Sweden is home to a few of our favourite things: meatballs, minimalist design, Björn Borg, ABBA, Stockholm... We could go on, but let's start with the Swedish capital, which should be on every city slicker’s list thanks to its chic interiors, new-wave coffee shops, picture-perfect Hanseatic buildings and the famous 17th-century Vasa warship, wonderfully salvaged in all her glory. Aside from its dynamic capital, there’s natural wonder aplenty in Sweden, particularly in Swedish Lapland, where you can marvel at the breathtaking Northern Lights and mush your own team of huskies while dog-sledding through snow-clad forests.
Elsewhere, the country’s wild west coast is home to simple pleasures; tiny clapboard fishing villages and craggy coasts to explore, and sensational seafood. Then there's ancient intrigue, such as the UNESCO-listed Bronze Age rock carvings in Tanum. These are just a few more things to enjoy on your Sweden holidays.
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Sweden is perfect for city lovers who will no doubt be wooed by Stockholm’s charm, making this the perfect city for a long weekend. This is a sophisticated, elegant, manageable and thoroughly civilised city with the added attraction of an archipelago which can be explored by boat. Design hotels and excellent restaurants abound, and Swedish hospitality is legendary. Head for the bohemian area around Rörstrandsgatan, in west Stockholm, where you'll find cosy cafés and cheapish antique shops. Beyond the capital, two other Swedish cities deserve recognition. Malmo, the country’s third largest city, features a highly strollable old town and buzzing waterfront scene while Gothenburg boasts cool cuisine, sea breezes and an impressive port. Visit in the summer for long sunny days, ideal for hiking in the wild countryside according to the admirable 'allemansratten': Swedish people's right to roam. Those who love to spend time in the great outdoors can enjoy Sweden holidays all year round; splashing about in kayaks and hiking picturesque coastal trails in the summer and dog-sledding through the snow-clad forests come winter.
What can you find in Sweden that you won’t find elsewhere?
The capital oozes urban cool thanks to its creative cafe culture and revered culinary scene. If you’ve already ticked Stockholm off your list, it’s worth a jaunt to some of Sweden’s other pretty towns such as Gotland, once a Viking settlement, or to the thousands of little islands in Bohuslan’s archipelago, renowned for their relaxed vibe and outstanding seafood – perfect for a summer holiday. Boasting 29 national parks, you can encounter some of the loveliest rural scenery imaginable on Sweden holidays, with mountains, enchanting lakes and excellent beaches lined with kelp forests and coral. Venture off-the-beaten track and look out for secret isles with clapboard houses and small fishing communities which tourists may never have known existed. Then of course there are the Northern Lights, one of earth’s greatest natural phenomena.
A special thing to do in Sweden:
Visit the winter wonderland that is Swedish Lapland for a true Narnia experience. Ever tried ice driving or ice fishing? This is the place to do it. And don’t forget to sample some of Sweden’s traditional delicacies, such as reindeer stew and sweet tasting cloudberries. Chase the Northern Lights, earth’s most spectacular light show, on a snowmobile, or look out for its shimmering aurora from a floating sauna. Aside from the Northern Lights, there are exhilarating winter activities including snowshoeing, ice fishing and cross-country skiing. Families can enjoy husky sledding through the powder-white snow and elk safaris in the forested parks. Or for cultural immersion, meet the ethnic Sami people who were traditionally semi-nomadic reindeer herders. While in their company, we can arrange three-course dinners (most probably including reindeer in various forms) by a frozen lake complete with candles and a crackling fire. No-one could accuse Sweden holidays of being run of the mill...
Even further north, right on the Norwegian border, lies the tiny ski resort of Riksgränsen. Skiing here starts in February, when the 24-hour darkness of mid-winter begins to lift; come May, you can head back out on to the slopes after supper to ski in a t-shirt under the midnight sun. More conventional skiing is available at the slick resort of Are (pronounced 'oar-e').