Luleå, Norrbotten – Exploring Sweden

It is time for us to write about the Steel City, Luleå. This is the Swedish center of metallurgy and with a population of around 48.000 inhabitants, it is the 5th largest city in Swedish Norrland and the 25th largest in Sweden. The steel industry is, however, not everything in Luleå. The city has a long history and has become a university city with the northern-most university in Sweden.

A Short History

Luleå was a marketplace and harbor at the current location of Gammelstaden during the Middle Ages. It received its town privileges in 1621. Due to the tectonic lift of the area, the town was moved to its current location in 1648. There was a need to be able to support a harbor.

The town’s growth was slow during the first centuries of its existence. After 200 years, the town had a population of around 1400 inhabitants. It was during the second half of the 19th century that the industries around the town started to be established.

The railway Malmbanan between Gällivare and Luleå was completed in 1888. This established Luleå as the main shipping harbor of the Swedish iron ore from Malmberget. The railway and expansion of the harbor also meant new industries, such as a shipyard and steel mill.

The Luleå University of Technology was established in the city in 1971 and it was granted university status in 1997. Today it also has campuses in Filipstad, Kiruna, Piteå, and Skellefteå,

Things to Do and See

The Steel City has more to offer than large industries. With a long history and nature next door, there is a lot to explore in and around Luleå.

Luleå City Center

In the center of the city, you will find the shops and restaurants, but also some of the main sights. Here is the Luleå Cathedral, a neo-Gothic style church dating back to 1893. Norrbotten’s Museum is another attraction, with exhibitions of the regional culture and history.

Gammelstaden

Gammelstaden is a locality a bit inland from Luleå. This is actually the original spot of the town before it was moved. Here you can visit the old church town, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996. Here you also find the open-air museum Hägnan.

Bothnia Railway Museum

Bothnia Railway Museum claims to be one of the largest railway museums in Sweden and it is at the ruins of one of the old ironworks. A private railway connected the ironwork with the mainline. Here you can learn more about the history of the Swedish iron ore railway.

Luleå Archipelago

The Luleå Archipelago is made up of 1312 islands and islets in the Gulf of Bothnia right outside of the city. Visit small fishing villages, uninhabited islands, or just enjoy the sea. The possibilities are endless and don’t forget the wildlife.

Luleå HF and Coop Norrbotten Arena

As with many of the cities in northern Sweden, ice hockey is an important part of life in Luleå. The ice hockey team Luleå HF, then known as GroKo Hockey, was founded in 1977 and it has been playing in the Swedish top division since 1984. During the years they have become Swedish champions on one occasion, in 1996. Several famous Swedish players have played in Luleå before heading over to the NHL, including Tomas Holmström, Mikael Renberg, and Mattias Öhlund.

The team plays its home games at Coop Norrbotten Arena. It was completed in 1970 and was up until 2002 known as Delfinen, the Dolphin. The Arena has a capacity of 6300 spectators, making it the 13th largest for ice hockey in Sweden.

How to get to Luleå

Flights: Luleå Airport (LLA) is located 9 kilometers from the city center and connects the area with the Stockholm-Arlanda Airport (ARN) for connections around the globe.
Car: Luleå is located along the highway E4 between Skellefteå and Haparanda. There is also road 94 towards Arvidsjour and road 97 towards Jokkmokk.
Train: SJ has trains from Stockholm and Björkliden/Kiruna and Norrtåg has trains from Kiruna and Umeå.
Bus: There are regional buses connecting Luleå with the surrounding area as well as long-distance buses from Stockholm.

The driving distance from 5 major Swedish cities, according to Google Maps:

Stockholm – 902 kilometers (9 h 29 min)
Gothenburg – 1250 kilometers (14 h 13 min)
Malmö – 1510 kilometers (15 h 43 min)
Linköping – 1096 kilometers (11 h 41 min) 
Kiruna – 345 kilometers (4 h 14 min)

Find out more about other destinations in Sweden by visiting our page Exploring Sweden

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