In many ways Sweden has become a traveler’s paradise. If you love the outdoors, it’s certainly hard to beat, so get yourself a cheap flight to Stockholm and fly now. The air and water are crystal clean, there are thousands of acres of unspoiled forests and majestic lakes to explore, the roads and public transport are excellent, the citizens are invariably friendly and helpful, and, in recent years, Swedish cuisine has undergone what can only be described as a revolution.
Fairytale Drottningholm Palace on the island of Lovo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and lies about 11 kilometers west of Stockholm city center (45 minutes by boat). Dating from the 17th century, the palace is now the official residence of the Swedish Royal Family. In the picturesque, terraced park are bronze sculptures from Bohemia and Denmark, brought back as trophies of war. Be sure to take in the Chinese Pavilion which dates from the late 1700s. The 18th-century Palace Theatre (Drottningholms Slottsteater) is still used for performances during the summer months.
The Vasa Museum in Stockholm is Sweden’s most popular museum and now attracts around a million visitors annually. More than 20 million people have visited since the museum opened in 1990, and it’s not hard to see why. In 1628 the pride of the Swedish Imperial fleet, the Vasa battle ship, sank on its maiden voyage. The ship lay below the icy waters for more than three centuries until, in 1961, an incredibly ambitious salvage operation took place. Now visitors from across the world come to see this fascinating time capsule.
Stockholm Archipelago, Stromma Boat Tours
Stockholm is often referred to as the Venice of the North. Water is everywhere, and around 30,000 islands lie in Stockholm’s wondrous archipelago (skargarden). Distinctive red and yellow timber summerhouses occupy some islands while others remain totally unspoiled. A trip on the water, either in and around the city or to one of the islands, should be top on your list. Many tours include lunch or dinner and all give a unique vantage point of the city. Hop-on hop-off options are available too. When downtown, the distinctive Stromma boats are impossible to miss.
Famous as being Sweden’s first ever town and founded in AD 980, the last century of the Viking era, the idyllic village of Sigtuna nestles alongside Lake Malaren in the lush green landscape of Uppland, north of Stockholm. Sigtuna’s amazing history is to be found in the medieval churches, ruins, rune stones, and buildings that remain to this day. Along Storgatan, which has stood for more than a thousand years, are clusters of interesting little boutique shops selling fashion, designer items, and handicrafts.
Steeped in medieval history and brimming with ruined churches, the rose-entwined, walled town of Visby, on the island of Gotland, is a huge draw for visitors from around the world. Quaint cobblestone streets snake about the town, and when exploring, it’s all too easy to lose your sense of being in the modern world. Adorned with stepped gables, many medieval trading houses remain, as well as some timber buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries. Clearly, Visby’s reputation as ‘the pearl of the Baltic’ and UNESCO World Heritage Site status are both well deserved.
The Gota Canal
Often described as Sweden’s greatest feat of engineering, the canal dates from the early 19th century and is 190 kilometers in length. It’s now one of the country’s premier tourist attractions and offers a unique perspective on Sweden’s heartland. In addition, by connecting with lakes Vanern and Vattern and the Trollhatte Canal, it forms part of a water link all the way from Stockholm, in the northeast, to Gothenburg, in the southwest. Featuring 47 bridges and 58 locks the canal stretches from Sjotorp at Lake Vänern to Soderkoping on the Baltic Sea. There’s a choice of passenger cruise vessels or you can hire a boat and experience the canal in your own way.
Sharing the same latitude as central Greenland, Kiruna is Sweden’s northernmost town. It’s also the chief town of the largest commune in the country, which borders both Norway and Finland. The midnight sun is visible here from mid-May to mid-July. Originally a Lapp settlement, the town began to develop when mining of iron ore started around 1900. Incredibly, due to subsidence caused by mining, the entire city is being slowly moved northwest to the foot of the Luossavaara Mountain. The world’s first ever Ice Hotel at Jukkasjarvi is about 17 kilometers outside the city; Sweden’s highest mountain, Kebnekaise, is 90 kilometers west; and 95 kilometers northwest is Abisko National Park where the Lapland Railroad runs west to Narvik on the Norwegian coast.