In this addition of the Euroculture City Guides, Bryan Bayne (American/Brazilian), who spent his first semester at Palacky University Olomouc, will give you an insight into life in the Swedish city of Uppsala, where he attended Uppsala Universitet during his second semester.
The City Guide Project is led by Paola Gosio and Felix Lengers.
Euroculturer Magazine (EM): Why did you choose to study and live in this particular city?
Bryan Bayne (BB):I love Sweden and wanted to spend a full semester there. I chose Uppsala due to its proximity to Stockholm and its reputable university.
EM: What are the aspects you appreciate the most about the city and which ones are those that you like less?
BB: Uppsala has its charms. Its quaint center is charming and its river Fyris is quite romantic. The city is unique in that it feels like a small town, but has a strong international vibe—you can find anything and anyone here. Its inhabitants are very diverse and this is the city’s greatest strength.
What I disliked most about Uppsala was the suburban feel of the city. Apart from the charming-but-small center, most of the city is comprised of generic suburban landscapes.
EM: Was it easy to communicate with the locals or did you encounter any issues? Do you have any tips on how to deal with the language barrier?
BB: I speak Swedish, so had no issues communicating. Nearly all Swedes speak English to an advanced level and if you do not pronounce Swedish words perfectly, they will reply in English—making it quite difficult to learn the language.
EM: If you were in the city for 1 day as a tourist, what would you certainly do?
BB: During the summer months, I would visit the city park Stadsträdgård and the nearby palace Uppsala Slott, stroll around the Fyris river and the lovely city center, and visit the cathedral Domkyrkan. Afterwards, I would have a fika at an outdoors café, like Güntherska, one of the finest in town. I would then visit the historical district Gamla Uppsala, where you can have a picnic by the burial mounds of ancient Viking kings and visit the local museum to learn more about the Vikings.
During the winter months, I would skip Gamla Uppsala and the city park and would spend more time indoors. If the weather is nice (clear skies, not too cold), visit King Björns burial mount Hågahögen for the best view of the Northern Lights.
EM: Do you have recommendations on nice places in the surroundings of the city to take daytrips to?
BB: Stockholm is just an hour away, but there are plenty of other day-trip options. There are many hikes near Uppsala; I particularly enjoy hiking from Flogsta to Håga, Ekeby, or Kvarnbo. During the summer months, visit the coastal region of Roslagen, especially the towns of Norrtälje, Osthammar, and Öregrund. In Norrtälje, be sure to stroll around the beautiful river and cozy town center before heading to the gorgeous Borgmästarholmen island. For more great summer options, visit the first capital of Sweden, Sigtuna. It is a tiny but beautiful location perfect for picnicking.
For larger cities or year-round options, check out Örebro, around an hour and a half from Stockholm. It is one of Sweden’s most beautiful medium-sized cities, with a charming town center and an imposing Rennaissance castle on a river island. Another nearby option is Västerås, a large city by the huge Mälaren lake. Västerås itself is quite average—it looks like any generic Scandinavian city—but the lake is well worth a visit.
EM: What would you consider the best local dishes and which places serve them best?
BB: The meatballs! You must try REAL köttbullar, not the awful IKEA stuff.
Swedish food is divided into three categories: traditional Husmanskost, fancy New Nordic, and the ubiquitous fika pastries. For traditional food, you must try Gravadlax (Swedish salmon), inlagd sill (pickled herring), Toast Skagen (shrimp toast) and räksmörgås (shrimp sandwich), steak Wallenberg, the delicious meat-filled potato dumplings known as Kroppkaka, and the Rådjursteak (rheindeer steak). For fika food, the cinnamon and cardamom buns are a must, but be sure to also try the chocolate balls!
Unfortunately, Swedish food is quite difficult to find, as Swedes prefer having homemade Husmanskost and would rather go to international restaurants. In Uppsala, try the traditional Odingsborg in Gamla Uppsala and the food market Saluhall for some tasty Swedish food. The best café is Café Årummet, but my favorite is Kafferummet Storken.
It’s also good to keep in mind that almost all restaurants in Sweden offer a heavily discounted lunch menu from 11:00 to 14:00 on weekdays. That’s the best way to try the local dishes!
EM: Do you have some recommendations of good restaurants for vegans and vegetarians and other special diets?
BB: As I am not a vegetarian, I cannot make many specific recommendations of restaurants. Nevertheless, Sweden is one of the most vegan-friendly countries in the world, and finding options is easy. For example, all burger places, including fast foods, allow you to swap the meat patties for Beyond Meat. You can literally get vegan alternatives for every burger on the menu. Most restaurants also have vegan alternatives to their dishes. Saluhallen has great vegan food.
EM: Where you would go to have a drink or on a night out with friends?
BB: In Uppsala, all student social life revolves around the nations. These are student clubs that offer bars, restaurants, nightclubs, board gaming events, and everything else you can imagine. You need to pay a small fee every semester to join a nation and this will give you access to all the nation pubs in town. I myself love Uplands nation, which has amazing decor, a fantastic selection of tap and bottled beers, and lots of board games to rent. GH (Gästrike-Hälsinge) also has an excellent selection of beers and drinks, and V-Dala has a lovely rooftop bar for sunny days. If you are into clubbing, Snerikes-Värmlands is known as the foremost clubbing nation. Plus, if you are a nation member, you can usually invite one non-member friend with you, as long as you book a table in advance.
Outside of the nations, honestly, I would not recommend anything in Uppsala, as non-nation pubs in Uppsala are rather expensive. You can check the schedule for nation events here; there’s always something going on for every kind of student.
EM: How do the prices of the city compare with the one you were in for your other semester? What were some of the cheaper goods and what were some of the more expensive goods? (e.g food, museums, public transport)
BB: Uppsala might be the most expensive city in Euroculture. Compared to my first semester in Olomouc—the cheapest town—it was quite a culture shock. Rent costs between 435€ for an apartment in the loud, party neighborhood of Flogsta to 580€ for a more centrally-located studio. A one-month transportation card costs 60€, but beware—in Uppsala, only nation members pay student price for transportation. This card includes busses (but not trains) to the airport as well as to all cities I mentioned in the daytrips part. It also gives you a hefty discount for trains to Stockholm: just 2.5€, instead of the typical 10€ or so.
Lunch usually costs 10€ or 11€. Dinners are much more expensive, at 15 to 20€ for a meal. A beer at a nation bar costs around 3.5 to 4€, whereas in other bars the average is 6€. Coffee usually costs 2.5 to 3€, but is refill—I would frequently refill it 7 times and spend a whole day studying in a café. Fika pastries usually cost 2 to 4€.
Thankfully, groceries are roughly the same price as the rest of Western Europe, so a budget-conscious student can make do with just 800€/month. It should be noted, however, that fresh fruits and vegetables, especially those that aren’t native to Scandinavia, tend to be much more expensive than elsewhere. A more realistic budget, going out at least once a week and traveling a bit, would be 1000-1200€.
EM: Which websites/sources did you use to find an apartment in the city and what tips would you give to someone moving in the city?
BB: The University offers guaranteed housing to all international MA students, as long as you apply within the deadlines. You can check all neighborhoods and prices and choose which ones you’d prefer. I would strongly advise taking the guaranteed housing, as trying to find a house on your own is nearly impossible in Uppsala’s chaotic rental market. Swedish students take on average one year to find their own housing and spend the first year of their degrees on temporary accommodations or their parents. If the Swedes find it difficult, don’t try it yourself.
When choosing which neighborhood to live in, just keep in mind that Flogsta is a party neighborhood. It features shared kitchens (most other neighborhoods are studio-only apartments with kitchen included) and is great for socializing with neighbors. However, it is quite loud… Just google “Flogsta scream” and you’ll see. Another relatively loud party neighborhood is Rackabergsgatan, though it is not as hectic as Flogsta. Most other neighborhoods are rather quiet and well-connected to public transportation and feature good bike lanes, so just choose which one you fancy best.
EM: In short, to whom would you recommend choosing your city as an Euroculture semester destination?
BB: To anyone who wants to experience a truly international and cosmopolitan city. Uppsala is a melting pot where countless cultures meet and it is just one hour away from the even more cosmopolitan, progressive and forward-thinking Stockholm. I would strongly recommend it for everyone who wants to experience the Scandinavian lifestyle.
Picture Credit: Personal Pictures and Ricardo Feinstein (Flickr)