Luleå is a coastal city in Swedish Lapland just a couple of hours away from the Arctic Circle and the Finnish border. But just because it's far up north it doesn't mean there aren't plenty of reasons to visit this lovely Swedish city.
Visit in the summer and marvel at the midnight sun. See Luleå in the winter and be fascinated by the northern lights. Besides, Luleå is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts who want to get out and explore. And yes, there are plenty of top notch restaurants in Luleå too!
Come to Luleå and discover an enticing archipelago of islands and a sparkling bay with a beautiful marina. The Norrbotten County capital is an important high-tech centre, the home to the Luleå University of Technology, and the new European Computer Center, the first investment by Facebook outside of the US.
It was in 1649 when the town relocated from Gammelstad to its current location largely due to the falling sea levels. If you plan to visit and are not sure what to do in Luleå, this Swedish city has much to offer; keep reading for you have come to the right place.
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What is Luleå known for?
Luleå may not be as well-known as other larger cities in Sweden, but don't be fooled as there's plenty to do and see here, especially for explorers who love the outdoors.
Lulea is known for having the first indoor shopping mall in the world. It was designed by architect Ralph Erskine and opened in October 1955. Have a look around and get your perfect souvenirs from Sweden.
The Luleå archipelago is open all year round, allowing you to visit this part of Sweden any time of the year. And know what? Summer doesn't end as the sun doesn't really set. In the real sense, you might not get midnight sun, but can you imagine taking a walk at 1.30 in the morning without having to rely on any streetlights? You will be left wondering whether the sun is about to rise or set – something so special!
In summer, you can sail and paddle around the clock by the shores in the Gulf of Bothnia. Whether it's summer or autumn, you will easily access the largest islands on the Luleå archipelago by tour boats. What about in the winter? You can do much even in winter as special ice roads are prepared that enable you to snowmobile. You can even drive a car on the ice road or just venture out in the surrounding countryside.
In Luleå, there is a surprising number of fun things to do and exciting places to visit. Whether you are visiting for a couple of days or coming here to stay for a while, Luleå will keep you engaged.
Best time to visit Luleå Sweden
The best time to visit Luleå is in the summer from June until September. The temperatures are still on the cold side with the highest average temperature being around 18°C in July. You will still need to pack a jumper, some waterproofs and a warmer jacket just in case. Summers are fantastic in Luleå as you get to enjoy those long lingers sunny days, when the sun just never sets. If you are not used to this, bring your sleeping mask with you, it will help, promise! Summers are perfect as the Luleå city centre comes to life. Sit down by the beach and enjoy a cup of coffee with a view.
Luleå while on the northern coast has the continental climate prevailing but just note that it's not uncommon for winter temperatures to fall to some -20°C. Winters, while cold, they look dreamy and enchanting. Seeing the true north in the winter is a joy, especially as you can see the beautiful aurora borealis dancing in the skies. In the winter, the sea ice freezes over up to a metre thick meaning Luleå becomes this sunning and still frozen wonderland. Cosy up by the fire in a traditional Scandinavian home, then come out to snowshoe, skate, walk and sled across the bay directly from the town centre.
Things to do in Luleå Sweden
Just arrived in Luleå and keen on getting an overview of the region? Head over to the tourist office for a map and some information on the current events and activities.
Start your itinerary at the Norrbottens Museum and learn about Luleå's history and culture. Although relatively small, the area covered by the Museum is vast. The county of Norrbotten covers up a quarter of the country's enormous surface area, and although it's home to only 250,000 people, around 75,000 of them are found in or around Luleå.
The permanent exhibitions at Norrbottens Museum are attempts at pulling the varied influences of the vast region together. The Museum also has temporary exhibitions that vary every year, focusing on diverse subjects such as infectious diseases and handicrafts.
Besides a well-stocked gift shop, the Museum hosts a child-friendly gallery with the theme of 1900 farmstead. Children will have lots of hands-on things to do, such as getting dressed up in fancy, old-fashioned clothes, pretending to bake bread in the bakery. The farmstead even has a cow to milk.
Love the outdoors? Book this 8 day wildlife tour from Luleå.
Explore the Luleå Archipelago
The extensive Luleå archipelago contains over 1312 islands, most of which are uninhabited, making them the perfect destination for camping, skinny-dipping, berry picking, and many other things to do. The larger islands are decorated with classic Swedish red-and-white summer cottages, easily accessible by motorboat from Luleå. Book your cabin early to avoid disappointment as the facilities are limited, although most visitors come as day-trippers.
A good reason to visit Luleå is kayak paddling. This is a fantastic way of feeling close to nature, the water, and the calm environment. The Luleå archipelago has many other attractions, such as birdlife, barbecue areas, saunas, and cabins. You can also watch the great icebreakers by the harbour.
Take a pleasant stop by the nice beach in Luleå. Surprisingly as it may be, there are plenty of small sandy stretches in Luleå, perfect for a relaxing summer afternoon in the sun. It's not uncommon to see locals enjoying a picnic together by the shores.
ENJOY THE Luleå HIKING AND BIKE TRAILS
If you love hiking or biking and wondering what to do in Luleå, then you are in luck. Hiking in this part of Sweden is idyllic, almost like you are strolling through the annals of history about this unique city. What about taking a hike across the expansive Bälingeberget.
Before the land-uplift, Bälingeberget was just in an islet in the sea with the waves slapping against the rocks that now make the mountain hiking trail. No wonder Bälingeberget is among Luleå's most popular hiking and biking excursion spots. From the 139- meter-high mountain summit, you have a fantastic view of the landscape carved by the Lule River.
Are you feeling energetic? Continue the bike hike and visit the nearby Gammelstad Church Town.
GET BACK IN TIME AT GAMMELSTAD
A short drive from the city centre, you will discover one of the best reasons to visit Luleå. Here lies the old church village of Gammelstad, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The historical old town boasts of an ancient church constructed in the 15th century and over 400 houses made of wood.
Established as a colonial outpost, Gammelstad was more for administrative purposes than religious. Back then, most of these territories were not attached to any state, so the Swedes built Luleå as a way of claiming the region for themselves before others could.
The church town has 424 wooden houses built 500 years ago mainly to house church visitors who couldn't make it home on Sundays before nightfall. It's now a UNESCO recognized World Heritage Site. You will be amazed to discover that the church is still used in the way it was half over a century ago. The same rules that applied to owning one of the houses in Gammelstad still apply today.
To get to Gammelstad, take the local bus number 10 from Luleå which drops you right at the church. there is free entrance but you can pay for a guided tour if you prefer.
PARTICIPATE IN DIFFERENT ACTIVITIES ON THE ICE TRACK
One of the most popular winter outdoor activities in Luleå is the ice track. Ploughed on the frozen waters surrounding the city centre, the ice track is ideal for cycling, walking, ice skiing, skating, or kick-sledging. The Luleå ice track is legendary for its high quality and is one of the largest of its kind globally.
The arctic location freezes the Lule River and the Bay of Bothnia during wintertime. The frozen water becomes a gigantic event arena suitable for large and small winter activities. Some of the events you can enjoy here include part of the KPN Grand Prix, which is among the largest ice skating competitions internationally.
If you need a reason to visit Luleå, what about having a walk on ice? Try cycling on the ice with a fat bike or take a snowshoe walk. Imagine telling folks back home that you have been walking on water in Sweden!
VISIT THE FACEBOOK DATA CENTRE
A Facebook facility may not be top among your reasons to visit Luleå. Nevertheless, the Facebook European Computer Center will be a unique experience. Facebook chose Luleå as its first data centre outside the United States because of the local climate's natural cooling, available cheap electricity, clean energy, and reliable electrical networks.
Located near the Luleå tekniska universitet, the Facebook data centre is labelled with a small and unique sign that reads Facebook. The data centre and its Luleå servers don't need so many fans to keep cool and are well served by hydropower availability.
MAKE A DATE WITH THE TECHNOLOGY HOUSE
Are you tech-savvy? The Technology House or Technicians Hus is a Swedish science centre in Luleå. Sponsored by the Luleå University of Technology, Sweden's northernmost science centre is one of the country's first. Opened in May 1988, the Science Center has hosted over 4 million visitors, and there's no reason you cannot be the next visitor.
As part of the nation's Solar System, Technicians Hus contains a Sedna 3D model in place since 2005. Programs containing workshops and different forms of science communication take place on holidays and weekends. These are suitable if you visit Luleå with family; this is an ideal venue where children and adults participate and learn together. Who knows, maybe your little one will be so inspired that will venture to study computer science at the technical university here in Luleå.
Did you know the university also offers master programmes in space science?
TAKE A BITE AT BASTARD BURGERS
This popular food joint in Luleå could benefit from a name change, but you cannot afford to skip Bastard Burgers. Very popular, this is where you can have a chat with the locals and get to know what is happening around town as you bite into a juicy burger.
While the signature burger is famously known as The Bastard, the food joint goes international with its versions of the Berlin Cheesedog, the New York Original Streetburger, and the Chicago Beefdog. Down the burger with some leading local beers. It is one of the top restaurants in Luleå.
HOW TO GET TO Luleå
Now that you know what to do in Luleå, how do you get there? The coolest way of getting to Lulea is by train. The train station is a short walk to the east of Luleå's centre, off Prästgatan. The city has an extensive rail network and receives long-distance trains arriving from across Sweden, including Gällivare, Kiruna, and Abisko. From the south, the city is connected to Stockholm, Umeå, and Sundsvall.
Overnight trains to Luleå from Stockholm take about 13 hours. For the best travel experience, why not take a sleeper cabin and enjoy the ride. During summertime, there's light almost all the time.
You can also take a night bus from Stockholm to Luleå and the average time will be 12 hours.
Love driving? Why not rent a car and have a great adventure exploring the beautiful Scandinavian country along the way.
However, no doubt, the easiest and fastest way of getting to Luleå is by air from Stockholm Arlanda airport. There are daily scheduled flights and you'll fly into Luleå airport commonly called Kallax airport. The shuttle bus to the city center costs 50 SEK each way, and its departures are based on the flight schedule. There are several flights available every single day. The flight time is 1 hour and 20 minutes.
GETTING AROUND Luleå
As we have discussed above, there are enough reasons why you should visit Luleå. What about getting around the city? Well, for starters, you could always rent a bike and roam around the Luleå bike trails. Feeling more adventurous? Get a ‘fat bike', the off-road bicycle at Ouroborslulea and have some fun!
Or why not rent a car and explore the city and its surroundings. Either way, you are guaranteed to get the best of Luleå. You are just two hours away from Finland and just 3 and half hours away from Rovaniemi, the official home of Santa Clause.
Where to stay in Luleå Sweden
It's easy to find a quality hotel in Luleå, but don't worry, we did the research for you. We recommend a hotel close to the centre which is ideal for summer or winter visits. If you want to enjoy a more romantic experience deeper in the countryside, we've got options for small private cabins in Scandinavian style.
Mid-range: Hotel Elite Stadshotellet Luleå
Overlooking Stadsparken and the North Harbour, this hotel is situated on Luleå’s main street, Storgatan. A wide selection of different whiskies and beers are available at the English-style Bishop Arms Pub. There a well-equipped gym and you can rent bikes straight from the reception. There's parking available on-site. The prices start from £100 per night.
➡️ Book on Booking.com
Mid-range: Villa Luleå Village Cabin
Book a two-bedroom villa with a private kitchen, patio and all the amenities you may need for a perfect vacation with the family. The cabin is a typical nordic Scandinavian house. Prices start from £116 per night.
➡️ Book on Booking.com
Mid-range: Hotel Clarion Sense
This newly opened hotel is located in the very centre of Luleå and features unique photo art and seasonally inspired designs. This property is part of a Travel Sustainable programme, which means it’s taken significant steps to make your stay more sustainable. A standard double starts from £95 per night.
➡️ Book on Booking.com
Can you see the northern lights in Luleå Sweden?
Yes, you can and one of the main reasons to visit Luleå is undoubtedly the Northern Lights. You can see the mesmerizing Aurora Borealis from many parts of Europe, but they are the strongest and most common in the north and Luleå is the perfect location for it. Throughout history, the lights have fascinated people and it's magical when you see them dancing across the night sky over Luleå.
Aurora Borealis, shrouded in mystery and magic, is the reaction of particles from the sun that collide with parts of the earth's outer atmosphere. They follow the solar winds' whimsical swings. You will be awestruck by the sparkling light in blue, green, and sometimes even red, that sweep over the dark Luleå night sky.
The Northern lights have no timetable and can occur at any point during the dark hours, and the duration can vary. In Luleå, they are visible from late August until early April. The stars are too bright during the rest of the year for the natural phenomenon to be visible.
How far is Luleå Sweden from the Arctic Circle?
It takes just two hours drive to get from Luleå to the arctic circle, an area that occupies one-sixth of the Earth's surface. Did you know that the word arctic comes from the greek Arktos which means bears? It refers to the native polar pears but also the constellation Ursa Minor.
Is Luleå worth visiting?
Yes, Luleå is worth visiting. It's a lovely city in Northern Sweden that really entices you to explore the outdoors. Many visit Lulea as part of a longer Scandinavian road trip. Wroth adding it to the itinerary.