Umeå is this year’s European Capital of Culture. Situated in the northern County of Västerbotten in Sweden, it is the largest city in the north and offers a great introduction to the region. Where else can it be -40 C in winter and +30 C in summer? It’s the land of the midnight sun, has eight seasons and catches the rays of the northern lights.
Umeå is a lovely city with traditional wooden buildings, birch lined streets and river walks. It has a vibrant arts and music scene, excellent museums and a sculpture park. This year, as the capital of culture it has a non-stop programme of events celebrating its Swedish and Lappish (Sápmi) heritage. Umeå is part of Sápmi – the lands of the Sámi people – Europe’s only indigenous people and the 2014 celebrations revolve around the 8 Sámi seasons. The pace picks up this autumn with an arts festival showcasing Swedish, Sámi and international artists; a contemporary circus festival; and a Food festival where you can discover regional delicacies such as salmon (Lax), fermented herrings, reindeer, smoked fish, wild mushrooms, cloudberries, lingonberries and the famous Västerbotten Cheese. As winter arrives celebrations move inside with a Jazz festival, a Film festival and the launch of new operatic and theatre productions.
The Västerbottens museum specialises in exhibitions based around Swedish and Sámi culture. Enjoy the fantastic photography of Sune Jonsson who has photographed the lives of the people in the region for over 40 years or the fascinating exhibition on Lappish (Sápmi) rock art. The Gammlia is their open air museum which has a collection of traditional Swedish and Lappish dwellings that give a glimpse into the regions traditional lifestyles.
The Bildmuseet is the new modern art museum that shows innovative contemporary exhibitions of art, photography, architecture and design. This year it is showcasing eight Sámi artists, one for each Sámi season. It has a fabulous location beside the river Ume and a delightful cafe looking out across the river. In winter gaze out over the frozen river and snow clad trees and in summer soak up the sun on its terrace beside the river.
Umeå is surrounded by beautiful countryside and is a great base for outdoor pursuits, both the Tavelsjöleden and Umeleden trails start within the city boundary. The coast is less than half an hour away and there are numerous nature reserves to explore such as Grössjön, Strömbäck-Kont and the Sävar River valley. Once the snow arrives there is skiing, skating and dog sledging to enjoy. For the true arctic experience head further north to Luleå and Kiruna and then on to the Aurora Sky Station in Abisko National Park to see the northern lights at their most spectacular.
Visiting Umeå: www.visitumea.se
Everything you need to know about Umeå in 2014. Its year as the European Capital of Culture: www.umea2014.se
Programme highlights of events by Sápmi season: http://umea2014.se/en/8-seasons/
2014 Programme Calendar: http://umea2014.se/en/event/
Umeå Food Festival: http://umeasmakfestival.se/
Umeå Jazz Festival: www.umeajazzfestival.se
Västerbottens museum: http://www.vbm.se/en/home.html
Sculpture Park: Umedalen Skulptur: www.umedalenskulptur.se
All photography has been kindly provided by Visit Umeå.