Lund – Heritage and Sustainable Tourism in Sweden’s Capital of Academia
Timeless and erudite. Two words I associate with my hometown Lund, one of Sweden’s oldest cities with 1000 years of eventful history. It’s actually older if you consider that a settlement a few kilometres away, Uppåkra, was a major power another millennia further back in time. It’s now a world-unique, ongoing archeological dig. An aspect that makes me extra proud of my birthplace, with a population of around 120 000, is the fact that Lund punches way above its weight, whether it be business, research and innovation, or sustainable tourism.
During my travels across the globe, I’m left in constant awe of how many people know of it or have been there. How can this be? Historical importance is one factor. The 900-year-old cathedral, a top attraction in the Nordics, is another. But from my experience, it’s Lund University, founded in 1666, that’s the main reason for the worldwide fame. With over 45 000 students and the number 85 spot in a global ranking, my alma mater is a fantastic, long-standing ambassador for the city. The university has fuelled the science park of Ideon, housing both innovative startups and multinational giants in ICT and pharmaceuticals.
Lund equals tradition, innovation and academia. But it doesn’t end there. The city has had a leading profile within sustainable development for decades, and as late as 2022, Lund won WWF’s international climate city challenge for its comprehensive and aggressive approach to curb emissions.
Awards, reports, and articles of praise are nice. But in the case of Lund, it goes beyond words. I lived a large chunk of my life in the city, and before I moved, I graduated from the university, started and sold a tech company at the science park, and ran an environmental non-profit where I worked with the municipality on a number of projects. Because of personal experience, I can attest with absolute certainty to the deep commitment and result oriented mentality of this city, including its leadership, not least with when it comes to developing into a sustainable destination with responsible tourism practices.
During one of my recent pilgrimages to Lund, I took the opportunity to establish a collaboration between One Planet Journey and Visit Lund, the official tourism agency, to provide this sustainability oriented guide for accommodation, restaurants, culture, sights, and nature experiences in and around Lund. To learn more about the city’s efforts in relation to sustainable tourism, I had a chat with Sofie Svensson at the Communications department.
Lund has been called the little big city. What factors make it big and small?
Lund attracts impressive numbers because of the multitude of events, conferences and large companies that are based in town. The university and innovation hubs like Medicon Village, Ideon, and the culture institution, Stenkrossen, all contribute to the inflow. Add to that, top class sights such as the cathedral, which by itself draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Lund is also growing in the area called Brunnshög near the major research facilities MAX IV and ESS, the whole neighbourhood designed and built with sustainability in mind. This includes green spaces, trams, water collection systems, and innovative garbage infrastructure.
At the same time, Lund’s city core is small, personal, and cosy, making it easy to walk and bicycle to everything you need. The quaint cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and lush parks make strolling a popular pastime for locals and visitors alike. The students create a dynamic vibe, but Lund is also attracting young families as there are plenty of activities year round.
How does Lund work towards becoming a sustainable tourism destination?
On a municipality level, Lund aims to be climate neutral and free of fossil fuel by 2030, and by 2045 emissions should be near zero. The city already halved them in 2020, using 1990 as a base year.
Lund approaches sustainable and responsible tourism by dividing it into different components. On the ecological/environmental front, we encourage visitors to act sustainably throughout the entire journey, meaning the trip to Lund, choice of accommodation, and activities while in town. We invite actors within the hospitality sector to work with sustainable practices and promote good examples to inspire our guests. For example, we have policies in place for how to organise events in a responsible manner.
We want to increase tourism to Lund, as it creates jobs and economic prosperity, but it should be sustainable growth where everyone feels included and welcome in our activities and events. We consider financial, social and cultural aspects alongside the environmental in our policy decisions
Making the right choice should be easy. On that note, can you recommend accommodation in Lund, where the businesses have taken important strides in terms of sustainability?
Grand Hotel Lund
A couple of years ago, the hotel became the first in Sweden to install a new water purification system developed by the Swedish clean tech company Scandinavian Water Technology, which allows machine laundry without detergents and chemicals. The hotel carries the Nordic Swan Ecolabel.
Another Nordic Swan certified hotel, which since 2019 has had its own solar energy installation on the roof. Concordia also uses the laundry system from Scandinavian Water Technology.
Nordic Swan certified and part of a larger chain that works with minimising food waste, has a large portion of local and organic produce, and avoids single use plastic.
When hunger kicks in, what do you suggest?
A delicatessen and catering business with a focus on organic and locally produced delicacies. They won Lund municipality’s environmental award in 2023.
100% plant based restaurant, sustainable comfort food for after work, bar, and dinner.
Gastro Gaspari in Flyinge
A place with a passion for the local, housed in an old forge, with producers from Skåne in terms of ceramics, wine, and food. They adjust the menu depending on the season and available produce.
Known for its many outstanding cultural offerings, give us some showstoppers in Lund.
Kulturnatten (Culture Night)
A unique event with around 400 activities on the agenda, taking place every year on the third Saturday of September. The heart of Lund fills with culture brought by the locals, for the locals, from lunchtime until after midnight. Expect anything from musical performances, to dance, theatre, yoga, science for the public, exhibitions, and city walks.
Lund Comedy Festival
Recurring since 2010, it’s an annual humour festival in Lund and offers stand-up, improvisation, music, sketches, discussions, shows, and much more.
Lundakarnevalen (Lund Carnival)
Held every four years, the mega event transforms Lundagård park into a grand carnival area, and the magnificent, student run procession takes over the streets of Lund, spreading joy to over hundreds of thousands of visitors. The first carnival took place in 1849 and is a popular activity for students to work on while studying.
What are some must visit sights in Lund?
An indoor and an open-air museum that spans two blocks in central Lund, filled with cultural and historical buildings in garden environments. It’s a chance to explore life in the Middle Ages until 1930.
One of Sweden’s top attractions is celebrating its 900th anniversary this year! The towers have had a facelift, and the cathedral has several fascinating features that attract visitors, for example, the 600-year-old astronomical clock and the atmospheric crypt where the legendary giant, Finn, awaits you.
The Botanical Garden
A green oasis in the heart of Lund, with over 7,000 plants and a greenhouse featuring nine climate zones. It’s a very popular place to unwind and contemplate life’s big questions.
If you want to get out of the city for some nature activities, where would you recommend visitors to go?
Sweden’s smallest National Park, outside the town of Dalby, offers a rare grove of broad-leaved forest.
Enjoy some of Lund’s most glorious expanses on this ridge where exciting hikes takes you through beautiful beech forests and a water-filled stone quarry.
A stream with meandering trails, rolling farmland, and bird filled dams, all within walking or cycle distance from the centre of Lund.
Check here for more nature experiences.
Last question – what is a sight or attraction you and your colleagues believe deserves more attention in Lund?
Museum of Sketches, officially the Museum of Artistic Process and Public Art, is a fascinating and unique place. The focus is on the creative process of artists, Swedish and International. It has the world’s largest collection of sketches and preparation work, like pencil drawings, vast canvases, and plaster sculptures. You can find Matisse, Léger, as well as Swedish masterpieces from Siri Derkert, and Isaac Grünewald.
Fantastic, thank you, Sofie and Visit Lund for the collaboration and recommendations. You’ve made me miss my hometown even more. I’m delighted that Lund is keeping up the good work I have known and come to expect. It’s easy to understand why this little big city had half a million overnight stays in 2022. A strategic location, academia, technology, and nature makes for a potent mix. Follow Visit Lund for additional information about activities, accommodation and more. Check the latest news on Instagram and Facebook.
Come to Lund, one of many sustainable tourism destinations in Sweden, a link between the ancient past and the cutting-edge future. Where else will you find mediaeval cobblestone streets juxtaposed with a particle accelerator?
Have you already been to Lund? As a student, or as a tourist? Let us know in the comment section! Don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter and benefit from tips, interviews, and inspirational examples of sustainable travel and tourism.