Sweden is nature’s wonderland, a beautiful country of lakes and forests, frozen tundra and islands strewn across a vast archipelago. It’s the country that’s given us the Vikings and the Nobel Peace Prize, Absolute Vodka and Volvo, IKEA and H&M. Along with a wonderful sense of civility. And, of course, we can’t forget those little meatballs….
By Jim Ferri
In Sweden you find virgin forests and modern cities, ancient culture and modern style, and fascinating museums almost everywhere. And you can discover incredible dining opportunities at the drop of a fork. It’s a beautiful country to explore, made even more so by the friendly, engaging Swedes, most of whom speak English.
Unfortunately, too much of it is often missed by those who spend only a day or two in Stockholm. Up north you’ll discover pastoral landscapes and dense green forests. And, if you’re more adventurous, find the Sami people up on the northern tundra.
The southern countryside is filled with Viking burial grounds, and excellent biking and hiking paths; in the heartland tradition remains king. And in its cities, you’ll enjoy exciting cultural opportunities, upscale restaurants, and excellent shopping. Even if you only have a few days in Stockholm you can take a ferry to discover picturesque little cottage-covered islands scattered across the vast Stockholm Archipelago.
For those who would like to explore the smorgasbord that is modern-day Sweden, here are the most-visited areas of Sweden as reported by VisitSweden.
Stockholm is widely celebrated not only as the capital of Scandinavia but also as one of the world’s most beautiful cities. It stands where lake meets sea, on fourteen islands, with ten centuries of history and culture.
The Swedish Royal Capital is also widely known for its remarkable modernity, progressiveness and trend sensitivity. This you’ll find in everything from lifestyle to fashion, design, food and drink and usage of new technology. The combination of magnificent scenery, ancient history and tradition, and a pervasive innovative spirit combine to give Stockholm its truly exceptional character and charm.
Swedes like to claim that Stockholm is a city that has all of the qualities and allures of a major international metropolis but few of its usual downsides. It’s a city where it’s easy and efficient to move around. And where the air is fresh and the waters clean. And where vast green areas permeate the town with plenty of space for everyone to roam freely. Few other places let you experience the pleasures and enchantments of nature, urban sophistication and cultural history, all in a single day.
The Stockholm Archipelago
Surprisingly, one of the most fantastic parts of Stockholm and Sweden is still a secret for many — the magnificent Stockholm archipelago. It is a maritime landscape of more than 30,000 islands, islets, and skerries. However, just some one thousand are inhabited. This makes it unique in the world both in summer and winter.
Luckily, Stockholm’s archipelago is accessible from central Stockholm all year round. No doubt this is due to the historic white archipelago boats. Some are well-preserved old workhorses dating back more than a century and are still steam powered.
Moreover, you can choose from shorter excursions lasting just a couple of hours to day tours or even longer with overnight stays. Many boat tours also offer gourmet lunch or dinner.
Gothenburg in West Sweden
City breaks don’t often come more perfect than they do in small, beautiful Gothenburg, the capital of West Sweden. Here you can discover quaint canals and the cobbled streets of historical Haga. And there are many green open spaces. The latter includes Sweden’s biggest botanical garden, boasting 16,000+ species.
At any rate, in Gothenburg immerse yourself in the Swedish lifestyle. And soak up the buzzing outdoor café culture with ‘fika’ (a break for coffee and a sweet bun). In addition, indulge in the intriguing food markets, impressive museums and multitude of enticing restaurants. There are five with Michelin stars, including the most recent addition to the list, Thörnströms Kök.
What’s more, there’s the city archipelago right on Gothenburg’s doorstep. Its easy to reach via a half-hour tram ride and a short passenger ferry trip.
Malmö is the biggest city in Skåne and a multi-cultural place full of energy. Moreover, in recent years, Malmö has developed into an exciting city with a focus on cultural offerings, innovative architecture, and a high organic social character.
In fact, Malmö was certified as Sweden’s first Fairtrade City in 2006, spurring the city’s organic and fair trade offerings. In Malmö, it’s easy to shop with a clear conscience and to enjoy ethically produced food and drink.
Consequently, you can shop for the latest fashions made with the environment and ethics clearly in mind. Later, dine at one of Sweden’s most acclaimed organic restaurants.
Located in Jukkasjärv, ICEHOTEL is the world’s largest hotel made of ice and snow. The 5,500 square meter complex includes an ice church and an Icebar.
ICEHOTEL’s accommodation features snow rooms, ice rooms, and art suites. It is constructed every November-December anew and melts in April-May, but you can, of course, visit the area all year round.
Additionally, guests may book a broad range of snowmobile excursions such as Arctic Trail. It takes one through the wilderness trails of Swedish Lapland’s aboriginal people, the Sami, whose life is integrally tied to reindeer migration. In addition, you can fish for char, trout and grayling, and enjoy sauna and dinner programs.
There’s also a few tour options: ice driving, moose watching, ice sculpting, Northern Lights viewing, and dog sled safaris.
Sweden’s first Marine National Park, Kosterhavet is centered around the car-free Koster Islands. Furthermore, it’s only a two-hour drive up the lovely coast from Gothenburg.
Once on the Kosters, you’ll see small fishing villages surrounded by a beautiful landscape, with many different plants and flowers. By and large its appeal focuses on the unique seaside location, with beaches and rocky islands. In addition, there’s the enchanting ‘Koster light’, which has inspired many artists on the island.
You can rent bikes and enjoy a guided tour or a boat trip to see this marine wonderland. It’s the perfect environment for lobster safaris during the region’s renowned Shellfish Journey, as well as seal safaris, diving, and sea kayaking.
Located only an hour’s drive from Gothenburg, Marstrand island is Sweden’s version of Hollywood. As a result, its the playground of royalty and celebrities, boasting a rich, intriguing history.
Enjoy an impressive vista from grand Carlsten’s Fortress. There you can look down upon the island’s colorful collection of wooden holiday homes. But you’ll also see sailing boats of all shapes and sizes, alongside rugged rocks and the navy-blue ocean.
Maybe you’d like to stay at the former residence of King Oscar II, Grand Hotel Marstrand. Or, perhaps, at the new Havshotellet Marstrand, just opposite the island. It has a superb spa designed to reflect its natural coastal setting, with treatments to match. In addition, in its restaurant guests relax while watching the sunset over the island.
Strangely enough, no other city in Scandinavia and few cities in Europe can boast such a complete and ‘living’ picture of bygone days as Ystad. Many of the 300 half-timbered houses and other buildings bustle with restaurants and shops. Walk along the street and picturesque corners come alive with surprises and bargains.
Best-selling author Henning Mankell has put the city of Ystad on the world map with his detective stories about Police Superintendent Kurt Wallander. Wallander is a bachelor who grapples with murder investigations and difficult criminal cases in Ystad and in his private life.
In fact, the popular books have been adapted for the screen. And you can now go on a guided tour in an old fire engine around Ystad, listening to stories about the films and books.
Skåne’s wonderful nature is a holiday paradise in more ways than one. Accordingly, you can enjoy fantastic views and exciting natural phenomena. In addition, there’s complete silence and tranquillity. Enjoy long, light evenings and the luxury of walking on a path in the middle of the forest all by yourself.
Skåne is a province of contrasts. First and foremost, it has vast forests with airy deciduous trees. It also has many forest-clad ridges that rise above the landscape. On the other hand, there are glorious fertile fields and wonderful, chalk-white beaches stretching along the sea.
Visby is Gotland’s gateway, as it has been for centuries.
On the west coast of Gotland, the city of Visby has a long history stretching back to the Middle Ages. At that time it was prosperous member of the Hanseatic League, a medieval trading alliance in northern Europe.
In fact, relics of this past exist to this day, most notably the Ringmuren, a two-mile medieval stone wall that encircles the city. The wall and Visby’s many other preserved medieval structures have earned its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
But there is more to Visby than just its history. For instance, the city hosts some of the best restaurants in Gotland, and in all of Sweden. Many feature the fresh, farm-to-table cuisine for which Gotland is known. Also, in summer, Visby’s nightlife rivals that of Stockholm. Residents converge on the city in the summer for a week of champagne-soaked revelry.
Beyond its history and its cuisine, Visby is also one of the ideal places on Gotland to take in the island’s art scene. The best time to do this is in early June when artists and artisans open their studios to the public.