We know and love Sweden for many things: Arctic adventure, innovative tree and ice hotels, fika…What’s perhaps not so well-known, however, is the little city of Lulea, nestled on the east coast of Swedish Lapland. Not only home to a UNESCO-listed Old Town and award-winning cuisine, Lulea is also the gateway to the snow-dusted forests and Northern Lights for which Swedish Lapland is so famed. Read on for five reasons why Lulea makes for the perfect Lapland winter city break.
1. The Northern Lights
Northern Lights over Lulea's church
The draw for many a traveller who heads north to Scandinavia, Lulea is no different to its Finnish counterparts when it comes to spectacular auroral displays. Just 68km from the Arctic Circle, Lulea’s lack of light pollution, long winters and dark nights offer truly beautiful spectacles. While the auroras can be viewed in the city, they're best witnessed with the likes of snowmobiling and snowshoeing excursions with the help of an expert guide, who’ll take you just outside the city in search of that illustrious lightshow.
2. Ice roads
Ice trail, Lulea
Lulea is surrounded by ocean and is one of the few places in the region where the sea ice actually freezes over up to a metre thick. This means, from December, Lulea is extended into a frozen wonderland of snow and ice trails, where you can snowshoe, skate, walk and sled across the bay directly from the city centre. Between February and March, depending on the thickness, you can even drive your car across the ocean – with some roads even stretching all the way to the surrounding archipelago’s islands.
A visit to Lulea is truly not complete without a visit to the quaint Gammelstad (Old Town). This UNESCO-listed treasure is one of the country’s best-preserved examples of a 15th-century Scandinavian church village, all winding laneways, 400 ancient wooden houses painted in that emblematic ochre red and a stone 1400s church. Dusted in winter’s snow, it’s a truly idyllic scene – best explored with a stroll before a warming fika in one of the cosy cafes. Fancy exploring Gammelstad and more of Lulea’s delights? Our winter city break includes all this and more.
4. The food
Fresh salmon, Swedish Lapland
Sweden’s reputation for excellent food is continued in Swedish Lapland – in fact, Lulea is home to many eateries that are listed in the prestigious White Guide, a curated handbook of the best restaurants in Scandinavia and the Nordics. Local produce is the order of the day in Lulea, from elk carpaccio and smoked arctic char to pike pate and hung beef from Norrbotten County farms. It’s all served in everything from traditional bakeries and seafood bistros to cocktail grills and craft breweries that serve up moose tacos and tuna tartar gyoza tacos. For something extra special, why not visit Brandon on our evening Northern Lights Dinner Experience? Enjoy a hearty local dinner as you wait for the aurora to emerge above the frozen Bothnian Bay.
5. The landscapes
Dogsledding in Lulea's forests
Surrounded by the city is its beautiful archipelago – home to 1,312 islands of rocky shores, lakes and woodlands. Come winter, it's all given way to frozen rivers, snow-dusted forests and silent, blanketed valleys – making for the perfect base for activities like husky sledding and snowmobiling among the winter wilderness as you explore between the islands. We recommend heading out with a guide to the island of Brandoskar, a charming fishing village with an 18th century chapel and, in the clutches of winter, endless fields of pack ice on the edge of the bay.