The Bergnäs bridge is a major access to downtown Luleå.

This is the capital city of Norrbotten, a state roughly the size of Iceland or Portugal. Another comparison shows it is easily larger than Belgium and Netherlands combined. The population of Norrbotten is still not more than a quarter of a million, of which a majority live in the greater Luleå area. Next to Murmansk there really is no bigger city in the world this far north, though the city limits only encompasses 73 000 people, but that area is precisely the scope of this article.

I take the construction of these highrises (more is to come) as a sign that Luleå believes in the future! I am by their side.
Illuminated crane by the southern harbour.

There is not many city owned bus undertakings left in Sweden. LLT (Luleå local transit) being one of them, is responsible for all local services. According to official sources there is 55 buses, mostly Scania and Volvo built in the 90:s, but also a few Solaris of more recent date. The network and service frequency is rather impressing in comparison with most cities of this size.

Scania CN 113 still going strong in 2011!.

However it seems that the notion is that people should avoid riding by bus on weekends, or after 6 p.m. on weekdays. The slogan "downtown every ten minutes" obviously only apply in selected areas, and only between 7 and 8 in the morning rush. There actually is some 15 000 passengers a day, but that number would certainly multiply twentyfold if all inhabitants used transit. I so much wish that i should one day find such a city. Until then Luleå will have to do i reckon.

Students entering bus by the technical university.

Luleå is mostly a rather young city, with a good deal of the development done the last 50 or maybe 100 years. When Luleå started to grow, it was all about the iron ore and steelworks. Today the technical university is as much of a driving force to the economy. Luleås role as a transport hub and entrance to Norrbotten, and in a wider sence the whole arctic region, should not be underestimated. Luleå have around a dozen domestic flight connections with Stockholm alone every day, and this with Boeing 737:s used.

Sami tent in Svartsö. I have no idea about how it got there.

Luleå is to some extent exploiting the comparative closeness to Laponia and the Sami-land (a Scandinavian equivalent to the north American indians and other native populations). A good deal of the northern cap is in fact used as reindeer pasture, though you will not se any of these critters down the coast. Traditional Samis would be as exotic here as an indian tribe among the skyscrapers of Chicago.

Laponia passenger ferry in northern harbour.

If only the climate had been more benign, this area could have been some real gold coast with hordes of sun seaking tourists, and a vast amount of hotels along the endless sandy beaches. An areal view like the one one will get by landing on the airport is showing some of the beautiful Bottnia coastline. Also the city is sorrounded by expanses of water in lakes and firths.

Luleå city hall.

The modern downtown is not so very old, but was moved further down to the waters edge, offset by the fast land elevation in northern Scandinavia. In some places along the Baltic sea it can reach about half an inch every year! The reason is that the crust of the earth is still bouncing back since the last iceage, after which the heavy load of the ice was eased again.

Old harbour street in Gammelstad. A funny name today, but maybe not as misleading originally.

The reason I am mentioning this is as a precursor to a recommended visit to Gammelstad churchvillage. Sweden nominated this place for, and was granted the blessing of becoming a U.N. world heritage site. It is situtated a bit upstream the Luleå river, and can most conveniently be reached by either route 9, or by getting of the passing line 1 and 2, bound for the intermediate hospital shared by Luleå and Boden.

Bikes buried in snow by Aurorum.

The winter is long and cold, but not completely dark. Luleå is situated just south of the arctic circle and thus not affected by the polar night. In summertime there will not be any midnight sun, but it is not becoming dark either. The sun is just below the north horizon for a few hours, and is soon coming back again. The snow depth along the coast is usually rather moderate, compared to the situation in the hinterland. At least half the year is free from snow. However the ice sheet on the ocean gets thick and tough, and this is the reason for some really sturdy icebreakers beeing stationed here.

Svartsöstaden. You will get here by route 7.

For those interested in architecture a visit to Shopping may be worthwhile. It is situated by Storgatan (Main street) downtown, and refered to as the worlds first indoor mall, if one might believe that. One of my personal favourites in the field, the british born architect Ralph Erskine is behind it.

Shopping mall "Shopping" seen from main street (Storgatan).

The Swedish hamburger chain Max has it's main office in Luleå, but it all started in Gällivare. In spite of the name that sounds more like a derivative of McDonalds, the style is closer kin to Burger King. It was actually founded five years before McDonalds entered the Swedish market, and have 68 venues to date.

SJ trains, although painted in Connex livery, by Luleå passenger station. Daily night trains connect with Stockholm and Göteborg, taking some 12-15 hours.

Malmbanan is a 100 odd years old railway connecting Luleå with the icefree port in Narvik, by the northern Atlantic coast of Norway. This 500 km line is mainly used for transportation of iron ore, and the amount is breathtakingly 15 million tons a year. The long and extremely heavy trains was formerly pulled by the worlds strongest engines, dm3, to get them properly over the mountains. This is also the worlds northernmost electrified railway.


A sunday morning in 2004. Even somewhat older buses are still in use on weekdays.

If yoy are staying a few days it could be recommended to purchase a smart card at the ticket and information office next to the main downtown transfer point Smedjegatan (Smith street). It will both give a rebate, and be a less cumbersome way of paying. Otherwise it is perfectly alright to buy tickets with cash from the driver. Most of the network is within fare zone 1, except the westernmost part of route 1 and 2: only the last stop is within zone 2, to be more specific. If you cross the street from the second to the last by foot, you have saved yourself some money! Anyhow, when using the smartcard this translates as pushing the buttons 1 and 2 respectively.

The terrace at the cultural building is a good vantage point for bus photography.

Note that you simply can't add an extra zone later, when transfering or so. I have got the impression that the transfer period of 60 minutes normally will be replenished by every boarding. If you ride visely, a day's travelling could come at only the price of one trip! There is obviously some hickup in the programming...

Route map

Official, but outrageously schematic routemap.

It just proved to laboursome to make a better map by myself, so I took the liberty to simply copy this map from the companys internet site. It is not very precise to say the least, but you will get the broad outlines. When it comes to schedules the internet site is on the contrary more than excellent.

Description of routes line by line

A winters day in Hertsö with -17 celcius.


This is among the newest buses, a batch of Scania Omnilink.

If there is only time for a little sightseeing, route 1 is a good start. After a lap, much of the city has revealed itself. The northern terminus is by Sunderby hospital, on the very outskirts of town. It passes close to Gammelstad, through the center, and finally reaches a dense area of tenements, Hertsö. Beware of the false terminal, when it runs down a long street, and then goes back again. The second time it does this is the final section, and also common with route 5.

This bridge leads to a secluded island upstreams Lule river.

If you have time at hand, and the weather is right, let's pass the hospital at the northern end of 1 and 2. The last stop will require a surcharge anyway. One of the other last stops is named Sunderbyvägen, where you walk in about the same direction as the bus, before it turns right that is. When you can see the river, turn left for another block, before continuing. A gravel road seems to head for some shotgun houses on an island, but those are uninhabited, so no swaeat. Check out the sandy beaches! The vistas! This is where the true essence of Norrbotten reveals itself in just 15 minutes walk from "civilisation".

The display at left presents the options available at the downtown transfer.


The northwestern half shares the alignment with route 1, giving this area a double headway. The other half is mostly equal to number 3, that only operates in the peak hours. Built up areas is prominent along all of the route.

My favourite bus Volvo B10L turns around by Sunderby hospital.


Peak hour service, not completely identical to that of 2 in the northwest, and also not to 4 in the south. It only appears this way on the maps.

Bergnäs bridge, a common access route for visitors.


You will get to see the most of the city by a roundtrip with this one. It starts on the south banks of the Lule river, runs over the 1954 built bridge to the city core. Shortly after departing downtown, the bus garage is seen on the right. Depending on climatic demands it looks a bit boarded up to say the least. The line then passes the university campus, and ends in a kind of T-shaped fashion soon after that.

Smedjegatan bus transfer point in downtown.


The northeastern section to Hertsö is identical with 1, while the northwest portion by the university is not exactly like 4. The map is misleading even in this case; it is deviating further south from route 4 in the end.

The city peninsula seen from Karlsvik.


Only ones an hour. But Norrbottens railway museum is to be found at the peninsula Karlsvik, a little bit after Storhedens outlet stores and supermarkets. The exhibition halls stay open summertime only. There is also a camping in the vicinity. A short walk is recommended down to the waters edge, in order to get a glimpse of downtown. Along the way some remains of an earlier iron works is passed, with English language information boards. I have'nt been to the other end of the line, but it can't be far away from route 9.

Norrbottens railway museum. The white pile is snow.


Among the lines I like the most. Unfortunately it only operates at a 40 minutes headway. It is not following 4 and 5, it only appears that way on the map. From the northern end, route 3 is actually visible (water between), and the east area is opposite the domains of route 4 by the other side of the Lule river. Svartsö is mostly an industrial area, but also have a few blocks with one family houses, and access to the water.

Interior of Volvo B10L on route 7.


I guess this is the kind of line that for the occasional visitor would be most prudent to stear clear of. It is not running very often, and if the map is anything to go by, there is not much to see by the end.

Plastic bags knitted to form the word Love in Swedish.


The western half is going to Gammelstad, and after a while it is meeting route 6. These both are operated in a synchronized service pattern for this part. That is the reason that line 9 have uneven intervalles, so that these together will have a 20 minute frequency. I'm not saying it is a superior solution, i just get the point. The northwest end is not very far from that of 1 and 5 to Hertsö. The adventurous can easily walk between.

Gammelstad kyrkby is close to route 1 and 2, but easiest accessible by 9.


This is a new route between Hertsö and Storheden shopping area. It skips a few stops as well, rendering it the function as a faster connection for the people in Hertsö, to get to the downtown district.

Inside LLT 116 en route to Hertsö. A trip down memory lane!

This bus from about 1990 was encountered in may 2011! Vehicles that age is almost unheard of in todays "environmentally friendly" society. -How about taking good care of the stuff you have, and keep a bus in operation a little longer than 7-10 years? Then you don't need to build new ones all the time. Because THAT is also affecting the environment and supply of natural resources, not only the emissions. A bus can easily withstand some 30-40 years of daily service. Just look at Londons Routemasters from the 1950-60:s!

Two Vanhool artics standing outside the garage in 2004.

Nearby cities - Boden

If you stay a few days, there is no reason why you shouldn´t visit two other towns with local buses. Boden is a very strongly fortified garrison town with 27 000 residents, only about 35 km away upstream the Lule river. There is 5 local bus routes running every halfhour. Note that they display different numbers depending on direction. You get to Boden by jumping on 28 and 30 either downtown or by Sunderby hospital, with can be reached with city route 1 or 2. The combined connections to Boden is about twice an hour on weekdays, and around every hour on weekends.

Pite ocean bath and hotel. Bus route 1 circles the rotunda.

Nearby cities - Piteå

Piteå lies 55 km south along the botnia coast. Buses run approximately every hour, a little bit less or more. Route numbers are 14, 20 or 100. This depends on where they begin or end, and also if they make local stops along the way. The maximum distance is represented by the workings on 100, going all the way from Finland to Sundsvall, a distance of 651 km. Once in Piteå there is a few local services to chose among. The most interesting may be 1 to the coast, where a hotel with conference and bath facilities is located right by the end of the line. The beach is somewhat overly promoted in my opinion, but wellknown just the same.

Bus pole for the local minibus in Kalix (frog park stop).

Other places

Kalix and Haparanda is lesser in size, and both situated north from Luleå. Haparanda is on a walking distance from the border to Finland, and the twincity on that side bearing the name Torneå. If you haven´t been to Finland before, this is an easy way to get one more country to your count. The state transit routes 20 or 100 will take you to both Kalix and Haparanda. They only operate a few times a day though.

Closing hour for the stores at Main street in Luleå.

Useful links

Norrbotten state transit

LLT Luleå city bus company

Luleå university

Luleå city

Visit Luleå

Luleå promotion (Swedish only)

Luleå cultural building

Luleå convention bureau

Lapland (several languages)

Luleå airport

National weather service

Scandinavian airlines

National railways

SSAB, global leader in steel (according to themself)

The snow is melting away on a beach in may.

© Busspojken 2009-2011