Sweden brings far more to the table than just the delights of Ikea and Abba, with its culture, nature and cuisine all providing some unforgettable experiences, be it during winter in Lapland or summer in Stockholm. So, start working your way through our top five experiences in Sweden as an add-on to your holiday, whether on an epic Big Short Break or a week-long family adventure.
Vasa Museum, Stockholm
In Stockholm you can't miss the Vasa Museum, home to the impressive Vasa ship which, before being restored, spent 333 years hidden on the sea bed. Designed to be a powerful warship, with a grand total of 64 cannons on board, this is the only preserved 17th Century ship in the world. However, its career was short-lived, as Vasa's maiden voyage in 1628 also turned out to be its last (owing to some major design faults), and it sunk to the sea bed within sight of the shipyard it was built in. There it lay until April 1961, when it was finally brought to the surface after more than three centuries below the water. It took decades of restoration, but the Vasa Museum now features among the world's top ten museums.
Dog Sledding, Lapland
In the north, go dog-sledding through the snow-covered forests and across the frozen lakes of Swedish Lapland, pulled by Siberian huskies. While whooshing through the trees, keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife including moose, red fox and reindeer. We can arrange for you to stay overnight in private log cabins, the extraordinary Ice Hotel or the utterly unique Treehotel, where your room choices include an elevated UFO or mirrored cube. Of course, don't expect much of a Vitamin D infusion here as in the winter months you won't see much sun at all, but that's all part of the appeal.
West Sweden Seafood Safari
West Sweden is an ideal destination for lovers of seafood, and particularly shellfish. From the harbour town of Lyckorna, on the west coast, head out with local fisherman aboard their boat on a mussel safari in these sheltered waters. Help haul in the mollusc-covered chains and harvest the (hopefully) thousands of mussels you have lugged up from the waters. If possible, the fishermen will then cook the mussels for you on board, or back on dry land on a local beach. It doesn't get much fresher than that.
Sami Reindeer Experience, Lapland
Experience Sami culture in Lapland by spending time with a local family to learn about their traditional way of life. The indigenous Sami people were historically nomadic reindeer herders, and reindeer husbandry is still a big part of Sami culture, both for food and to make handicrafts, although today most people supplement their income with other forms of employment. While here, the head of the family can introduce you to his reindeer, which, contrary to popular belief, do not in fact fly through the sky or have red noses. Good luck trying to pick up the Sami language though, as there are multiple dialects and more than 300 ways of saying the word "snow".
See the Northern Lights
We couldn't miss off what is perhaps one of the most common of bucket list entries: seeing the Northern Lights. Swedish Lapland is one of the best places in the world to see this surreal natural phenomenon that occurs in the depths of winter as particles hit the Earth's atmosphere to create bands of colour shimmering across the night sky. The lack of light pollution here is what makes Swedish Lapland such a good place to view the Northern Lights, and the remoteness makes the whole experience even more special. However, as much as we wish we had the power to control nature, there's never a guarantee of seeing the Northern Lights, even if you visit at supposedly prime time - this one's out of our hands.