Monday, November 23, 2015

Places to go in Sweden


Places to go in Sweden
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Without a shadow of a doubt, Stockholm is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Built on no fewer than fourteen islands, where the freshwater of Lake Mälaren meets the brackish Baltic Sea, clean air and open space are in plentiful supply here. One-third of the area within the city limits is made up of water, while another third comprises parks and woodlands. As a result, the capital is one of Europe’s saner cities and a delightful place in which to spend time.

Broad boulevards lined with elegant buildings are reflected in the deep blue water, and rows of painted wooden houseboats bob gently alongside the cobbled waterfront. Yet Stockholm is also a hi-tech metropolis, with futuristic skyscrapers and a bustling commercial heart.

For most visitors, the first stop is the Old Town, Gamla Stan, a medieval jumble of cobbled streets and narrow alleyways huddled together on a triangular-shaped island. Today the area is an atmospheric mixture of buildings surrounded on all sides by a latticework of medieval lanes and alleyways. Close by is the tiny island of Skeppsholmen; conveniently, the island is also the site of the two most central youth hostels. To the north of the Old Town, the district of Norrmalm swaps tradition for a thoroughly contemporary feel: this is downtown Stockholm where you’ll find shopping malls, huge department stores and conspicuous, showy wealth. Central Station and the lively central park, Kungsträdgården, are located here too. Most of Stockholm’s museums and galleries are spread across this area and two others: to the east, the more residential Östermalm, with its mix of grand avenues and smart houses; and to the southeast, the green park island of Djurgården. Here the extraordinary seventeenth-century warship, Vasa, rescued and preserved after sinking in Stockholm harbour, and Skansen, the oldest and best of Europe’s open-air museums, both receive loud and deserved acclaim. The island of Södermalm was traditionally the working-class area of Stockholm, whose grids of streets lined with lofty stone buildings create an altogether more homely ambience than the grand and formal buildings of the city centre. It’s here, in a fashionable area known as SoFo (south of Folkungagatan) that you’ll find some of the city’s most enjoyable bars and restaurants. Crossing the narrow neighbouring island of Långholmen, known for its popular beaches, you’ll reach Kungsholmen, an island that’s fast becoming a rival to its southern neighbour for trendy restaurants and drinking establishments.

Swedish stateman Birger Jarl founded Stockholm in 1255 in an attempt to secure the burgeoning city of Sigtuna from maritime attack. However, it was vibrant trade with other towns of the Hanseatic League, such as Hamburg, that helped give Stockholm, rather than Sigtuna, its prominent position within the Swedish realm during the fourteen and fifteenth centuries. Following the breakup of the Kalmar Union with Denmark, Swedish king Gustav Vasa established royal power in Stockholm, enabling the city to grow into the capital of one of Europe’s major powers by the seventeenth century. Military defeat by Russia in the Great Northern War (1700–21) put paid to Swedish territorial expansion in northern and eastern Europe, and, instead, Stockholm developed politically and culturally at the centre of a smaller Swedish state.

By the nineteenth century, Stockholm was still essentially rural with country lanes, great orchards, grazing cows and even windmills in the centre of the city; the downside was the lack of pavements (until the 1840s) or piped water supply (until 1858), and the presence of open sewers, squalid streets and crowded slums. Having escaped bomb damage during World War II thanks to Swedish neutrality, the mid-twentieth century ushered in a huge modernization programme as part of the Social Democratic out-with-the-old-and-in-with-the-new policy: Sweden, and particularly the capital, Stockholm, was to become a place fit for working people to live. Old areas were torn down as “a thousand homes for a thousand Swedes” – as the project had it – were constructed. Today, Stockholm is a bright and elegant place, and with its great expanses of open water right in the centre, it offers a spectacular city panorama unparalleled anywhere in Europe.

Of all the cities in southern Sweden, the grandest is the western port of Gothenburg. Designed by the Dutch in 1621, the country’s second largest city boasts splendid Neoclassical architecture, masses of sculpture-strewn parkland and a welcoming and relaxed spirit. The cityscape of broad avenues, elegant squares, trams and canals is not only one of the prettiest in Sweden, but also the backdrop to Scandinavia’s biggest seaport, making the city a truly cosmopolitan destination. There is a certain resentment on the west coast that Stockholm wins out in the national glory stakes, but Gothenburg’s easier-going atmosphere – and its closer proximity to western Europe – makes it first choice as a place to live for many Swedes. Talk to any Gothenburger and they will soon disparage the more frenetic lives of the “08-ers” – 08 being the telephone code for Stockholm.

At the heart of the city is the historic old town: this is the best place to start your sightseeing, although Gothenburg’s attractions are by no means restricted to this area. Tucked between the Göta River to the north and the zigzagging Rosenlundkanalen to the south, the old town’s tightly gridded streets are lined with impressive facades, interesting food markets and a couple of worthwhile museums, most notably the Stadsmuseum and, up by the harbour, the Maritiman, a repository of all things nautical. Just across the canal that skirts the southern edges of the old town isTrädgårdsföreningen park, in summer full of colourful flowers and picnicking city dwellers.

Heading further south into the modern centre, Avenyn is Gothenburg’s showcase boulevard, alive with flashy restaurants and bars. However, it’s the roads off Avenyn that are the area’s most interesting, with alternative-style café-bars and some of Gothenburg’s best museums, including the Konstmuseum (Art Museum) further south in Götaplatsen. For family entertainment day or night, the classic Liseberg Amusement Park, just to the southeast of the Avenyn district, has been a meeting place for Gothenburgers since the 1920s.

In Vasastan, a small district to the west of Avenyn, crammed with intricately decorated late nineteenth-century apartment buildings and peppered with appealing little cafés, you’ll find the Röhsska Museum of applied arts. Vasastan stretches west to Haga, the old working-class district, now a haven for the trendy and moneyed. Haga Nygatan, the main thoroughfare, leads on to Linnégatan, the arterial road through Linné. Fast establishing itself as the most vibrant part of the city, it’s home to the most interesting evening haunts, with new cafés, bars and restaurants opening up alongside long-established antique emporiums and sex shops. Further out, the rolling Slottskogsparken park holds the Naturhistoriska Museet (Natural History Museum), as well as being an alluringly pretty place to sunbathe.

Founded on its present site in the seventeenth century by Gustav II Adolf, Gothenburg was the Swedes’ fifth attempt to create a centre free from Danish influence. The Danes had enjoyed control of Sweden’s west coast since the Middle Ages, and extracted extortionate tolls from all vessels entering the country. Sweden’s medieval centre of trade had been 40km further up the Göta River than present-day Gothenburg, but to avoid the tolls it was moved to a site north of the present location. It wasn’t until Karl XI chose the island of Hisingen, today the site of the city’s northern suburbs, as the location for Sweden’s trading nucleus that the settlement was first called Gothenburg.

Over the ensuing centuries, the British, Dutch and German traders who settled here during left a rich architectural and cultural legacy. The city is graced with terraces of grand merchants’ houses featuring carved stone, stucco and painted tiles. The influence of the Orient was also strong, reflecting the all-important trade links between Sweden and the Far East, and is still visible in the chinoiserie detail on many buildings. This trade was monopolized for over eighty years during the nineteenth century by the hugely successful Swedish East India Company, whose Gothenburg auction house, selling exotic spices, teas and fine cloths, attracted merchants from all over the world.

The coastline around Gothenburg is one big playground for the city’s inhabitants and should be your first stop when moving on from the centre. Remarkably, the Gothenburg archipelago, a vast array of forested islands, rocky bluffs and skerries, scattered off the city’s western shore, is still little known by visitors. Gothenburgers, however, rave about it – with good reason – and the archipelago is considerably less expensive to reach than the equivalent in Stockholm. North of Gothenburg, the rugged and picturesque Bohuslän coast, which runs all the way to the Norwegian border, attracts countless tourists each summer, the majority of them Scandinavian and German. The most popular spot is the island town of Marstrand, with its impressive fortress and richly ornamental ancient buildings, but there are several other worthwhile attractions further up the coast, not least the buzzing summer destination of Smögen and the nearby wildlife park,Nordens Ark.

Northeast of the city, the shores of beautiful Lake Vänern make a splendid backdrop for the journey to the lake region’s main town, Karlstad, a thoroughly likeable place the perfect jumping-off point for river-rafting trips through the rural province of Värmland.

The southwestern provinces of Halland, Skåne and Blekinge were on the frontiers of Swedish-Danish conflicts for more than three hundred years. In the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries, the flatlands and fishing ports south of Gothenburg were constantly traded between the two countries, and the presence of several fortresses still bears witness to the area’s status as a buffer in medieval times.

Halland, a finger of land facing Denmark, has a coastline of smooth, sandy beaches and bare, granite outcrops, punctuated by a number of small, distinctive towns. The most charismatic of these is the old bathing resort of Varberg, dominated by its tremendous thirteenth-century fortress; also notable is the small, beautifully intact medieval core of Falkenberg, while the regional capital, Halmstad, is popular for its extensive beaches and nightlife.

Further south, in the ancient province of Skåne, the coastline softens into curving beaches backed by gently undulating fields. This was one of the first parts of the country to be settled, and the scene of some of the bloodiest battles during the medieval conflict with Denmark. Although Skåne was finally ceded to Sweden in the late seventeenth century, Danish influence died hard and is still evident in the thick Skåne accent – often incomprehensible to other Swedes and the butt of many a joke – and in the province’s architecture. Today Skåne is known as the breadbasket of Sweden and its landscapes are those of slabs of yellow rape, crimson poppies and lush green fields contrasting with charming white churches and black windmills. In the north of the province, Båstad is renowned for glamorous living through its close links to the country’s tennis elite. One of Sweden’s best areas for walking and cycling, the Bjäre peninsula lies to the west of Båstad and comprises forested hill ranges, spectacular rock formations and dramatic cliffs. To the south of the town, both Helsingborg, with its laidback, cosmopolitan atmosphere, and bustling Malmö, Sweden’s third city, have undergone some dramatic changes in recent years: Helsingborg’s harbour has been transformed by an influx of stylish bars, while Malmö has seen the most significant development in recent Swedish history – the completion of the 16km-long bridge linking the city to Copenhagen, and thus Sweden to the rest of Europe via the Öresund Strait.

Just north of Malmö, the university town of Lund, with its wealth of classic architecture, has a distinctive bohemian atmosphere that contrasts with Malmö’s more down-to-earth heritage, whilst east from Malmö, you’ll encounter the pretty medieval town of Ystad on the south coast, and then the splendid countryside of Österlen, whose pastoral scenery is studded with Viking monuments, such as the “Swedish Stonehenge” at Ales Stenar and the southwest’s most alluring beaches. Beyond here to the east, the ledge of land running to the Baltic is Blekinge province. Among its several small and not particularly distinguished resorts, Karlskrona stands out, a Baroque beauty built on a number of islands.

In addition, this is one of the easiest regions of Sweden to get around; trains run to all the main towns and services are frequent; we’ve given details under each town account.

Although a less obvious target than the coastal cities and resorts of the southwest, Sweden’s southeast certainly repays a visit. The provinces of Sörmland, Östergötland, Småland and Blekinge boast impressive castles, ancient lakeside sites and numerous glassworks amid the forests of the so-called “Glass Kingdom”, while off the east coast, Sweden’s largest Baltic islands offer beautifully preserved medieval towns and fairytale landscapes. Train transport, especially between the towns close to the eastern shore of Lake Vättern and Stockholm, is good; speedy, regular services mean that you could see some places on a day-trip from Stockholm.

Blekinge is something of a poor relation to its neighbours in terms of tourism. Towns here put out an endless stream of glossy brochures touting their attractions, but in truth, even Swedes themselves admit the province remains the forgotten corner of the south; perfect if you’re looking for a quiet getaway. Småland, in particular, encompasses a varied geography and some stridently different towns. Kalmar is a very likeable stop; a glorious historic fortress town, it deserves more time than its tag as a jumping-off point for the island of Öland suggests. Inland, great swathes of dense forest are rescued from monotony by the many glass factories that continue the county’s traditional industry, famous the world over for its design and quality, though today drowning in its own marketing hyperbole. In Växjö, the largest town in the southeast, two superb museums deal with the art of glass-making and the history of Swedish emigration: agricultural reforms that denied peasants access to common land, combined with a series of bad harvests, led to more than a million Swedes – a sixth of the population – emigrating to America between 1860 and 1930. At the northern edge of the province and perched on the southernmost tip of Lake Vättern, Jönköping is known as Sweden’s Jerusalem for its remarkable number of Free Churches; it’s also a great base for exploring the beautiful eastern shore of Vättern.

The idyllic pastoral landscape of Östergötland borders the eastern shores of the lake and reaches as far east as the Baltic. One of its highlights, and popular with domestic tourists, is the small lakeside town of Vadstena, its medieval streets dwarfed by austere monastic edifices, a Renaissance palace and an imposing abbey, brought into being by the zealous determination of Sweden’s first female saint, Birgitta. Just off the southeast coast lie Sweden’s two largest islands, Öland and Gotland: adjacent slithers of land with unusually temperate climates for their latitudes. They were domestic tourist havens for years, but now an increasing number of foreigners are discovering their charms – lots of summer sun, delectable beaches and some impressive historic (and prehistoric) sights. Öland – the smaller island and closer to the mainland – has a mix of shady forests and flowering meadows that make it a tranquil spot for a few days’ exploration.Gotland’s well-known highlight is its Hanseatic medieval capital, Visby, a city pervaded by a carnival atmosphere in summer when ferry-loads of young Swedes come to sunbathe and party. The rest of the island, however, is little visited by tourists, and all the more magical for that.

Sweden’s east coast, bordering the Gulf of Bothnia (Bottenhavet), forms a corridor of land that is quite unlike the rest of the north of the country; the forest, so apparent in other parts of the north, has been felled here to make room for settlements. Although the entire coastline is dotted with towns and villages that reveal a faded history – some, like Gävle and Hudiksvall, still have their share of old wooden houses, though sadly much was lost during the Russian incursions of the eighteenth century – it is cities like Sundsvall, Umeå and Luleå that are more typical of the region: modern, bright and airy metropolises that rank as some of northern Sweden’s liveliest and most likeable destinations.

All along the coast you’ll find traces of the religious fervour that swept the north in centuries past; Skellefteå and particularly Luleå (included on the UNESCO World Heritage List) both boast excellently preserved kyrkstäder or church towns – clusters of old wooden cottages dating from the early eighteenth century, where villagers from outlying districts would spend the night after making the lengthy journey to church in the nearest town. Working your way up the coast, perhaps on the long train ride to Swedish Lapland, it’s worth breaking your trip at one or two of these places.

The highlight of the Bothnian coast is undoubtedly the stretch known as the Höga Kusten, or the High Coast, north of Härnösand: for peace and quiet, this is easily the most idyllic part of the Swedish east coast. Its indented coastline is best seen from the sea, with shimmering fjords that reach deep inland, tall cliffs and a string of pine-clad islands that make it possible to island-hop up this section of coast. The weather here may not be as reliable as further south, but you’re guaranteed clean beaches (which you’ll often have to yourself), crystal-clear waters and some of the finest countryside for walking.

In many ways, the long wedge of land that comprises central Sweden – the sparsely populated provinces of Dalarna, Härjedalen and Jämtland – encompasses all that is most typical of the country. This vast area of land is really one great forest, broken only by the odd village or town. Rural and underpopulated, it epitomizes the image most people have of Sweden: lakes, log cabins, pine forests and wide, open skies. Until just one or two generations ago, Swedes across the country lived in this sort of setting, taking their cue from the people of these central lands and forest, who were the first to rise against the Danes in the sixteenth century.

Dalarna, centred around Lake Siljan, is an intensely picturesque – and touristy – region, its inhabitants maintaining a cultural heritage (echoed in contemporary handicrafts and traditions) that goes back to the Middle Ages. You won’t need to brave the crowds of visitors for too long, as even a quick tour around one or two of the more accessible places here gives an impression of the whole: red cottages with a white door and window frames, sweeping green countryside, water that’s bluer than blue and a riot of summer festivals. Dalarna is the place to spend midsummer, particularly Midsummer’s Eve, when the whole region erupts in a frenzy of celebration.

The privately owned Inlandsbanan, the great Inland Railway, cuts right through central Sweden and links many of the towns and villages covered in this chapter. Running from Mora in Dalarna to Gällivare, above the Arctic Circle, it ranks with the best of European train journeys, covering an enthralling 1067km in two days; the second half of the journey, north of Östersund (where you have to change trains), is covered in the Swedish Lapland section;. Buses connect the rail line with the mountain villages that lie alongside the Norwegian border, where the surrounding Swedish fjäll, or mountains, offer some spectacular and compelling hiking, notably around Ljungdalen in the remote province of Härjedalen. Marking the halfway point of the line, Östersund, the only town of any size along it and the capital of the province of Jämtland, is situated by the side of Storsjön, the great lake that’s reputed to be home to the country’s own Loch Ness monster, Storsjöodjuret. From here trains head in all directions: west into Norway through Sweden’s premier ski resort, Åre, south to Dalarna and Stockholm, east to Sundsvall on the Bothnian coast and north into the wild terrain of Swedish Lapland.

Swedish Lapland, the heartland of the indigenous Sámi people, is Europe’s last wilderness, characterized by seemingly endless forests of pine and spruce, thundering rivers that drain the snow-covered fells and peaceful lakeside villages high amongst the hills. The irresistible allure of this vast and sparsely populated region is the opportunity to experience raw nature at first hand. This unsullied corner of the country is a very long way away for many Swedes; in terms of distance, Gothenburg, for example, is closer to Venice than it is to Kiruna. The reputation of the local people for speaking their mind or, alternatively, not speaking at all, has confirmed the region’s image within Sweden: remote, austere yet still rather fascinating.

One constant reminder of how far north you’ve come is the omnipresent reindeer that are still fundamental to the livelihood of many families here, but the enduring Sámi culture, which once defined much of this land, is now under threat. Centuries of mistrust between the Sámi and the Swedish population have led to today’s often tense standoff; Sámi accusing Swede of stealing his land, Swede accusing Sámi of scrounging off the state. Back in 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear accident led to a fundamental change in Sámi living patterns: the fallout affected grazing lands, and even today the lichen (the reindeer’s favourite food) in certain parts of the north is unfit for consumption, a fact which the Sámi, perhaps understandably, are keen to play down. The escalating problems posed by tourism – principally the erosion of grazing land under the pounding feet of hikers – have also made the Sámi’s traditional existence increasingly uncertain.

The best way to discover more about Sámi culture is to drive the 360km-long Wilderness Way (Vildmarksvägen) fromStrömsund, a notable canoeing centre, over the barren Stekenjokk plateau to isolated Fatmomakke, a church town of dozens of traditional wooden kåtor (huts) beside the steely waters of Kultsjön lake. The road terminates at Vilhelmina, another tiny church town which makes an interesting diversion on the way north. Storuman and neighbouring Sorsele have handy train and bus connections that are useful access points for a small handful of charming mountain villages close to the Norwegian border, where hiking is the main draw. More accessible Arvidsjaur, reached by the Inlandsbanan offers a fascinating insight into indigenous culture at its lappstad, a diverting collection of religious dwellings and storehouses.

However, it’s Jokkmokk, just north of the Arctic Circle, that is the real centre of Sámi life – not least during its Winter Market when thousands of people brave the chill to buy and sell everything from reindeer hides to wellington boots. Moving further north, the iron-ore mining centres of Gällivare (where the Inlandsbanan ends) and Kiruna share a rugged charm, though it’s undoubtedly the world-famous Icehotel in nearby Jukkasjärvi that is the real winter draw. Beyond, the rugged national parks offer a chance to hike and commune with nature like nowhere else: the Kungsleden trail runs for 500km from the tiny village of Abisko – oddly, yet reassuringly for hikers, the driest place in all of Sweden – to Hemavan, northwest of Storuman, through some of the most gorgeous stretches anywhere in the Swedish mountains.

How does one describe a country that has given the world the Vikings as well as the Nobel Peace Prize, little Swedish meatballs as well as Absolute Vodka, Volvo as well as ABBA, IKEA and H&M and…well, you get the idea.

Sweden is an incredible country that is often missed by those who only venture about Southern, Central or Eastern Europe. It has a spectacular landscape, incredible cities, an educated population (most of whom speak English) and a history and culture much older than ours in North America. Up north you’ll find a pastoral landscape and dense green forests, while to the south there are all those little red island cottages scattered across the Stockholm Archipelago. In between is a pastoral countryside filled with ancient Viking burial grounds, wonderful biking and hiking paths and a heartland in which tradition is still king. And in its cities you’ll enjoy first-rate cultural opportunities, upscale restaurants and wonderful shopping.

For those who would like to explore a bit of this Swedish Smörgåsbord, here are the most-visited areas of Sweden as reported by VisitSweden.

Stockholm is widely celebrated not only as the capital of Scandinavia, but also as one of the world’s most beautiful cities, built where lake meets sea, on fourteen islands, with ten centuries of history and culture. The Swedish Royal Capital is also widely known for its remarkable modernity, progressiveness and trend sensitivity in everything from lifestyle to fashion, design, food and drink and usage of new technology. The combination of magnificent scenery, ancient history and tradition, and a pervasive innovative spirit combine to give Stockholm its truly exceptional character and charm.

Swedes like to claim that Stockholm is a city that has all of the qualities and allures of a major international metropolis but few of its usual downsides. It’s a city where it’s easy and efficient to move around, where the air is fresh and the waters clean, with vast green areas permeating the city with plenty of space for everyone to roam freely. Few other places let you experience the pleasures and enchantments of nature, urban sophistication and cultural history, all in a single day.

One of the most fantastic parts of Stockholm and Sweden is still a secret for many — the magnificent Stockholm archipelago. This maritime landscape of more than 30,000 islands, islets and skerries, of which just some one thousand are inhabited, is unique in the world both in summer and winter.

Stockholm’s archipelago is accessible from central Stockholm all year round thanks to the characteristic and historic white archipelago boats, some of which are well-preserved old workhorses dating back more than a century and still steam powered. You can choose from shorter excursions lasting just a couple of hours, to day tours or even longer excursions with overnight stays. Many boat tours also offer gourmet lunch or dinner.

City breaks don’t often come more perfect than they do in small, beautiful Gothenburg, the capital of West Sweden. Here you can discover quaint canals, the cobbled streets of historical Haga and countless green open spaces, including Sweden’s biggest botanical garden, boasting over 16,000 species. Immerse yourself in the Swedish lifestyle, soaking up the buzzing outdoor café culture with ‘fika’ (a break for coffee and a sweet bun) or indulge in the intriguing food markets, impressive museums and multitude of enticing restaurants — five with Michelin stars, including the most recent addition to the list,Thörnströms Kök. What’s more, there’s the city archipelago right on Gothenburg’s doorstep — easy to reach via a half-hour tram ride and a short passenger ferry trip.

Malmö is the biggest city in Skåne and a multi-cultural place full of energy. In recent years, Malmö has developed into an exciting city with a focus on cultural offerings, innovative architecture and a strong organic social character. Malmö was certified as Sweden’s first Fairtrade City in 2006 and this has spurred the city’s organic and fair trade offerings. In Malmö, it’s easy to shop with a clear conscience and to enjoy ethically produced food and drink. Here, you can dine at one of Sweden’s most acclaimed organic restaurants and shop for the latest fashions made with the environment and ethics clearly in mind.

Located in Jukkasjärv, ICEHOTEL is the world’s largest hotel made of ice and snow. The 5,500 square meter complex includes an Ice church and an Icebar. It is constructed anew every November-December and melts in April-May, but you can, of course, visit the area all year round.

ICEHOTEL’s accommodation features snow rooms, ice rooms and Art suites. Additionally, guests may book a wide range of snowmobile excursions such as Arctic Trail that takes one through the wilderness trails of Swedish Lapland’s aboriginal people, the Sami, whose life is integrally tied to reindeer migration. Fishing for char, trout and grayling, sauna and dinner programs, ice driving, moose watching, ice sculpting, Northern Lights viewing, and dog sled safaris are just a few more of ICEHOTEL’s tour options.

Sweden’s first Marine National Park, Kosterhavet is centred around the car-free Koster Islands, only a two-hour drive up the lovely coast from Gothenburg. Once on the Kosters, you’ll see small fishing villages surrounded by an amazingly beautiful landscape, with many different plants and flowers. The appeal focuses on the unique seaside location, with beaches, rocky islands and the enchanting ‘Koster light’, which has inspired many artists on the island. You can rent bikes and enjoy a guided tour or a boat trip to see this marine wonderland. It’s the perfect environment for lobster safaris during the region’s renowned Shellfish Journey, as well as seal safaris, diving and sea kayaking.

Located only an hour’s drive from Gothenburg, Marstrand island is Sweden’s version of Hollywood as the playground of royalty and celebrities, boasting a rich, intriguing history. Enjoy an impressive vista from grand Carlsten’s Fortress, looking down upon the island’s colourful collection of wooden holiday homes and sailing boats of all shapes and sizes, alongside rugged rocks and the navy-blue ocean. Stay at the former residence of King Oscar II, Grand Hotel Marstrand, or the new Havshotellet Marstrand, just opposite the island, which has a superb spa (designed to reflect its natural coastal setting, with treatments to match) and a restaurant that lets guests watch the sunset over the island.

No other city in Scandinavia and few cities in Europe can boast such a complete and ‘living’ picture of bygone days as Ystad. Many of the 300 half-timbered houses and other buildings bustle with restaurants and shops, and picturesque corners are alive with surprises and bargains.

Best-selling author Henning Mankell has put the city of Ystad on the world map with his detective stories about Police Superintendent Kurt Wallander, a bachelor who grapples with murder investigations and difficult criminal cases in Ystad and its surroundings and with his private life. The popular books have been adapted for the screen, and you can now go on a guided tour in an old veteran fire engine around Ystad and listen to stories about the films and the books.

Skåne’s wonderful nature is a holiday paradise in more ways than one. Here, you can indulge in fantastic views and exciting natural phenomena as well as complete silence and tranquillity, long, light evenings and the luxury of walking on a path in the middle of the forest all by yourself.

Skåne is a province of contrasts. It has vast forests with light and airy deciduous trees and many forest-clad ridges that rise above the landscape. There are glorious fields with fertile soil and, like the peninsula that Skåne actually is, wonderful, chalk-white beaches stretching along the different seas.

Visby is Gotland’s gateway, as it has been for centuries. Sitting on the west coast of Gotland, the port city of Visby has a long history stretching back to the Middle Ages, when it was prosperous member of the Hanseatic League, a medieval trading alliance in northern Europe. Relics of this past exist to this day, most notably the Ringmuren, a two-mile medieval stone wall that encircles the city. The wall and Visby’s many other preserved medieval structures have earned its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

But there is more to Visby than just its history. The city hosts some of the best restaurants in Gotland — and in all of Sweden — many featuring the fresh, farm-to-table cuisine that Gotland is known for. In summer, Visby’s nightlife rivals that of Stockholm, whose residents converge on the city in the summer for a week of champagne-soaked revelry. Beyond its history and its cuisine, Visby is also one of the ideal places on Gotland to take in the island’s art scene. The best time to do this is in early June, when artists and artisans open their studios to the public.

Welcome to the Top 10 eco-tourism attractions in Sweden. Well, there are actually 14 on this list, and it is growing, but who cares? They represent the best eco-tourism attractions in the country, minimizing their, and your, impact on the environment. Choose from the list for some minimal carbon footprint fun, learning and adventure experiences.

1. Biking Dalarna
If you didn’t know it Dalarna is a province in central Sweden famous for its cute, floral-painted Dalecarlian model wooden horses and the Vasaloppet marathon ski race. But it is also getting known for its cycling thrills and hopefully not spills of the downhill, mountain, cross country, road and leisure variety. Biking Dalarna.The two-wheeled action centres on Idre, Säfsen and Sälen, all great ski resorts, and cycling paradises when the snows depart. The largest town up here is Falun, famous for the Falun Copper Mine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a gigantic 90-metre ski jump smack bang in the middle of the town. Some of Sweden’s very best pro cyclists are from this hilly town, so pace yourself on its roads, or tackle its lumpier bits by enjoying the downhill and cross country tracks and paths. Falun is also home to Sweden’s only velodrome, so if you’re interested in track cycling this is the place to come.

2. Urnatur
The couple who run Urnatur, Håkan Strotz and Ulrika Krynitz say on their website; ‘Beside the little farm, we run the wood hermitage and an eco-lodge, retreat treehouse hotel, or natural design hotel. Whatever you like to call it.’  Let’s just say that it’s a place to unwind, rewind, reflect and immerse yourself in the natural surrounds where it is set; in the Holaved forest, just south of Ödeshög on the eastern bank of Lake Vättern in southern Sweden. The accommodation includes the moss cabin, wolf’s cot, the charcoaler hut, the hat hut, the air castle (tree house), other unique dwellings and communal spaces. Award-winning for all the right reasons. Activities include woodcraft, fishing, foraging, walks, canoeing and boating. Open from April to October.

3. Tree Hotel
A flying saucer floats 5 metres off the ground. No, it isn’t a 1950s sci-fi B-movie, it’s one of the rooms at the Tree Hotel, located in Harads, near the town of Luleå, in northeast Sweden. The names of the rooms here are very apt descriptions of what they look like, for example the UFO, Bird’s Nest and the Mirrorcube. They are all  suspended (safely and securely) from living pine trees affording, dare we say it, a bird’s eye view of the forest valley and nearby Lule River. Some modern luxuries are sacrificed for the sake of the environment here, but perched above the trees in your Scandi-design ‘nest’ we don’t think you’ll notice.

Nearby, and depending on season, you can avail of dog sledding, fishing, kayaking and Northern Lights spotting.

4. Nutti Sami Siida
If anyone knows how to live in concert with nature it is the indigenous Sámi people of Sápmi (Lapland). They haven’t been harming this Arctic Circle environment for millennia and neither will you if you stay with them at Nutti Sami Siida and join an expert local guide on an eco-adventure. The centre is set in the taiga forest 3 km from Jukkasjärvi village, near the ICEHOTEL (in winter - it’s gone by the summer). There are two stay options here; an eco-friendly cabin with bare amenities, or a Sámi lavvu tent with basic amenities. Choose the one with the ‘bed’ of twigs and reindeers skins and it isn’t the cabin. Unsurprisingly, the activities are outdoor in what is perhaps Europe’s last wilderness. A guided hike in the Abisko National Park takes you past glorious mountain peaks, canyons and waterfalls. Come for the Northern Lights, come for the midnight sun, come and meet the Sámi, their culture and their traditions.

5. Everts Sjöbod
Everts Sjöbod (Everts Boathouse) lies just 2 km northwest of Grebbestad, a typically pretty West Coast fishing village. Brothers Lars and Per Karlsson are expert fishermen and know everything there is to know about catching the legendary lobster and other shellfish of the deep, dark waters here. Let them take you out to the wonderful Bohuslän archipelago for a spot of lobster potting, or crayfish catching, or maybe go on an oyster ‘safari’. And yes, you get to eat your catch. Other activities include mackerel fishing, crayfish catching and oyster tastings. The lobster fishing season starts on the first Monday after 20th September and the best time to catch them is from then until December. Eco-certified sea-harvesting and eats don’t get better than this.

6. Växjö
Växjö is a lively and attractive small town in southern Sweden that was named the ‘Greenest city in Europe´ by the BBC in 2007 for its efforts to create a sustainable environment for its inhabitants. And ever since, the town has become a darling of the sustainable cities movement and won environmental awards left, right and centre. And quite right too. Back in the 1970s the town started cleaning up it’s then polluted lakes and hasn’t looked back. It aims to be fossil-fuel free by 2030 (and it’s well the way to achieving it), it is increasing its share of renewable energy, it is building passive housing and buildings (heated by body heat and electrical appliances), more of its citizens are using green public transport and bikes to get around and buying ecological products. All good stuff. Växjö talks the talk and walks the walk when it comes to sustainability. Pay it a visit for some green inspiration.

7. Linköping
Know what a vertical farm is? Or what a ‘farmscraper’ is? The people of Linköping in southern Sweden will find out in 2013 when the world’s first Plantagon Greenhouse, a 54-metre high, south-facing, triangular shaped greenhouse goes up in the centre of their town. This vertical farm will be ready for food production in 2014 and the 150,000 or so locals will be able to sample its vertically-grown veggies. Otherwise, this sky-bound farm will house a centre of excellence for urban agriculture that could be well worth a visit if you want to see the future of food.

8. Aurora Sky Station
Still up in the heavens, the skies above the Aurora Sky Station at the Abisko National Park in Swedish Lapland, northern Sweden, is one of the best spots in the world to see the Northern Lights. This fantastic natural light show appears around the beginning of September (town of Kiruna) to around the end of March all over Swedish Lapland.
There are no guarantees that you will see them though and clouds are the main Northern Lights-wreckers. So let’s hope for clement weather and clear skies.

A chairlift takes you up to the observation tower, as well as the station’s Northern Lights exhibition, café and souvenir shop. Be warned, it gets blisteringly cold so get togged up.

9. Timber rafting in Värmland
The Klaräven, Sweden’s mightiest river at 500 km long, is the setting for this river adventure in the province of Värmland. The people at Vildmark Adventures show you how to build the raft, supply you with logs and ropes and other basics and then it’s up to you to build your mode of transport and home for anything between 1 day and one week. You stay under a tent on the raft, or pitch your tent on the riverbank. Just think; lazy, hazy days floating down a gentle, meandering river, with not a care in the world.

10. Kolarbyn
Kolarbyn eco-lodge lies some 2 hours by bus, train or car northwest of Stockholm in Bergslagen, an area known for its dense taiga forests and lakes. The eco-lodge is a series of 12 forest huts that meld perfectly into the forest background and each has two hard beds with sheepskin covers and a fire (which you chop your own wood for, light and tend). Food is included on guided tours and package deals, otherwise you bring your own and cook it over an open fire. Or why not forage the forest for mushrooms and berries? Other activities here include guided walks, a course in bushcraft, elk and beaver spotting and howling with the local wolf pack. And no, we’re not joking.

11. Stockholm Outback
Stockholm is a city of Scandi-cool, of design, of top-notch restaurants and…

It matters not a jot to the elk, roe deer, wild boar, foxes, hares and birdlife who live just outside the city. Your guide from Stockholm Outback picks you up for free from your hotel and drives you 30 minutes south of the city for a 3-hour exploration of Stockholm’s flora and fauna. Chances are you’ll spot one or more of the ‘Stockholmers’ above. A great way of experiencing the ‘real’ Stockholm.

12. Gothenburg Culture Festival
The Gothenburg Culture Festival over six days in August each year sees the West Coast city party like it’s going out of fashion to live music, dance, design/fashion, film, street artists, handicraft, history, comedy, poetry and theatre. The city authorities, organizers, vendors and venues have joined forces to make this giant event as sustainable as possible. You can do your bit by walking or cycling to and from the festival areas, by sorting your waste and by using a refillable cup for drinks. Come and enjoy the party at one of Sweden’s biggest and most sustainable festivals in Gothenburg.

13. Augustenborg
Augustenborg Ecocity is short walk or bike ride from Malmö city centre and it is home to the world’s biggest roof gardens. At the turn of the noughties residents on this housing estate were leaving the area in droves because it was becoming run-down. What to do? The authorities decided to layout 10,000 m2 of green roof vegetation to avoid flooding in the area, which was a problem, build a system of storm drains and channels, while residents created new gardens and habitat for the local wildlife around them. And a lot more. Visit Augustenborg while you’re inMalmö to see for yourself what happens when a forward-looking city and some of its citizens decide to make a change for the good.

14. Ájtte Museum and the Ájtte restaurant
The Ájtte Museum and the Restaurant Ájtte are located in Jokkmokk in Sápmi (Lapland) and is a Sami managed and run institution of great importance. Its various display, exhibits and presentations narrate the life, culture and traditions of this indigenous people across the millennia.  The museum also presents the nature and culture of this mountain region and provides tourism information. Don’t forget to visit its restaurant for a taste of Sami cuisine.

Before you are traveling to a foreign country, it is good to know what are the worth visiting sights of the respective country. Below I will present you some astonishing sights of Sweden named the Seven Wonders of Sweden. This amazing country is one of the most visited Scandinavian countries. If you are interested in some true wonders to visit, Sweden will be your perfect destination.

In this astonishing country there are considered to be Seven Wonders of which most are unique and can not be found anywhere else. These wonders are the Ice Hotel, Uppsala Cathedral, the Wasa Museum, the Old City of Stockholm, The world’s largest model of Solar System and the Ericsson Globe, the North Swedish night sky and the High Coast.

The Ice Hotel
This “wonder” is situated in northern Sweden, in Jukkasjärvi. During both summer and winter season you have the opportunity to stay at this amazing Ice Hotel. If you decide to spend a couple of days in the hotel, you can sleep in unique ice rooms and eat at the ice restaurant. The interior of this hotel is decorated with various pictures and sculptures made of ice, of course. It is meritorious to visit it.

Uppsala Cathedral
The Uppsala Cathedral is situated in the city of Uppsala, about 40 miles away from Stockholm. In the past, this small city was one of the most important religious cities in Scandinavia. The Uppsala Cathedral is the most impressive and largest cathedral in Sweden. The tower of the cathedral is over 115 m high. The Uppsala Cathedral is one of the most visited cathedrals in Sweden.

The Wasa Museum
The Wasa Museum is situated in the capital of Sweden, Stockholm. In the wonderful maritime museum you can visit a huge ship, measuring exactly 226 feet lenght. The huge ship houses more than 700 sculptures and cannons. This ship was sunk, being discovered in 1961 and brought to the surface. The museum was actually built around the ship.

The Old City of Stockholm, Gamla Stan
The Old City of Gamla Stan occupies a few islands of Stockholm. Gamla Stan is renowned for its straight but narrow streets, medieval architectural jewels, the Royal Palace and its old churches. The Old City is one of the most visited attractions in Sweden.

The world’s largest model of Solar System and the Ericsson Globe
The world’s largest model of Solar System is more than 800 miles long which presents the Sun in the middle of it. It is a huge ball with a diameter of 110 meters, called the Ericsson Globe. It is one of the most visited “wonders” in the world. I suggest you to visit it.

The North Swedish night sky, midnight sun and Aurora Borealis
It is not easy to reach the northernmost region of the country, but it is with no doubt worth the effort.The North Swedish night sky, midnight sun and Aurora Borealis are surely some unique attractions. After this fantastic experience you will surely return home with great memories.

The High Coast
The High Coast Archipelago is situated about 500 km away from Stockholm. This “wonder” is unique in Scandinavia due to its unusual landscape with fjords, islands rising high above the sea and with high cliff formations. This amazing archipelago can be a wonderful destination to you.

Orebo Castle
The Orebo Castle is a medieval castle fortress.  It was enhanced during the reign of the royal family Vasa.  The castle is found on an island in the river Svartan.  Some of the rooms are currently used as classrooms.  The tower was added in the 14th century to strengthen the castle.

Town Hall Malmo
The Malmo Town Hall is the principal governmental building in Malmo, Sweden's third largest city. Malmo was one of the earliest and most industrialized towns throughout Scandinavia, although it struggles through the postmodernist age.

Drottningholm, which means "Queen's Islet," is located in Stockholm.  The palace serves as the residence for the Swedish Royal family and houses 398 inhabitants.

Visby is a locality and the seat of Gotland Municipality with over 22,500 inhabitants.  It is one of hte best preserved medieval city places in Scandinavia and accordingly is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  One of the highlight features is the 2.1 mile (3.4 km) town wall that surrounds the town center.

Gamla Stan Old Town
Gamla Stan, also known as The Old Town, is the old town of Stockholm.  The leading feature is the island Stadsholmen and the surrounding islets.  The word "stan," a contraction of "staden," simply translates to "town."

Sofia Church
The Sofia Church was named after Sofia of Nassau who was the Queen of Sweden between 1836 and 1913.  Also known as Sofia Kyrka, it is one of the major churches in Stockholm.  It was dedicated in 1906.

Parliament House
Parliament House is the official seat of the parliament of Sweden.  It is found on Helgeandsholmen island.  Construction follows the Neoclassical style with a centered Baroque Revival style facade section.  Construction was completed in 1905.

Royal Swedish Opera
The Royal Swedish Opera is located in Stockholm and is connected to the Royal Palace through the Norrbro bridge. The Corinthian tetrastyle portico supports four statues and is topped by the royal crown. Renowned for excellent acoustics.

Royal Palace Cathedral
The Royal Palace Cathedral is also known as Church of St. Nicholas, the Great Church and Stockholm Cathedral.  It is the oldest church in Gamla Stan and represents Swedish Brick Gothic architecture.  It sits next to the Royal Palace and forms the western end of Slottsbacken.

Sarek NP Rapadalen

Sarek National Park has no marked trails, no accommodations and only two bridges making it a challenging destination for beginning hikers.  The park features six peaks over 6,600 feet (2,000 m) of which one is the second highest mountain in Sweden.

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