Visiting the Swedish city of Piteå is almost like entering a new world. Learn more about this Swedish village of magical contrasts.
Just 45 minutes from Luleå Airport and an hour’s flight from Stockholm, you arrive at the idyllic village of Piteå in Norrbotten, Swedish Lapland. Piteå is a village of magical contrasts – warmth and cold, light and dark, mountains and archipelago – and not least, the contrast between seasons is dramatic.
The name “Piteå”, has been the object of a variety of different interpretations. Common for all these is that they all begin with the Pite river as the origin. The sentence “A river called Pitu” in a letter from the year 1335 establishes this.
In 1335 Piteå is named for the first time in writing, although there is evidence of settlements, dated to sometime during the 11th century.
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During the 15th century two neighboring towns, Piteå and Luleå, became tough competitors, but throughout the years, Piteå has had the forest as its most important industry. Piteå was established in 1620 by 44 settlers and it received its town privileges by the king Gustavus Adolphus a year later.
Its current location was established in 1668, after a great fire had ravished the first location in 1666.
In 1858, the first sawmill was founded in Bergsviken followed by one in Munksund (1861) and in Storfors (1871).
In 1858 the first sawmill in the municipality was founded in Bergsviken and three years later one was founded in Munksund. About 10 years later one more was founded at Lövholmen and between 1883-86 the largest one in Storfors.
In more recent years, the construction of Markbygden Wind Farm is adding new industry to the area. It is scheduled to be finished by 2023.
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What to do and see in Piteå
Piteå is a small town with around 23,000 inhabitants and is famous for the Westrobothian dialect called “Pitemål” which most of the older generation speak. Their traditional dish is “Piteplat”, a kind of meat-filled dumpling. The historical town has its own traditions with the Bay of Bothnian right next door.
It’s claimed that people living here is generally nicer than for example the stiff upper lips Stockholmers. One might think that they’d behave more “small-town” like, but they don’t. Even southerners feel welcome here. We have a saying in Norway, though, about people living far north. “They are not more hospitable, only more socially ill”.
As a first visit to Piteå, we would recommend traveling there during the summer. The beaches are often called “The Riviera of Sweden”. The coastline of Bothnia Bay is 300km long. Pite Havsbad is a wonderful bathing resort, no matter if you choose to take a swim outside or indoors. It is mainly a beach at the estuary of the Pite River. From being a sandy beach stretching for kilometers, it has developed into a tourist attraction with camping, hotels, pools etc. Expect to see the midnight sun.
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The archipelago of Piteå is home to 550 islands, with fishing villages, nature reserves, sandy beaches and nature at its best. It might be located in the north of Sweden, but the water temperatures in the sea is sometimes among the highest in the country.
Piteå is only about 100 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle, and the winter months set stage for a completely different experience – the ice-covered coastline is illuminated by the Northern Lights.
Long dark nights and plenty of proper winter conditions are the norm. There are outdoor activities all year round and wintertime means the possibility of skiing and dog sledging.
From August to March, the Northern Lights are visible all-over Swedish Lapland. However, chances for experiencing the Aurora Borealis at its best is at Bothnia Bay where there are few lights to interfere and the horizon expands beyond the ice.
Byxtorget and Rådhustorget are the two main squares in the center of Piteå. They are connected by the pedestrian street Storgatan. These squares are full of shops, cafés and restaurants.
How to get there
By plane: Luleå Airport (LLA) is located 55 kilometers to the north and connects the area with the Stockholm-Arlanda Airport (ARN) for connections around the globe.
By car: Piteå is located along the highway E4 between Skellefteå and Luleå.
By train: Northbound trains from Stockholm stops in Älvsbyn, from where it is possible to take local buses to Piteå.
By bus: There are regional buses connecting Piteå with the surrounding area.
A Swedish Village of Magical Contrasts, compiled by Tor Kjolberg
Feature image (on top): Photo: Piteå kommun