UMEÅ is the biggest city in the north of Sweden, with a current population of 114,000 people, which means that an astonishing one in ten of the residents of Norrland live here. Demographically speaking, it’s probably Sweden’s youngest city, a notion borne out by taking a stroll round the airy modern centre: you’ll form the impression that anyone who’s not in a pushchair is pushing one, and that the cafés and city parks are full of teenagers. Indeed one in five people are in their twenties, figures that are partly due to the presence of Norrland University. Its youthfulness may well be responsible for the fact that Umeå is the one of the few towns or cities in northern Sweden where there’s an air of dynamism: new restaurants and bars are opening all the time, there’s a thriving cultural scene and by late 2012, the Botniabanan high-speed rail link to Stockholm should be completed, making it possible to reach the capital in just five and a half hours; a new combined rail and bus station is being constructed in anticipation.
The sound of the rapids along the Ume River gives the city its name: uma means “roar”. With its fast-flowing river – a feature few other Swedish coastal cities enjoy – and wide, stylish boulevards, Umeå is an appealing metropolis. It would be no bad idea to spend a couple of days here, sampling some of its bars and restaurants – the variety of which you won’t find anywhere else in Norrland.Read More
Around Umeå: Älgens hus elk farm
Around Umeå: Älgens hus elk farmUmeå is ideally placed for a jaunt to the Älgens hus elk farm in Bjurholm, a small village 65km west of the city. Driving around Sweden you may well have caught the briefest glimpse of the “King of the Forest”, Europe’s largest land animal, as tall as a horse but with antlers. The farm, though, provides an excellent opportunity to come face to face with these cumbersome-looking beasts and to learn all about their behaviour from the knowledgeable staff, who also make cheese from elk milk – a rare and inordinately expensive delicacy. Incidentally, elk love bananas, so you may wish to pack a few for your visit.
City of Birch Trees
City of Birch Trees
Umeå is sometimes referred to as the “City of Birch Trees”, after the trees that were planted along every street following a devastating fire in 1888. Most of the city was burnt to the ground in the blaze, and two-thirds of the town’s three thousand inhabitants lost their homes. In the rebuilding which soon began apace, two wide esplanades, one of which is Rådhusesplanaden, were constructed to act as fire breaks and help prevent such a disaster happening again. A decree was then handed down stating that the birch was the most suitable tree to add life to the town’s newly reconstructed streets; even today, the city council places ads for free trees in the local papers and provides free birch saplings every spring to anyone who wants them.