August 23, 2016

Uppsala Cathedral

As promised! Last week I wrote about our day trip to Uppsala but I saved information about the cathedral for a separate blog article (otherwise the Uppsala article would have been too darn long!).
Uppsala Cathedral is the largest and tallest church in the Nordic countries and shouldn't be missed when visiting Uppsala (in my opinion). Construction began in the late 1200's but building went slowly due to plague, war and the cold climate and the cathedral wasn't complete until the 1400's. Built in the French Gothic Style, the cathedral has changed somewhat through the years due to several fires which have damaged it.
Uppsala Cathedral was especially important for Swedish history during the Middle Ages and was where the coronations of the Swedish kings and queens took place up until the 1700's (when they were moved to Storkyrkan Cathedral in Stockholm). It is the seat of the Archbishop of Uppsala... the primate of all of Sweden since 1164 (both during the Catholic and Lutheran periods).
Gustav Vasa and wives...
There are many points of interest within the cathedral. For example you have several Swedish kings and queens buried here, including Gustav Vasa (often called the "father of the nation") and his son Johan III. Other notable people buried here include Emmanuel Swedenborg and Carl Linnáeus. The relics of St Bridget (founder of the Bridgettine Order of nuns and one of the six patron saints of Europe) and St Erik (legendary king and patron saint of Stockholm) are found in the Finsta Chapel within the cathedral.
Johan III at rest.
In the Treasury Museum, also located within the cathedral, you have an interesting collection of fabrics and gold & silver objects. Here you will also find Queen Margareta's gold dress (only surviving evening gown from the Middle Ages) and the only complete men's outfit from the Renaissance Era.
Check my earlier article on how to get to Uppsala from Stockholm and the Rival Hotel. The cathedral is located across the Fyris river from the train station and the walk takes about 20 minutes or so. If you get lost, just look for the 118+ meter tall towers which can be seen from many parts in the city.
118 meter high towers seen from afar.
Love is in the...

August 17, 2016

Day Trip to Uppsala

Whenever visitors to Stockholm take day trips outside of the city, a huge majority take boat trips out to the archipelago (maybe Vaxholm), Drottningholm or places like Sigtuna. But there are also places you can take day trips to by car or train, like Haga Park or Saltsjöbaden. Another popular place to spend a day is the city of Uppsala... which is just what I did the other day. Good to note: this is a day trip that can be done year-round.
Uppsala is located about 70 kilometers north of Stockholm, not too far from Arlanda international airport. As it is so close to Stockholm, many people commute between the two cities daily which means that travel is relatively uncomplicated. Uppsala is the fourth largest city in Sweden and, these days, is most famous as being the home of the prestigious Uppsala University and the seat of the Archbishop of the Church of Sweden.
Carl Linnaeus (hometown hero)
Uppsala has played a pivotal roll in the history of Sweden as far back as the Viking Age, when it was both a political and religious center. Already in the 1100's, Uppsala became the seat of the Swedish Archdiocese (when Sweden was still Catholic). The university was founded in 1477, cementing the city's roll as a place of higher learning, and is today the oldest and largest university in northern Europe. Many important events in Swedish history have taken place in Uppsala... like the death of St Erik (according to legend), the Sture Murders and the abdication of Queen Christina. It was also the home and workplace of famous Swedish scientists like Anders Celsius and Carl von Linné (Carl Linnaeus).
View of the botanical gardens from the castle.
There is a lot to see and do in Uppsala (you could easily spend a couple of days there) so it is a good idea to know ahead of time what you want to see and do. I took my visiting parents there and we hit the main attractions... the cathedral, castle as well as the Linneaus museum. We left Stockholm at around 10am and were back at about 4:30pm to give you an idea of how much time is needed. I will write a separate blog article later in the week for the cathedral and concentrate more on an overview, a look at the other sites we visited as well as travel in this article.
The river (stream?) Fyris cuts through the city and is nice to stroll along. To get from the train station to most of the sights (like the cathedral and castle), you have to cross the river. All of this is very walkable. The castle is up on a small hill and dominates the city's skyline. It isn't really a working castle anymore, but it is the location of an art museum,an easy walk uphill and gives you great views. The botanical gardens are also located just on the other side of the castle.
Bridge over the River Fyris.
Back across the river, on our way back to the train station, we visited the Linneaus museum and garden. Carl Linneaus (known as Carl von Linné after he was ennobled) was a zoologist and botanist in the 1700's. It was Linnaeus who came up with the formal naming of species with scientific classification (for example "homo sapiens") that we use today. The museum is located in the scientist's home and looks just like it did back in the 1700's and the gardens contain hundreds of plant species and was meticulously taken care of by Linnaeus.
Uppsala Castle.
All of these places (train station-cathedral-castle-museum) are within easy walking distance. One attraction that isn't and one that I would like to visit is Gamla (old) Uppsala. This is the old pagan part of the city (Viking Age) and is located on the northern outskirts of the city. Here you will find the royal mounds (three large barrows dating from the 4th century AD and legendary burial place of the gods Odin, Thor and Freya). You can also see the ruins of the first Uppsala cathedral and visit a museum dedicated to Gamla Uppsala. There are guided tours in English during the summer months.While it is located outside of Uppsala, it still is only a 15 minute bus ride from the train station.
Inside the Linnaeus museum.
To get from Stockholm to Uppsala, you have a choice of two types of train. You can either take a regular train which is run by SJ. This is the national train system and they have several departures every hour between Stockholm and Uppsala. The trip takes around 40 minutes and it is quite inexpensive (I think we paid about 100 SEK per ticket each way) and you can purchase them online or at the train station... either at one of machines or at the ticket office.
The Linnaeus gardens.
The other option is to take the Stockholm commuter train (pendeltåg) run by SL.  These run twice an hour and the trip takes around 50 minutes. A onetime ticket costs around 80-90 SEK depending on the type of ticket you buy. You can also use the Stockholm public transportation card, paying just a small extra fee as you journey cross county when going between the two cities. We do sell these cards to hotel guests at the Rival Hotel. If you are staying at the hotel and have any questions or want further information... contact me directly!
The train heading back to Stockholm from Uppsala station.
The cathedral seen from the castle (more on that in my next article)

August 10, 2016

Haga Park

The north gate (Haga Norra)
Stockholm often promotes itself as being 1/3 city, 1/3 water and 1/3 green area (park and woodlands) and every Stockholmer lives no more than 300 meters from a park. It is nice being so close to nature! One reason for these positive statistics is the Royal National City Park of Djurgården. Not only is it the world's first national city park, it is also the world's largest national city park (27 sq. km or 10 sq. miles).
Echo Temple
When most people hear "Djurgården" they think of the island of that name where many of Stockholm's most famous sights are located... like the Vasa Museum, Gröna Lund, Skansen and ABBA the Museum. But this island is only a small part of the larger park area with the same name which stretches up north around the city.
Brunnsviken lake
In the northern portion of the park, there is a lake called Brunnsviken and on the lake's west coast is Haga Park (Hagaparken). This park is very popular with Stockholmers and is one of Sweden's most visited recreation areas... both for the beautiful parklands and the many interesting buildings and sights in the area. Click for map.
Haga Park was created by King Gustav III in the late 1700's following one of the Age of Enlightenment's principal ideals of living closer to nature. Many of the king's grandest plans for the park came to an abrupt end when he was assassinated in 1792. However, much was completed and can still be seen/visited today... palaces, temples, pavilions, pagodas and gazebos. Click here for a list and description of the buildings in the park.
The Butterfly House
Of special note, especially for children, is the Butterfly House (Fjärilshuset). This greenhouse (once the king's palace kitchen gardens), with its tropical rainforest environment, is the home to 700 species of butterflies. Recently they have added an aquarium called Haga Ocean and has a popular shark tank.
The "Copper Tents" with café and museum of the park.
To get to Haga Park from the Rival Hotel, take the subway (green line) to Odenplan. From there you take bus number 515. The bus trip just takes 10 minutes and you can get off at either Haga Södra (south gate) or Haga Norra (north gate).
The Natural History Museum
Feeling a bit more adventurous? You can walk around the entire Brunnsviken lake. There is a well marked path and the entire walk is 11 kilometers long. On the east coast of the lake you will find many other points of interest like the Natural History Museum, the Bergianska Trädgård (botanical gardens) and Stockholm University. There is also a subway stop on that side (Universitet- red line) which makes travel a little easier.
Gustav III's pavilion.
Map showing the path around Brunnsviken with points of interest.

August 8, 2016

(Outdoor) Restaurant Svinet

In Gamla Stan (old town) there is a restaurant called Djuret ("the animal") where the menu concentrates on one animal, changing every few weeks. It might be duck for a few weeks, and then moose, followed by wild boar and so on. They call it "innovative carnivore cuisine". However, this is not the restaurant I visited last week. This is because during the summer months they close Djuret and instead open another restaurant in their inner courtyard, under the open sky, called Svinet ("the swine").
As the name suggests, pork is what they concentrate on at Svinet. This year they took it a step further and made it an Italian pork barbecue restaurant... Trattorian Svinet! Besides the menu, the statuary, foliage and checkered table cloths transports you to the Tuscan countryside. Being outdoors doesn't hurt either.
Tagliatelle Morelli
I had been curious about this restaurant so I took my visiting parents there for dinner. The menu is limited (only 3 main courses, several appetizers and desserts) but delicious. My father took the Tagliatelle Morelli with white wine cooked leg ragù and we opted for the charcoal grilled pork loin and homemade salsiccia sausage with rosemary potatoes and Naples salad.
Barbecue pork loin and salsiccia.
As the restaurant is outdoors, it is dependent on the weather. The long sunny summer evenings in Stockholm as well as it being in a courtyard and not on an open street keeps you comfortable... but dress accordingly. Svinet will stay open as long as the weather and temperatures allow and the cold forces us back indoors. Djuret reopens at any rate on August 10th.
Both Djuret and Svinet are located in Gamla Stan. Within the same building you also have some great bars like Tweed and Burgundy Bar. Well worth a visit themselves! To get there from the Rival Hotel, it is either a 20 minute walk or else you can take the subway 2 stops to the station "Gamla Stan". Click here for more restaurant recommendations.
Sign leading...
up the stairs to...
the outdoor Trattorian Svinet.