A Sweden travel guide – Europe’s last great wilderness, year-round sports and a magnificent cultural heritage
Get your bearings
Sweden is a land of forests and lakes, sweeping down from the Arctic to the Baltic and North seas. Swedish Lapland’s spectacular mountainous scenery is the last great wilderness in Europe, its skies lit by the eerie northern lights during the long dark winters. Norway and its mountains lock the western and central border until it reaches the North Sea and Sweden’s major port of Gothenburg. To the east, neighbouring Finland gives way to the Gulf of Bothnia with its long sandy beaches and picture-postcard fishing villages. For centuries, Uppsala’s ancient university attracted the greatest intellects in Europe. The beauty of Stockholm’s architecture, mirrored in the waters of the Baltic Sea and Lake Maläran, is matched by its world-class museums. In the south, cosmopolitan Malmö joins Sweden to Denmark via the 7.8km Öresund bridge.
Start a trip to Sweden with a city break in Stockholm. Check out the 19th- century Nordic art and 21st-century Scandinavian design in the capital’s galleries and museums before partying the long nights away. Maritime Gothenburg has emerged from Stockholm’s shadow with its Michelin-starred restaurants and modern opera house. Cosmopolitan Malmö’s old industrial heart and seafront are being transformed with architectural blockbusters like the swirling Turning Torso building. Take in the heady smells and sights of the two major botanic gardens in the ancient university town of Uppsala, and walk the cobbled medieval streets of Ystad.
Arctic Lapland’s mountain ranges, dramatic glaciers, birch forests and high moorlands invite hikers in summer and energetic cross-country skiers in winter. Take binoculars to spot golden eagles and beavers, elk and wolves. Canoeists and kayakers snake through the fast-flowing rivers and calm lakes before camping on wooded banks in the rolling Dalarna countryside. Fishermen after salmon, trout and zander make for the intensely blue, unpolluted waters of Lake Vänern. You need stout walking boots for the 130km High Coast trail along the Gulf of Bothnia where dramatic inlets punctuate a rugged coastline of tiny fishing villages and rocky islands. Experienced sailors test their skills among the 24,000 islands that make up Stockholm’s archipelago.
Palaces, fortresses and dungeons
Sweden’s two centuries of military might and power are on ostentatious display at castles like 17th-century Skokloster whose baroque interiors were paid for by the fortunes of war. At medieval Älvsborgs fortress costumed guides bring the despair of forgotten prisoners in the dark dungeons out in vivid relief. Royal Drottningholm Castle on the shores of Lake Malären sparkles in winter when snow covers the ground and the Christmas market fills the park.
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