Summer or winter, Sweden offers a rich feast of experiences in all seasons, for all sorts of holidaymaker! Spend the lazy days of summer swimming and fishing, trekking or foraging; or enjoy a winter wonderland where the energetic can ski and the sensible can sled through the snow-covered forests. And there’s plenty of unusual sightseeing to enjoy along the way.
Lindvallen in Dalarna Province
Lindvallen, like all the resorts in Sweden, offers year-round fun. In summer this small town on the western Sweden/Norway border is the best place to unwind.
You can walk all day along the well-marked forest paths, visit pretty little villages of red-painted wooden houses, or enjoy some top fly fishing on the Västerdalälven River as it flows from the high fells in the north, down into Lake Siljan. Or why not opt for something a little different and try an organised summer evening safari in a canoe? You'll get up close to those busy engineers of the animal world, the beaver.
While Lindvallen has downhill ski runs for the experienced, it’s the perfect place for beginners and families. Europe’s largest connected ski area has adventure and snow parks dotted with sculptures of trolls and wild animals where children happily practice to become the next world slalom champion.
While they take that particular challenge, you might try the art of cross-country skiing, going at your own pace and glowing with virtue at completing the seven-mile trail through the gently undulating countryside.
On the first Sunday in March, nearby Sälen fills up with spectators for the start of the world’s biggest cross-country ski race, a gruelling 56-mile path to Mora. In summer, ordinary mortals can take part in the famous mountain cycle race over the same route, but you’ll have to be fit and register early for this endurance test.
Abandon all ideas of getting to Mora on your skis like the experts, and instead drive for 90 minutes to the small lakeside town. It’s a delightful place, with steamship cruises on the lake in summer. The greatest draw is Anders Zorn (1860-1920), one of Sweden’s greatest artists who lived in Mora, and left the town an open-air museum of more than 40 historic buildings, and around 20,000 art objects, including a fabulous textile collection.
His home and museum are open all year, but you can only wander through the wooden cabins and houses of Sweden’s past during the summer.
The Lakes of Sweden
Sweden is a land of glorious lakes and they don’t come much finer than Lake Vättern, the second largest in Sweden after its whopping neighbour Lake Vänern. Come here for a lazy day on the shores where the soft waters invite you to dip in or take a rowing boat out into the lake, while the pike, zander, salmon and, for the lucky few, the elusive Arctic char invite you to fish.
Lake Vattern is surrounded by spectacular scenery and charming old towns with some fascinating, distinctly odd, stories. The eastern shore drive in spring takes you through a shower of fruit tree blossoms to Gränna, famous for its pears and striped candy.
The quintessential Swedish pleasure of a ‘fika’ (coffee, cakes and a chat) is a must here in one of the many delightful cafés before a trip to the Grenna Museum which tells the unusual story of the explorer SA Andrée who attempted to reach the North Pole in 1897... By balloon.
This heroic but doomed expedition comes to life through diaries, artifacts and black-and-white photos, the most poignant showing the crashed balloon lying on the unforgiving ice floes. It’s open throughout the year, but a visit in winter when the snow is falling and the temperatures drop, gives a sense of the sheer idiotic bravery of taking off in a hot air balloon for the frozen ends of the earth.
Lake Vättern was the playground and stronghold of medieval Swedish kings. On Visingsö Island (just a 20-minute ferry ride from Gränna), there are ruined castles with old stone towers begging to be climbed, and the moated castle in Vadstena stands as a proud reminder of the royal past in this lovely village of flower-covered wooden cottages and winding cobbled streets.
Then it’s on to Motala where the early 19th-century Göta Canal ends its epic route from Mem in the Baltic. One of the biggest construction projects ever undertaken in Sweden, it’s now a favourite for walkers, cyclists (the tourist office will tell you where to hire a bicycle) and those who prefer to take a leisurely boat trip.
The canal was the brainchild of Baltzar von Platen who also persuaded the government to build the massive fortress at Karlsborg on the western shore. Even in 1819, when the first stones were laid, the castle was an extravagant folly and it was never completed.
To the south, Hjo is a bustling harbour-side town of old wooden houses and small streets that fill up in the summer with events ranging from fishing competitions to music festivals.
Åre in Jamtland Province
This popular and lively resort is Sweden’s largest downhill skiing area with guaranteed snow from December to May, offering plenty of cafés and restaurants, as well as a thriving nightlife.
Downhill skiers get the added bonus of a glorious view of the pine-covered hills stretching down to the frozen waters of Lake Storsjön in the distance.
Trek through the forests along well-marked paths and you’ll see the reindeer brought in by native Sámi herders for the winter. You can learn to control a team of huskies as they race across the frozen lakes and through the forests; be taken sledding wrapped in furs to a little hut on the mountainside for lunch; be a little more in control on a snowmobile, or take the slow option of a ride on a sturdy Icelandic pony.
In summer, the lake gleams in the sun and fishermen take advantage of the evening half-dusk as trout leap out on their quest for juicy bugs. Even little children fish from the shore or from a boat with a homemade rod, line and bait, Swallows and Amazon-style.
The Kabinbanan cable car ride up the dominating 1,420-metre high Åreskutan mountain gives you spectacular views over nearby Norway. If you’re energetic, walk back down to Åre through the cool sun-dappled forests of Norwegian spruce and pine trees.
The countryside around Åre is famous for its wild produce and for fresh, organic ingredients, which is why one of the most famous restaurants in the world is on a remote estate just outside Åre. Master chef Magnus Nilsson (author of The Nordic Cookbook) produces a 32-course meal in the minimally decorated dining room in Fäviken which will set you back around 2,800 SEK, or just under £260 per person. If you decide that’s too steep for regular pockets, try a Magnus Nilsson hot dog from his kiosk in town or pizza with local ingredients at Wersens.
Pleasures throughout Sweden
Wherever you are, take a walking stick and strong bags when you’re walking through the countryside. Sweden operates the Nordic and Scandinavian ‘every man’s right’ law, so you can forage to your heart’s content for mushrooms hidden in the woods, wild strawberries early in summer, dark blueberries and round, red lingonberries in late summer, and if you’re lucky, tart golden cloudberries.
Every town and little village has its own summer festival of music, arts and crafts when the locals come out to play. If you’re here at midsummer, you’ll find celebrations throughout the country, and in August and September the whole nation indulges in crayfish parties. Chairs and tables beside the lake, bibs on, crayfish, bread and cheese to eat, washed down with beer and plenty of schnapps. It’s the perfect time to say skål!
If you're a member of the RCI Holiday Exchange programme and want Sweden to be your next adventure, there are 14 RCI-affiliated resorts to choose from. To see what there is on offer, check out our Resort Directory below.
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