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Facts and history of Uppsala

Uppsala is one of Sweden’s oldest cities. It was known as Östra Aros up until the 13th century, when the name Uppsala took over. Today, Uppsala is one of Sweden’s four major cities and is world renowned for its universities, its magnificent cathedral and the legacy of Carl Linnaeus, among other things.

Uppsala has a long history

In order to explain the history of the city, we need to begin roughly 5 km to the north. This was the site of Uppsala 1,500 years ago, the power centre of the land of the Swedes and an important place of worship. You could sail there via the river Fyris, or the river Sala as it was known in those days. It was an important centre for trade and ‘ting’ gatherings. You can still find the remains of the ‘ting’ site (Tingshögen) here, where the general assembly met and created laws and effected administration of justice.

It was also here that three kings were buried in individual burial mounds in the 6th century. The mounds, with their characteristic hillock shape, are now a symbol of Uppsala.

At the beginning of the 12th century, Sweden was christianized. In 1164, what was then Uppsala was made an archbishopric, and also became the religious centre of Sweden for around 100 years. In the mid 13th century, the city’s cathedral was almost destroyed in a fire. This, and the fact that the land elevation made the river Fyris practically impossible to navigate so far north, resulted in the archbishopric being transferred to the community of Östra Aros, 5 km to the south. In 1286, the new Uppsala was founded. Uppsala became Gamla Uppsala (Old Uppsala) and Östra Aros became Uppsala. A new cathedral was built and inaugurated in 1435.

Development of the new Uppsala

The new Uppsala similarly became an important trading centre, but also a city of learning, when the first university in Scandinavia, Uppsala University, was founded in 1477. World-renowned scientists such as Carl Linnaeus, Anders Celsius and Olof Rudbeck the elder carried out their work here.

The straight streets are characteristic of Uppsala. In the 17th century it was the fashion to plan cities on a grid basis instead of the previous practice of unstructured streets. Many buildings were torn down, new streets were constructed and Stora torget was built, with its unusual closed corners. This was the first square of its kind constructed in Sweden, with the streets intersecting in the middle of the square, while the buildings join up at the corners. Normally the streets run along the sides of the square.

The Uppsala of today is a modern city

Uppsala today is a modern city, yet retains a small-town feel. It is home to two universities, the archbishopric of the Church of Sweden, a rich cultural life and beautiful scenery. The city is well known for its progressive research.

Quick facts

Notable people from Uppsala

  • Alva Myrdal, diplomat, cabinet minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner
  • Anders Celsius, scientist and astronomer best known for the Celsius temperature scale used in thermometers throughout the world
  • Bror Hjorth, artist
  • Carl Linnaeus, botanist who created a system for biological classification and naming, the basis of which is still used today throughout the scientific world.
  • Cecilia Wikström, member of the Riksdag and MEP
  • Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General of the UN and Nobel Peace Prize winner
  • Ebba Busch Thor, Christian Democrat party leader
  • Gunnar Leche, architect
  • Gustaf Fröding, poet
  • Gösta Knutsson, radio producer and author of Pelle Svanslös
  • Ingmar Bergman, film and theatre director, scriptwriter, theatre manager, playwright and author
  • Karin Boye, poet and author
  • Magdalena Andersson, Minister for Finance and cabinet minister
  • Mattias Klum, nature photographer
  • Nathan Söderblom, archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner

Welcome to Uppsala

Uppsala is just 38 minutes from Stockholm and 18 minutes from Stockholm Arlanda Airport. We are close to all the attractions of central Sweden and home to many of them. 
Find out more about Uppsala here.


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