Umeå – up close and personal
Get to know the city by taking this 90-minute guided walking tour that takes you around the city’s civic buildings and sites of historical interests. Your guide will tell you the story of how this once sleepy hollow transformed itself into the biggest and probably the most progressive city in northern Sweden.
Cycling is a great way of exploring and discovering a city, especially one as compact as Umeå. There are plenty of bike paths and plenty of bicycle hire firms. Try the city’s own bike hire scheme. You’ll need a valid ID. Otherwise, let someone else do the peddling by getting around by rickshaw (yes, they have rickshaws in northern Sweden) or by bus.
Cultural, heritage and art
Umeå is part of the county of Västerbotten and Västerbottens Museum, a 10-minute walk from the centre of town, is the county museum. It is currently undergoing extensive renovation and expansion but it’s still worth visiting for its permanent and contemporary cultural exhibitions, artworks, photo archive, Sami cultural heritage collection and exhibitions and others. Free admission.
Also for free is the much awarded Umedalen Sculpture Park. Normally you’d find works of this quality in world-class museums and art exhibitions, not among the pines of Umeå. This is a permanent exhibition of Swedish and important international artists’ work. Were we to name drop we’d mention Louise Bourgeois, Anish Kapoor and Clay Ketter. Garden fans will love this place for the garden created by Ulf Nordfjell, one of Sweden’s best landscape architects. Interested in more art in Umeå?
A must-see in Umeå is the Bildmuseet at the Umeå Arts Campus by the Ume River. The seven floors of this award winning building are a visual and audio feast of contemporary art, photography, architecture and design.
Guitars – The museum. Umeå brothers Samuel and Michael Åhdén possess one of the world’s largest privately owned collections of guitars. You can visit the experience-based, interactive exhibition of electric guitars, basses, amps and music accessories at Umeå Guitar Museum. The museum houses about 500 exhibits altogether. Alongside the exhibition the museum arranges lectures, temporary exhibitions and presentations of new developments.
The Väven cultural centre is centrally located in Umeå. It has the mighty Umeälven river on one side. On the other, there is the city’s heart, with malls, shopping districts, squares and parks. This is an optimal location. It is easy to find and easy to get to it on foot. Thanks to its bright, undulating façade, Väven is an architectural landmark of high international class. It was designed by Norway’s Snöhetta and Sweden’s White Arkitekter.
The Women’s history museum, the only one of its kind in Sweden is located in the new cultural centre. To highlight structures and ideas about male and female, the new museum will raise the profiles of women in historiography. It will be a living museum that attracts repeated visits. The Women’s history museum will surprise. It will also twist and turn aspects and perspectives. It is to be a place for action, laughter and debate.
With the kids
This is Sweden for goodness sake, there’s a ton of stuff for kids to enjoy. You’ll find most of what Umeå has to offer by way of family fun here. Highlights include the Elk House, Europe’s first elk park. Open during the during the summer months, the kids (and you) get to learn about, see and pet these giant beasts of the Swedish forests. Elk-centric fun for the entire family.
Eateries (and kayaking…)
There are some 40 cafés, pubs and restaurants clustered around Umeå city centre that will suit most tastes and pockets. If you are going to visit Umedalen Sculpture Park then pay a visit to Bistro Le Garage that is located in its grounds. Go for the northern Swedish cuisine with an international touch, using local produce and ingredients. It’s one of Sweden’s best 500 restaurants and gets a mention in The White Guide, Sweden’s biggest and best restaurant guide. So what’s the deal with kayaking in the heading? In Umeå they do something called ‘gourmet kayaking’ which involves calorie-burning paddling among the beautiful isles of Skeppvik’s archipelago followed by a sumptuous buffet at Skeppvik’s Manor House.
And, of course, you can’t leave Umeå without sampling delicious Västerbottens cheese, which is king of the cheeses up here. This legendary hard cheese of northern Sweden is made and specially matured only in Västerbotten. Cheese lovers should visit Ostens Lager (cheese storeroom) in Ånäset, outside Umeå. This is the world’s largest cheese storeroom, containing 100,000 maturing cheeses. You get a guided tour of the facility and you get to taste Västerbottens cheese – what more could you want?
List of eatries in Umeå.
Hey, it’s the land of the midnight sun and almost constant daylight in the summer months. Who needs to sleep when you can party. And with 36,000 students in town, there are plenty of good pubs, bars and clubs to choose from.
Yes, there is shopping in Umeå, of the shopping centre, design boutique, vintage and second-hand and crafts sort. Utopia and MVG are the standout shopping centres.
Set as it is in the wilds of northern Sweden, Umeå is an ‘outdoorsy’ kind of place with lots of nature adventures to be had. The list includes skiing, x-country skiing, snowmobile tours, dog sledding, river rafting, survival skills and bushcraft and wintertime pony trekking. Honestly the list is almost endless.
But if you only have a couple of hours to kill in Umeå here’s some stuff to get up to.
Umeå visitor information