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Sweden - Where History Meets the 21st Century

Through its rich history with vikings, kings and castles to modern cities and the freedom to roam in the wide-ranging wild nature – Sweden brings together its past, present and future for its visitors to discover.

Geography

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Sweden is a sparsely populated country, characterized by its long coastline, extensive forests and numerous lakes. It is one of the world’s northernmost countries. In terms of surface area it is comparable to Spain, Thailand or the American state of California. Sweden is placed in the center of Scandinavia with Finland on its right side, Norway on its left side and Denmark below.

Longest north-south distance: 1,574 km
Longest east-west distance: 499 km
Total area: 528,447 sq km, the third-largest country in Western Europe after France and Spain.

Highest mountain: Kebnekaise (2,103 m)
Biggest lake: Vänern (5,650 sq km)

Population in major cities (including suburbs):
– Stockholm: 2,210,000
– Gothenburg: 995,000
– Malmö: 643,000

History

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Some 100,000 years ago Sweden was covered in ice. Eons later the Vikings put Sweden on the map. Between 1850–1930 1.3 million Swedes emigrate, mainly to North America. The peak year of emigration to the US was 1887. And in the last 100 years, Sweden has transformed from a poor nation of farmers to an innovative high-tech nation.

Vikings

The Viking Age (800–1050 AD) is a famous part of Sweden´s history. The newly opened museum Vikingaliv in Stockholm is perfect for those looking into this era. If you’d like to know about Viking settlements and way of life, visit Birka, an island just outside Stockholm, and a UNESCO World Heritage site dedicated to this important Viking settlement. At Vikingabyn on the gorgeous island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, once a major Viking trading post, you get to experience a reconstructed 10th century Viking settlement and Viking-related activities.

The Vasa ship

The battleship Vasa was commissioned by King Gustav II Adolf in 1625. On August 10, 1628, the Vasa weighed anchor in Stockholm, but its maiden voyage ended in disaster. The Vasa sank after only 20 minutes. Today Vasa is the world's only preserved 17th century ship and can be seen at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, the most visited museum in Scandinavia.

The Royal Sweden with Palaces and Castles

Swedish monarchs date back around a thousand years and have belonged to eleven dynasties, with the current one, the House of Bernadotte, ruling the longest. Jean Baptiste Bernadotte was the first Bernadotte on the Swedish throne. Born in France in 1763, he was named heir to the Swedish throne in 1810. His name as king was Karl XIV Johan. The Swedish Royal Family is related to all the reigning royal courts of Europe.

The major ones are the Royal Palace and Drottningholm Palace in Stockholm, Gripsholms Castle near Mariefred, Läckö Castle near Lidköping, Kalmar Castle in the south east of the country, as well as the castles and palaces around Gothenburg and Malmö.

Nature

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It’s everywhere for the love of it all – in the north (wilderness, foaming rivers, high alpine peaks and plains in Swedish Lapland), south (rolling countryside and beaches that never end), east (coastline and magical archipelagoes) and west (coastline and giant lakes). Even in Sweden’s big cities; Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö, Sweden’s nature is literally on your doorstep. Only 3 % of Sweden consists of urban or industrial land. So if there’s one thing Sweden has plenty of, it’s open landscapes. Even those living in large cities like Stockholm or Gothenburg have direct access to hundreds of unspoiled islands – just a short boat ride from the city center.

Sweden’s Archipelagoes

Lush, populated islands, deserted isles and rocky barren skerries dot Sweden’s archipelagoes from the far north in Swedish Lapland, wrapping around the coastline of the deep south, before stretching up the west coast.

Archipelagoes in Northern Sweden
Off the northern Swedish cities of Luleå and Piteå lie groups of islands in the Gulf of Bothnia, known for their natural beauty and unique cultural heritage.

Stockholm Archipelago
The Stockholm archipelago fans out 80 km out from the city and is some 24,000 islands big. The nearest islands of Fjäderholmarna and beautiful fortress town of Vaxholm are less than an hour away by boat. The larger populated islands, for example; Sandhamn, Blidö and Utö have hotels, holiday homes, restaurants, marinas and offer loads of activities. Most of the islands are small and uninhabited and waiting for you to discover them, perhaps by boat, canoe or kayak.

The Östgöta Archipelago
The Östgöta Archipelago off the east coast of Sweden is actually three archipelagoes: Gryt, and Tjust, St. Anna and Arkösund. Beautiful, lush islands hug the east coast, while the outlying islands tend to be barren, rocky affairs. All are naturally gorgeous of course, with beaches, bathing spots, some with natural or guest harbours and a lively food scene. Accommodation options include hotels, guesthouses, youth hostels, campsites and camping with your own tent.

South East Coast Archipelago
Sweden’s south east coast archipelago is 10,000 islands strong, stretching out from coastal towns Västervik, Oskarshamn, Mönsterås and Kalmar. The biggest island here is Öland, a favourite among Swedish holidaymakers for its sun, sea and fantastic white beaches/shallow coastal waters. Öland is also famous for its windmills, Borgholm Castle and ancient sites.

West Coast Archipelago
The West Coast archipelago in Sweden making the news around the world for its lobster and oyster seafood ‘safaris’. The West Coast and the archipelago here is full of fishing villages, beaches and bathing spots, pink granite skerries and a world first, the Kosterhavet Marine National Park.