Östersund: city of contrasts
By Amanda Ottosson
Not far from the geographic centre of Sweden, Östersund offers a little bit of everything. One of the largest cities in the north of Sweden, it’s a destination worth visiting both for its closeness to nature and for its rich cultural offering.
The balance between vibrant city life and quiet nature is unique and has meant that those who call the city home have a vested interest in maintaining its unique flavour. “We’re proud of being a city that champions innovation,” says Elisabeth Richardsson, director of marketing at Destination Östersund, an organisation founded to champion the city. “We make it as easy as possible to get to decision makers to share your ideas for how we can improve the city and continue bringing great events and experiences to our residents and everyone who visits.”
Storsjön, the lake the city was built by, offers countless opportunities all year round for sports and leisure. In the summer, residents and visitors alike can go kayaking, fishing and swimming in the lake, or make their way out to Frösön, an island that’s host to a wide variety of bike sports. Boasting bike trails that are among the best in Sweden, Östersund plays host to the top-end of enduro biking athletes and a variety of competitions.
In the winter, the lake freezes over and turns into a community spot where people can take full advantage of the snow and ice. And once you’re done, the city is just minutes away.
“We’re unique in that we can offer visitors pretty much any outdoor activity they can think of, but also combine this with a great cultural offering and a variety of fantastic restaurants,” says Richardsson. She says it with pride, and with good reason – Östersund is the only Swedish city that has been invited to join the prestigious Creative City of Gastronomy network.
“Our restaurants are world-renowned for serving high-quality food,” she says. “They know they’ve got a reputation to live up to, so they’re always making sure to use the best local produce and keep pushing themselves to create an experience that will keep people coming back.”
City centre skiing
Also worth noting is the city’s busy year-round activity calendar. Next on the agenda is the Östersund Ski Marathon, kicking off on 16 January for professionals and amateurs alike. The race forms part of a strong local tradition of cross-country skiing. Attracted by the wide variety of nature trails and two ski slopes right in the city centre, top Swedish skiing talents flock to the city – along with enthusiasts keen to learn from them.
“We’ve made Vinterparken by the shore of Storsjön into a community spot for everyone who loves winter and winter sports,” says Richardsson. “It’s important to offer something for everyone. In the city centre, we’ve made sure that there are family activities where the children can play in the snow and people can meet up in a winter wonderland. And if you’re a little more adventurous, once the lake freezes over we create a network of trails that let you go skiing, skating or walking on the lake.”
Later in the year, the city is hosting a wide variety of events. On 25-27 February, the region’s young people get together for Nordiska Ungdomsspelen, a collection of sporting events spanning everything from figure skating and skiing to Brazilian jiu-jitsu. On 9-12 March, the World Sleddog Association hosts the WSA World Championship in the city – and teams have already made their way from as far afield as New Zealand to train.
In addition to all the outdoor activities on offer, the city is as much a draw for those who prefer to stay indoors – on top of the wide variety of restaurants, the city’s museums are some of the best in the region.
Nationalmuseum Jamtli holds pride of place, hosting art exhibitions showcasing the best artists the country has to offer. Opened in 2018 to encourage local talent and showcase the region’s art and design credentials, the museum is currently showcasing Nordic Myths, an exploration of visual storytelling in Nordic art during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
With the museum taking its place alongside the countless galleries, beautiful surroundings and active living, it’s undeniable: Östersund is truly a city with something for everyone.
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