An Insider’s Guide To Exploring Uppsala, Sweden

Most people that go to Sweden for their first time head to Stockholm, a beautiful city that is well worth a visit. But just outside of Stockholm you will find another Scandinavian gem: Uppsala. It’s a university town, and founded in 1477, the university is the oldest in Scandinavia. The fourth largest city in Sweden, Uppsala has managed to keep its quaint feel, the center a mixture of cobblestone streets, old architecture, and local residents on bicycles.

For me, Uppsala is a combination of cozy cafes and brightly colored houses. Although it is big in population, the city center feels small and welcoming, and because it’s a university town there’s plenty to do.

You could spend several days in Uppsala, but if you have the time for a day trip or two from Stockholm, here are a few things that I never miss when I am there. And although traveling to Sweden isn’t necessarily “budget travel” (you can blame that on the exchange rate) these things are all reasonably priced and/or free.

What to see

Domkyrkan – Uppsala Cathedral

You can’t go to Uppsala without visiting the cathedral. It dates back to the 13th century, and in the middle of town, its spires stand high above the rooftops – it’s no surprise that it’s the tallest church building in Scandinavia. It is an active cathedral, with not only the traditional mass, but also presentations and concerts. Every Saturday there is a free concert offered in the afternoon – well worth a visit. Domkyrkoplan, www.uppsaladomkyrka.se

Botaniskaträdgården – Botanical Gardens

The oldest botanical garden in Sweden, Botaniska Trädgården was founded in 1655 and was originally used for teaching students about botany and pharmacy. Today the gardens extend over 34 acres with some 11,000 species from all over the world. The original garden is today called Linneträdgården, Linnaeus’ Garden. Here you will find a museum and a cafe. Entrance to the Botanical Gardens is free (except for the tropical greenhouse which is 40 SEK) and entrance to Linnaeus’ Garden is 60 SEK. www.botan.uu.se

Gamla Uppsala – Old Uppsala

Take a bus out to Gamla Uppsala (Old Uppsala) for a feel of ancient Viking times. Just outside of central Uppsala, Gamla Uppsala is a historical site that has. During the Iron Age, this site was home to an established society as well as a place with religious importance. Gamla Uppsala’s main draw are its great Royal Mounds, three large mounds that stick out of the ground and are covered in grass. There was much speculation as to their significance, but in 1846 an archeological dig showed that it was in fact a burial ground. The identities of the people buried inside are unknown, but they were certainly people of importance. At the local Gamla Uppsala Museum you can learn more about the history of the area and the Royal Mounds (entry fee is 60 SEK). The site is perfect if you want an outdoor getaway; there is a nice selection of trails making for a good walk or run, perfectly free of charge. After a walk, grab lunch or coffee at Cafe Odinsborg.

Godsmagasinet

In between the train station and the concert hall, Godsmagasinet is a design and craft gallery, featuring local artists. There are textiles, ceramics, jewelry and clothing, and if you are interested in Swedish design, this should be the first stop on your list. Explore the gallery and then grab a cup of coffee and an open faced sandwich in the cafe that’s located in the building. Rosalgsgatan 1, www.godsmagasinet.nu

Ulvakvarn

Just outside of Gamla Uppsala you will find Ulva Kvarn, Kvarn means “mill” in English, and sitting right on the Fyris River, Ulva Kvarn was in use as a watermill from the early 1300s all the way until 1960. Today you can visit the old mill house, built in 1759, but there is also an entire collection of local artisan studios on site, making and selling traditional Swedish goods from blacksmiths to jewelry makers. There is also a good cafe on site, so it makes for a perfect day trip from Uppsala to go and explore the countryside. Ulva Kvarn, www.ulvakvarn.com

Where to eat

There is nothing more Swedish than coffee and a baked good. Here are some of my favorite cozy cafes around the city.

Cafe Kardemumma

Located inside Uppsala’s library, Kardemumma is a quiet cafe in the middle of town. It has a quaint outdoor courtyard that’s very enjoyable in the summertime. They bake their own bread, and source much of their ingredients for sandwiches and salads locally. Try one of their chokladbollar. Svartbäcksgatan 17.

Cafe Linne Hörnan

An old fashioned styled cafe, Cafe Linne Hörnan is like stepping into a Swedish cafes from several decades ago. They serve breakfast, lunch and the traditional Swedish coffee break, fika, which means you can choose from a wide array of baked goods and classic Swedish cakes. Svartbäcksgatan 22, www.cafelinne.com

Ofvandals Hovkonditori

My mother ate here when she was a student at Uppsala University, and the decor and menu have barely changed. This bakery and cafe is an iconic Uppsala destination – it has been there since the late 1800s – and if you want a taste of traditional Swedish cakes, this is the place to go. Sysslomansgatan 5, www.ofvandahls.se

Getting there

Getting to Uppsala from Stockholm takes 55 minutes on the train, just enough time to enjoy the scenery and drink a cup of coffee. Because it’s a common commuter line, there are frequent departures and tickets can be purchased at the Stockholm central station. A one-way ticket costs between 80-100 SEK (about $12-15).

%Gallery-184863%

[Photo Credit: Anna Brones]

More SXSW goodies: Free Lonely Planet Austin Guide for your iPhone

Lonely Planet AustinIf you are heading to Austin for SXSW, you already know that you’ll be getting free Gogo Inflight Internet access on Alaska, American and Delta. And now Lonely Planet throws in another freebie.

The good folks at Lonely Planet have a very pleasant habit of lowering the prices of their excellent guides to celebrate events. Today, they follow that tradition by launching their new Austin guide – for free.

The app covers things to do, where to eat, , where to shop, neighborhood basics and more.

Since SXSW is a real strain on mobile networks, you’ll be happy to know that the app includes offline maps.

It is available for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad and can be downloaded from the App store. The promotion started this morning and lasts till March 15 at 5PM PST, after it ends, the guide will go back up to its usual price ($5.99).

%Gallery-118715%

Renaissance Hotels releases Navigator App

I like Renaissance Hotels. Although I tend to stay away from big hotel chains, I like Renaissance because it’s a boutique line and every hotel of theirs is different from the others. Another thing I like about Renaissance? They have Navigators in place of the traditional concierge.

Renaissance Navigators are, in short, employees who are locals and in the know. I once walked into the Renaissance Pere Marquette in New Orleans and picked the brain of a Navigator on staff. I liked his recommendations. As a point of reference, I own TheAntiTourist. I don’t like being shooed off in the direction of obvious tourist spots and this particular Navigator gave me a run for my money with his list of off-the-beaten-path things I might like to do.

Why is this useful information for you? Because Renaissance recently released the Navigator app. And it’s free for the taking for iPhone, iTouch, and iPad users until February 28th if you use the code ‘intheknow’ on iTunes. So look it up. Take it. See how you like it. And then let us know.

Review: Not For Tourists New York iPhone app

not for tourists new york app nftFor those of you familiar with Not for Tourists books, you know that they are handy little guides designed to help locals (and visitors) discover new and interesting places that are oft-overlooked by the larger guidebook series out there. While their books are typically pocket-size and easy to carry, not everyone (especially actual locals) wants to always be toting a guidebook around with them. Sometimes you’re just out and about and have a specific need worth addressing. Whether it’s a place to buy a scarf because a cold spell caught you off guard or a strong need for a stiff drink after a long day, Not for Tourists books have always been useful. Now, however, they have an iPhone app for New York City that puts all the useful tips of their book right in your phone. I put the app to the test over the last few weeks. Since I live here, I’m very familiar with bars and restaurants in my neighborhood. However, I often need recommendations when I head to other parts of the city. I was curious to see if the Not for Tourist app would lead me astray or replace the friends I often call for suggestions when I head to other parts of town.When you open the app, you are presented with a list of neighborhoods. Rotate your iPhone into landscape and the list gives way to a map with neighborhoods clearly marked. Once you select a neighborhood, you are given a list of categories from which to choose. These include Top Picks, Restaurants, Nightlife, Shopping, Landmarks, Libraries and Museums. after choosing a category, a list of locations appears. From there, you can pick your poison and make your decisions.

The first thing I noticed about the Not for Tourists app is that it is probably more beneficial to a local than a tourist (even though many tourists love their actual guidebooks). Information is limited within the app. Summaries of bars and restaurants are often only one sentence. If you’ve heard of a place before or received a suggestion from a friend, the NFT app is a nice supplement, but it is not a robust primary source of information.

On a recent trip to TriBeCa, I was at a loss for where to go for a drink. Since the NFT app is broken down by neighborhood, I simply selected TriBeCa followed by Nightlife. I was then presented with a list of bars. Bars are categorized but, unlike the paper editions of the books, the app lacks a key to decipher the pictures. While I could figure out that a knife and fork meant that the bar served food, I was unsure about other icons.

You can search by name if you are looking for a specific location. I selected The Ear Inn, a bar with which I was somewhat familiar, to see what NFT had to say about it. The app included a one line synopsis and a lengthy description of the bar that was incredibly useful. Then I decided to select a bar with which I was completely unfamiliar. I tapped “Toad Hall” and was provided with a very basic description stating “Laid back vibe with SoHo locals.” Unlike the write-up for The Ear Inn, there was no additional information provided. As such, the app essentially told me that the bar existed and not much else.

This was the case for additional searches over the course of the next few weeks. Most listings had simple one sentence summaries that were not terribly descriptive.

If you are a fan of NFT guides, are familiar with their aesthetic and typically agree with their suggestions, then the app is significantly more useful than random Yelp or Google Places reviews. If you’ve never used NFT guides before, the app is certainly too vague to distinguish itself from other apps and online resources.

Overall, the Not for Tourist iPhone app is useful for New Yorkers who occasionally are flummoxed when they leave their comfort zones. For visitors, it could be a helpful supplement to a fuller guidebook, but probably wouldn’t replace the Not for Tourist paper edition, which contains much more information and is a richer resource. Considering how small the actual NFT book is, I’d be more apt to keep that in my bag than rely on the app, considering how inconsistent the information is on the phone.

Thankfully, Not for Tourists has kept the price low. The New York app costs just $2.99 (as do their apps for San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles and elsewhere) and is available in the App Store. If you don’t feel like carrying around a book, the apps could be useful.

Review: yogoguide Paris online city explorer and trip planner

I’ve just spend a good part of my evening playing around with yogoguide – one of the coolest new online city explorer tools I’ve seen in a long time. At the moment, their service only covers Paris, but since that is my all-time favorite city I’ve got nothing to complain about.

Using the site is a treat – the center of the interface is a very clear map of Paris, to the left are categories, and on the right is where you’ll save your favorites. you can browse the map on your own, or let yogoguide point out the various categories. Once you’ve selected a category, you can narrow things down even more. For example – the hotels category sorts properties into luxury, charming, under 90 Euros, B&B, short term apartment rentals and hostels/camping sites.

Once you pick a sub-section, they’ll all be presented on the map ,and when you select a specific location, you get a handy little window showing reviews, the website, photos and more.

One of the smarter options on the map is the ability to overlay the metro map, the arrondissements and more – making it extremely simple to combine locations with reviews and ease of access. End result is that you can pick shops, entertainment, food and other activities and see on the map how to actually get there. Once you’ve explored the map and added favorites, you can even access the site using your mobile phone, which is perfect when you are abroad, just be sure you add an international data plan!

All in all, this is one extremely well designed city guide, but it is also just plain fun to use. The best part is that all your browsing can result in a perfect plan for your visit to this amazing city. All sections can be printed and you can save favorites to your yogoguide account. The site is free, as is the creation of an account, so head on over to yoyoguide and take it for a spin.