The seaport of Luleå is the capital of Norrbotten County and there are enough reasons to visit Lulea. This is a dynamic city with everything from tech industries and steel to a growing tourism sector, broad service industry, and creative, new industries such as digital design and film production.
For a town of its size Luleå, Sweden has its fair share of top-notch restaurants. Here you will also 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 Lulea, this Swedish city has much to offer; keep reading for you have come to the right place.
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Reasons To Visit Lulea, Sweden
Luleå may not be as well-known as other Swedish cities, but don't be fooled.
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, courtesy of the light of the midnight sun. 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.
In Lulea, 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 a local Luleå will keep you engaged.
Best Time To Visit Lulea
Whether you visit Lulea in the winter or summer, this Swedish city has plenty of things to do, that will surprise you! Being located so close to the Arctic Circle, Lulea gives you a new perspective on daylight and darkness, something that is not likely to fade from your memory forever!
During the winter, the Luleå night remains nearly dark, making it the ideal location to spot the iconic Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights. However, we are not saying that you cannot witness the Northern Lights during summers.
What about the summer in Lulea? It’s the opposite contrast of the winter. Here you can experience the Midnight Sun. You can enjoy an array of outdoor activities that will make you wish that summer could last forever.
Wondering what to do in Lulea?
Just arrived in Luleå and keen on getting an overview of the region? The best place to start when you want to learn about Lulea's history and culture is the Norrbottens Museum. 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.
Explore The Lulea Archipelago
The extensive Lulea 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 Lulea is kayak paddling. This is a fantastic way of feeling close to nature, the water, and the calm environment. The Lulea archipelago has many other attractions, such as birdlife, barbecue areas, saunas, and cabins. You can also watch the great icebreakers by the harbour.
Get Mesmerized By The Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis
One of the main reasons to visit Lulea is undoubtedly the Northern Lights. You can see Aurora Borealis, the mesmerizing Northern Lights from many parts of Europe, but they are strongest and most common in the north as you get closer to the Arctic Circle. Throughout history, the lights have fascinated people and it's magical when you see them dancing across the night sky over Lulea.
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 Lulea night sky.
The Northern lights have no timetable and can occur at any point during the darkness 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.
Enjoy The Lulea Hiking and Bike Trails
If you love hiking or biking and wondering what to do in Lulea, 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 Lulea'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 Lulea. Here lies the church town of Gammelstad, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The historical 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 Lulea as a way of claiming the region for themselves before others could.
The church has 424 wooden houses built 500 years ago mainly for those Sunday church attendees 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.
Participate In Different Activities On The Ice Track
Still, wondering what to do in Lulea in terms of outdoor activities? 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 Lulea 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 Lulea, 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 Lulea. 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 University Campus, the Facebook data centre is labelled by a small and unique sign that reads Facebook. The data centre and its Lulea servers don't need so many fans to keep cool and are well served by hydropower availability. This must be included in your what to do in Lutea bucket list.
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 Lulea with family; this is an ideal venue where children and adults participate and learn together.
Take A Bite At Bastard Burgers
This popular food joint in Lulea 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 their versions of the Berlin Cheesedog, the New York Original Streetburger, and the Chicago Beefdog. Down the burger with some leading local beers.
How To Get To Lulea
Now that you know what to do in Lulea, 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 the Lulea’s city centre, off Prästgatan. The city 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 Lulea 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.
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 Lulea is by air from Stockholm Arlanda airport.
Getting Around Lulea
As we have discussed above, there are enough reasons why you should visit Lulea. What about getting around the city? Well, for starters, you could always rent a bike and roam around the Lulea 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 Lulea.
Lastly, what about accommodation in this part of Sweden? Your list of what to do in Lulea will be accomplished better, knowing that suitable and safe accommodation is available. The Luleå Council has constructed cottages that are available all year round for rent.