A Sunday in Umeå

I had just one day to explore this small city in the north of Sweden.

Umea

I only had one day in Umeå and wanted to make the most of it. I’d arrived late the evening before and though I hadn’t had chance to really take it in, I’d liked what I’d seen.

Next morning after breakfast I left the hostel and hit the streets. I passed lots of nice looking shops and coffee shops but, being Sunday morning, none were open.

Vasterbottens Museum
Västerbottens Museum

I made my way past the train station to the other side of town to the Västerbottens Museum. I’ve already written a post about this wonderful museum which has exhibitions covering all aspects of life in Västerbotten County, so I won’t go into detail again here.

The museum, which is a combination of indoor and outdoor museum sits on the edge of lovely woodland. After spending several hours in the museum and having a quick look round the open-air part of the museum (it was mostly closed for the winter so didn’t take very long) I had a wander into the woods.

Vasterbottens Museum
Västerbottens Museum

A map showed many trails of different lengths and as it was such a nice day I was tempted to try at least one walk out. What stopped me was I didn’t have my walking boots on and my knees were still complaining from the hard labour they’d had to put up with on the Kungsleden over the past month.

Vasterbottens Museum
View of Umeå from the Västerbottens Museum

Also I wanted to explore the town and time was short.

I left the wood behind and wound my way through residential streets to reach the river.

Umeå

I was aiming for the Art Museum which is part of the university campus. It’s a lovely location and I thought what a nice place it must be to study. Then I remembered what the winters must be like and as most of the academic year falls in winter the students mustn’t get to see much of Umeå when it’s at its best.

Art museum and clothes peg, Umea
The art museum is in the tall building

The art museum didn’t grab me. I usually like art museums, but although this one had about five floors of exhibits none of them stood out for me.

From one of the upper windows I spotted a giant clothes peg. When I got back outside I walked over to it but couldn’t find any information. I’ve since looked online and not found anything. Surely it must have some significance?

Umea, giant clothes peg

From the windows I also got nice views of Umeå and could really appreciate how green and forested this small city is.

Umeå
View of Umeå from the art museum

Next I walked along the river bank to the library and Women’s History Museum. The promenade along the river has been turned into a series of gardens, all different.

Umeå

There were plenty of nice places to sit and gaze at the water or just enjoy being amongst the flowers and foliage. Families were out in force making the most of what might be one of the last nice days for this year.

Umeå

By the time I got to the library I didn’t have much time. I found the museum and chatted to the curator, a young woman. The exhibition starts with taking your shoes off and going into a dark room.

Umeå
Approaching the library from the riverbank garden

Lots of ribbons of material dropped from the ceiling with a kind of pathway between them. At different stages images were projected onto old television screens or just onto swathes of material. Some of the images were of women talking and although there were subtitles I didn’t spend long enough to really get the gist of it. I wanted to get to the main part of the exhibition before it closed.

Umeå, Women's Hiistory Museum
I took this with my flash. It was actually really dark.

The main part of the museum wasn’t huge, but had plenty in it. As well as artifacts on display there was SO much information. I really wanted to get absorbed in it and read everything, but time was short. Fortunately, this museum has the all the text printed out onto A4 sheets. At each part of the exhibition you can rip the top sheet off the A4 pad and take the text away with you.

Umeå, Women's History Museum
No time to read everything? You can take it away with you.

I went on a ripping spree and got a copy of everything. It made interesting reading on the train to Stockholm that night.

Umeå, Women's History Museum

The museum focuses on history from a woman’s perspective. It was nice to see issues and important occasions documented from a female perspective instead of the usual male dominated one, but a shame that even today, and even in a country as gender equal as Sweden, a separate museum is still needed for this.

I left the museum and library as they were switching the lights off and locking the doors. I was hungry now as I’d missed lunch – I’d had such a big breakfast at the hostel I hadn’t felt the need to stop to eat earlier. But now I was ready for …

MAX!

I’d been waiting two years for this.

What is Max? Are you wondering if it’s a strange Swedish delicacy? Or maybe a trendy northern restaurant with a Michelin star or two?

It’s better than that.

It’s a burger bar. But not any old burger bar. It’s a chain with branches that can be found all over the country and looks similar in style to McDonald’s or Burger King. I don’t normally visit either of those two places, but two years ago when I was walking the first part of the Kungsleden I kept hearing about Max. Swedes and foreigners alike mentioned it, saying how good it was and how it’s more popular than McDonald’s with Swedes.

Now anything that can out-McDonald’s McDonald’s has to be checked out. First chance I got to go to one was in Luleå. I wasn’t expecting much as burger bars aren’t usually the best places for a vegetarian.

But they did the best veggie burgers EVER.

I ended up going there about three times as I travelled round Sweden.

Since then I’ve been dreaming about getting my mouth round one of their delicious Green Burgers, especially whilst I was living on knäckebröd (crackers) and squeezy cheese on the Kungsleden.

Heading back into the main part of town it was a lot more lively than it had been first thing. Most shops were already closed, but there were plenty of people around and the bars and restaurants were open.

It didn’t take too much wandering before I found what I was looking for. Had anything changed in the two years I’d been away? Did they even still do veggie burgers?

Well, things had changed.

Luleå, Max
This is Max in Luleå, but they all have these express ordering machines.

They don’t just do Green Burgers now, but FOUR types of veggie burger. Each one very different.

I sat down to the Green Burger I’d been waiting for and wondered if my cholesterol levels could cope with three more visits to Max in my remaining 24hrs in Sweden.

Once I’d licked my fingers and wiped the last spot of mayo off my chin it was back to the hostel to collect my backpack and then to the station to wait for the night train back to Stockholm.

I’d had a really good day in Umeå and would definitely recommend giving yourself a bit of time to explore the city and not just passing straight through like so many people do.

Would I go back? Yes!

I want to spend more time in the Women’s History Museum, explore some of the trails in the woods, visit the Västerbottens Museum again and be here when the shops and coffee shops are open so I can check them out.

There’s also a Guitars Museum which I didn’t get chance to go to. It’s fairly new and claims to have one of the finest privately owned collections of guitars in the world. I’m not particularly into guitars and know just about zilch about them, but I’d heard that this museum is good even for someone like me.

And of course, I still need to find out what that clothes peg’s all about.

What do you think? Is Umeå somewhere you might like to visit? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Author: Anne

Join me in my journey to live a life less boring, one challenge at a time.
Author of the forthcoming book ‘Walking the Kungsleden: One Woman’s Solo Wander Through the Swedish Arctic’.

4 thoughts on “A Sunday in Umeå”

  1. Hello Ane,

    Very nice reading about your umeå adventures. I have never been there, I haven´t been further north than Östersund. Did you manage to find out the big idea with the gigantic Clothes Peg sculpture? Looks weird to me.

    Umeå also is a university town and the link is: http://www.umu.se/english/?languageId=1#
    You should get the English version of the home page. I´m now doing an online course about Shakespeare´s Four Great Tragedies.

    Yes, MAX is a Swedish hamburger chain, that is fairly big, beside MacDonald´s and Burger King.

    If I´m not mistaken, Umeå is called the Town of the Birch-Trees.

    I should try to get to Umeå one fine day, but …

    1. Hi Elsa, yes, Umeå is known as the ‘city of birch trees’. The birch trees were planted after the town burnt down in the late 1800s. The new streets were made wider and the trees formed a firebreak – I don’t understand how or why – birch burns well, so how can it be a firebreak?!

      1. The idea with the trees was quite simply that the streets, or boulevards, should be so wide that the fire wouldn´t “hop” across them into the next block of houses. Exactly why they choose birch trees, I don´t know, perhaps because they look very nice or perhaps because they can grow nicely in the harsh climate that far north.

      2. The streets of Umeå are wide and the idea behind the trees was that fire shouldn´t be able to cross them and reach the next block of houses. Why they choose birch trees, I don´t know. They look nice, perhaps that´s why. One fine day I may travel to Umeå and take a look at the birch trees.

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