By the Ume river in the city center.

Capital of Västerbotten

Umeå is the biggest city north of Uppsala, with 112.000 residents and some additional 30.000 in the metropolitan area. It is also the capital of Västerbotten state, created in 1638. The population of the state is a quarter of a million, but the size like Taiwan and Israel combined. Funny comparison, but lets say well bigger than either Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium or Denmark.

Gamla bron (old bridge). The westernmost bridge downtown.

A lively university

The Church bridge(s).

In general this part of the nation suffers from a declining population. The founding of Umeå university in 1965 made all the difference for the city at least, that now virtually is growing while you look. The university today teaches 29.000 students originating from all across Sweden. There is foremostly biological research taking shape, which has also enticed quite a few scientists coming from abroad as well. All these foreigners sometimes makes the airport appear rather busy and even outgrown, when all students and some additional people are either leaving for for the weekend, or comes back from business somewhere else.

Kolbäcksleden bridge.

A big city in the making

It actually seems that mostly Stockholm is a kind of second home for a lot of the inhabitants in the major coastal cities along the Baltic sea. In spite of Umeås moderate size, one occasionaly gets a feeling of it as an international big city. Umeå appears to be a very openminded and friendly place, used to visitors from all around the world. It is easy to get in contact with people, that will not shun away as you approach them. Additional information or even signs translated into English is to be found where you least expect it.

City of birches

Skolgatan lined with birches. Väst på stan (West about town).

Umeå is formerly a garrison town, but like so many other places with army, navy or airbases, the changed nature of both warfare and the political situation has made the old organisation of the armed forces obsolete. It is hard to believe, but it is maintained that Umeå from the beginning was situated by the coast, while the land elevation has since moved the coastline further east a good 10 km or so. A devastating fire in 1888 destroyed most of the city, rendering a majority of the population homeless. When it was rebuilt the streets were widened, and lined with birches. This idea should originally have been borrowed from Wasa in Finland. Today it is a defining trait for Umeå, where these rows of birches are seen almost everywhere.

This variety is one of the often seen workhorses of the fleet.

The transit undertaking

Recently the seats were branded with the company name. A few remain this way.

The city buses use the name ULTRA, standing for Umeå local transit. Not long ago it was owned by the city itself, but the tendering procedures popular in southern Sweden eventuelly also reached this far north. People and politicians are by tradition a little bit more left leaning the further north you get, but the strong global wave of conservatism spreads its seeds everywhere. When the city lost its monopoly, another monopoly took over (we are not talking about free competition like in Britain, minus London). This came to be Linjebuss (Connex/ Veolia), and later Swebus, that is the current operator of the local routes. The name ULTRA however sticks, and all buses are branded this way with huge letters on the side.

A Solaris, Swebus 6943, by Vasaplan.

Short about the buses

Solaris articulated 6930 in a commercial livery.

The bus fleet is rather varied and exciting. It is to a large extent made up of articulated vehicles, used for routes 1, 8 and 69. These are mostly Volvo, bought exclusively for Umeå. A few Scania Omnicity have been achieved from the former operator, that in turn got them from Ultra, renumbered to fit with the other buses. Some rare Solaris were also passed along from Linjebuss.

A renumbered Ultra bus of Scania making.

In addition to these, there are some Volvo B10 BLE bogie buses originating from the Jönköping area. Some two axled buses of Scania Omnicity and Solaris making follows the same number pattern as the artics. Finally some Scania Maxci are also seen in the peak hours.

Scania Maxci, Swebus 6934, Skolgatan and E4 intersection.

The lines

Close to the bus terminal and railway station.

The main lines are as hinted 1 and 8. 69 is just a merged offpeak variety of 6 and 9, mostly following the route of 9. All these are operated every halfhour during the day, and every quarter (6 and 9 only combined) in the peak. 2 is a rather short line, running twice an hour all day. 4 only makes a few departures a day. 5 is a long and winding route, running every 30 minutes all day. The same applies to 7, with some extra workings along a deviating alignment in an industrial district, in one direction only. On top of these, there are some special buses to and from the major workplaces, that is the university and hospital.

In some places the network is complicated. Two lines pass this stop - one inbound and one outbound.

Information at stops

Every bus stop has a schedule, and many also a perfect map. Though I must complain a little about the bus schedules, that are not refering to the actual times by each stop. Only the departure times from the terminus in each direction, and the downtown are stated. It may be hard for a foreigner to calculate how much time the bus will need to get to the present location. Many other Swedish cities now display the precise time. Also note that the posh lit boxes by the Vasaplan terminal only show the planned departure time, and not any real updates taking into account the actual position of the vehicles.

Information notice board in bus shelter.

Connecting different modes

The connections between local (green) and regional (orange) buses is alright. But as the map shows, it is a longer walk to get to the long distance bus terminal (yellow), and the railway station (red). It may not be advisable to completely rely on this very schematic sketch, but you will get an idea of the layout.


Beware that tickets cannot be purchased with cash, but the driver will be glad to accept a credit card. A single ticket, including a transfer will set you back SEK 22. A number of stores also offer a smartcard for SEK 25, that can be filled with a minimum of 6 trips, now costing SEK 17 each. This card can also be obtained at the ULTRA sales office by the main transfer point downtown: Vasaplan. Note that the airport bus ticket is valid for a 2 hour transfer for other local buses. This way you can get further to your final destination without much fuss.

How to get to Umeå

By the entrance to Umeå airport.

The fastest and easiest way is by air. If you transfer between planes in Stockholm, it will only take an hour more with a connecting flight to Umeå. The airport (flygplatsen) is conveniently located by the south banks of the Ume river, surprisingly close to the towns central area on the north bank. The city still doesn't seem to be bothered by any noticeable noise from the airplanes.

5208 awaiting departure from Umeå airport.

The airport bus stop is located just outside the exit, less than 150 m (500 feet) from the tarmac. The route number is 80, and the schedule is synchronized with arrivals and departures, costing SEK 40 (credit card only). Then it stops along the way very much like any ordinary bus, and you can transfer to other city services with that same ticket.

Umeå railway station.

If you prefer rail, there is night trains from Stockholm and Göteborg every late afternoon or evening. It takes around 9-10 and 14 hours respectively. The trains go back again from Umeå in the evening. A new highspeed line is built in this very moment, with a planned inauguration august 28:th in 2010. This may reduce the travelling time to 5 hours from Stockholm, and with a change included, less than 9 hours from Göteborg. This is unfortunately still to much for making a daytrip feasible.

The climate is rather lush for this northerly location, but be aware that peat bogs or muskeg is just around the corner from many city districts. Short summers and much precipitation over the year, makes the ground moist.

Staying overnight

Because Umeå is both rather big and far away, it might be suitable to stay at least until the next day. Beside a number of hotels, there is a fine centrally located STF hostel. Remember earbuds though, as it lies along E4, the main artery to the rest of northern Sweden. It also doubles as a local street with loads of traffic around the clock. At least two camp sites are also placed in convenient proximity to local transit. In addition it is possible to stay in a nearby town like Vännäs. For a good choice of hotels with discount prices, visit Umeaa Accommodation for more information.

The local newspaper office.

Beside buses

Umedalen sculpture park is a fine collection of mostly sturdy and large objects, placed in the park around a former mental asylum. The three last bus stops of line 1 going west, are all conveniently near the art works. As the majority of the exhibition is outdoors, it is perfectly alright to visit round the clock. The three most centrally located bridges spanning the Ume river could be worth a look, especially the old bridge, now pedestrianized. Another rather new cable stayed bridge is found downstreams by the Strömpilen mall, between the airport and the university. A host of museums, without entrence fee, all sits close to one another at Gammlia open air museum. This is just north of the downtown, by bus 2, 9 or 69. A stroll along the Ume river banks in the city center could never be wrong.

Excursions, and then some

The closest place with the most frequent schedules is by far Holmsund. This village is a part of the city, and in effect the port, as it is situated by the coast, where the Ume river meets the ocean. On the opposite side of the river lies the lesser sized Obbola. The buses 123/ 124/ 125 all goes this way from Umeå, sometimes with only 10 minutes between departures. Holmsund has a ferry connection with Wasa in Finland, thus forming a crucial link in the E12 road, from eastern Finland to the Atlantic coast of Norway.

Square of the heavenly peace in Holmsund. The Swedish name for Tiananmen square in China.

Sävar only has connections every hour or less, with service 118. This is where the Swedish army met the russians in 1809, in the last defining battle of the most recent war Sweden has participated in (except for UN operations like Congo and Korea in the 1950:s).

If you happen to be a fan of the band Sahara hotnights, it might be necessary to visit Robertsfors, where it started. Vännäs, Bjurholm, Vindeln and Nordmaling is some other places in the size between a village and town. The three bridges crossing Öre älv may be a little bit harder to get to without a car, but if bridges will make your hart pounding faster, you should take a look. This is close to Nyåker, known for gingerbread cookies, that to a large extent are exported to USA. Botsmark has the worlds largest stumbling block, no erratic block. -If you are passing along in the vicinity, otherwise it is hardly worth the effort.

Two of the three bridges crossing Öre river within a short distance of each other.

If you long for some more buses, there is also two other bigger cities some 100 km away from Umeå, in each direction north and south by the E4 highway along the coast. The dark blue painted "Kustbussen", also carrying the number 100, follows the E4 road from Sundsvall to Haparanda. The first city to be reached in the south from Umeå is Örnsköldsvik (55 000 residents). It is mostly known for the hockey team MODO, a paper mill, and for the transit enthusiast, naturally Hägglunds. This company has made both railway vehicles, among them subway cars and trams to Stockholm and Göteborg, but also buses. All three product lines were discontinued in the 60:s and 70:s. Their bus design was then adopted by Finish Wiima (later named Carrus), and that heritage could be traced in some vehicles as recently as the late 90:s, a few still in service around Sweden.

North from Umeå is Skellefteå, also refered to as the gold city, since Boliden gold mine lies not far away. Skellefteå has a sadly shrinking population of 72 000 for the moment. Although it does not give that impression, maybe depending on the fact that a good deal of the citizens live in other locations around the city, more than in the downtown itself. Either way there is some local bus routes. It is maintained that it is done free of charge for the city by the operator. The reason should be that the company is owned by the city, and is already making a profit from other contracts. It sounds a tad schizofrenic, but never mind. A tendering procedure would result in a privat undertaking charging for it no matter what.

If you really want to get far away from Umeå, the state transit company has a long line following E12 all the way crosstate, and even the rather short final bit into Norway, for reaching Mo in Ranfjord. This bus is marked as "Blå vägen", the Blue road, and it will take about 8 hours to get there. There is some marvellous mountains on both sides of the border, for those who wants to leave the built up areas behind for a while.

Some historical pictures.

Ultra 51 by the university hospital in 2003.
Ultra 94 in Umedalen, Löftets gränd (alley of the commitment).
Ultra 26, line 5 terminus in Ersmark.
Ultra 46, Scania Omnicity. This bus is still in service, albeit repainted and renumbered as Swebus 6924.
"East about town" with 118 bound for Sävar, Ultra 43 on a local working for Carlshöjd, and Linjebuss 2170-124 for Holmsund.
Ultra 86 on route 8, by Nornaplatsen.

Links, some in Swedish only

Getting around:

Västerbotten state transit

Swebus, city buses

Vilhelmina taxi, another local bus operator

Scandinavian airlines

RG line ferries over the Baltic sea


The city of Umeå

Tourist page for Umeå, also in English and German

Wikipedia about Umeå


Gammlia museums of Umeå

Umedalen sculpture park


Västerbottens-kuriren (newspaper)

Umeå university

Bike tunnels by the approach to the Church bridge (kyrkobron). Like many university cities, Umeå is in summertime a biking city.

© Busspojken 2009-2012