warm clothing: the city has a moderate to cold climate. However, due to its location by the sea, temperatures are warmer and milder than in inland Sweden. For sun lovers, the best time to visit is between May and September, with average temperatures reaching up to 20° Celsius in July. Winters, on the other hand, are cold and dark, but snow is guaranteed.

Umeå: Weather
Umeå has typical Scandinavian winter weather with lots of snow.

Activities and sights in Umeå

Picture museum

The Bildmuseet Umeå is located on the art campus of the local university and has been attracting visitors with international contemporary art and visual art since it opened in 1981. Visitors with an interest in art will get their money’s worth in the various exhibitions on photography, design and architecture. The museum, which is within easy walking distance of the city centre, also hosts regular lectures and interviews with artists.


Umeå: Väven
Väven is the cultural heart of Umeå.

The new cultural centre Väven (meaning “fabric”) was opened in Umeå during the 2014 Capital of Culture year. The striking and modern building, which consists of a four-storey building and a 13-storey tower, is located directly on the banks of the River Umeälven in the immediate vicinity of the city centre.

In the centre you will find museums (including the Kvinnohistoriskt Museum), the city library, cinemas, two hotels and several shops and restaurants. There is also a varied programme of cultural events and activities throughout the year, including concerts, lectures, discussion forums and fashion markets.

So if you want to feel the cultural spirit of the city, Väven is definitely not to be missed.

Guitars – The Museum

Also as part of the Capital of Culture year, what is probably the world’s largest guitar museum, “Guitars – the Museum”, was opened in Umeå. It contains the private collection of twin brothers Samuel and Michale Åhdén, who have amassed more than 500 guitars over the last few decades, mainly electric guitars from the 1950s and 60s. There are guided tours of the museum twice a day, which are not only worthwhile for music and rock fans.

Out and about in Umeå’s nature

If you want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life, you can easily retreat to the beautiful nature of the region. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the mountains, forests, lakes and coastal landscapes around Umeå, including hiking, canoeing and white water rafting. The Grössjon nature reserve is located close to the city and can be reached in 30 minutes by public transport. Here you can walk around the eponymous lake on a four-kilometre hiking trail or watch birds from a viewing tower. The areas around the lakes Taveljön and Nydalasjön are also ideal for varied and extensive hikes and exploratory tours.

Umeå: Nature
Umeå is surrounded by beautiful nature that invites you to explore.

Accommodation in Umeå

Hotels in Umeå

As a modern and open city, Umeå has plenty of hotels to offer. In a hotel in the city, you are often right in the centre and have everything on site and within walking distance, so depending on the location, you are hardly dependent on a car and don’t have to do without a certain level of comfort. Everyone will find the right accommodation in Umeå, whether a chic design hotel or a simple B&B. Particular highlights include the modern Hotel U&Me or the historic Stora Hotellet, both of which are located in the heart of the city. A tip for nature lovers is Granö Beckasin, where you can spend the night in a bird’s nest high up in a treetop.

Camping in Umeå

Camping holidays in Umeå are particularly popular in summer. You are a little outside the city centre and not right in the middle of it, but you have the peace and idyll of nature all around you. Camping in Sweden is particularly suitable for families or larger groups who have no problem sacrificing a little comfort. For visitors travelling through or on a road trip who want to be completely independent and inexpensive, wild camping, which is permitted in Sweden, is also an option. You can find out what you need for this in the article on wild camping in Sweden.

Travelling to Umeå

Travelling by plane

Umeå has an airport in the south of the city. With a stopover in Stockholm, Umeå can be reached easily and conveniently from the UK. You can rent a car locally, but the well-developed public transport system also makes it easy to explore the city and surrounding area without a vehicle.

Travelling by train

If you want to travel to Umeå in a relaxed manner and don’t want to be rushed, you can get there by train. You can also take a look at other parts and cities in Scandinavia. There are direct trains from Stockholm to Umeå several times a day, or alternatively there is also an overnight train. The journey time from Stockholm is around six hours.

Travelling by car

Umeå is an ideal destination for a road trip through Sweden. The city is located on the European Route 4, which also runs through Stockholm. Once you have reached the Swedish capital, the remaining journey time is around seven hours. There are a number of exciting places to stop off at along the way, such as the town of Sundsvall.

SCANDICookie Consent with Real Cookie Banner