It is a rare privilege to visit any town in the north of Sweden that enjoyed its heyday in the 17th century, and this historic place doesn't disappoint. Some of the most evocative and historic architecture in Luleå lies 9.5km (6 miles) north of the modern city in Gammelstad (Old Town), the town's original medieval core, and a once-thriving trading center. Its demise as a viable commercial center began when the nearby harbor became clogged with silt and was rendered unnavigable. In 1649, a new city, modern-day Luleå, was established, and the Old Town -- except the church described below -- fell into decline and disrepair. Today it serves as a reminder of another era and is the site of the region's most famous church, Gammelstads Kyrka, also known as Neder Lulea Kyrka (no phone). This is the largest medieval church in the north. Built in 1492, the church is surrounded by clusters of nearly identical red-sided huts, many of which date from the 18th and 19th centuries. The church rented these to families and citizens traveling to Luleå from the surrounding region as temporary homes during holy days. There's no admission fee, and it's open mid-June to mid-August daily 9am to 8pm; mid-August to mid-June Monday to Friday 10am to 2pm.
Gammelstad's other major site is the Hägnan Museum (also known as the Gammelstads Friluftsmuseum), 95400 Gammelstad (tel. 0920/29-38-09), consisting of about a dozen historic buildings hauled in from throughout Norrbotten. It's nothing special -- we've seen better compounds in the south -- but if you're in the area you might give it a look-see. It's open between June 6 and August 15 daily from 11am to 5pm, depending on the season. Entrance is free. To reach Gammelstad from modern-day Luleå, take bus no. 8 or 9 from Luleå's center.
Adjacent to Gammelstad Bay you'll find some of the richest bird life in Sweden. Ornithologists have counted 285 different species of birds during the spring migrations. The best way to experience this cornucopia of avian life involves following a well-marked hiking trail for 7km (4.3 miles) south of Gammelstad. Signs will point from Gammelstad to the Gammelstads Vikens Naturreservat. For information about the trail, call the Luleå Tourist Office. The trail, consisting of well-trod earth, gravel, and boardwalks, traverses marshy, usually forested terrain teeming with bird life. En route, you'll find barbecue pits for picnics and an unstaffed, unsupervised 9m (30-ft.) tower (Kömpmannholmen, no phone) that's useful for spying on bird nests in the upper branches of nearby trees. The trail ends in Luleå's suburb of Pörson, site of the local university, and site of a small-scale museum, Teknykens Hus, Pörson, 97187 Luleå (tel. 0920/49-22-01). Conceived as a tribute to the industries that bring employment and prosperity to Norrbotten, it's open daily from 11am to 5pm in summer, and Tuesday to Friday 11am to 4pm in winter. The entrance fee is 50SEK ($6.90/£3.50) for adults, 30SEK ($4.15/£2.10) for children. From Pörson, after your visit to the museum, take bus no. 4 or 5 back to Luleå. Hiking along the above-mentioned trail is not recommended in winter, as heavy snowfalls obliterate the signs and the path, and it's unsafe for all but the most experienced and physically fit residents.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.