10 Epic Things to Do in Lulea in Winter Time
10 Epic Things to Do in Lulea in Winter Time
Have you heard about Lulea in Sweden? Located in the Swedish Lapland near the Arctic Circle, Lulea is the perfect destination for a Winter getaway. So I’m happy to share with you a list of 10 Epic Things to Do in Lulea in Winter time.
I visited Lulea in February for a long weekend. I wanted to go back to Lapland (one of my favorite places on Earth) to enjoy the magic of the Winter and to chase (again) the Northern Lights. This was my second time in the Swedish Lapland. I had already been a few years ago to Kiruna and Abisko, which is even further North. You can check my Travel Guide to Kiruna.
It’s easy to get to Lulea by taking a 1h30 flight from Stockholm. There are several flights a day connecting the Swedish capital with Lulea.
While in Lulea, I recommend to rent a car to be able to explore the area surrounding the city. This was the first time I rented a car in Lapland and I loved the experience of driving around. It’s important to check if the car is equipped with Winter tires because you will drive in snowy roads. But I believe most of them are. If anyway you don’t feel comfortable to drive in Winter conditions, don’t worry. There are tours, taxis and public transports to get out of the city. And there are great experiences that you can have in Lulea without leaving the city
Where to stay in Lulea? There are many accommodation options in Lulea city centre, which is the best place to start exploring this region. Just make sure that you make your reservation in advance. Lulea is quite popular at this time of the year and places can get easily fully booked. I also recommend you to stay at least one night outside of the city. There are many cottages, cabins and unique accommodations for a great experience in the middle of the forest.
Surrounded by frozen sea, pine tree Lapland forests and UNESCO World Heritage sites, Lulea merges perfectly nature with vibrant city vibes. So it’s a great place to consider for your Winter vacation. In this blog post I will share my list of 10 Epic Things to Do in Lulea in Winter time.
Walk Over the Frozen Sea
Yes, that’s right! In Lulea in Winter time you can literally walk on water! Both the Gulf of Bothnia surrounding Lulea and Lule River freeze at this time of the year, transforming the sea into a huge ice track where you can walk or do some Winter sports.
Surrounding the city center from the North to the South harbour, this area becomes the favorite destination for locals and visitors on Winter time, You can see many people sledding, skating, cycling or simply walking over the frozen sea and enjoying the nature. After all, you don’t walk over the water everyday!
This was one of my favorite experiences while in Lulea. One day I walked in the ice track more than 8km from the city centre until Bergnaset at the other side of the sea, passing under a bridge. Another day I experienced for the first time kicksledding, as there are kicksleds that visitors can use for free.
At night, this is also a great place to see the Northern Lights if the sky is clear and there is solar activity.
Wander Around Lulea in Winter Time
Lulea is the capital of Norrbotten county, the northernmost county in Sweden. Therefore it is a vibrant city with many things to offer to visitors, from lively city vibes to the amazing surrounding outdoors.
Take some time to walk around Lulea city center. There are many options of shops, coffees and restaurants to try local food and international cuisines.
Lulea is also famous for its cultural life and it has a wide selection of cultural events. Some places not to miss are Norrbotten County Theatre, Kulturens Hua (housing a library, an art gallery, concert halls and the tourist center) and Norrbotten Museum.
Visit Lulea Cathedral, built in Neo-Gothic style in 1893. The brick cathedral stands out in the center of the city and it’s worth a visit.
Visit Gammelstad Church Town
A must visit place while in Lulea is Gammelstad Church Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located just outside the city center, it takes less than 15m driving to get there. If you prefer, you can take a bus from Lulea.
Gammelstad used to be Lulea’s center until the 17th century, when the town had to move closer to the coast to its current location. But the history of Gammelstad dates back to 1492, when the church was built.
It has the largest medieval stone church in Northern Sweden, with more than 400 typical cottages well preserved. Back in time, those cottages were built to house churchgoers coming from far away.
Nowadays Gammelstad remains a historical site that takes you back to the past of this Swedish region. To know more about its history, you can head to the Visitors Center and see the interactive exhibition about the town.
Spend some time just wandering around its streets admiring the cottages and the church. On Winter time, it gets particularly magical in the snow.
If you visit Gammelstad during Christmas holidays, there is also a traditional Christmas market in the second weekend of Advent.
Adventure Yourself in the Snow
Lulea is the paradise of snow adventures and Winter sports. There are many options of activities to enjoy the snowy landscapes. You just have to choose the ones that fit your preferences.
As I mentioned before, near the city center you can enjoy the frozen sea and do activities like sledding, skating, cycling or just walking over the ice.
Outside of Lulea in the surrounding forests, there are many other snow activities waiting for you. If you are a nature lover, you can explore the boreal Swedish forests on snowshoes or snowmobile. If you enjoy skiing, there are miles of cross county ski tracks available. You can even try skiing at night along some illuminated tracks. There are cross country tracks around Ormberget, Sunderbyn, Gammelstad or Bergnaset. Last but not least, you can also try dogsledding in this region.
Explore Lulea Archipelago
One of the coolest things that you can do around Lulea is to explore the surrounding archipelago… by car. Around Lulea there are more than 1300 islands and some of them are accessible during Winter time through roads on the ice, over the frozen sea waters. It’s an amazing and very unique experience that you cannot describe in words.
Usually the ice roads open in January or early February depending on the weather conditions. Just be careful and check if the roads are open (there are clear signs with that information), and respect speed limits.
I drove over the sea to visit Jopikgarden and Avan and it was a surreal experience!
Chase the Northern Lights
I’m a passionate of the Northern Lights (aka aurora borealis), one of the most amazing natural spectacles on Earth. It is caused by the visible reaction of particles from the sun colliding with our atmosphere. The result is a magical display of sparking lights in green, blue and sometimes even pink coloring the Northern skies in Winter time.
I’ve been chasing them for many years in different North locations like Sweden, Finland, Norway or Iceland. And in some cases I managed to see them successfully. It was one of the best experiences ever. To support travelers like me to optimize the chances of seeing the Northern Lights, check my blog post with all the tips to see them.
Located near the Arctic Circle, Lulea is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Sweden. So one of the objectives of my trip to Lulea was to see them. There are several locations in the city and around recommended as the best places to spot the lights. You can go to the frozen sea tracks near the city center, Gaddvik near the Fishing Museum, First Camp in Karlsvik, Ormbergsbacken and Sinksundet.
But as I explain in my blog post about this subject, to see the Northern Lights it’s needed a combination of factors. Clear skies or scattered clouds, sufficient solar activity to create the auroras and a sparkle of luck are key. I always recommend people chasing them to stay as many nights as possible in your destination. This way you optimize the chances of having good nights for auroras.
During the time that I stayed in Lulea, the nights were snowy or overcast. Therefore I was not able to see them. But just a couple of days after coming back home, there was a solar storm and the lights shined bright in the skies in Lulea. So it’s all a matter of luck, as we cannot predict things like the weather and aurora intensity well in advance when booking a trip.
That’s the reason why it is important to have other exciting activities planned. In that case, you won’t feel frustrated if you don’t see the lights. I had so many amazing new travel experiences in my trip to Lulea, that I loved it even if I didn’t have the chance to see the Northern Lights. But hopefully you will see them in your upcoming trip!
Enjoy the Forest
There’s something special about experiencing a boreal forest in Lapland. Walking in the white blanket of fresh snow hearing the crunching sound of stepping in the snow. Admiring the pine trees covered with snow and the endless white landscapes. That’s a magical experience that you can only have when you explore this region.
I definitely recommend you to walk around a forest in the Swedish Lapland. You can combine it with some other activities like snowshoeing, snowmobiling or dog sledging.
And Sleep in the Middle of the Forest
There are different accommodations around Lulea to have the experience of sleeping in the middle of the forest. From typical cottages to wood cabins, igloos or tree houses, you will find many options available.
One of the most unique experiences you can have in this region is to sleep in a tree house. Tree Hotel in Harads is a bucket list place and one of the most incredible accommodations where I’ve ever stayed.
Located in a pine tree forest at only 1h drive from Lulea, it offers eight different tree houses. All of them are incredible and they are equipped with everything that you need for a comfortable and very special stay surrounded by the nature. From a mirror cube tree house, to a nest or a UFO shaped house, the most difficult will be to choose only one.
All the surrounding area in the forest is magical and there are activities like snowmobiling to complement your experience. But book your stay well in advance to find availability.
Go on a Boat Ride in a Icebreaker
From December until early April, it’s possible to experience a boat ride in a icebreaker in Pitea, located at 67km from Lulea.
Sea waters from Bothian Bay are covered with solid ice at this time of the year. The Arctic Explorer icebreaker keeps a daily routine of crashing the ice to make route for ships through the frozen sea.
You can do a 2h cruise to admire the endless white landscapes, and to hear the sound of ice blocks crashing and rising from the icebreaker hull.
In the cruise you will know more about the icebreaker, visiting the engine rooms. And if you are brave enough, swim in a icy pool made by the icebreaker during the cruise.
Explore Other Areas of the Swedish Lapland
Lulea is an amazing place to explore the Swedish Lapland, but if you have enough time I recommend you to head North and go to Kiruna. You can get there by train, bus, car or plane. Just be aware that if you decide to go by car, it is more than 4h drive from Lulea.
Located 300km above the Arctic Circle, Kiruna is the northernmost city in Sweden. It’s also famous by the Winter landscapes, snow activities and the Northern Lights.
When in this area, it’s worth to go even further North to Abisko, close to the Norwegian border. Abisko National Park is considered one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights.
For more information about this area, check my Travel Guide to Kiruna and Abisko.