Visit Sweden and Experience a Mix of Past and Present Culture

While Sweden is certainly a land of ancient runes, expansive archipelagos, and colorful coastlines, the northerly country is also a hotspot for art, design, and fashion. There are so many things to do in Sweden; it is a true paradise for those who enjoy hiking and the outdoors. Apart from its natural beauty, Sweden is home to modern and vibrant cities, including Stockholm, Malmö, and Gothenburg. Spend time island hopping and exploring the beautiful old cities. Sample the traditional cuisine and shop Scandinavian fashion brands, too. Sweden is full of rich culture and breathtaking natural beauty.


01Explore Stockholm

Gamla Stan in Stockholm, Sweden Leonardo Patrizi / Getty Images

The elegant capital of Sweden is full of well-preserved historical landmarks, compelling museums, and contemporary culture. The historic Old Town, Gamla Stan, is the perfect place to start your trip. Meander through the narrow alleys and cobbled streets while enjoying beautiful architecture and quaint shops. Apart from Stockholm’s historical importance, it’s also a forward-looking city leading the way in fashion, design, and art. Check out the contemporary galleries and shop the latest looks from trend-setting boutiques. Another must-visit spot in Stockholm is Skansen, the open-air museum that shows you a miniature version of Sweden, complete with traditional houses, plant life, and industry. While you’re in the area, take a few days to explore the Stockholm archipelago. The city has a fantastic ferry system that will take you to the thousands of islands dotted along the Baltic Sea coastline.


02Hike Through Lapland

Northern Lights in Lapland, Sweden BeyondImages / Getty Images

Lapland is Sweden's northernmost region, and it covers a quarter of the country. The region shares a border with both Norway and Finland and is the best place to go if you love the outdoors. Hike through the breathtaking northern countryside, stop in small villages, and enjoy incredible views. Apart from hiking, visitors can also ski, canoe, and fish while admiring the Northern Lights. No matter what time of year you visit, you can always find something exciting to do.


03Celebrate Midsummer

Swedish maypole Lightstar59 / Getty Images

Midsummer is a quintessential Swedish celebration, and you should plan your trip around the festival if you can. Every year on a Friday between the 19th and 25th of June, the country celebrates this summer solstice festival that welcomes the long days, warm weather, and the lush bloom of summer. Join a local gathering to eat pickled herring and new potatoes with dill, drink spiced schnapps, and dance around the maypole. The best festival celebrations occur in the countryside where the residents still celebrate Midsummer the way they have for hundreds of years.


04Visit Kosterhavet National Park

Coastline, Sweden Martin Wahlborg / Getty Images

Kosterhavet is a marine life national park on the west coast of Sweden. The area has the most marine biodiversity in the country due to a combination of the cold waters of Koster Fjord and the high salinity of the Atlantic Ocean. Take a boat to the small islands that make up the park or get some exercise traveling by canoe or kayak. Visitors can also go swimming and diving to see the fascinating local marine life, including brachiopods, sponges and corals. You can reach the park via one of four entrances: Strömstad, Saltö, Rossö, and Resö.


05Explore Gothenburg City and Archipelago

Gothenburg archipelago, Sweden Martin Wahlborg / Getty Images

Although Stockholm is the most popular tourist city, western Gothenburg should not be overlooked. Buy fresh seafood from the Fish Church, ride rollercoasters at the Liseberg amusement park, and enjoy Nordic art at the Gothenburg Museum. Be sure to stroll through the Haga, a charming district full of quaint cafés and boutiques. Before you leave, take a boat to the many islands of Gothenburg’s archipelago. Enjoy pedestrian-only towns and experience the old-world atmosphere of these isolated and serene islands. The Gothenburg archipelagos also have exceptional dining options that include a huge variety of fresh seafood.


06Partake in Fika

Fika, Sweden Alexander Farnsworth / Getty Images

If you don't know what fika is before your trip, you’ll be an expert on the topic by the time you leave Sweden. Fika is a Swedish tradition that consists of stopping what you're doing to enjoy a coffee and a sweet bun or pastry. If you ask any Swede, they’ll tell you that fika is much more than just a coffee break. It’s a tradition more than a hundred years old, and individuals and large companies alike indulge in fika at least twice a day. Cinnamon and cardamom buns are the usual pastries, served with strong coffee. In the summer months, you can also enjoy strawberry cakes or the marzipan-covered, custard-filled Princess cake.


07Head to Malmö

Malmö, Sweden bbsferrari / Getty Images

The southern coastal city of Malmö is close to Copenhagen, with a short bridge and tunnel connecting the two. Malmö has a different vibe from the rest of Sweden, providing visitors with an in-your-face contrast of the ancient and the modern. Malmö is the place to go if you want to go out dancing, grab some drinks, or listen to live music. Check out the museums and the Old Town while basking in the city’s progressive attitude.


08Spend Time at the Museums

Vasa museum in Stockholm, Sweden aefoto / Getty Images

History buffs and lovers of Scandinavian culture will enjoy hopping from one exceptional museum to the other, all over Sweden. Start your tour at the impressive and dramatic Vasa Museum in Stockholm. The museum houses a massive warship from the 1600s. The unfortunately top-heavy ship tipped over and sank as soon as it set off on its maiden voyage. It was recovered from the bottom of Saltsjön and reassembled in the 1970s. Artifacts from the ship were salvaged, along with the remains of the unlucky crew. For contemporary art in Stockholm, head to the Moderna Museet to see the permanent display of modern art and the rotating exhibitions of contemporary painters, sculptors, and performance artists. Be sure to visit the museums in Uppsala, Gothenburg, and Malmö for even more art, history, and culture.


09Bike Through the Country

Bicycle in Sweden Photomick / Getty Images

Sweden is a paradise for cyclists, and the entire country is accessible by bike routes that weave through cities, towns, and isolated countryside. If you visit Sweden in the warmer months, grab a bike and explore the country on two wheels. Popular routes include Sydostleden, an inland route that takes you from Småland south to the Baltic Sea coast. The route passes small villages and fishing towns where you can pick up food and souvenirs. The Mälardalen trail takes you from Stockholm to several major Swedish towns including Södertälje and Eskilstuna. An added bonus: the trail starts less than seven miles from Stockholm's Arlanda airport.


10Spend a Few Days in Gotland

Visby street Gotland, Sweden Rolf_52 / Getty Images

Take a three-hour ferry ride from Nynasham or Oskarshamn, and you’ll find Gotland, a large Swedish island in the middle of the Baltic Sea. The Vikings used the island as an ancient trading post, and it’s full of ancients ruins, old churches, and countless artifacts. Stop by Visby, the island's largest municipality and a UNESCO World Heritage site. A beautiful medieval wall surrounds Visby, and the remains of medieval churches are dotted throughout the town. Wander the cobblestone streets and take in the area’s natural and man-made beauty. After Visby, head north to Fårö, the smallest, northernmost island and the final resting place of Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. The region is also known for its unusual and eerily beautiful sea stacks or rauks.


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