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A guide to the European Capital of Culture, part 2 – Umeå, Sweden

Featured image by Umea 2014

 

Can you think of anywhere on earth that packs as much history and cultural diversity into every square mile as Europe? With so much to choose from here on our own doorstep, the biggest problem is deciding where to spend our hard-earned holiday time. And as much as we believe in getting away from it all, sometimes it’s wise to follow the crowds – especially when the crowds are heading to the 2014 European Capital of Culture.

With two cities sharing the accolade this year, it’s the perfect excuse for double the fun. After checking out the huge calendar of events in the Latvian capital of Riga, we headed to Umeå in Sweden for part two of our Capital of Culture guide.

Image by Jörgen Wiklund/imagebank.sweden.se
Image by Jörgen Wiklund/imagebank.sweden.se

 

How much do you know about Umeå, Sweden?

Situated about 600km north of Stockholm, Umeå is the12th biggest city in Sweden, with less than 120,000 inhabitants. Don’t be deceived however; this city may be small, but it plays in the big leagues as a centre of education, research and culture. With a diverse and rapidly growing population, due in no small part to the 40,000-odd students who descend on the city’s two universities, this northern “David” has enough going on to challenge any Scandinavian “Goliath”.

Image by Andreas Nilsson
Image by Andreas Nilsson

 

So what’s happening in Umeå in 2014?

As the regional centre of northern Sweden and the host of an array of annual music and film festivals, Umeå is no stranger to cultural events. However, 2014 has brought a true smorgasbord of activities to the Scandinavian table.

Umeå will be focusing its efforts as a European Capital of Culture upon one key idea –
“co-creation”. The concept of the programme is to encourage and promote ongoing contributions to the city’s culture by those who inhabit it. The result? A melting pot of exciting and varied events, organised directly by the institutions, associations and organisations that are most passionate about their art, their culture and their home.

Image by Umea 2014
Image by Umea 2014

 

The program for Umeå 2014 will be split into “Sami seasons”, inkeeping with the tradition of the area’s indigenous seasonal calendar:

Deep winter – Running from 30th January – 27th February, this is the “season of caring”, with highlights including the Folk & World Music Gala 2014.

Early spring – “The season of awakening” goes from 28th February – 29thApril 2014. Highlights include Horror & Art and the Spring Forward Festival.

Image: Horror & Art, Umea 2014
Image: Horror & Art, Umea 2014

 

True spring – From 30th April – 19th June, Umeå welcomes “the season of returning”, with fantastic music, sports and art festivals all in full bloom.

Early summer – The “season of growing” runs from 20th June – 10th July, with highlights including a weekend of courses featuring specialist international tutors as part of the Midnight Light Tango Festival.

Summer – Summer’s in full swing, and it’s the “season of contemplation” in Umeå, with outdoor performances and music festivals.

Image by Umea 2014
Image by Umea 2014

 

Early autumn – The “season of harvesting” means one thing – it’s time to eat. Sample Sweden’s finest produce from 29th August – 10th October, with a five-day food festival being the highlight of the season.

True autumn – 10th October – 20th November is the “season of desire” and it’s time to wrap up warm and enjoy highlights like the Film Festival and the world-class Jazz Festival.

Early winter – From the 21st November – 29th January 2015, the “season of a journey” marks the final leg of the European Capital of Culture year, with a flurry of closing parties and a spectacular light festival.

Check out the full calendar of events for Umeå 2014.

Image by Umea 2014
Image by Umea 2014

 

 

What else should I see?

The capital of culture year in Sweden extends further than the hub of activity going on in Umeå. The northernmost counties of Sweden also have events going on as part of the programme, as does the Sápmi region, which stretches through northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and as far as Russia’s Kola peninsula. Hire a car in Umeå to explore further and discover the scenery, wildlife and local culture that makes a trip to the north a true once-in-a-lifetime experience.

 

Image by Umea 2014
Image by Umea 2014

 

Have you visited either of this year’s European Capitals of Culture? We’d love to hear about your trip – why not leave us a comment and tell us about your favourite spots?

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