Every week we quiz our regular panelists about a particular aspect of life in Sweden. This week: the country's top travel destinations.
The first place I take my guests is Skeppsbron in Stockholm, the walk between Slussen and the Castle. Both in summer and winter it is a beautiful walk, with wonderful views of Strandvägen, Skeppsholm, Gamla Stan and Saltsjön.
But my top tourist tip is the cruise to Helsinki. It is a bit corny and Stockholmers laugh about it but it is a great way to see the Archipelago and it is quite cheap (compared to hotel prices in Stockholm). The boat leaves Stockholm around 6pm and comes to Helsinki in the morning. It leaves again in the evening.
During the summer months, when there is light until very late, it is fantastic to be up on deck, having a drink and seeing the thousands of islands of the Archipelago pass very close. I would highly recommend you skipped the entertainment on board, though....
My top Swedish tourist tip is a classic tourist tip. And stereotypically touristy. Gamla Stan. Old Town. It’s a beautiful place full of medieval history. And of course tacky, Swedish knick-knacks. You know, just what you need to remember your trip.
I find myself taking the same walk through Gamla Stan whenever people come to visit. Coming into Gamla Stan from Drottninggatan, we walk towards Storkyrkan. Sometimes we go in to check out the impressive brick interior and the statue of St. George slaying the dragon.
Sometimes we continue on to look at the Royal Castle. Which, while impressive in stature, is missing one very important characteristic that I believe all castles should have. Towers. But nonetheless, it is a castle that is still in use which is something that is rather rare in the United States.
Following the Royal Castle, we head to Stortorget and wander around. We take a look at all of the medieval buildings that surround the square, maybe stopping for a fika at one of the cafes or restaurants.
Having wandered around Stortorget, we head towards Mårten Trötzigs Gränd, the skinniest street in all of Stockholm. After taking a picture or two, it’s on to the outdoor replica of St. George slaying the dragon. It’s important to tie everything together, especially if we went into Storkyrkan.
Finally, we walk down to Järntorget to head onto Västerlånggatan so that we can really hit all of those touristy gimmicks. The street tends to be teeming with tourists, various languages being spoken, sketchy games of chance intended to lighten your wallet, and souvenirs as far as the eye can see. Because, everyone needs a souvenir. Even if it is a tacky Viking statue.
The best tip I can give, unless you're here to see the Northern Lights: come in the summer. Of course, the obvious places to send visitors are Stockholm and Gothenburg, but I really want to visit Gotland, so I'd take my visitors there first.
I'm also really curious about Visingsö in Vättern. If kids are visiting, I'd take them to Astrid Lindgrens Värld in Vimmerby. Since I work in children's publishing, I really want to go there, but I feel like I would need to borrow a kid first.
Of the places I've been, I thought Vadstena was a fascinating little town with a nice, waterside castle and a beautiful church to explore. Skansen is fun in Stockholm, as long as it isn't raining. Vasamuseet has a great wow factor, and Gamla Stan in Stockholm is also nice.
Uppsala is my favorite "big" city so far because it has such fascinating history, and there are really nice places to walk by the water. It's also pretty easy to navigate.
To wrap it up, I guess my second tourist tip would be to explore as much as you can. Sweden is a fascinating place to visit--as long as you come in the summer.
Sweden is one of the most stable countries in the worlds, with a relatively good economy and is full of beautiful places from north to south. But the main tip from me to anyone coming to Sweden for a holiday or any kind of trip would be: it can be more expensive than you think or have planned. Whether it's hotel or train tickets, these should always be bought in advance. Even things on sale in the supermarkets can be more expensive than normal these days.
The place to visit in Sweden for me would definitely be northern part of it. Fully dark and snowy in winters, and fully bright and sunny in summers – just a couple of things that you normally don’t see in many countries in the world. It’s more of an experience than just a place.
I live in the south, and try to show different parts of Skåne. The beautiful, white sand beaches of Skanör and Falsterbo make a nice day-trip. The small, picturesque fishing villages along the east coast, Österlen, where you grab a fresh, fried herring for lunch in one of the stands in the little harbour. The more varied landscapes and woods in northern Skåne, where the snapphanar (the resistance movement) fought the Swedes to make Skåne Danish again in the 17th century (Skåne’s history is dramatic and very interesting – and very violent).
I would naturally also show Malmö: Turning Torso, which is a fantastic building, and Västra hamnen (West Harbour), where the shipyards and factories used to be. It has have now been turned into a modern residential area, with bathing places, jetties, strolling areas, cafés, restaurants and shops.
I also take tourists to the market at Möllevångstorget, and I think that visiting a restaurant in multicultural Malmö is a must. You can get food from every corner of the world here. But the food you can’t leave Malmö without having tried is a proper falafel, bought in one of the stands in the street, at the modest price of 2 euros at the most. This has become the archetypical Malmö dish.
I must say that this is a difficult question. This country is blessed with many sites of beauty and historic importance; it is difficult to pick one. I love the rare chances I get to explore other areas of the country and always find something worthwhile and interesting no matter where I go.
With all of that said, I will have to say that my top tip is to stay near home here in Dalarna, especially in the summer months. This is a wonderful place to be - a person can combine the tourist attractions with some plain ol' relaxing and go a long way here.
Swimming, fishing, picking mushrooms and berries are all quite enjoyable. If I have company I also use the excuse to visit sights like the copper mine in Falun, the dalahästfabrik [wooden horse factory] in Nusnäs, drink coffee in Tällberg and generally hang out around Lake Siljan.
I also try to use company as an excuse to show off Stockholm as well, and no one has ever been disappointed with the Archipelago or the architecture and sights in Gamla Stan.
My top tourist tip is the same wherever I go: go where your feet take you. When I came to visit Sweden in December two years ago (before moving here), I happened upon the Lucia Santas on motorcycle. It was a lovely surprise and made for some awesome pictures!
Also, research where you will be to see what is in the area that interests you. Growing up, my mother didn't have the ability to take me on trips away from home, so my grandmother often took me on trips armed with thorough research on the area and its history. Knowing what is available saves time and gives you (and your travel mates if you are not travelling alone) an idea of what to chose from and when to go.
Finally, don't try to cram it all into one trip. I'll never forget how disappointed my grandmother was when she took my cousins and I to Washington D.C. and we couldn't fit everything in because it was hot and we were tired kids. Somebody close to me used to say, "Use every trip to find the places you want to come back and see next time."