Swede spot: 6 reasons to spend summer in southern Sweden

Updated on 11 April 2022 | 0 Comments

From Stockholm to Gothenburg, there's a glorious smörgåsbord of city thrills, rugged islands and unspoiled countryside to discover.

It’s no secret that Swedes, like all Scandinavians, treasure the short summer months. They celebrate the warmer seasons with festivals, outdoor eating and drinking, lake swimming and a mass departure to the countryside. And why not?

Now that Sweden has completely reopened to international visitors, there’s never been a better time to enjoy a sweet escape filled with watersports, museums and an all-important coffee-and-cake culture. Copy the locals and enjoy southern Sweden.

1. See the sights in Stockholm

Strung out across 14 islands, and part of an archipelago encompassing over 20,000 more, Stockholm is a modern metropolis with Mother Nature close at hand. 

The Old Town, Gamla Stan, is made for wandering, with its tight-knit cobbled streets and medieval alleys. You’ll pass the Kungliga Slottet (royal palace) and Storkyrkan (cathedral), as well as plenty of souvenir shops, cafés and restaurants. Time to stop for your first dose of fika – the all-important Swedish institution of coffee and cake – and people-watch from a café terrace.

Gamla Stantravellight/Shutterstock

Top tip: Stroll past the royal palace around lunchtime and you may be in for a treat. The changing of the guard takes place at 12.15pm Monday to Saturday, and at 1.15pm on Sundays in the summer. Blue uniformed, silver-helmeted guards make a striking spectacle filing across the palace courtyard. 

changing of the guardsRolf G Wackenberg/Shutterstock

You’re rarely far from the water’s edge in Stockholm. Catch a quick ferry across the harbour – camera at the ready – to green Djurgården. The island is home to several excellent museums, but top of the list is Vasamuseet (maritime museum). Here you’ll see the mighty Vasa, a perfectly preserved 17th-century warship hauled from the seabed in 1961.

READ MORE: What to see and do in Stockholm

2. Cruise in Karlstad

Head on from Stockholm, by car or train, making for that immense expanse of blue on the map. Sweden boasts a whopping 100,000 lakes, but Vänern is the EU’s largest, covering over 2,100 square miles, and giving the surrounding landscape a seaside feel.

The capital of the province of Värmland, Karlstad is a pleasant spot on Vänern’s northern shore, with a handful of sights and the lake or other waterways at every turn. The sizeable student population means Karlstad isn’t short of drinking dens – enjoy a cool beer at the Bishops Arms in a plum position overlooking the Klarälven river.

Bridges over river KlaralvenRoland Magnusson/Shutterstock

As in Stockholm, it’s all about the water here. The best way to enjoy it – apart from heading to the sheltered lake beaches just west of the city – is to climb aboard one of the summer boat buses. These wooden båtbussar provide a cheap and extremely cheerful way of seeing the city on a relaxed, hour-long tour. You’ll glide under the 12-arched Ostra bron, the longest stone bridge in Sweden.

Top tip: If you fancy sightseeing on solid ground, hire a SolaCycle bike free of charge, available June to September.

3. Get outdoors in Värmland

Karlstad makes a great base for exploring the rolling countryside of Värmland. This is where many Swedes keep a summertime cottage, with the landscape of forests, lakes, lush farmland and winding rivers offering a peaceful retreat from city life.

Take the opportunity to immerse yourself in nature and fully disconnect by following the traffic-free Klarälvsbanan cycling and hiking trail, which runs along an old railway embankment from Karlstad directly north to Uddeholm.

VarmlandEric Valenne geostory/Shutterstock

Or head further north to join a back-to-basics river-rafting adventure on the Klarälven river. Timber from the surrounding forests used to be floated downstream on the Klarälven towards Vänern. Building your own raft, using only logs and rope, and drifting downriver, you’ll experience the life of a ‘log driver’. A glowing sense of achievement and, hopefully, glimpses of elk and beaver are your rewards.

Lake Vanernwagnertarso/Shutterstock

4. Hide away on the Bohuslän coast

Come late summer, most Swedish holidaymakers have packed up, so you’ll have the magical Bohuslän coast mostly to yourself. This also means plenty of vacant summer cabins and cottages, so scour Airbnb for an idyllic short let – many are only steps away from the beach.

And beaches on this coastline, stretching from Gothenburg up to Norway, are something special: heather-clad cliffs, bobbing sailboats and wide open vistas, empty apart from the odd seabird and the distant silhouettes of other rocky islands.

Bohulsan coastTommy Alven/Shutterstock

With their colourful fishermen’s huts, the villages of Smögen and Fiskebäckskil are two of the most popular destinations, but with many of the Bohuslän isles – some large, some minuscule – connected by bridges and ferries, you needn’t limit yourself to one island.

Even on the larger ones, it’s easy to seek out a quiet spot to enjoy the simple pleasures of swimming, sailing, shopping (although by late August some tourist shops will have closed their doors) and eating fantastic fresh seafood...

READ MORE: The European cities that have it all


5. Devour a fish feast

Pescatarians rejoice! Southern Sweden serves up so much more than herring and salmon 100 ways, and you don’t have to pay a fortune for it. In Stockholm, tuck into toast Skagen (prawns piled high with mayo, dill and caviar).


In Gothenburg, grab a delicious (and great-value) smoked mackerel lunch atop a counter stool at KaGes Horna, inside the Stora Saluhallen market. And you could, and should, eat super-fresh shellfish all day long on the Bohuslän coast.

Gothenburg market hallMoreGallery/Shutterstock

6. Turn on your head in Gothenburg

Return to city life with a gentle bump – Gothenburg is an easy-going place, and easy to get to know on foot, by bike or tram, or (again) on the water.

TramsAlicia G. Monedero/Shutterstock

Dutch designers are to thank for the city’s network of canals (and hence its similarity to Amsterdam). A kayaking trip lets you get your bearings and appreciate the vital role the water plays here in Scandinavia’s most important seaport.

Gothenburg canalsLeonid Andronov/Shutterstock

Follow up with a meander through the Old Town, perhaps a cinnamon bun or two, and a visit to the science and environment centre, Universeum. Round things off fittingly by getting completely drenched on the log flume ride at Gothenburg’s charming amusement park, Liseberg.

READ MORE: How to spend a perfect weekend in Gothenburg

Liseberg amusement parkTommy Alven/Shutterstock

Lead image: Oleksiy Mark/Shutterstock


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