Lets start your initiation into Sweden with a few fun facts: Did you know that ABBA, the legendary Swedish band, still remains one of the most popular music bands in the world? How about the fact that Stockholm is the only capital in the world over which one can fly on a hot air balloon? Also, the Swedish on average consume up to 6 cups of coffee a day! More importantly, here everyone is (so rightly) obsessed with the environment, that there is a law where by 2025 the country will completely abandon using gas and switch to biofuels instead.
Your journey through Sweden should perhaps start with its capital, Stockholm, considered one of the most beautiful cities in Northern Europe. Most of the city is positioned on three islands surrounded by the Mälaren Lake and the Baltic Sea, and its narrowest street is only 90 cm wide! Head down to Gamla Stan, the historic centre of the city, where you can walk down narrow cobbled streets to enjoy the impressive architecture of this medieval town. Along the way are landmarks such as the 13th century Church of Riddarholmen, one of the oldest and the only medieval churches in the city that also serves as the last resting place for all Swedish rulers. There is then the majestic Royal Palace, built on the foundations of a 13th century medieval castle in a distinct Roman style. The Nobel Museum, in the vicinity showcases all the 800 award winners and their achievements in a rather amusing way.
Don’t forget to stop by the imposing Vadstena castle, an ancient fortress with stunning architecture that once served to shield and protect the city from attacks by sea. The Viking influence on this land can be clearly appreciated at Birka, its heritage ancient remains on display a day trip away by ferry from Stockholm. The Globe Arena is a favourite tourist attraction in Stockholm – not only because it is one of the largest spherical structures in the world, but also for the prestigious sports competitions, concerts and shows that are it regularly hosts. Once here, do make it a point to take in the best panoramic views of the city from the funicular SkyView!
Sweden has some rather interesting museums. The National Museum of Sweden displays more than 16000 art exhibits; and the Skansen Museum, an open-air museum of Swedish culture and traditions showcases more than 150 traditional houses and farmsteads from the 18th and 19th centuries from all over the country.
There is then the MOMA and the unique Vasa Ship Museum; the latter is located in an actual warship from the 17th century that was built as the flagship of the Swedish Navy from more than 1000 trees by 400 people! Even the Stockholm subway is a work of art, displaying Greek sculptures, video installations and gorgeous mosaics! Check with your Stockholm tour guide if there are any special exhibitions on in the subway and prepare to be awed!
You just might get to see the King of Sweden when your Swedish tour guide escorts you to Drottningholm Castle, the residence of the Swedish Royal Family located west of Stockholm. Otherwise known as the ‘Queen’s Island’, this UNESCO World Heritage site is located on a picturesque lake; apart from admiring the luxurious interiors, enjoy a walk around the gorgeous gardens decorated with numerous fountains, sculptures ponds and labyrinths.
Gothenburg is a spacious green city generously endowed with canals and historic buildings. Most of the must see sights; the Opera theatre, the Museum of Art and the churches are within walking distance of each other. Space it out with a stop at the Fish Church for lunch, or a coffee at one of the many inviting cafes in the lovely Haga district. Or why not catch the tram; after all, Goteborg has one of the largest tram networks in Europe, with about 200 trams covering an intricate system of more than 2000 routes! If the weather so permits, head out to the Botanical gardens or the park near the Lynn area for a leisurely stroll, or for some fun and excitement to the Liseberg Amusement Park.
A little more on the natural side is the Delsjönnature reserve, with two gorgeous lakes and a thick forest, ideal for hikes and feeling one with nature. Further west, a day trip to the Gotheburg Archipelago beckons, where numerous islands scattered just off the coastline, welcome attracting visitors to their granite skerries, sculpted in fascinating forms and shapes, as well as quaint little fishing villages that play host to grand oyster and lobster seafood safaris.
Ask your Sweden tour guide to pen in the city of Malmo in your itinerary – to visit the beautiful Church of St. Peter, the Malmö Castle and for those who would like to visit the beach au naturel, Ribersborg Kallbadhus. Originally a small and cosy town, Malmo now boasts urban neighbourhoods with modern architecture, vibrant life and the Øresund Bridge that connects it with Copenhagen, the distance covered in a mere 20 minutes!
Sweden is famous for its castles, scattered throughout the country. Your Swedish tour guide will definitely recommend a day trip from Stockholm to the Gripsholm castle, a steamship ride away on the shores of the Mälaren Lake. The Kalmar castle is also worth a visit, not only to admire its impressive appearance decorated in the northern Renaissance style or the interiors with wooden panelling and intricate carvings, but also to appreciate the historical events that have taken place here, especially during the 2 centuries where the rulers of Denmark, Norway and Sweden formed the so-called Kalmar union. Many of these glorious properties have been converted into hotels; grab your chance at living like royalty by checking into the Grytthyttan's Gästgivaregård in Västmanland or the Kronovalls Slott in Skåne.
A journey through Sweden would not be complete without a visit to Uppsala – this city was after all, once the capital of Sweden. Uppsala is divided into two parts by the Fyris River – the historical and the residential sides. Most of the attractions are located in the west, and this is where majestically stands the Uppsala Cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in Sweden at a height of about 120 meters. Having visited the cathedral, cross the street to the Gustavianum, which served as the main building of the city’s university and now is home to an extensive collection of both Nordic and Egyptian antiques! To catch up on your reading, the University Library, with an impressive collection of 5 million volumes, is located right here.
Sweden’s rugged natural beauty is legendary; archipelagos trail from the far north to the south wrapping around it’s west coast, some still undiscovered, while others provide an escape into picture perfect natural landscapes for locals and visitors alike. For a once in a lifetime experience, head to the province of Lapland, and more specifically, Abisko, the biggest national park of Sweden primed with rare wildlife, waterfalls and glacial rivers, and boulder fields amidst tundra vegetation. A popular tourist destination, the picturesque park is the mecca for winter sports fans; here you will also find the famous 440-kilometer Royal Trail, ideal for hiking, skiing and mountain climbing! But most significantly, this is a great place to witness the breathtaking Aurora Borealis, which makes it a veritable photographers’ mecca.
The lodging here can be pretty interesting too, with a tree hotel making one feel closer to the sky full of hues. Or why not make a reservation at the IceHotel in Jukkasjärvi; do ensure though that you visit in the winter, or the suite you look forward to residing in would have melted away in spring!
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