On a beautiful and summery Friday afternoon in August you get off the train and onto the platform in Luleå. You have 48 hours to do something exciting in a place you’ve never visited before. The only thing you’ve done in advance is reserve accommodation. But what to do, while you’re here?
Afternoon: You check in to Hotel Savoy, three hundred metres from the railway station. (Perhaps this goes without saying, but it’s still worth pointing out that there are many more hotels in the city. The chains Elite, Clarion, Scandic are all here, as well as private actors where charming Amber is also near the railway station).
Once you’ve checked in and put comfortable shoes on, you head out onto the streets. Savoy is located on the pedestrian road that runs through the centre. Here you’ll find plenty of restaurants and cafés, as well as the shops you need if you’ve forgotten something or just fancy some shopping. You have an afternoon coffee at Börje Olssons Café. BO’s, as it’s known, has served pastries to the inhabitants of Luleå since 1958. Three years earlier, nearby Shopping was inaugurated – the first indoor shopping centre in the world, designed by Ralph Erskine.
Dinner: Luleå is located by the water, where the Lule River meets the Bothnian Bay. There’s a rich archipelago life here, and even if you don’t have your own boat, you can visit these islands using the many tour boats available – MS Laponia offers several routes, for example. On the Friday afternoon, at 4:15 pm, you board the boat to take an archipelago tour around the entire Luleå archipelago – all the way to the islands furthest out, like Brändöskär where artist Ola Taube has a studio. The trip takes five hours.
You read about Luleå, enjoy the archipelago air, drink white wine, and eat a cosy, slow dinner onboard. If you don’t want to travel the entire way around the archipelago you can jump off at Klubbviken and jump on again when the boat returns. If you would like some more sand between your toes and another kind of restaurant, that is.
Luleå is the largest city in Swedish Lapland. Here you will find shopping, entertainment, nightlife, and a wide array of White Guide listed restaurants located close to the world’s largest brackish water archipelago with 1,312 islands, rivers and vast forestland. Experience our seasonal contrasts – from snow, cold temperatures and a frozen sea in winter – to sunshine, warmth and midnight sunlight in summer. From September to March, you can spot the fabled northern lights, Aurora Borealis, when the sky is clear.
Have a chat with the local tourist information for more insights visitlulea.se
Curious about living in Luleå?
Check out flyttatilllulea.se
Nightlife: The boat trip in the archipelago comes back to the south harbour ‘Södra Hamn’ and a five-minute walk takes you through the city to the north harbour ‘Norra hamn’. In summer, and if the weather is as nice as it normally is in Luleå, Norra hamn is the place to go. Bryggan, Bistron and Hemmagastronomi have popular terraces. Another popular spot is the terrace at Elite Stadshotell. If you don’t feel like being surrounded by crowds, the cocktail bar at Clarion Sense offers a lovely alternative with its cosy roof terrace.
Early morning: You wake up early and put on your trainers. Either you take the route around Skurholmsfjärden, or you can opt for a walk/run along the water on the peninsula that Luleå is. Both options are easy to find once you’ve asked for instructions at reception. You’re back in good time to enjoy a nice and quiet breakfast.
Morning: You head over to Shopping, where else – the architect-designed shopping centre is a must. Then you continue walking through the city. Your plan is to take a look at the exhibition at the County Museum, Norrbottens Museum, just past the County Governor’s house.
On your way back you walk by the water in the north harbour, enter the House of Culture and take a look at the summer’s photo exhibition in the entrance. You ask for some ideas at the Tourist Office and decide that a bus trip to Gammelstad Church Town, a UNESCO World Heritage, will be your excursion for the afternoon.
Gammelstad Church Town
In 1996, UNESCO included Gammelstad Church Town on the list of world heritage sites. The area is thus, with its unique environment, invaluable to humanity – and must be preserved for future generations.
Lunch: You might think that a visit to north Sweden is all about eating Kalix Löjrom (vendace roe), Arctic charr, ptarmigan and reindeer and that Arctic cuisine is just smoked, cured, or barbecued. Not many people know that Luleå could be said to be Sweden’s hamburger centre. The Bergfors family from Gällivare moved here and founded MAX. This is also where Bastard Burgers first opened and in the beginning of 2022 they opened their first restaurant in the US, in the East Village on Manhattan. This means you can eat your New York burger in Luleå, and your Luleå burger in New York. A bit like that quote in Havana, supposedly by Hemingway, for those who remember such things. “My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita.”
Afternoon: The bus to Gammelstad leaves from Smedjegatan (the centre) and doesn’t take more than 20 minutes. You get some information in the Visitor Centre by the square and think that a guided tour would have been exciting, but then you realise the weather is so nice and decide to just have some ice-cream and amble around this idyllic summer spot for an hour or so before getting the bus back to the city. That Hemingway quote stayed with you, so you go for a cocktail at the Clarion roof terrace before returning to your hotel to get changed.
Dinner: Luleå has a number of restaurants and cafés on the Swedish White Guide list. Hemmagastronomi, that we mentioned earlier, also has awards from White Guide Nordic. But instead of heading to the north harbour like you did yesterday, you choose to go to the south harbour and the restaurant Arkipelag, by the boats. You have a snack plate and a starter before you walk through the city to work up an appetite and find a table at restaurant Gusto’s patio to finish your summer dinner with something barbequed. Before the evening has come to an end, you’ll probably end up having a drink in the north harbour anyway. Or at Hotel Savoy, where the music is said to continue until early morning.
Morning: The sun is still shining, so after breakfast you take the first boat out to Klubbviken. The tour boat M/S Stella Marina leaves several times per day. The first tour is at 9 am, and it’s a good idea to book it before 8 pm the day before. Klubbviken offers several fun options if you want to do something other than just sunbathe – perhaps rent a fatbike or a SUP board. Or take a walk along the gravel roads on Sandön. It’s Sunday anyway, and you take it easy in the sun until it’s time for lunch at the archipelago restaurant.
Packing up: As the afternoon approaches, you jump on the boat back to Luleå. It’s time to think about going home. As you approach the city, you wonder what it’s like here in winter. They say there’s a nice ice road around town. Perhaps a skating adventure next time?