1: The Bildmuseet
This museum is a great stop off when it's dark. Not only is the building a work of art itself, with sweeping views of the river from the ceiling-high windows, but the displays are awesome. When The Local visited in mid-December, there was an exhibition from Ragael Lozano-Hemmer called A Draft of Shadows on the fifth and sixth floors, including a Pulse Room consisting of a hundred clear light bulbs. The bulbs flash from the ceiling in time with heartbeat of the person standing on a viewing platform. Tip: If you run up the stairs to the top floor, your heartbeat will make the room flash like fireworks.
2. The “Stieg Larsson” Cafe – Nya Konditoriet
Photo: The Local
While the staff members we spoke to might not know much about this history of this place, legend has it that the author of the smash hit Millennium trilogy – Stieg Larsson – used to write in this cafe. He grew up in Umeå. The dark corners of the cafe offer a lot of charm, perhaps the perfect place to write a book of your own. Get a seat by the window upstairs, a warm drink, and see where your creative mind takes you. Perhaps there's a bestseller in you yet.
3. The Christmas Market
This market won't be around for too long, but be sure to check it out if you're up in Umeå before the 23rd of December. There are fires burning to keep you warm alongside fur and woolen goods on sale and plenty of hot food and drink. Keen shoppers might also spot Father Christmas wandering among the stalls. The market is open from 10am to 6pm each day. But dress warmly for your time outdoors – this is northern Sweden remember!
4. Bokcafe Pilgatan
There's another cool cafe on the east side of town, which also doubles as a book and souvenir shop. This place has a hipster charm and a family vibe. The prices are low too, so it's no doubt a haven for the numerous students in Umeå who want to keep warm. And why not pick up a book or some locally sourced food or artwork to take home?
Are you a fan of guitars? Then this is the place for you. It offers a world-class collection of guitars in a private collection owned by Umeå brothers Samuel and Michael Åhdén. These twins have plucked up their collection from around the world, which features classic instruments favoured by some of the most famous musicians of all time. If guitars aren't your thing, save yourself for the nightclub downstairs, which appears to be a favourite haunt of the local student population. We witnessed live music from Sami rappers and some of the region's rock acts. Bring your dancing shoes.
Don't miss the newly opened Väven, described by its promoters as a place for people and ideas to be woven together – hence the name (which translates as “The Weave”). There's plenty going on here, from music to food, lectures and business meetings. It is also home to The Women's History Museum…
7. The Women's History Museum
Umeå's gender equality movement is massive – even by Swedish standards – so why not take a tour of the country's first women's history museum – which opened last month. It aims to raise questions about sex, power, and identity. Be sure to read our interview with the director Maria Perstedt.
“It's a museum for everyone,” she told The Local. “It has nothing do with your sex or gender. We're for everyone, regardless of how you identify or express your sex. It’s not about 'men' or 'women' – you can’t divide a world into these categories, and you shouldn’t.”
8. Northern Lights
OK, these aren't specific to Umeå, and you're not really going to keep warm by looking at them- but if you get lucky with a clear day, this is one of the best ways you can spend a night in Sweden's north while it's dark. Enjoy.