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Uppsala is Sweden's student city, with Scandinavia's oldest university and a buzzing party scene. Don't let the youthful culture fool you though; this is also a historic city with a medieval castle and the 6th-century ruins of Gamla Uppsala just outside. Uppsala makes a convenient base for hiking part of the 400km Upplandsleden walking trail. Be sure to join the locals and stop for fika, the time-honoured Swedish coffee break, between sights.
For a truly unique experience, spend the night at an Uppsala hostel on a house boat and have breakfast on deck in the morning. There's also a 19th-century building with wooden beams and exposed brick, and another with pretty floral themed rooms. Most Uppsala hostels are within walking distance of the city centre and have mixed and female-only dorms as well as private rooms. You can cook for yourself in communal kitchens and share drinks with new friends in the social areas.
The centre of Uppsala straddles the Fyris River, with Uppsala Slott (the castle) and the cathedral on one side and elegant Stora Torget square on the other. A few steps from Stora Torget is the main shopping street, Svartbäcksgatan, a former workers' district that's now filled with specialist shops and bars. Flogsta is the student neighbourhood, where you can party until the early hours, while the Luthagen district has a lively café scene and lots of green space.
There's plenty to keep travellers busy. You can visit the Botanical Gardens simply for the marvel of walking through a rainforest in the middle of Sweden. For more typical Swedish scenery, spend a day paddling the Kolarmoraån River Canoe Trail. The route starts at Lake Vällen, less than an hour from the city. Uppsala Cathedral is the sight that dominates the city skyline and is the tallest in the Nordic countries. It houses the 15th-century golden dress of Queen Margaret – the only medieval evening gown in the world. An alternative way to experience local culture is at Fyrisbiografen, a cinema that's been showing independent movies since 1911.
You can fly into Stockholm Arlanda Airport, then take the 45-minute shuttle from there to Uppsala. The main train station is in the city centre and has services to Stockholm (40 minutes), Gävle (45 minutes) and Östersund (5 hours). Most local buses around the city depart from outside the train station, and you can buy tickets inside the station or download the UL app. The historic centre is compact enough to explore on foot.