The proximity of Uppsala to Stockholm on train is an unparalleled advantage of this student city and should make Uppsala a strong candidate for any prospective exchange student.
To get to Stockholm, visitors have the choice to take either the high-speed direct SJ intercity train, or the slower commuter pendeltåg train which has more stops. In spite of the difference in time, both trains leave Uppsala regulary and arrive at Stockholm central station within an hour and cost around 85 SEK (£7).
Whilst the cost and duration of the journey pose no problem to the foreign passenger, navigating the complexities of Sweden’s code of conduct is an ever-present worry. Whilst in the UK conductors generally turn a blind eye to passengers using their ticket for a missed train, in Sweden you would be fortunate not to be thrown off the train for this misdeed. The uncompromising conductor is a Swedish staple, one which the British eye should simultaneously hold in esteem and be wary of, like the Swede’s flat-packed furniture.
The overzealous train conductors are in keeping with Swedish transport’s ruthless efficiency and punctuality. Neither train nor bus has been delayed or cancelled during my time here, a reflection of the success of Sweden’s nationalisation programme. Though double-decker carriages and well-kept schedules are certainly not ubiquitous across the country, especially in the northern territory.
Stockholm puts up the pretence of a European capital. The grandiose architecture, such as the Royal Palace (Kungliga Slott), Parliament (Rikstag) and Cathedral (Storkyrken) fosters an atmosphere of stateliness expected in continental capitals. The extensive network of buses and underground trains (115 SEK for a day pass) enables quick and easy transport across the city. And the diverse districts, from the cobbled old town of Gamla Stan to the vibrant bohemian streets of Södermalm, are synonymous with Ile Saint Louis and Le Quartier Latin in Paris.
However, Stockholm deviates from the norm in several ways. Structurally, Stockholm is different because the city stretches across fourteen islands connected by fifty bridges on the Lake Mälaren which flows out to the Baltic Sea. The waterways between the islands comprise 30% of the city, and another 30% of the city is parks and green spaces. Tourists are invited to oversee the reddish, ecclesiatical skyline from the 155-metre-high Kaknäs TV Tower or one of the many viewing platforms across the city.
Demographically, Stockholm is less crowded than many European counterparts with a population of around 900,000 in the city and 1.95 million in the surrounding area. The relatively smaller populace is noticeable around the city making sight-seeing feel less like a touristic venture.
Talking of sight-seeing, the capital plays host to a smorgasbord of cultural, recreational and artistic pursuits. Although Stockholm boasts an underground and offers ferries between Islands, I would recommend walking or using one of the app-controlled electric scooters abundant throughout the centre.
Gamla stan is a maze of tourist shops, boutiques and fine-dining. Built in 1646, the Royal Palace is prominent amongst the colourful 17th- and 18th-century buildings and is often a-buzz with the palace guard. Nestled beneath the cobbled streets in this district are pirate and Viking themed bars which are worthy of a visit despite the pricey menus. Indeed, a round of drinks at one of these venues cost upwards of £30!
Södermalm is another district deserving of your time. This formerly working-class quarter plays the part of a chic and youthful part of town. Here there are many vintage shops, cafes and bars.
Perhaps the most enticing element of Stockholm is the abundance of cultural activities. There are many free museums across the city. Alongside others, the National Museum, the Modern Art Gallery and the Swedish History Museum are three which should not be missed.
Even those museums with a price tag attached are often discounted for students. The Fotografika (photography museum) is a personal favourite. It hosts regular and interesting exhibitions from Swedish and international photographers.
Stockholm is also the home of Greta Thunberg and the origin of the Fridays for Future movement. One of which I was caught in the midst of one afternoon.
Though Stockholm is smaller than its European counterparts, it certainly cannot be conquered in a day. I hope my recommendations will serve as a useful starting point for anyone who wants to get acquainted with ‘the city that floats on water’.