Explore cities like classic Stockholm, contemporary Gothenburg and cozy Malmö – or go for an adventure in the stunning landscapes of Swedish Lapland and West Sweden.
Activities, outdoor adventures and sports in Sweden are naturally seasonal as spring and summer arrives in the north and Swedish Lapland later than in central and southern Sweden. Golfers might be teeing off at some of Europe’s best golf courses in the southern provinces in April, while the ski slopes up north are still open.
Island hopping in West Sweden
There is a choice of ferry and boat lines that you can hop on and off at will to create your own island-hopping dream holiday. Experience the magic of the islands; the smooth, pink granite rock, blazing sunsets, virgin bathing spots and fantastic land and seascapes. CNN Travel has ranked the West Sweden archipelago as the 7th most beautiful wilderness area in the world.
Is there a more Bohuslän experience than catching lobster out in the cold, salty, fresh sea air, and later that day enjoying a lobster dinner at one of the many excellent hotels here? Professional lobster fishermen show you how to place and bait lobster traps. After finishing your dinner you return to your room for a good night's sleep. The following morning a generous breakfast buffet awaits you.
Canoeing and Kayaking
Canoeing and kayaking in Europe doesn’t get wilder or more remote than in West Sweden, Swedish Lapland, Dalsland and Värmland. In Swedish Lapland the midnight sun lights up the sky 24/7 in summertime in the Arctic Circle, you get double the time to explore and discover extraordinary rivers like The Kalix or The Torne. The province of Värmland is known for its giant forests, 10,000 lakes and fantastic canoeing and kayaking country. The Klara river, Sweden’s longest, carves the entire length of the province before flowing into lake Vänern, one of Europe’s largest lakes. On the West Coast of Sweden, that stretches from Gothenburg all the way north to the border with Norway, lies a sea kayaking paradise – their famous archipelago.
Sweden offers golfers a variety when it comes to its geography and there are three main types of golf course layouts to play – parkbana, skogsbana or a combination of the two.
Parkbana, which translates to park course, will typically be built on the rolling terrain of former farmland. Usually an easy to medium walking course, parkland courses are found in the more open areas of the Swedish countryside. Skogsbana means you will be playing on a golf course designed to take advantage of the hills and forests of Sweden. Usually surrounded by trees, the skogsbana course will call for accurate tee shots.
Park och skogsbana is the type most golf courses in Sweden consist of. A combination of both the flat meadows and the forests that are above them, these courses combine the two styles in varying ways.
Finally, in the southern area of Sweden, because of its coastal sandy soil, you can find some links courses. Though some courses use such descriptions as "links-like" or "links styled", this description is due more to the style of bunkering or its open landscape than their proximity to the coastline.
Don’t wait for a rainy day to visit Sweden’s fine art galleries. Apart from the art on display they are very likely to have good food, a great cup of coffee and brilliant gift shops. There’s also a great deal of outdoor exhibitions. Sculpture in Pilane on Tjörn in West Sweden is nominated as one of Europe’s 10 best sculpture parks!
For art in the big cities of Sweden visit the Fotografiska Museet, Moderna Museet, Liljevalchs Konstmuseum and Swedish Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm. In Gothenburg visit Göteborgs Konsthall, the Gothenburg Museum of Art and Röhsska. In Malmö check out Moderna Museet and Malmö Konsthall. Big Swedish name artists to look out for? 19th century painters Anders Zorn and Carl Larsson.
Sweden has a long line of historic traditions that still today are a big part of its modern culture.
Alongside Christmas, Midsummer is the most important of all the Swedish holidays. It falls between 19 and 25 June, around the same time as the summer solstice, when the days are the longest and the nights are the shortest. The way we celebrate this occasion will probably cause a few raised eyebrows among visitors to our country. It involves picking flowers, dreaming about your future love, wearing flower wreaths, dancing like a frog around a phallic symbol. All together with the classic fare, usually followed a strawberry cake and a few ‘snaps’ (traditional shots).
The crayfish party, at which people gather to eat, drink and be merry, is a typically Swedish festivity marking the end of the summer. At a classic crayfish party the home is adorned with candles and paper lanterns, and the guests with colourful napkins, bibs and silly hats – all in honour of the little crustacean. In terms of food, the buffet includes pie with sharp Vasterbotten cheese and crispbread with a tasty cumin cheese. For many people, schnapps is a key part of the crayfish party, enjoyed together with some clever drinking songs.
13 December is a magical day in many ways. In the darkest month of the year, eleven nights before Christmas, Lucia – or her festivity – comes and saves us. Going back more than four centuries, it honors the “Queen of Light”, Saint Lucia, who legend says spread light and joy. But 13 December is also significant in our folklore: we believed it was a dangerous night, when supernatural forces were active, and animals could speak. If you’re here at this time, be prepared to see processions of girls and boys wearing white robes, singing beautifully and carrying candles in their hands or in a crown on their head. The Lucia festivity should be enjoyed with lots of saffron-scented Lucia buns, gingersnaps and mulled wine.
Enjoy the fresh nip in the air, get rosy cheeks and take your cheer outside. Just wrap yourself up in a scarf, hat and gloves and hit the skating-rink before strolling through the festive Christmas markets of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. Warm yourself with a glass of spicy mulled wine (glögg) and browse over the most gorgeous handicrafts and Christmas decorations. You can sample typical Swedish Christmas delicacies at the markets too so look out for smoked sausage, reindeer meat and traditional Swedish Christmas sweets.
From late November until Christmas, at most Swedish restaurants, you can enjoy the beloved julbord, the traditional Swedish Christmas buffet. Enjoy the best of everything Swedish with an endless array of delicacies including pickled herring, gravlax, paté, knäckebröd, ham, meatballs with beetroot salad and lutfisk (a ling dish for the truly curious). Swedes love their julbord so they do it all over again on Christmas Eve, the day Sweden celebrates Christmas. (Swedes are no strangers to forward thinking after all).
Christmas at Santa World
Deep in the heart of Dalarna, central Sweden, you can also meet Santa’s reindeer, visit Santa’s workshop and see the little Christmas present storage. Then you get to visit Santa’s house and - wait for it - personally give your wish list to Santa! No more getting the wrong toys at Christmas now.
Just about everything in Swedish Lapland in the far north of Sweden is a ‘must do’ in terms of nature experience; here are two to give you an idea of what is in store. The first is gazing, mouth agape, at the Northern Lights at Abisko National Park in November-April at the Abisko Mountain Station. And if ‘peace, perfect peace’ is what you seek visit Sarek National Park. Sarek is 2,000 square kilometres of high alpine peaks, valleys and foaming rivers. And nothing else. You’re on your lonesome own some here and you must have experience of this type of terrain before you attempt Sarek.
Coming to the south of Sweden? Want to see a giant head in a pristine natural setting? Look no further than Stenshuvud National Park. Stenshuvud means ‘Sten’s head’ in English and this almost 100-metre hill on the coast actually resembles a head. From it you get fabulous views of the Baltic Sea, over to Danish island Bornholm and around it, lush forest and pastoral heath and marshland settings. Good for sea views, great for discovery walks and brilliant for the soul. And you can take a dip in the sea here.
Go east for Sweden’s archipelagoes, starting with capital city Stockholm, which has its very own. So what do to? Go island-hopping summertime by taking an archipelago boat from Strömkajen in front of the Grand Hotel, Nybrokajen or Stadshuskajen outside the City Hall (Stadshuset). There is a wide choice of accommodation to suit all tastes and pocket depth, what with a mind boggling 24,000 islands.
The big hitters, nature-wise, in the west of Sweden are the fabulous West Coast, also called the Bohuslän coast and the province of Västra Götaland. The West Coast and its archipelago have become world famous for their delicious shell fish; oysters, lobster and prawns. Visit quaint fishing village Grebbestad from where you can take an eco-friendly seafood ‘safari’ and then devour your catch at Everts Sjöbod, a restored 19th century boathouse.
For wild nature at its most watery take a trip to Sweden’s first national marine park, Kosterhavet National Park, centred around the car-free Koster Islands with its unique coastline of beaches and rocky islands. And Sweden’s only coral reef. You can take a boat out to many of the islands in the West Coast archipelago from Gothenburg.
Hiking in lowland Sweden
What better way to see and experience the nature, culture, traditions and meet the people of lowland Sweden? There isn’t one. Some lowland trails start from the major cities. For example, the 130 km-long Roslagsleden trail starts just outside Stockholm and goes north to Norrtälje, taking in deep forest, rolling countryside, Viking burial sites, medieval churches, lakes and beaches. This part of Sweden, in Grisslehamn, marks the end of the 1,400 km-long E6 (Euro-route) which starts in Malmö in the deep south of Sweden, and takes in Skåne, Halland, Östergötland and Sörmland before joining the outskirts of capital Stockholm.
Still in Skåne, do try out the 140 km-long Åsleden trail in Skåne, part of the 1,000 km-long Skåneleden that is divided into some 80 day trips. There are four sub-trails that link and create a common trail system. For theme trails, the John Bauer Trail and The Emigrant Trail (Utvandrarleden) are outstanding examples in the province of Småland. Or in the west there are more wonderful theme trails; The Pilgrim Trail (Pilgrimsleden) in Dalsland province, and Bruksleden, in the province of Västmanland.
In and around Sweden’s big three cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö there are many exciting theme parks, zoos and museums to keep the kids busy and interested.
The Story Train takes you on an amazing journey through the magical fairy tale world of Astrid Lindgren. Meet Mardie, Emil, Karlsson on the Roof and many others. Experience a treasure trove of Swedish children’s books through playful exhibits and a well-stocked children’s bookstore. Located on Djurgården in Stockholm.
Scandinavia's largest amusement park in Gothenburg. There is something for everyone at Liseberg, forty-one rides and attractions offer thrills, spills and laughter for kids and grown-ups.
Universeum is located in the heart of Gothenburg and is Scandinavia's largest science center. Throughout its seven floors you can experience a tropical rainforest, huge aquariums and lots of exciting experiments – on your own or with the Universeum guides.
Astrid Lindgrens World
Visit Pippi Longstocking, be there when That Emil hoists Ida up the flagpole or explore Matt’s Fort. In Astrid Lindgren’s World you and your family become part of the classic children’s stories, and the line between story and reality, and between theatre and play, becomes blurred. The park is opened in the summer months. Located in Vimmerby, Småland about 3,5 hours south of Stockholm.
This is the oldest open-air museum in the world and also the Stockholm zoo, with animals native to Scandinavia. This is also a Sweden in miniature. 150 farms and dwellings from different parts of the country were disassembled and transported here. Skansen is located on Royal Djurgården and sports spectacular views over all of Stockholm.
Sweden also has some of Europe’s very best family-friendly ski resorts in the Swedish mountains. Still in Sweden’s great outdoors, how about exploring the West Coast by kayak? Or timber-rafting down Sweden’s biggest river, through the giant forests of Värmland province in the west of the country. Or a horse-riding holiday on the Baltic island of Gotland? Or take a day off and discover some of Sweden’s castle, palaces or Viking settlements.
Royal Swedish Palaces
The Royal Palace (Kungliga Slottet) in Stockholm city centre, Drottningholm Palace (Drottningholms Slott) near Stockholm and Solliden (Sollidens Slott) on the Baltic island of Öland provide fascinating glimpses into how the Swedish royals live, work and holiday. Architecturally, these palaces couldn’t be more different, one is Baroque, one is renaissance and the other is a gorgeous Italian-style villa.
The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is a Baroque building by architect Nicodemus Tessin the Younger stands tall atop the island of the Old Town (Gamla Stan) and is surrounded by quaint untouched cobblestoned streets and listed buildings. The palace has more than 600 rooms on 7 floors and is the official residence of the Swedish Royal Family in Stockholm. See the Royal Apartments, the Treasury and the Tre Kronor Museum where you can get up close to quite an amazing array of crowns and royal costume jewellery and paraphernalia. Must see? Changing of the guard at 12.15 weekdays and Saturday (1.15 pm on Sundays). Walk there. It’s in the middle of the city. You can’t miss it. Also get there by bus and metro.
Drottningholm Palace (Drottningholms Slott) and grounds is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Swedish Royal Family’s permanent pad. On the outskirts of green Stockholm, it has quite simply a stunning setting. Bordering lake Mälaren’s waters, with manicured gardens and idyllic woodland surrounding the buildings, the 17th century Drottningholm Palace and gardens is the type of place that locals go to on hazy summer days with picnic baskets and a book. Must sees? The Court Theatre and the Chinese Pavilion and its gardens, modeled on the palace at Versailles. Get there by bus, boat or car.
Solliden is the Swedish Royal Family summer residence on the stunningly beautiful island of Öland off the south east coast of Sweden. This palace is actually more reminiscent of an Italian style country house and is the Royal’s playground in the summer. Solliden highlights? Magnificent gardens, parkland, pavilion and exhibition. Get there by boat or roadbridge from the mainland.
The objects you see and experience in the museums of Sweden cover everything from the diamond and gold dripping ‘Tre Kronor’ crown jewels to fermented herring (surströmming)– the pungent delicacy from northern Sweden. And just about everything in between.
The Gothenburg Museum of Art (Göteborgs Konstmuseum)
Housed in a beautiful landmark neoclassical building in front of the Götaplatsen square and the main boulevard Avenyn’ it prides itself on featuring the world’s most splendid collection of national-romantic Scandinavian late 19th century art, with many key works by artists such as Munch, Zorn, PS Krøye and Carl Larsson. Also check out the excellent Hasselblad Center for photographic exhibitions, as well as the art hall for temporary art exhibitions.
Vasa Museum (Vasamuseet) in Stockholm
Accidents of history are not a topic often covered by museums, but this is done in breathtaking style. The museum is built around the Vasa, the world’s only surviving 17th century ship and the story of her rescue is as dramatic as her sinking. The sheer scale and the beauty of Vasa are stunning: almost 700 wooden sculptures and figures adorn her length and breadth. The museum tells the story of how she was built, how and why she sunk and how she was lifted from the murky depths of Lake Mälaren in Stockholm and then perfectly preserved for future generations to admire. Don’t miss this.
Skansen in Stockholm
This is no ordinary museum. It is a living, working Sweden of the 1900s and hosts Christmas and Midsummer celebrations and other festivals across a large area dotted with farm buildings, mills, ‘olde worlde’ shops and a stunning wooden church. Some 160 buildings have been gathered here from all over Sweden to form a living, working society of the 1900s. Skansen also has a zoo featuring elk, wolves, lynx and brown bears.
Abba Museum in Stockholm
The platform-booted and sparkly Swedish band that took the pop world by storm between 1970 and 1983, likely Sweden’s biggest export, gave us the hits like “Dancing Queen,” and “Knowing Me, Knowing You” among many others is now immortalized in a state-of-the-art museum where visitors can view the band's stage clothes, artifacts, concert footage, interviews, and more in a contemporary, interactive setting. Visitors can sing and dance with ABBA holograms, don a digital costume projected on to them in a special booth and record a song. Photos and videos of the experience can be shared on Facebook and other social media. The museum opened May 7, 2013
Spritmuseum in Stockholm
Sweden’s history with alcoholic beverages comes to life at Spritmuseum, the museum of spirits, located on the popular island park of Djurgården in central Stockholm. In addition to immersive exhibitions, the museum features a tasting room, restaurant, and bar. Cruise passengers will also want to visit the Absolut Art Collection, showcasing works by modern greats, including Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst, all housed within Spritmuseum.
Fotografiska in Stockholm
Fotografiska is a new museum showcasing the best work in international contemporary photography. The museum, located in a beautiful historic building on the docks of Stadsgården in Stockholm, is perfectly suited to cruise passengers, with a convenient waterfront location and extended operating hours.
Ájtte Museum – the Sami Centre
The town of Jokkmokk in Swedish Lapland has always been a place for gatherings, trade and festivals and a meeting place for the indigenous Sami people of Lapland. The town is home to the Ájtte Museum – the Sami Centre. Through the exhibits the museum tells the story of Lapland and how the Sami have lived and survived for generations here. Well worth the visit to find out more about the original Swedes.
Vitlycke Museum – Rock Carvings in West Sweden
Tanum, a UNESCO World Heritage site, includes the Vitlycke Museum on the northern West Coast of Sweden. Here you get to see the rock carvings, which are the highlight of the show, depicting life in Bronze Age Sweden. The artist(s) of 3,000 years ago tell their story through 350 highly varied and richly-colored groups of rock art vividly depicting people, animals, ships and sleighs, as well as hunting scenes and domestic life.
The Falun Mine
A museum with a difference and a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the Falun Mine at the Great Copper Mountain in Falun, an unnatural wonder that is as renowned for its size as its importance to the economy of Sweden down the ages. On the edge of the Great Pit, the site of a giant cave - in 1687, is the Mining Museum. The museum tells the story of the mine and the company that ran it. The mine and museum have both received two stars from the Guide Michelin.
Museums in Malmö
The Malmö Art Museum (Malmö Konstmuseum), Stadsmuseet, the Museum of Natural History and the Science and Maritime House are housed in Malmöhus Castle (Malmö Museer).
Go to the Stadsmuseet to find out about the history of Malmö and surroundings, the Malmö Art Museum for the largest collection of 20th century Nordic art in Sweden, and the Museum of Natural History for its fabulous aquarium and stuffed animals. And for trams, jets, a real U3 submarine and science experiments go to the Science and Maritime House.
With a total area of 731,589 hectares across 29 national parks, Sweden is practically one big national park. The first national park, Sarek, was established in 1909, the first of its kind in Europe.
The Swedish National Parks are very well kept and ask that you respect their pristine condition. Check out the list of parks and have a look at their sites before you visit to determine level of survivalist clothing gear to pack ranging from lazy country strolls to hardcore Arctic conditions.
Arctic Circle Adventure
Head north to one of the four national parks of Laponia (Swedish Lapland) – one of Sweden's many UNESCO World Heritage Sites – to experience the habitat of the native Sami reindeer herding people and survivalist style mountain hiking and climbing through tundra, boulder fields, waterfalls and glacial rivers. Sarek (more than 100 glaciers) and Padjelanta (lake and vast tracts of open landscape) are two of the biggest national parks. Muddus is known for its deep ravines and Stora Sjöfallet for its forest and alpine peaks.
Watch for elk, lynx, wolverine and the endangered Arctic fox. And go in December-March to see the Northern Lights. But be warned. This is not strolling in your runners territory. This is hard-core hiking and adventure.
All-Season Park Activities
For all season adventure, Fulufjället National Park in central Sweden is part of PAN parks, a network founded by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Europe, and is a nature haven. Here, you can ramble through ravines, traverse plateaus and see the world's oldest tree.
If you prefer to leave the crampons at home and fancy some broadleaf forest, make your way to the southernmost parks—Söderåsen National Park, Dalby Söderskog National Park and Stenshuvud National Park together covering approximately 2,000 ha (4,900 acres).
Sea and Sand Parks
Kosterhavet National Park is the first national marine park of Sweden and was inaugurated in September 2009. It consists of the sea and shores around the Koster Islands.
For a coastal theme visit Haparanda Archipelago National Park in the Gulf of Bothnia. It’s a whole lot of low islands with wide sandy beaches.
Shopping, as everyone knows, is an integral part of travel, which would explain why experienced travelers consider Stockholm an international shopping Mecca. Sweden, in fact, has positioned itself as one of the leading countries in the world when it comes to design and fashion. Sweden’s designers are very innovative at finding new solutions—with ties to traditional styles and craftsmanship—that influence today’s way of living.
Here are a few places visitors can find those products:
Gothenburg is a vibrant and creative city full of inspiring design shops. The area surrounding the street Magasinsgatan is a real feast for design aficionados. The street Kyrkogatan and the neighborhood Linné is also worth a visit for design and furniture.
The trendy area Södermalm in Stockholm has all those small indie shops, vintage gems and quirky Scandinavian shops you can’t find anywhere else.
Ahlens City is Sweden’s largest department store where visitors can find fashionable clothes, beauty products and home decor.
Nordiska Kompaniet, also known as NK, is the number one place to shop for Scandinavian glassware and porcelain.
Biblioteksgatan is Stockholm’s answer to New York’s Fifth Avenue with exclusive clothes, jewelry, furs and watches.