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Sweden presents visitors with an embarrassment of riches, everything from sophisticated cities to medieval towns, to Europe's last untamed wilderness. To help you decide how best to spend your time in Sweden, we've compiled a list of our favorite experiences and discoveries. In the following pages, you'll find the kind of candid advice we'd give our close friends.
1 The Best Travel Experiences
Shopping in the "Kingdom of Crystal": Many visitors come to Sweden just to shop for glass. In the "Kingdom of Crystal," which stretches some 112km (69 miles) between the port city of Kalmar and the town of Vaxjo in Smaland province, some of the world's most prestigious glassmakers, including Kosta Boda and Orrefors, showcase their wares. At least 16 major glassworks welcome visitors to this area and offer cut-rate discounts in the form of "seconds"-goods containing flaws hardly noticeable except to the most carefully trained eye. Visitors can see glass being blown and crystal being etched by the land's most skilled craftspeople. See section 2, "Vaxjo," in chapter 7.
Exploring the High Coast: The Hoga Kusten is the most panoramic stretch of the Bothnian Coast along the northern regions of eastern Sweden. It stretches between the towns of Harnosand and Ornskoldsvik, a land of rolling mountains and forested valleys that at times seem to plunge intothe Gulf of Bothnia itself. Along the coast, you can cross Hoga Kusten Bridge, the seventh-longest in the world, spanning the Angermanalv River, and encounter dramatic coastal scenery in every direction. In America, only the coasts of Maine and northern California compete in general magnificence. See section 5, "Harnosand," in chapter 11.
Viewing the Awe-Inspiring Northern Lights: In the darkest of winter in the north of Sweden (called Lapland or Norrbotten), you can view the shimmering phenomenon of the northern lights on many clear nights, usually from early evening until around midnight. The sun and solar winds create this amazing light show when electrons from the sun collide with atmospheric atoms and molecules. See chapter 12.
Touring the Land of the Midnight Sun: Above the Arctic Circle, where the summer sun never dips below the horizon, you have endless hours to enjoy the beauty of the region and the activities that go with it-from hiking to white-water rafting. After shopping for distinctive wooden and silver handicrafts, you can dine on filet of reindeer served with cloudberries. You can even pan for gold with real-life pioneers in Lannavaara, or climb rocks and glaciers in Sarek's National Park. See chapter 12.
2 The Best Active Vacations
Fishing: Sweden offers some of the world's best fishing-its pristine lakes and streams are crystal clear, and many of them are extremely well stocked. Many varieties of fresh- and saltwater fish are available in Sweden's waters. See especially chapters 5, 9, 11, and 12.
Golfing: Many Swedes are obsessed with golf. Most courses, from the periphery of Stockholm to Bjorkliden (above the Arctic Circle), are open to the public, and enthusiasts can play under the midnight sun. Halland, south of Gothenburg, is called the Swedish Riviera, and it's the golf capital of the country. Bastad is the most fashionable resort in Halland, and you can play a game of golf here at two prestigious courses: the Bastad Golf Club at Boarp (0431/ 783-70), and the Bjare Golf Club at Solomonhog (0431/ 36-10-53), both located right outside the center of Bastad. See section 8, "Easy Excursions to the Bohuslan Coast & Halland," in chapter 5.
White-Water Rafting: Sweden has some of Europe's best whitewater rafting. Trips run the gamut from short and comfortable rides through peaceful landscapes, to heart-stopping races on fast-running rivers. In Dalarna, the best white-water rafting is on the Vasterdalalven River rapids, which are rated moderately difficult. In northern Varmland, 5km (3 miles) south of Holjes, you can take easy white-water trips in paddle boats. See chapter 10.
Hiking: The Kungsleden (Royal Trail) may provide the hike of a lifetime, as it takes you through the mountains of Lapland, including Kebnekaise, which, at 2,090m (6,855 ft.), is the highest mountain in Sweden. This 500km (310- mile) trail cuts through the mountains of Abisko National Park to Riksgransen on the Norwegian frontier. See section 4, "Tarnaby & Hemavan," in chapter 12.
Skiing: In Lapland, you can enjoy both downhill and cross-country skiing year-round. In Kiruna, serious skiers head for the Kebnekaise mountain station, where skiing can be combined with dog-sledding and other winter sports. South of the city of Gallivare, you arrive at Dundret, or "Thunder Mountain," for some of the finest skiing in the north. The hotel to stay at here also is called Dundret (0970/145-60), and its staff possesses all the expertise needed to link you up with both crosscountry skiing and skiing on the downhill slopes. Inaugurated in 1955, its chairlift to the top of the slopes was the first of its kind in Sweden. For Dundret, see section 7, "Gallivare," in chapter 12.
3 The Best Ways to Spend Time on the Water
Exploring the "Garden of Skerries" Around Stockholm: Few cities enjoy a marinescape as dramatic as Stockholm's. The city is surrounded by some 24,000 islands and islets (some no more than skerries or rocks jutting out of the water), and the water is dotted with colorful yachts. You can easily explore the archipelago in summer, using the car ferries and bridges that connect it. The highlight of the journey is taking a boat trip from the center of Stockholm to the town of Sandhamn, a ride that will introduce you to the scenic highlights of a place many Stockholmers call home in summer. See section 7, "Side Trips from Stockholm," in chapter 4.
Riding Along the Gota Canal: This canal, known as Sweden's "blue ribbon," links Stockholm in the east with Gothenburg in the west, and is one of Scandinavia's major tourist attractions. As boats travel along the canal, some of the most beautiful panoramas in Sweden unfold. The canal dates from 1810 and covers 565km (350 miles) of beautiful scenery. Artificial canals, lakes, and rivers are linked by a series of 65 locks, some of them rising 90m (295 ft.) above sea level. Any travel agent can book you on this trip. See section 1, "The Gota Canal," in chapter 9.
Angling on the Gota Alv: The southwestern sector of Lake Vanern, which is part of the Gota Canal (see above), has been called an angler's El Dorado, especially in the valley of the River Gota. The Gota Alv's well-stocked trout waters make for some of Scandinavia's finest spinning and fly-fishing. More than 30 different species of fish live in Lake Vanern, especially perch, pike, and different types of carp. Some 35,000 young salmon and trout are released annually to keep the waters well stocked. See section 5, "Skara," in chapter 9.
Sailing the Gustaf Wasa: The best way to go between the lakeside resorts of Mora and Leksand in Dalarna-the province most steeped in Swedish folklore-is by boat. This way you can see and experience this most traditional of Swedish provinces from a seascape, as the scenery along the shoreline unfolds before you. Leksand itself is the doorway to the province's most scenic lake, Siljan. No less an authority than Hans Christian Andersen pronounced this trip idyllic. After a panoramic trip, you arrive in Mora, a provincial town in Upper Dalarna, where passengers disembark to see the Santa complex (Santa's house and factory). See section 5, "Leksand," in chapter 10.
Viewing the Hudiksvall Archipelago: The islands around the small town of Hudiksvall on the Bothnian Coast are the most beautiful in the north of Sweden. At one time, there were 50 fishing villages and harbors in this archipelago, but today what formerly were fishermen's homes serve as summer cottages for vacationers. Wander and explore this naturalist's paradise at your leisure. It has such unique species of flora and fauna that it was made a nature reserve and is protected by the government. See section 3, "Hudiksvall," in chapter 11.
4 The Most Scenic Towns & Villages
Sigtuna: Sweden's oldest town, founded at the beginning of the 11th century, stands on the shores of Lake Malaren, northwest of Stockholm. High Street, with its low-timbered buildings, is believed to be the oldest street in Sweden. Traces of Sigtuna's Viking and early Christian heritage can be seen throughout the town. See section 7, "Side Trips from Stockholm," in chapter 4.
Uppsala: Located northwest of Stockholm, Uppsala is Sweden's major university city and boasts a celebrated 15th-century cathedral. Nearby Gamla Uppsala (see below) also is intriguing, built on the site of Viking burial grounds where both humans and animals were sacrificed. See section 7, "Side Trips from Stockholm," in chapter 4.
Lund: This town, situated 18km (11 miles) northeast of Malmo, rivals Uppsala as a university town. It, too, is ancient, having been founded by Canute the Great in 1020. The town is filled with centuries- old buildings, winding passages, and cobblestone streets; a major attraction is its ancient cathedral, one of the finest expressions of Romanesque architecture in northern Europe. See section 3, "Lund," in chapter 6.
Visby: On the island of Gotland, this once was a great medieval European city and former Viking stronghold. For 8 days in August, this sleepy Hanseatic town awakens for the annual Medieval Week, which features fire-eaters, belly dancers, and tournaments. Visby's ruins of 13th- and 14th-century churches and memories of a more prosperous period are intriguing in any season. See section 2, "Gotland & Visby," in chapter 8.
Rattvik: This is a great resort bordering Lake Siljan in the heart of Dalarna, a province known for its regional painting, handicrafts, and folk dancing. Timbered houses reflect Dalarna's old-style architecture, and on summer nights, fiddle music evokes the long-ago past. See section 7, "Rattvik," in chapter 10.
Jokkmokk: Located just north of the Arctic Circle, this is the best center for absorbing Lapp (or Sami) culture. The Lapps hold their famous "Great Winter Market" here in early February, a tradition that is centuries old. You can visit a museum devoted to Sami culture in the center of town and then go salmon fishing in the town's central lake. See section 5, "Jokkmokk," in chapter 12.
5 The Best Places to Go Back in Time
Gamla Uppsala (Uppsala): Gamla Uppsala, 5km (3 miles) north of the city center, is one of the most revered historic spots in Sweden. Some 1,500 years ago, the Kingdom of the Svea (Swedes) was ruled from a spot outside the modern university city of Uppsala, north of Stockholm. Here Viking life dominated, and both animals and humans were sacrificed to pagan gods. It is suspected, although not authenticated, that three Swedish kings dating from the 6th century were entombed here. See section 7, "Side Trips from Stockholm," in chapter 4.
Skansen (Djurgarden, Stockholm): Called "Old Sweden in a Nutshell," this is the best open-air museum in all of Sweden in terms of numbers of dwellings and authenticity. Some 150 structures were moved from places ranging from the chateau country in southwest Sweden to as far north as Lapland. From manor houses to windmills, they're all here, giving visitors an idea of how Sweden used to look. This is an especially valuable stop for visitors who see only Stockholm and don't have time to visit the rest of the country. Folk dancing and concerts enliven the atmosphere, and young Swedes demonstrate the creation of handicrafts from the 17th and 18th centuries. See p. 96.
Kivik Tomb (Bredaror): In the chateau country of Sweden, the Kivik Tomb was discovered in 1748 north of the coastal town of Simrishamn. It immediately became the most important Bronze Age discovery in the country. One of the former members of the discovery team compared it to being "invited into the living room of a Bronze Age family." Not only were the usual bronze fragments uncovered, but also some grave carvings and, most notably, tomb furniture. A total of eight runic slabs depict scenes from everyday life, including horses and a sleigh, plus a bit of prehistoric humor in what appears to be a troupe of dancing seals. See p. 210.
Eketorp Ring-Fort (Oland): This fortified village, built inside of a ring-shaped enclosure for defensive purposes, is the most important of more than a dozen prehistoric forts known to have existed on Oland in prerecorded times. It appears that the heavily protected village was inhabited by various settlers from A.D. 300 to 1300. Swedish archaeologists have filled the settlement with the Iron Age-style houses that once existed here, and they have reconstructed a massive wall along its edges. Although it is a reconstruction, it is believed to be an authentic replica of what the ring fort and village once looked like, giving an amazing insight into life in the Sweden of ages ago, when prehistoric people fought to survive in an inhospitable terrain. See p. 253.
A Visit to Gamlia (Umea): Along the Bothnian Coast, Umea is called "the city of birch trees" because hundreds of these trees grow here. In this leafy setting lies a museum complex called Gamlia, less than a kilometer (1/2 mile) northeast of the city center, but centuries into the past. At the original museum, Friluftsmuseet, you can view 20 old-fashioned buildings, many of them dating from the 17th century. Guides dressed up in clothing like that worn 200 or 300 years ago will show you around while answering questions about how the people lived and worked. On the same site is the Vasterbottens Museum, with a repository of artifacts- some prehistoric-discovered in the area. See section 6, "Umea," in chapter 11.
6 The Best Museums
Millesgarden (Lidingo, outside Stockholm): Sweden's foremost sculptor, Carl Milles (1875-1955), lived here and created a sculpture garden by the sea that now has been turned into a museum. Milles relied heavily on mythological themes in his work, and many of his best-known pieces are displayed here. See p. 98.
Nationalmuseum (National Museum of Art) (Stockholm): One of the oldest museums in the world (it celebrated its 200th birthday in 1992), the National Museum houses Sweden's treasure trove of rare paintings and sculpture. From Rembrandt to Rubens, and from Bellini to van Gogh, a panoply of European art unfolds before your eyes. In addition to paintings, you'll find antique porcelain, furniture, and clocks. See p. 96.
Vasamuseet (Royal Warship Vasa) (Stockholm): In the Djurgarden, this 17th-century man-of-war, which is now a museum, is a popular tourist attraction. The Vasa is the world's oldest known complete ship. It capsized and sank on its maiden voyage in 1628 before horrified onlookers. The ship was salvaged in 1961 and has been carefully restored; 97% of its 700 original sculptured decorative motifs were retrieved. See p. 97.
Goteborgs Konstmuseum (Gothenburg): This is the city's leading art museum, a repository of modern paintings that's strong on French Impressionists, including van Gogh and Bonnard. Modern artists such as Picasso and Edvard Munch also are represented, as are sculptures by Milles. See p. 151.
Ajtte (Jokkmokk): In true Lapp country, this is the best repository of artifacts of the Sami culture. Integrating nature with culture, the museum is the largest of its kind in the world. It depicts how the Lapps lived and struggled for survival in a harsh terrain, and features the houses they lived in as well as the animals and weapons needed for their livelihood. See p. 354.
7 The Best Castles & Palaces
Drottningholm Palace and Theater (Drottningholm): Lying 11km (63/4 miles) from Stockholm on an island in Lake Malaren, Drottningholm, or "Queen's Island," has been dubbed the Versailles of Sweden. It is a magnificent royal residence, a gem of baroque architecture with a palace, gardens, a Chinese pavilion, and one of the most remarkable court theaters in Europe. Since 1981, Sweden's royal family has occupied the south wing. See p. 98.
Excerpted from Frommer's Sweden by Darwin Porter Excerpted by permission.
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Posted June 30, 2009
If you are looking for the experience that is just a little bit different or off the beaten track, this is the guide for you. While the guide covers all the usual top travel attractions, they also hit on some "finds". These "finds" are either a destination or a hotel that is truly unusual. We've tried a couple of these "finds" and they have been a wonderful way to experience something a little out of the ordinary when touring a country. I really like this and the other Frommer's guides and have found them to be helpful in planning a trip.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.