After seeing the Aurora Borealis, I had only one wish for the big trip to Scandinavia. For the charm of the northern countries, design, pristine landscapes, the Northern Lights, the culture, the Scandinavian peninsula has fascinated me since the age of reason. So you can understand the enthusiasm and excitement experienced during my last journey for the discovery of Sweden for 10 days from Stockholm to the Swedish Lapland.
When we think of Sweden we can think of three things of the forests, the midnight sun and Stockholm and I add a fourth and a fifth, I know you will understand me, ABBA and Ikea! But in fact, Sweden is much, much more. Sweden with its hundreds of lakes, half of the area covered by forest, is a land to discover, to explore and experience.
We need to understand the dynamics of its culture rooted in ancient Sami, Viking and folklore, its deep respect for others and for nature that confirmed, since the first days of my stay, because Sweden is a liberal and respectful country, in a phrase, light years ahead of many others on the globe.
The first stop is Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. The Danish capital is the nearest border to Sweden. If you arrive in the evening, it is better to stay at one of the many hotels in the capital and to start, in the early morning, for Helsingør, where you can board your car to cross the strait that divides the two nations and finally reach Sweden.
After landing you just need to point towards Gothenburg, a city of some renown. The beauty of the Swedish highways is that in themselves constitute a large panoramic attractiveness, range of fjords and islands, along paths that are immersed in the hilly and rich landscapes of firs. Gothenburg with its port, the largest in Northern Europe, is famous for its canals that tourists travel every year on board special vessels.
Passing from Lake Vänern we move to the north towards Oslo, a city divided between forests and industrial areas. The beauty of Oslo is that from here every year are conferred the famous Nobel prizes, but we do not go to Oslo, stopping just before, in Saffle, a small town near the border with Norway. Here the forest paths follow one after the other, and we set up small tents to spend a few hours immersed in a landscape of rare beauty, and in the daytime sunbathing on the beach and swim in clear waters of the lake.
The next day it's time to move on and reach Östersund, a small town famous for Nordic skiing. At this point we notice that the highways become increasingly narrow with very few villages. Östersund is the beating heart of Sweden and here we find many things to do, where we visit the island of Frösön, and by spending a few crowns, attend a riding course in the many farms in the area as also try fishing.
After reaching Jämtland, Lapland comes out in full and then to northern Sweden. It is about overcoming small highways where you feel cut off from the world that is almost isolated. After Jämtland, we continue on to Arvidsjaur and visit its famous open air museum. Even further to the north we arrive in Jokkmokk, a region located on the southeast end of Sweden, on the border of Finland. Here it is better to leave the car and to combine a few days of walking in the woods by the low bark of trees, firs and beautiful streams of which this part of Lapland is full.
What a journey! If you go to Norway by train you will be looked strangely, and going to Sweden was even more. Lundis is a pleasant university town just at the doors of Sweden. The center is very small, lined with houses with bright and vibrant colors. The core of the town remains the cathedral, the only in Romanesque Sweden. The most curious aspect is the astronomical clock inside, and the guide describes with absolute precision. The guide also tells the mythical legend of Finn the Giant, represented in a crypt column.
Immediately outside the church there is a beautiful garden where we also see another historic building in the city of the university. The neoclassical style, I have to admit, do not leave me particularly fascinated. However, we decide not to sleep in Lund and given the proximity, we take the train to Kalmar. The hostels are cozy and very clean, and is definitely recommended if you're in these parts.
The sun is magnificent with two days of sunshine in a row. Kalmar has a particularly well-known castle in Sweden as it has been the headquarters of the so-called Kalmar union between Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. Interesting, but not great, the rooms are quite bare and the layout leaves something to be desired. The surrounding landscape is magnificent, but, and I have to admit, it's not at the level that was expected. Unfortunately we did not follow the guided tour that maybe would have shown something extra.
Then we head towards the city center and was sympathetic towards the cathedral. Here an alternative strong priest, with long hair, takes a liking and invites us to follow his putting. It was an unique and intriguing experience. But finally here we are ready to get to Linkoping by train and from there Vadstena, where we spend the night in one of the darkest hostels in which I have ever sleep! The hostel was located slightly outside the village, and it was a normal family house with some extra rooms. We arrived very late.
Early in the morning we enjoyed a tour of Vadstena. The town is tiny and is known for the church of Santa Brigida and her castle. The place is nice but not great so, perhaps with a little ahead of schedule, we head towards the direction of Stockholm station! Around noon we are in the Swedish capital! We booked well in advance, the spectacular floating hostel. I have never seen such a hostel. It was quite expensive but always remember that we are in Sweden. It is a three oars anchored island of Skeppsholmen, run by another hostel, this classic time on earth, where you can sleep at lower price but decidedly less glamorous.
But now we come to Stockholm. We arrived here in the early afternoon. For the lunch we've kept them very basic and buy bread and sausage at the supermarket. Fruits and vegetables especially the small cherry tomatoes are not expensive. We decided to take a first look at the center (Gamla Stan). The old town is very charming with all its narrow, winding streets. We refresh ourselves in one of the many historical pastry shops scattered among the alleyways, as we enjoyed a slice of unforgettable chocolate cake!
In the evening we decide to eat something in the hostel. The kitchen is not on the boat which is exclusively used as a room given the limited space but on the mainland. Between us five or six really nice Buddhist monks also eat, who occupy a gigantic pot of soup out, with a very attractive taste. Stockholm in the evening was extremely deserted due to the rain!
Early in the morning we decided to deal more seriously the Gamla Stan. The visit of the cathedral (Storkyrkan) is a must. Built in 200 and rebuilt in 700, it has within it many works including a masterpiece, a wooden sculpture depicting St. George slaying the dragon. It symbolizes, as shown by the leadership, the victory of Sweden over Denmark. After the visit, we head towards the Royal Palace. The change of the guard is absolutely the most ridiculous thing I've ever witnessed. The visit of the Royal Palace is rather fascinating, as the different rooms that follow, are well described by the young local guide, which is full of history.
For lunch, we have the mythical pan & salam. The afternoon was dedicated to the Vasa Museum, by far the most beautiful museum in Stockholm. Inside, there is a 16th century ship recovered from the sea bed in the 70s and still in excellent condition given the particular salinity of the Gulf capital. The gigantic vessel is inserted in a massive project on different levels along which you learn many stories and tidbits about Swedish life and not the age. Not to be missed.
And the afternoon went. We expect again a dinner in the hostel, to save money. The evening gives us a live concert on a side square. Sweden's nightlife is not exactly that of Spain! Then we go to bed and tomorrow is the last day in Stockholm!
The last day in the capital. We choose to make a tour by boat. In Stockholm harbor there are various companies that organize tours of different duration. We choose to be for an hour but does not satisfy us fully. After the usual lunch we dive for the last afternoon in the Swedish capital in the streets of Gamla Stan. We move through the narrowest alley in the city, where as good gypsies we get ourselves photographed holding up the walls. Given that, at least temporarily, the sun returns to peep, we head towards the Flanagan viewpoint over the city.
Finally we go to take our bags to the hostel before making a brief stop in Kastellholmen, another small island, and then we go to the station. For the last leg of our trip, we head to Uppsala. We passed the night in more than a decent hostel in Uppsala, as we are ready for two days in this college town. First we address the Gustavianum. It is a museum arranged over three floors which addresses various issues. The first floor is not great and is dedicated to the archaeological finds, especially of the Egyptian and Greek civilizations.
The second floor was much more interesting, and exposes in the center of the room a sort of miniature museum, a gift of a sovereign Habsburg to a Swede during the 30 Years War from 1618-1648. It is a huge floating-casket and contains more than a million different objects that is a sort of encyclopedia of things. Among other objects of the room not to be forgotten, there is the Linnaeus notebooks on the classification of diseases! The third floor is devoted to the reconstruction of the ancient university settoria room!
The afternoon is dedicated to the cathedral. Built in the eighteenth century it is of neo-gothic style, inside the tomb of the great king Vasa! Tired a bit of the journey, we move slowly and we realize only later that the other museum, that of Linnaeus is now closed. We decide to leave the next day.
The night finally we decide to eat out. Uppsala is full of local restaurants, and we choose the one run by Swedes. To end the evening we try to go see one of the local famous for Uppsala university. Unfortunately, we arrived at midnight and after waiting in line for about an hour and a half, when we understand that the restaurant will close, we decide to postpone.
We dedicate the morning to the house museum of Linnaeus. It was very interesting, especially for its botanical garden full of totally unusual species for the cold climate of Sweden. After the visit we head once again in the streets of Uppsala, along its river. The choice of return by train might seem curious, but given the limited finances, remains.
With cinnamon rolls, herring and meatballs, Malmö is a paradise for food lovers and yes, Scandinavia is definitely a popular place for foodies such as Stockholm and Copenhagen are recommended cities. But there are many other cities to discover, hidden in the regions of Scandinavia, equally beautiful, with designer shops, delicious food but perhaps not for everyone.
Malmö is a city in the Skåne region of Sweden in the north, perfect for a weekend of cycling, shopping and lots of cinnamon. Only half an hour by train from Copenhagen, Malmö has a relatively mild climate which makes it perfect for a vacation in the summer or spring. Once a port and industrial city, Malmö has now reinvented itself as ecofriendly and green city with a Gallery of Modern Art, the streets of quirky shops and restaurants fashionable and Västra Hamne, an impressive modern area from the old port that is completely autonomous and sustainable.
Malmö is tailor-made for bicycles, with roads designed for bike paths and very few cars. Cycling is undoubtedly the best way to see the sights. Taking the bicycle, we will enjoy a beautiful walk through the narrow streets of Malmö. This city shows itself with its contrasts and its unexpected beauty as the beach and the impressive architecture of Västra hamnen and Möllevångstorget markets.
In the Folkets Park, the oldest of the city we find a theater, and Slottsparken (Castle Park) a modern park whose main element is water, large expanses of woods, great views and lots of benches. When you think of Sweden comes immediately to mind the Ikea meatballs that if you have a palate worthy of the name, you will know they have nothing to do with Swedish meatballs!
If you really want to taste something tasty and healthy is the fresh off eating meatballs in Malmö. The meatballs are usually of salmon, served with fresh beetroot bread with almonds and sour cream. The coolest restaurants in Malmö have all bizarre names but that make them unique and fun. If there is one thing that I love to do when I travel, it goes well beyond eating, is shopping! Malmö is a city not to be missed for its trendy and designer shops.
Davidshallstorg is a picturesque square just outside of the main shopping streets, where we find lots of shops. I recommend sitting in delightful cafés where time stops and you can eat nothing but sweets and smile.
I suggest you buy a Stockholm Card which allows you to make free use of public transport on land and water and to enter many museums or attractions. I leave you with a handy list of the city's places we visited including the fabulous hotels in which we stayed.
NORRMALM and HOTEL MISS CLARA: during our stay in Stockholm we've been all to Miss Clara Hotel which is located in the Norrmalm neighborhood, the north of the city between modernity, shopping centers and fine restaurants. Miss Clara fascinated us with its atmosphere, the former girls school of the 1900 converted into a hotel by the famous Swedish architect Gert Wingårdh. The modern design, the sumptuous breakfast with so much expressed waffles and the best salmon eaten in Stockholm and the scenic bars where you can sip a glass of wine in the evening planning the tour the next day.
GAMLA STAN is the most picturesque area of the city. It is an island of triangular shape in which medieval cobbled alleys, kept houses and alternate colored to the majestic Royal Palace, the beautiful Stortorget square and Nobel Museum.
Djurgarden: Vasamuseet and GRÖNA LUNDS. Djurgården is the island that is very green that can not miss in your visit to Stockholm. Where you find interesting museums and attractions such as the Vasa museum which, in my opinion, by itself, worth the entire trip to Stockholm: here an entire seventeenth-century galleon, still intact, makes a fine show.
To visit, to a different break from the usual, the Grona Lunds, Luna Park picturesque that, for its atmosphere, reminiscent in some ways to Santa Monica in California. Overlooking the sea, colorful, full of attractions and entertainment, it deserves a break including photographs.
Fotografiska MUSEET, considered one of the finest museums of photography. For fans of the genre, stop not to be missed. We we adored! SÖDERMALM and SOFO area in the southern part of the city are even more fashionable, and in my opinion, with its vintage shops, cool bars and nice restaurants in the local area.
First stop on our car tour chartered without any particular difficulty via the web in one of the many car rentals available in Stockholm Sigtuna is only 40 minutes from Stockholm. Due to the proximity and beauty of this little old town, I recommend a day visit during your visit to Stockholm that is also easily accessible by public transport.
When you go to a place like that, at first shot, fills you with emotions. Here, there is the feeling that gave me in Sigtuna, Sweden's first town, founded in 980 AD with ruins of ancient churches, over 150 runes that arise between the streets of the village, the immaculate wooden colored houses, the narrow and cobbled lanes, the longwood lake overlooking a lake dotted with water lilies.
Unfortunately we had the opportunity to stay here just one night. I recommend at least 2 to be able to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, sit in one of the small bars Tant Bruns Kaffestuga, a 16th century cafe where you cannot miss the sandwiches with meatballs and shrimp or apple pie. Enjoy the sun warms the skin on the lake and visit the many castles that surround Sigtuna and reachable by car or a scenic boat as the royal castle of Rosersberg or the Skokloster castle, one of the best preserved baroque castles in Europe.
In Sigtuna we stayed at the Hotel, with an impeccable interior design, in pure Scandinavian style, contrasting nicely with the structure that dates back to 1909. Here we also enjoyed a wonderful dinner. The kitchen of the hotel is fine and really good for our taste buds.
After five hours on the road, with a small stop in Hudiksvall to admire its red cottages on the bank of the canal of the city center and a small "fika" the Swedish snack consists of a sweet and a hot drink, we got to the third stage our tour on the road: Hoga Kusten and the Skuleskogen national park , a UNESCO World heritage Site for its unique landscapes and territory. Here we experienced definitely the most special experience of our entire trip, which will remain in our memories for a long time.
In fact we stayed at in FriluftsByn, 5 minutes from the entrance of the national park and nestled in the foothills of the Skuleberget. No, do not call it camping. Forget about our idea of camping and immerse yourself in the idea of an outdoor village, a village of wood with large common areas: a living room made of wood, leather and covered with a central fire. Planks decorated with cranberry seedlings instead of flowers. Colored flags, a space for tents, a number of small cottages for the typically Swedish furniture straight out of an Ikea catalog, a village chief, really friendly and helpful staff who guided us in our experiences in the area.
We were very lucky because during our stay at FriliftsByn we experienced the local food festival that was held in the outdoor village: local chefs gathered at the village to cook traditional dishes using local produce. aringa Baltic fermented or rather decaying (which some say is a delicacy but I'm dreaming at night only for the brave, To sushimi trout, from sandwiches of lamb, pork and horse heart to the plate of local cheeses, from meat with blueberry jam with chocolate desserts.
But here, not only we ate very well, but we also had very good knowledge that allowed us to understand more of the style of life of the Swedes. Everyone is very friendly and open. During these evenings in the village we met really interesting people who will remain imprinted forever!
Days spent in Hoga Kusten were among my favorites of the entire trip. Kayak? Hiking? Climbing? Bicycle? Race in the woods? Fishing? Here you can really do any sport you can think of! We opted for the discovery of the territory: before taking the cable car that took us to 300 meters, on top of Skuleberget and a breathtaking view and we ate at the shelter, with a view, an excellent salmon, we continued with a long trek of 6 hours inside the Skuleskogen national park which allowed us to see glimpses of incredible landscapes, unique lakes, fjords, pine trees growing on the beach and that cause the smell of the sea is that of variegated wood, berries everywhere, streams, wooden cottage. A real beauty.
Our journey north was followed by a short stop at Umeå where we stayed one night to recharge your mental and physical batteries at a time of Lapland. We stayed at the Hotel with colorful rooms and every comfort, with a breakfast that included salmon, warm bread, apple juice and jams of the place. Umeå is a university town and capital of culture 2014: as such it is distinguished by its young population, the nice rooms, modern architecture.
I advise you, during your stop in Umeå, to try some nice little place, especially those along the river which I found very interesting, do fika at the Västerbotten museum bars and Gammlia, after a tour of the building and museum to about 20 buildings that make up this open-air museum that tell more of the traditional history of the area.
Finally, I suggest you also enjoy some shopping between Swedish low cost chains that you find in the streets of the city: in short, enjoy a bit of worldly air before going north. Umeå is indeed one of the last true and own city before venturing into the north of the country. If your stop provides a little 'more time are also recommended the Bildmuseet, the Immagine Museum with 7 floors of contemporary art, photography and design, Guitars the museum , with a collection of more than 500 guitars and basses from the whole time, the cultural center Väven with its museum of the history of women and finally the sculpture park, Umedalen sculpture Park.
Bequeathed to Umea shoulders we started on the road towards Lapland. First stop Luleå, about 3 hours away from Umeå and first real stop on our trip in the Swedish Lapland. Luleå is a city that struck me very much for Gammelstad Church Town, a UNESCO world heritage site for its incredible uniqueness. A parochial village consists of more than 400 small red cottages that hug the church of the 400 and that is even today, as then active.
The cottages are in fact privately owned and are used as a time to stay close to the church after the functions and religious events, before facing the journey back to their homes, in these boundless lands that become cold in winter and rugged. Near the information center of Gammelstad is the small shop in Lapland which I recommend for Sami design and handmade crafts products.
We then decided to explore the city and its coastline with a funny Fat Bike, the bicycle from the large wheels that can be easily used on all surfaces including Snow. During our tour of the city and its beaches by bike, we also caught a glimpse of the many islands that make up the archipelago of Luleå: we have not had time but, from what we have said, must be really beautiful! Attention only to the ferry times that depending on the time are more or less frequent, inquire well!
The hotel where we stayed is excellent for the price and quality! In Luleå, before continuing our journey to Lapland, we also had a great lunch break, probably the best dish of our stay in Sweden. Indeed, we have tasted at Bistro Norrland , a bistro built inside an old warehouse overlooking the port, a caviar appetizer delicate to eat on a crusty bread (yes, eat crusty bread in abundance in Sweden!) With cream cheese and fresh onion and a local fish very similar to the salmon, cooked with beet and potatoes.
Luleå left us behind our journey continued in the true heart of Swedish Lapland, the first stage Boden where we made a short stop at the Ruter Retro Cafe, a picturesque fifty year old cafe which puts you in the mood Rockabilly which often lives in Sweden. We then moved to Jokkmokk where we collected information on the area at the information center and then move in Gällivare where we've been and rested ( Skogs Hotell , excellent quality price and also a good dinner!).
Emboldened we moved to Jukkasjarvi, a small town on the Torne River: first was an important meeting place for the Sami, the reindeer breeders who still continue in their activities and that they are the owners of all the reindeer, frequently, you will find walking free in Lapland. Now in Jukkasjarvi you are the famous Ice Hotel that we could not afford to miss! By pure icy waters of the river are ice blocks extracted going to build in the winter the famous ice hotel, everything is created in the ice.
The chandeliers, the beds, the glasses, the ornaments. Then, as it is quickly built, quickly it melts with the summer season, disappearing. So we could not help but admire the beautiful pictures of the previous editions and visit the impressive ice supply where they are stored blocks of the previous winter's ice and shipped, thanks to their perfect purity, around the world.
After an excellent lunch at the restaurant of the Ice Hotel we improvised artists: 4 blocks of ice, 4 chisels, a lot of imagination. Yes, we grappled with the ice sculptures! It was so much fun although sculpting the ice is anything but easy! Next to the Ice Hotel restaurant we also found a small structure in which we could see up close the wonderful reindeer, the really sweet and sculptural horned animals.
Last leg of our trip to Sweden and Swedish Lapland was Björkliden, Abisko after 15 minutes and 1 hour and 30 minutes after Kiruna, the northernmost city in Sweden, where I recommend, after the visit to the famous wooden church, to stock up on food at the supermarket, if like us, you're going to rent a chalet instead to stay and dine in a true hotel.
The landscape from Kiruna opens towards Björkliden is very different than what we usually see during our trip to Sweden: no longer fir and plains but bushes, mosses, shrubs, flowers that seem covered with white cotton, colors more burned, lakes and interesting height heights, often white hooded. Plan to stay many times: the landscape here is exceptional, a unique landscape of its kind that you'll want to enjoy.
A Björkliden stayed in Cabin, small chalet complete with a private sauna that overlook one of the most striking, in my opinion, the whole area of the Tjuonavagge or Lapporten, the so-called doors of Lapland. Look out here at the beginning of the sunset if you are lucky as we can see the moon rise exactly from behind the gate of Lapland as the sky turns pink. In the summer there is the midnight sun and in August, sun sets until after midnight and then reappear around 4 in the morning. In our small chalet we also enjoyed there a typical Swedish dinner that we cooked together.
During our stay, accompanied by one of the expert guides of Björkliden, we chose to hike to enjoy the views of this beautiful area and reach Trolls Jon and Rissanjaure, the lake is said to be the clearest and cleanest of all of Sweden.
Our trip to Sweden was incredible, nothing like that in relation to experiences that were able to amaze and thrill me. Sweden is not only firs, IKEA and Stockholm. Sweden is an entire world to be explored, with the heart and not only with the eyes. After your journey on the road in Sweden ends and you will leave once you get home, paths, cities and vast landscapes that will remain forever in your heart.