Travel to Sweden

Travel to Sweden

Sweden’s Scandinavian delights range from pristine mountain peaks and sumptuous birch woods to world-class cities and Viking-founded fishing villages.

Sweden’s a vast country with an equally vast history, so it comes as no surprise it’s blessed with a spectacularly diverse spectrum of tourist attractions. The Swedish capital of Stockholm, handsomely partitioned by waterways, is the biggest urban center in Scandinavia, but the country also includes many other significant cities—Goteborg, Malmo, Uppsala, and Vasteras among them. One of the most unique destinations in Sweden is Stockholm’s Vasa Museum, which displays the magnificent, doomed 17th century warship Vasa—salvaged from the floor of Stockholm’s harbor after more than three centuries. Another must-see is Drottningholm Palace, the spectacular home base of the Swedish royal family. Visits to the far north of Lapland, are rewarded with glimpses into the traditional Sami reindeer-herding culture and spectacular Arctic landscapes.

Sweden is home to an impressive 15 World Heritage Sites. Many of Scandinavia's best castles, churches, palaces and manor homes are found in Sweden. In Sweden's cosmopolitan capital of Stockholm, visitors have access to fantastic museums, historic architecture, galleries, performing arts venues, festivals and shopping. Inside the capital, visitors should consider checking out the National Museum of Art, the Skansen open-air museum, the Versailles-like Drottningholm Palace and Theater (a World Heritage Site), the Royal Palace, the Vasa Museum (Royal Warship), and the medieval Riddarholm Church – where Sweden's monarchs are buried.

Outside of the capital, visitors flock to shop in Sweden's legendary "Kingdom of Crystal" (Glasriket). In the southern province of Småland, some of Europe's (if not the world's) finest glassworks open their doors to visitors. Many of these glass studios date back to the 1800s. You can see the biggest names in Swedish glassmaking like Maaleraas, Kosta Boda and Orrefors blow glass and intricately etch crystal.

Do you want to experience a relaxing aspect of Swedish culture? Head to a spa! Swedes love spa resort weekends, dips in their many lakes and sessions in wooden saunas. So feel free to incorporate a little wellness into your holiday; it's authentically Swedish.

Worried that Sweden's culinary offerings are limited to what you generally find in an IKEA cafeteria? We promise – there's a lot more for your palate once you set foot in Sweden. While it is true that the harsh climate has influenced traditional Swedish foods, which tend to be rather hearty (think boiled potatoes, root vegetables, cabbage, salmon, pork dishes, game, cured seafood, dumplings, etc.), you'll also find many innovative twists on traditional Swedish fare – along with a wide variety of international cuisine. The culinary scene in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö is just getting better and better. Foodies will be pleased to know that Stockholm has nine Michelin-starred restaurants.

That being said, one Swedish culinary tradition did make its way around the world. What do we do when we've got a large group, our refrigerators are stuffed to the gills with leftovers, and we just want a low-key, buffet-style meal with hot and cold dishes? A smörgåsbord.

Now, what can you wash it all down with? Traditionally-speaking, Swedes like their distilled liquors with brännvin being the most popular. (The term brännvin encompasses both akvavit and volka.) One of the country's most popular brands, Absolut Vodka, is now a major world export. Like their other Nordic neighbors, the Swedes also tend to drink A LOT of coffee.

Throughout Europe, the Scandinavian nation of Sweden is famed for its splendid natural offerings. Though somewhat more developed and sophisticated than its two land neighbors, Norway and Finland, its beauty is no less magnificent. Sweden is home to approximately 150,000 islands, 100,000 lakes and a very steep mountain chain that serves as the country's western border with Norway. Its eastern edge is made up of a very long coastline that runs along the Baltic Sea. Ideal for active vacationers seeking beautiful nature and fresh air, Sweden – which is the roughly the size of California – has 29 national parks. Fishing, skiing, rafting, golfing, and hiking are all popular with visitors and locals alike.

Most of Sweden's population resides in coastal areas of the arable South. As travelers venture north, Sweden becomes increasingly awash in enchanting woods, forests, rivers and lakes. Many go to experience some of Northern Europe's most dazzling, wild scenery. In the northernmost part of Sweden, primarily north of the Arctic Circle, an indigenous Arctic group of people called the Sami reside in a cultural region called Sápmi (which also comprises parts of Finland, Norway and Russia). From late fall to early spring, northern Sweden beckons thousands who have dreamt of experiencing the Northern Lights (aurora borealis).

Sweden's summer months also draw many tourists hoping to put the country's unusually-sunny summers to good use by enjoying its multitude of national parks, outdoor activities and festivals. Sweden's island-rich capital city of Stockholm has approximately 6 hours of sunlight a day in January; in July it has 18 hours a day. As you climb north towards the Arctic Circle (and beyond), those sunlight hours increase in the summertime. The town of Kiruna for example has 24 hours a day of sunlight in July! This phenomenon is often referred to as the Midnight Sun in Scandinavia.

Sweden's legendary scenic waterways and complex canal systems also deserve a mention. The historic Göta Canal, which was constructed in 1810, is one of Sweden's best tourist attractions. Another more recent feat of Scandinavian engineering (2000) was the Øresund Link, a bridge-tunnel construction which connects the Swedish city of Malmö (and therefore the entire Scandinavian Peninsula) with Continental Europe – specifically with the metropolitan area of Copenhagen. As the bridge is used for both cars and trains, it's easy to pair Sweden with Denmark if you're traveling by rail or car. And because of the vast cruise and ferry options, it's also convenient to combine Sweden's capital city of Stockholm with other Nordic and Baltic capital cities like Oslo, Helsinki, Tallinn and St. Petersburg.

Largest cities: Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö

While the Vikings hailed from Sweden, Norway and Denmark, Norwegian and Danish Vikings generally sailed west to Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland, England, Ireland, Scotland and France. Swedish Vikings on the other hand journeyed east across the Baltic Sea to trade with (and raid) Finnish tribes. Scholars believe that they also settled in the Slavic cities of Novgorod and Kiev (which are now in Russia and Ukraine). Using the rivers and lakes of Central Europe, the Swedish Vikings continued to push further – all the way to Constantinople (now called Istanbul), the capital of the Byzantine Empire – and even into Baghdad, which at the time was the capital of the powerful Abbasid Caliphate. These achievements are remarkable given that we're talking about the 8th to the 11th century!

At another powerful moment in Swedish history, during its Empire – 16th century to the beginning of the 19th century – Sweden was one of the most powerful countries in Europe. In addition to the territories of present-day Sweden, the Swedes controlled lands that today form part of Finland, Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Germany, Latvia, Estonia and Denmark. There has been a king or queen of Sweden for more than 1000 years. For this reason, it probably won't come as a surprise to hear that Sweden is absolutely rife with fascinating historical sites. Its traditional wooden homes, Viking burial grounds, Romanesque cathedrals, medieval fortresses and royal castles all have a story to tell. Truth be told, it is hard to do it justice in this small section.

If you're a history fan contemplating a vacation to Sweden, after visiting Stockholm – give yourself enough time to visit some of Sweden's most important historic cities. We recommend Vadstena, Lund, Kalmar, Sigtuna, Uppsala (including the nearby village of Gamla Uppsala) and Visby – a World Heritage City located on the island of Gotland.

Stockholm Getaway