The choice of where to go and what to see when planning a holiday in Sweden can be a real problem but a nice one, as there is so much to choose from. Perhaps a list of some really interesting places might help you? Stockholm of course is a given – you wouldn’t like to miss out on a capital built on islands amidst glittering (and nowadays very clean) water, with the old town, the royal castle, the metro stations decorated with contemporary art and the city hall with its gold mosaics by Einar Forseth. But where else could you go?
Gothenburg on the west coast is the second largest city of Sweden, a bit nearer the continent and with the distinct atmosphere of an old seafaring community. It is cosmopolitan today, but the picturesque old workers quarter of Majorna evokes harsher times not so very long gone. Wanting to catch more of the atmosphere? Genuine worker’s cafés still exist here and there, take your breakfast at an unprepossessing table amidst the men in overalls and enjoy fried potatoes and herrings, it will give you the energy to visit the 17th century defense tower of the Lion (Skansen Lejonet), the science center Universeum or the famous indoors markethall. Sweden’s largest and most popular amusement park Liseberg might also tempt you!
Uppsala northwest of Stockholm is the city with Sweden’s oldest university, and you can visit the Gustavianum building where it was housed. Autopsies were performed in the anatomical theatre there, still on the premises and open to visitors. The gothic cathedral, the castle of Gustavus Vasa and the 19th century university building all lie close together in the city center, and a bus ride takes you to Old Uppsala , where grave mounds predating the Vikings, an archaeological museum and a medieval church can be visited in a lush, green countryside.
Looking for restful country days instead? Go to the north part of Dalecarlia, the landscape where Swedish folk traditions are cherished and maintained. Here, you find lake Siljan with its nice, sandy beaches and the towns of Rättvik, Mora and Leksand where the celebration of Midsummer’s Eve brings out people in bright traditional costumes to dance around flowered maypoles and play the violin. You can visit the factory where the small red wooden Dala-horses are produced and painted in Nusnäs, taste the hard knäcke-bread of Rättvik and visit outdoor museums with traditional architecture in almost any village. If you hanker for some culture, go to a music performance at the truly fabulous outdoor stage Dalhalla in an ancient mine.
The south part of Dalecarlia has its own attractions – hikers will appreciate an extensive ravine system, the high point of which is the valley of Säter in the small town with the same name. The Museum of Dalecarlia in Borlänge, with its large collection of the unique Dala paintings is not to be missed. These paintings graced the walls of 18th and 19th century well-to-do farmers and in a naïve and yet sophisticated way they depict both biblical themes and local folklore. King Salomo as an earnest Dalecarlian farmer, who could ask for more?
If folk art is your passion, then the landscape of Hälsingland should suit you. In the tourist office of a major town like Bollnäs you’ll get a map of old farms worth a visit – and not just any old farms! Huge, red-painted buildings with a multitude of windows, they were built to brag and impress (window glass was expensive) as farmers grew rich from the production of linen and butter about 100 years ago. Inside, they were painted by itinerant artists, and these paintings are breathtaking. Colorful, in totally unique styles, displaying influences both of contemporary major art trends and folk art – at each of the farms you will meet a new world of form and color. The fantastically decorated porches of the farmhouses with their painted, elaborate woodwork, is an extra bonus. Want to stay? Not impossible, as some farms offer bed and breakfast. You have to go around by car, though, as you are truly in rural Sweden now, and sometimes you’ll have to call the owners of a particular farm in advance to arrange for a visit.
The High Coast (Höga kusten) of the Baltic Sea is a coastal region of Ångermanland, where the rapid land uplift since the last ice age has created a spectacular landscape, both on the mainland and in the relatively little known archipelago. Deep bays cut into the coast, surrounded by rocks ground to smooth, curving forms by the ice-sheet that once covered them, there are granite cliffs and deep woods. Regular boats ply the High Coast islands, but cruises just for fun are also available. The occasional sandy beach or small village provides variety. And why not visit the museum of fermented herring in Arnäsvall – get to know a northern Swedish national dish, stinking but allegedly delicious? Rock climbing, canoeing, trekking and sailing are all activities that let you come to grips with this unique area!
One of the most interesting places to go in Sweden is Gotland, the large island in the Baltic Sea, once an important medieval trading post. Sweden’s only walled city, Visby, proudly shows off its defense towers, its roses and its pastel colored stone houses. If you come during the Medieval Week, you’ll meet half of Sweden there, and get to see knights and tournaments, medieval markets and chanting friars trying to save your soul. The year round, there are more medieval churches on the island than you could possibly visit, more beaches you than you could explore and more sheep of the special free roaming variety than you could count. Don’t miss the stone pillars left standing by erosion along some of the coast areas and don’t forget to order a saffron pancake, Gotland’s special dish!
If you want something more easily accessible, go to the southernmost landscape of Sweden, Skåne. This is Sweden’s dairy, so living on a farm might be just the thing to get the feel of this agricultural environment. Get in touch with the tourist office and see what choices you have! Walk in majestic beach-tree forests, enjoy the nearness of the sea and the atmosphere of some resorts that date from when swimming in the salt waters became first fashionable, like Tomelilla. The botanical garden of Helsingborg is a romantic and special place, The castle of Sofiero is a gem set in Europes most beautiful park and in the bustling and active city of Malmö the Turning Torso building shows that Swedish modern architecture is top class!
Looking for a real stress-relieving holiday, with no sight-seeing and no travelling by car or bus from one interesting spot to the other – if you need to get away from it all and just relax – there are two places I would recommend . The first is the small island of Ven, between Denmark and Sweden. Quiet, beautiful and secluded, a cabin rented here might give you much needed peace of mind. No cars, but bikes for rent and lots of pleasant walks. If you feel too hemmed in, take the boat to Landskrona on the mainland and visit the castle or walk in the small allotment gardens, where a truly amazing array of miniature architecture and miniature gardening will fascinate you.
The second place is a small village of cabins for rent (some of them really minuscule) on the west coast, called Ramsvik. Open only in summer, there will be a handful of people that have discovered this pearl, but walking along the spectacular cliffs by the sea you will soon lose sight of them. Walks will take you to vistas of endless sea, grey cliff islands and small boathouses perched in the middle of nowhere. Rent a rowing boat and explore some nearby islets on your own or bring your aquarelle painting equipment to capture the mood. Or just spread a blanket on a cliff, take out the novel you haven’t had time to read and let the day slide by…