Located 71 km (44 mi) north of the capital Stockholm, it is also the seat of Uppsala Municipality. Since 1164, Uppsala has been the ecclesiastical centre of Sweden, being the seat of the Archbishop of the Church of Sweden. Uppsala is home to Scandinavia's largest cathedral – Uppsala Cathedral. Founded in 1477, Uppsala University is the oldest centre of higher education in Scandinavia. Among many achievements, the Celsius scale for temperature was invented there.
Uppsala was originally located a few kilometres north of its current location at a place now known as Gamla Uppsala (Old Uppsala). Today's Uppsala was then called Östra Aros (Eastern Aros, to differentiate it from Western Aros). (Old) Uppsala was, according to medieval writer Adam of Bremen, the main pagan centre of Sweden, and the Temple at Uppsala contained magnificent idols of the Norse gods. The Fyrisvellir plains along the river south of Old Uppsala, in the area where the modern city is situated today, was the site of the Battle of Fyrisvellir in the 980s. The present-day Uppsala was at that time known as Östra Aros and was a port town of Gamla Uppsala. In 1160, King Eric Jedvardsson was attacked and killed outside the church of Östra Aros, and later became venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church. In 1274, Östra Aros overtook Gamla Uppsala as the main regional centre, and when the cathedral of Gamla Uppsala burnt down, the archbishopric and the relics of Saint Eric were moved to Östra Aros, where the present-day Uppsala Cathedral was erected; it was inaugurated in 1435. The cathedral is built in the Gothic style and is one of the largest in northern Europe, with towers reaching 118.70 metres (389.4 ft).
The city is the site of the oldest university in Scandinavia, founded in 1477, and is where Carl Linnaeus, one of the renowned scholars of Uppsala University, lived for many years; both his house and garden can still be visited. Uppsala is also the site of the 16th century Uppsala Castle. The city was severely damaged by a fire in 1702. Historical and cultural treasures were also lost, as in many Swedish cities, from demolitions during the 1960s and 1970s, but many historic buildings remain, especially in the western part of the city. The arms bearing the lion can be traced to 1737 and have been modernised several times, most recently in 1986. The meaning of the lion is uncertain but is likely connected to the royal lion, also depicted on the Coat of Arms of Sweden.
Situated on the fertile Uppsala flatlands of muddy soil, the city features the small Fyris River (Fyrisån) flowing through the landscape surrounded by lush vegetation. Parallel to the river runs the glacial ridge of Uppsalaåsen at an elevation of circa 30 metres (98 feet), the site of Uppsala's castle, from which large parts of the town can be seen. The central park Stadsskogen (literally "The Town Forest") stretches from the south far into town, with opportunities for recreation for many residential areas within walking distance.
Only some 70 kilometres (43 miles) or 40 minutes by train from the capital, many Uppsala residents work in Stockholm. The train to Stockholm-Arlanda Airport takes only 17 minutes, rendering the city easily accessible by air.