Sweden is close enough to other parts of Scandinavia that it is easily accessible on a trip to this region, yet it has a distinctive character all of its own. An increasing number of fans of Swedish crime thrillers and TV series will recognize many of its unique features. There´s something very familiar about it. From Denmark, it´s just a hop across the water from Elsinore, or a trip across the famous Oresund Bridge (made famous in the series ”The Bridge”). Sweden has a lot to offer as a travel destination – everything from city breaks to wonderful scenery, buzzing cities or relaxing and affordable golf courses to yes, even the midnight sun in the far north. It´s time to learn more about this large, unspoiled country. It is only 4 kilometers from Elsinore in Denmark to Helsingborg in Sweden – parts of Sweden were actually Danish for over 800 years. The country has undergone ferocious wars between long, uninterrupted periods of peace.
To give an idea of its size, it is more than 2,000 km. from Denmark to northern Sweden – roughly the same distance as that of Denmark to Rome.
The language is similar to Danish or Norwegian but has many of its own words which are quite unique and more difficult to guess. Its scenery has much in common with parts of Norway or Finland and is on a large-scale: mountainous and dramatic backdrops, rocky, indented coastlines, archipelagos with dozens of tiny islands, rolling farmland, deep, silent forests, and untouched areas of wilderness. And because of Sweden´s public right of access laws, you are able to explore a great deal of it.
In contrast to the rural peace and quiet, there is also a smorgasbord of charming old towns, buzzing modern metropolises, historical attractions, spa/wellness resorts, cultural and gastronomic experiences including the increasingly popular, New Nordic Cuisine based on local, natural and seasonal ingredients among other culinary experiences for you to try.
With its countless number of wildlife parks, Sweden is a paradise for children. You won´t have to mount an expedition to the far north to experience Sweden´s amazing wildlife either. At several wildlife parks in Småland, you can pet a moose, or just 350 km. from Stockholm, in Dalarna in Grönklitt, you can look a brown bear in the eye in Europe´s largest s predator park. The Orsa Rovdjurspark is no ordinary zoo – its 325,000 sq. km of natural forest environment provides a natural habitat for large numbers of animals and birds such as Kodiak bears, Siberian tigers, snow leopards, lynxes, wolves, and eagle owls. And it´s open every day of the year.
If your kids (or you?!) love amusement parks, Liseberg, the largest in the Nordic countries, is located in Sweden´s second-largest city, Gothenburg. Visiting Stockholm? Then spend a few happy hours taking in the rides and attractions Swedish-style at Gröna Lund in Djurgården. The kids will love it and it´s just 10 minutes from the city center. Another great attraction for kids is Junibacken, which is open all year-round. Here, you can immerse yourself in the magical world of Astrid Lindgren, and meet the main characters straight out of the pages of this beloved Swedish author´s books. Jump on the exciting “Story Train” and take a trip into the world of fairy tales and stories that will enchant and any child – it´s magical and maybe just a little scary… Exactly as it should be!
And if you´re really a fan then visit the biggest Astrid Lindgren attraction of all and biggest outdoor theatre in Sweden, at Astrid Lindgren´s World in Vimmerby, her home town in Småland, where all the figures from her beloved books come alive: Pippi Longstocking, Emil from Lundeborg, Karlsson-on-the –Roof, Matt´s Fort and Buderby. They are all there and your child (and you!) will leave full of memories you will never forget. And they are adding to the attractions all the time.
Nature´s great outdoors is an Eldorado for teenage adrenalin-junkies– and those of us who like to get our pulse going from time to time, even though we´ve logged a few more years on the clock! There are plenty of lakes to choose from where you can row or canoe, or how about river rafting down the Klarälven River, which until 1991 was used to float the huge logs felled in the forests during the winter down to Karlstad´s paper mills. These days, the river is used only for recreation. Or if you are feeling even more adventurous, you can river raft your way through the turbulent whirlpools of Västerdalälven in Dalarna or Kukkulaforsen in Lapland.
Most ski resorts offer hair-raising routes for mountain bikers down the slopes in summer. You can mountain climb in Kullen and the mountains, or test your climbing skills on frozen waterfalls in Björkliden, Lapland, among other places. And Little Rock Lake Zipline in Småland boasts the longest zip line in Europe at 4 km, across the highlands.
Perhaps overseas visitors will be surprised to read that skiing is both accessible and affordable in southern Sweden, and resorts such as Vallåsen and Isaberg, are even so close that it is feasible to enjoy a day out skiing from Copenhagen.
When the snow begins to melt, the green of the golf courses appears again. In southern Sweden, there are over 140 to choose from, and 462 golf courses in the country as a whole.
And there are lakes and rivers too numerous to count where sports anglers can cast a line out and maybe hook a pike, trout or freshwater salmon if they are lucky. In Sweden, if it´s August, it must be crayfish – a huge Swedish tradition, when families gather for lunch around tables laden with crayfish, washed down with chilled aquavit or two. For those who prefer saltwater fish, there are plenty of spots along the coast to try your luck. You do not require a fishing permit to fish here, or at the five largest lakes of Vänern, Vättern, Hjälmaren, Mälaren, and Storsjön, but in other places, you may need to purchase one.
It is not uncommon for Swedes, and many Danes for that matter, to own a second home – a holiday cottage –often a cabin in traditional red timber – somewhere out of the city, far away from the hustle and bustle where they can enjoy the total stillness of the forest or a quiet lakeshore location. But you don´t have to own one to experience this very Swedish form of vacation. There are plenty available to rent and many agencies who offer this service.
The vast, deep forests and great wilderness further north that stretches all the way to the northern tip – the land of the midnight sun and Northern Lights in winter – offer endless hiking opportunities. And the Swedish public right of way laws means that anyone can go just about anywhere and pitch their tent provided that they show due consideration for the natural surroundings, animals, and people around them.
The same goes for the Swedish archipelagos. They offer solitude, and peace and quiet in unique surroundings. These groups of tiny islands with their bare rock worn smooth over the ages by wind and water, and wide-open skies in Bohuslän and near Karlskrona especially are a favorite destination of Danish yachtsmen. But anyone with a little time can island hop via the excellent network of local ferries for a really different vacation that brings you closer to the local fishing communities and the Swedish way of life. Many small and exceedingly charming hotels or bed and breakfast establishments are available.
There is any number of opportunities to spoil yourself in Sweden. Centuries of bathing and spa traditions have been reinvented with a more contemporary twist in the southern Swedish seaside towns, and gastronomy is flourishing. The Michelin Guide has sprinkled its stars over no fewer than 21 Swedish restaurants, and four of them have even been awarded two.
The big cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö all offer a rich cultural life with museums, exhibitions, theatres and concerts featuring big international names.
And all of the major towns have their own areas of squares, cozy streets lined with shops, outdoor cafes, and restaurants, where you can pick up some minimalist, Scandinavian designer items or simply watch the world, go by.
Sweden has plenty to offer the whole family and there is a vacation to suit every budget: whether you are hiking with a rucksack and tent, looking for a campsite, rental cabins or hotel accommodation in small, simple pension –or smart, boutique hotels, you will find it here.