Valborg – or the Last Day of April, as we say in Uppsala

The Last Day of April, May Day Eve or Valborg. No matter what we call it, it’s the most important student festival of the year in Uppsala, with picnics in Ekonomikum Park, the donning of student caps on the hill below Carolina Rediviva, the running of the falls, spring songs by the Gunilla Bell and much more.

Timetable of highlights on the Last Day of April in Uppsala

  • 10:00 The running of the river Fyris falls
  • 11:45 Herring lunch at UKK
  • 13:30 Wijkmanska Blecket student band plays by Carolina Rediviva
  • 15:00 (on the dot!) Donning of the caps on Carolina Hill
  • 15:02 Orphei Drängar choir sings spring songs on the steps of Carolina Rediviva
  • 15:30 Champagne gallop parties at the Student Nations
  • 17:00 Ball at Uppsala Castle
  • 21:00 Spring songs and speech by the Gunilla Bell

The running of the falls

The running of the falls starts at 10:00. A never-ending stream of floats of all shapes and colours glide down the river Fyris and take on the two falls, Kvarnfallet and Islandsfallet. Come early to secure a good spot for viewing the event!

The tradition was started in the mid-1970s. The Uppsala Union of Engineering and Science Students organises it today. Over time, the running of the falls has become a truly popular event attracting people of all ages.

How the running of the falls started

The running of the falls on the Uppsala Union of Engineering and Science Students website

Crowd watching students in a raft on the Fyris river

The donning of the caps on Carolina Hill

People in a crowd on Carolina Hill putting on their student caps

At exactly 3 o’clock in the afternoon of the Last Day of April, the Vice-Chancellor raises a white cap and waves to the gathered masses below, who wave back and don their student caps.

The tradition dates back to the early 20th century and found its present form at some point in the 1950s when then Vice-Chancellor Torgny Segerstedt hit on the idea of raising his cap to signal the beginning of spring.

History of the student cap

360 degree panoramic view of the donning of the caps

Orphei Drängar sing on the steps of Carolina Rediviva

Like all traditions, the Last Day of April in Uppsala has evolved over the years. One of the latest updates is the venue for the performance by the male voice choir Orphei Drängar (Servants of Orpheus).

Since 2016, Orphei Drängar have sung on the steps of the University Library Carolina Rediviva, immediately after the donning of the caps.

Previously the choir performed in the Grand Auditorium and the University Park.

Crowd with student caps watching Orphei Drängar singing on the steps of Carolina Rediviva.

Spring songs by the Gunilla Bell – a tradition since the 19th century

In the early 19th century students began to climb Castle Hill in the evening to watch bonfires on the plain below and sing.

The ceremony was fully formed at the end of the 19th century. The members of the students’ union processed as a body up the hill and the vice-president of the union made a speech to greet the spring. This speech has been broadcast on the radio since 1926 (with a single exception in 1951).

Since 1971 the address has been delivered by the Curator Curatorum. The Curator Curatorum is the president of the Curators Committee, which is the coordinating body of the student nations.

At 21:00 the Gunilla Bell rings and the people of Uppsala can listen to singing by the oldest university choir in Scandinavia, Allmänna Sången.

Members of the students’ union stand holding flags at the Gunilla Bell in the twilight

Welcome spring at home with the Last Day of April app

With the app Sista April you can download your own virtual choir to sing the traditional Swedish spring songs wherever you are. Choose among four classic songs and which of the singers (bass, tenor, alto and soprano) you want to hear. Using augmented reality you can place the choir wherever you want it – on the buffet table or in your garden. You can even join in yourself. Take a selfie or a video clip and share with your friends! You can also change the pitch of the songs for some extra fun.

Download the app free of charge for iPhone and iPad

Download the app free of charge for Android

All about the Last Day of April in Uppsala

You will find information about all the events on the website Valborg i Uppsala.