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Things to see and do
Astrid Lindgren's Värld
Immerse yourself in Astrid Lindgren’s fantasy world in Vimmerby in the province of Småland: Pippi Longstocking, Ronja, the robber’s daughter, that Emil, Karlsson on the roof and many more of Astrid Lindgren’s famous characters gather in Astrid Lindgrens Värld (astridlindgrensvarld.se/en). In summer, there are about 50 different daily theatre performances in the park. Spend the night in one of the houses at Den lilla staden (The tiny town) and relive the life of the Bullerby children.
Naval and folk history
Delve further into Sweden’s history at the Vasa Museum (www.vasamuseet.se), which contains a restored 360-year-old wooden warship recovered from Stockholm’s harbour in 1961, and relive the country’s cultural past at the wonderful Skansen open-air folk museum (www.skansen.se) nearby.
Gothenburg (Göteborg) is the home of Volvo cars and they have a museum to prove it (www.volvomuseum.com). If cars aren’t your thing, relive the city’s seafaring past at the Maritime Museum (Sjöfartsmuseet) (www.sjofartsmuseetakvariet.se) or head to the pretty Nordstaden Kronhuset area, home of the fascinating City Museum (goteborgsstadsmuseum.se).
Much maligned and unfairly ignored, Sweden’s third city, Malmö (malmo.se), has undergone a renaissance in the years since the construction of the Öresund Bridge. Key sights include Malmöhus Castle and the St Petri Church. Also see the Konsthallen (www.konsthall.malmo.se) and the remarkable Turning Torso skyscraper.
Head offshore – Gotland and Öland are Sweden’s biggest islands, in the southeast of the country. On Gotland are the Lummelunda Caves (www.lummelundagrottan.se) with spectacular stalactites and stalagmites, and a preserved medieval town at Kattlundsgård.
German immigrants founded Sweden’s crystal and glass-making industry in the southern province of Småland in the 16th century and 16 glassworks in the area are open to visitors. The Småland Museum (www.kulturparkensmaland.se/184.108.40.206/13/2/) in Växjö also has permanent exhibitions dedicated to the region’s glassmaking past.
Medieval and modern
Founded by King Sven Tveskägg more than 1,000 years ago, the pretty town of Lund is home to a lovely 12th-century cathedral, 14th-century astronomical clock and hordes of 21st century students. The huge open air museum, Kulturen (www.kulturen.com) is in the heart of the city centre, and includes row after row of perfectly preserved mediaeval streets. There is also the spectacular Öresund Bridge, the world’s longest single span bridge, between Denmark and Sweden, close to Malmö.
Sweden has more than 97,500 lakes to choose from, but the prettiest are to be found in the huge Swedish Lakeland area. Stretching from Gothenburg in the west and taking in large chunks of Uppsala and the Baltic coast; the region is rich in stunning scenery, wonderful old castles and picturesque tiny villages.
Experience the ‘ice beds’ (thick sleeping bags included) and enjoy a well-earned thirst quencher in the Absolut Icebar at the igloo-esque Ice Hotel (www.icehotel.com) in the small northern village of Jukkasjärvi in Lapland. Only open during the winter, the hotel has to be rebuilt every year, as it melts during the summer. Or opt for the Ice Hotel 365 which is open year round.
Meet the Sami people at Jokkmokk (www.jokkmokk.se), where you’ll find collections of Lapp art and cultural artefacts along with a Lapp Staden – an old fashioned village of 70 cone-shaped Lapp huts. Arjeplog also has an interesting Lapp museum, Silvermuseet (silvermuseet.se).
Take a boat trip from Stockholm city centre among the islands to Drottningholm Palace (www.kungahuset.se), where the Palace Theatre opera house has been preserved in its original 18th-century form, and stages productions in period costume and using authentic instruments.
If you have a couple of days to spare, take a cruise on the MS Ceres along the historic Göta Canal. Constructed in the early 19th century, the canal’s 614km (382 miles) stretch from Gothenburg in the west to Söderköping on the Baltic Sea. Tours start in Stockholm and Gothenburg (www.gotakanal.se).
In summer, make the most of Sweden’s hundreds of miles of beaches, particularly on the west coast, and its 96,000 lakes. If swimming and sunbathing isn’t enough, head to one of the numerous waterskiing and windsurfing centres.
Whatever you’re into, Sweden’s many wide open spaces and endless coastline means that sporting activities are on offer just about anywhere you go. Winter sports such as skating, tobogganing, snowmobiling, ice climbing and dog sledding are particularly popular.
Sweden has more than 400 golf courses: one situated north of the Arctic Circle enjoys 24-hour daylight during the summer months, with the interesting result that many midsummer championships take place at night.
One of Sweden’s prime wildlife watching spots, the Härjedalen Valley is the home of the country’s only herd of musk oxen. Southern Lapland also has abundant reindeer, buzzard, beaver and lynx. Elk are common too, as they are throughout the country. In winter, the region is also known for its skiing.
One of the nicest ways to get to grips with the Swedish capital, seeing the city on two wheels lets you get close to the magnificent Stadhuset (city hall) and navigate the winding streets of the Gamla Stan (Old Town) with ease. For bike rental, try Stockholm City Bikes (tel: (077) 444 2424; www.citybikes.se).
Norrbotten is an angler’s paradise with plenty of mountain streams and excellent sea fishing. It is situated on the so-called Midnight Sun Coast, which is a 1,500km (900-mile) stretch of Baltic coastline that runs all the way to the Finnish border.
Finland might be the official home of St Nick, but Sweden, which also possesses a large chunk of Lapland, has an ultra cool take on Christmas of its own. Take the kids (or just yourself) to Mora in the heart of the Swedish Lakeland region, where you can meet Father Christmas at the Santaworld theme park (www.tomteland.se).
Ancient Swedish civilisation
For history buffs, the southwestern Bohuslän province (www.vastsverige.com/bohuslan), one of the most important centres of ancient Swedish civilisation, is a must-visit. The region is also packed with museums displaying the many archaeological relics found in the area – many of which date back to the Bronze Age and Viking era.
The Historical Museum (historiska.se/home) in Gothenburg is home to Sweden’s most important historical treasures, including prehistoric artefacts and stunning medieval art. Stockholm’s National Museum of Fine Arts (www.nationalmuseum.se) meanwhile, houses the country’s stunning collection of fine art.
Take a ferry to Stockholm’s Djurgården Island area, to see the Nordic Museum (www.nordiskamuseet.se), Waldemarsudde House (www.waldemarsudde.se) – until 1947, the home of royal artist Prince Eugen – and Liljevalchs Konsthall (www.liljevalchs.com) art gallery.
Stockholm Old Town
Explore the historic Gamla Stan (www.visitstockholm.com), with its collection of beautifully-preserved historic buildings bisected by winding cobbled streets. Slottsbacken, Gamla Stan’s highest hill, is home to the Royal Palace and a jumble of baroque buildings. The suburb’s main streets, Österlånggatan and Västerlånggatan, are prime shopping spots with plenty of fashionable boutiques.