holiday in Sweden?
The largest of the Scandinavian countries,
Sweden appears to be little more than a massive forest encompassed
by a craggy, fjord-slashed coastline and scattered with 100,000
crystalline lakes, a vast natural force interrupted rarely by the
hand of man.
However this clean, green country has scattered gems of sophisticated civilisation, lively, elegant cities full of action and cultural
interest - even if they do have a medieval core - and attractive,
friendly local people when you get past the
Swedish life is well-organised, highly efficient, very safe and
a lot cheaper than it used to be.
- It can get chilly, or wet, or both, even in mid-summer.
- Endless tree views can be sooo monotonous.
- Swedish cuisine is healthy and hearty but hardly entertaining.
Best: May, June, July, September.
OK: August (the main Swedish holiday so a very
crowded time; some rain in August).
Worst: November-April (extreme cold and short daylight hours)
Minimum worthwhile stay, not incl. flights: Stockholm for a wild
Recommended: 9 days to take in Stockholm, another city and some
of the countryside, such as a trip to Gotland.
17thC Drottningholm Castle
***Stockholm, the spirited, handsome
capital city has a medieval centre, oceans of water and plenty of
activities. See Stockholm Pictures
Ferries around Stockholm are one of the pleasures of tourism in
Sweden, either short trips upriver or further out into the Archipelago.
(Get a boat pass). ***Take a ferry out to a few of Stockholm's 24,000 nearby islands
known as The Archipelago - with varied attractions, harbours, parks,
castles and beaches.
**Visit Vaxholm, an idyllic little town with castle, 1 hour from
*Sandhamn (Sandon), popular among summer sailors, one and a half
hours from Vaxholm.
***Mariefred, a peaceful town with wooden houses and narrow lanes,
famous for its spectacular 16th century Gripsholm Castle.
1 hour by boat, 75km/47m by road from the city.
**Sigtuna, this small, tranquil town dating from AD 970 is the oldest
town in Sweden. 46km/29m from the city.
**Uppsala, a quiet, ancient university town with the largest cathedral
in Scandinavia and a few good museums. Forty minutes from the capital
A Swedish Ice Bar.
the Stockholm area:
(Göteborg, West coast). Sweden's largest port and arrival
point for herds of tourist cars, Gothenburg is also an attractive,
spacious, canal-crossed city with grand buildings from varied eras,
fine cultural offerings including a stunning opera house and some
excellent museums. Liseberg, a high quality amusement park
will give the kiddies a break from culture overdose. nb. the road
to Gothenburg from Stockholm is dead boring but the coast north
of Gothenburg is rocky and appealing.
**Dalarna and Värmland Provinces (NW,
adjacent to Norway, north of Göteborg): the best of traditional Swedish countryside, unspoilt forests, lakes
(esp. Lake Siljan) and ancient villages retaining Swedish folk customs.
***Malmo (SW tip). Contains one of
Europe's most engaging medieval centres and a fast route to Copenhagen
(Denmark) via a long bridge.
***Skane Province, SW. A beautiful
rolling area of castles and windmills known as chateau country.
***Kalmar (SE island, connected to Oland island),
another charming medieval town with a huge history and a fantastic
windmills, sunshine and standing stones, Gotland
***Gotland (SE island). This large
island in the Baltic Sea, 90km off Sweden's east coast, provides
some of Sweden's best landscapes, sailing, relatively good weather,
sandy beaches and the spectacular medieval walled town of ***Visby,
with its 100 ancient churches and 3km wall. (A car is not needed,
go by train and ferry)
**Beaches: Sweden's south-west coast
has many excellent beaches while the southeast islands of Gotland
(above) and Oland hosts restrained beach resorts and the country's
best climate. A lot of crystal-clear lakes are also swimmable if
so posted. We don't need to mention the water is cold?
**Lapland (far north), a massive, wild
and unspoilt place of reindeer, mountains, waterfalls, forested
valleys and roaring rivers peopled by the Sami (Lapps).
**Gammelstad 'Church Village', Lulea (Norbotten
County, NE), a World Heritage Site of 424 tiny old wooden
cottages built solely to accommodate visitors to the 15thC church.
Best Swedish Beaches:
- Near Stockholm city centre are two popular beaches, Langholmsbadet and Smedsuddsbadet, both with good facilities including food and recreational areas. Busy in the summer of course. Ask your hotel reception how to get there.
- Varamon beach in south Sweden is reputed to get more sun than any other beach so is a favourite destination for both locals. The beach offers plenty of soft sand, varied facilities and marine activities. To get there travel to the city of Motala and follow signs from there.
- Another excellent beach in southern Sweden is Boda on the island of Oland, connected to the Swedish mainland via Road 137 from Kalmar to Oland. Boda beach is long with fine sand, good facilities, camping and activities available, including golf.
- Sudersand is one of Sweden's most popular beaches on the Baltic Sea, with boat rentals, marine activities, accommodation and food all available. It's on the small island of Faro in Gotland, about 200 km (125 mi) south of Stockholm. You can get there from Stockholm via the Nynashamn - Visby ferry followed by the Farosund - Faro ferry.
- Skane region, also in the south and sometimes known as the Swedish Riviera, is famous for its variety of expansive beaches. They are easy to reach from Denmark across the Oresund Bridge.
Swedish tours offer many multi-activity breaks, such as biking,
kayaking, rafting and horse-riding in one package. Beware
Hiking: Sweden is very well organized
and trekking is no exception with excellent marked trails, camp
sites, mountain cabins and other support for walkers.
The south is good for moderate hikes with scenic views while the
far north in Lapland is where to find real isolation, panoramic
views, mountains, snow in summertime, wild reindeer and the Sami
people and exotic culture. Sweden's best known hike is the 500kms
(312mls) Kungsleden from Abisko, north of the Arctic Circle
to Hemaven in the south (near Tarnby). This trail is easy to walk
and well serviced but fairly busy, especially in July.
Canoeing/Kayaks: The Stockholm area
is a great urban boat experience; head for the southern Archipelago
for more strenuous paddling or north to Laponia's World Heritage
Site for serious kayaking.
Biking: Cycles are especially useful
in cities and widely rentable (free in some hotels); they are also
great for Sweden's more scenic, flatter and drier southern parts
e.g Gotland or High Coast UNESCO World Heritage Site on the east
central coast. Bikes can be taken on some trains.
Sailing: dinghy rental is available
in Stockholm in season. Bigger yachts often do trips including Finland,
Norway, denmark or Russia.
Horse riding: There's no shortage of
equine rentals in Sweden, with chances of wildlife sightings, such
as moose, deer, boar, lynx, eagles. Get details from local tourist
The southern highlands are popular, offering easy access and good
In the north pony treks often start from Funäsdalen, near Norway
and Ammarnäs, close to the Arctic Circle.
In the province of Dalarna, you can even rent a horse and covered
wagon with space for a small family for multi-day trips, doing around
16 kms (10mls) a day.
Golf: Sweden offers hundreds of delightful
courses but one of the most unusual is the Björkliden Arctic
Golf Course (the world's most northerly golf course, near Boden)
where you can play in a spectacular setting in summertime at
Fishing: Stockholm in sight of
the palace you can fish for salmon, free of charge, by royal
decree. Other places you will need a licence. Get more information
from a tourist office. Pike, perch, salmon and eel are main targets.
Getting around Scandinavia:
Transport is extremely efficient in Scandinavia, with good trains
(e.g. 6 hours from Oslo, Norway to Stockholm. Get a Rail Pass),
buses (from Oslo, 7 hours; from Copenhagen, Denmark, 9 hours). Ferries
are fun and competitive but complicated and few go to Stockholm
except from Helsinki, Finland, (16 hours).
There's also a bridge from Copenhagen to Sweden's southern city
of Malmo, and masses of flights at low prices from other Scandinavian
Consider the amazing Inlandsbanan Arctic Circle rail line
for incredible views in comfort; best starting from Mora (central
Sweden). It only runs mid-June to mid-September.
The best thing about the excellent Swedish transport system is the
huge multi-mode Rikstidtabellen timetable that lists everything
clearly. Find it in tourist offices but it's
too bulky to buy and carry, just copy relevant sections.
Self-driving in Sweden is, frankly, often slow and dull (unless
you have a passion for endless forest) while city parking is difficult.
Midsummer, June 21: the country's biggest event with lots of dancing,
August: Medieval Week, Visby. Historic dress, music, tournaments
August: Gothenburg Party, Göteborgskalaset, is the
biggest outdoor festival in the country.
August: Malmo Festival, music and seafood coming out of its ears.
16-19 August: Skokloster Pageant, varied colourful historical events.
18 August: Midnight Race, 10 kms (6 mls) starting in Stockholm's
fashionable Södermalm district.
September: Stockholm Yoga Festival, Liljeholmshallen.
Dec 13: Lucia Festival, robed processions, singing, boozing.
April 30: Walpurgis Night, celebrating the winter's end, fires and
Local currency is the krona (plural: kronor) and easy to acquire
from ATMs which are commonplace, do not charge for the service and
give a fair exchange rate.
Tips are included in service charges though a 5-10% gift is not
uncommon for good service.
230v, 2 round pin plugs, such as in Norway, Finland, Germany, Netherlands
(or twin flat pin Schuko plugs).
Sweden is a very safe, low-crime area; the police are superb and
generally speak good English.
As usual in Scandinavia many locals speak English though learning
basic greetings is a nice gesture.
Kiruna's Ice Hotel bar
Curiously hotels in Stockholm are cheaper in the summer than
during the rest of the year, due to lack of business trade then.
There's generally a wide range of accommodation from luxury hotels
to cheap pensions, youth hostels, b-and-bs and many campsites (June-Sept
only) that offer full-featured cabins as well as DIY tents. A Scandinavian
camping card is essential. Free camping is also permitted if discreet.
Some parks and trails offer mountain huts.
The Jukkasjarvi Ice Hotel freezes from mid December to end of April.
Guest in a Swedish house? Remove your shoes!
Swedish food is filling and nutritious but nothing to write home
about, even if smorgasbord is an international word.
Sweden's cuisine frequently consists of large servings of potatoes,
meat (elk and reindeer if you choose) and fish (usually herring
or salmon), supported by salad, cheese and fruit - so you won't
starve but you may be bored to death.
Fast food - like anywhere in the overdeveloped world - is readily
available, with pizzas leading the fat pack.
Beers are good, wine is fine and Sweden's popular vodka equivalent, akvavit, is head-banging.
EU citizens and nationals of USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand
do not need a visa for up to 3 months in Sweden; other Scandinavians
don't even require a passport.
Sweden Map | Stockholm
Guide | Sweden
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