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.