With the summer sun in the ascendancy, it’s time to lather on the sunscreen, pack a picnic, and head out to explore some of the 50,000 playgrounds on offer across Sweden. The Local’s Karen Holst tips some of the country’s best.
With another long harsh winter consigned to history, the longer sultry days of summer are upon us!
With the warmth brings the possible for parents and children a like to venture beyond the local neighbourhood and expand their playtime playground horizons.
Here’s a look at some of Sweden’s big city local favourites, should you find yourself in the east, the west or the south.
Home to Sweden’s first public playground, established in 1899 in Stockholm’s Vasa Park, the capital city now offers more than 450 playful paradises within its inner-city limits.
But sorting through the tangle of good or not-so-good spots to park it for an afternoon of rollicking fun just got easier.
“The best playgrounds are the ones where lots of people can meet – a big area with different activities for different age groups from toddlers up to teenagers,” says Annika Nyström, who recently published a guide book to Stockholm’s playgrounds titled “Stockholm’s Lekparker” in which she features 77 of the town’s top play sites complete with photos and maps.
To find both sandboxes and skate ramps, slides and climbing walls, Nyström suggests hitting one of the city’s remaining 52 ‘parklek’ or adventure playgrounds, where one can also buy snacks, drinks and coffee.
“Parklek is now unique to Stockholm,” says Nyström who feels there remains a strong need for them as almost all adventure playgrounds in the country were shut down after the introduction of daycare, or dagis.
These free child-utopias were created during the pre-daycare era to provide both outdoor and indoor play, and, to this day, continue to host a score of instructor-led activities, such as carpentry, painting, crafts, scavenger hunts, puzzles and traditional children’s games.
After scouting more than 100 playgrounds, Nyström’s city favourites vary, depending on the area of town, but include Rålambshovspark in Kungholmen, Vasapark in Vasastan, Stora Blecktornspark in Södermalm (the only one with animals!), Humlegården in Östermalm and Skånegläntan in Södermalm.
For those willing and wanting to brave a more ambitious playground excursion, here are a few of the best that lie in the outer city limits.
Båtsmanstorpet, or the boater’s cottage, is found in the north-western suburb of Bromma and is designed for children with vision disability.
The park has swings with bells, vibrant and distinct markings and colourful walls in between different play areas, and even a string to hold while running up the hill– perhaps something fun to try regardless. Close your eyes, hang on and see how fast you dare run!
Liljeholmen offers Lurparken, a musically themed park in a forested area that is next to the old Ericsson building. It includes a gigantic old-fashioned "lurar," or horn, that kids shout through with glee, a long slide, climbing nets and crawling tunnels, an extremely long set of steel tracks to roll pinecones and stones down, a ‘bird swing,’ balancing logs, jumping rocks, a lookout tower, a sandbox and trails.
And if Mulle Meck (a Swedish children’s character who likes to build things) is popular at the home front, head to the Mulle Meck playground in Solna. It is everything a traditional playground is not with lots of technical, experimental play.
When it comes to play, Sweden’s second largest city is most famous for housing the nation’s largest amusement park, Liseberg.
However, Gothenburg’s city playgrounds are just as magnetic.
The most popular park, Plikta, entertains both toddlers and older children. During the spring and summer, park officials transform the park into a destination play site by offering staff on duty who lead games and activities and lend out other toys and games.
There is a grill that can be used almost daily and be sure to check the schedule since there is a coordinated themed-play every day, such as Colour & Shape on Tuesdays or Nature & Animals on Fridays.
For a playground with a different beat, head to the city’s Kometparken, near Bergsjö School. Play ranges from unique swings, to a spinning carousel, a permanent trampoline and a long water slide.
Parents with green fingers will enjoy the park’s rose bushes, rhubarb and orchids.
Should you find yourself in the far south this summer, Malmö offers up more than 220 public playgrounds of which 20 are theme-based, such as jungle, circus, music, ecological and more.
By far, the top destination for a day full of fun is the city’s Folkets Park.
Not only do the grounds offer an exciting playground with large picnic areas and gardens, the park includes a small animal area complete with roosters, pigs, rabbits and sheep.
It packs in the good times with pony rides, a large public wading pool, a terrarium complete with kangaroo, small outdoor eateries and miniature golf.
Elevating it’s fun factor even further, Folkets Park also boasts a small-scale amusement park with a variety of rides (Ferris wheel included) and a children’s theatre, Barnscenen, which hosts an array of performances suitable for different age groups throughout the summer.
On the other side of town the Bondgårdslekplats, or farm playground, is found in Malmö’s western Videdal neighbourhood and was built to honour the district’s rich farming history.
The scaled-down barn features a climbing wall, a balance beam, a slide and different types of swings. The "farm house" includes a sandbox, rocking animals and is outfitted with a kitchen and a shop to boost role-playing.
If fairytales are the current household favourite, head toward the Malmö’s public library. Right next door can be found the Fairytale Playground, or Sagolekplatsen, which is inspired by both the bright and dark worlds of fairytales.
The bright world consists of a "flood" of a blue, bouncy rubber coating complete with a "bridge" rainbow slide and "bubbles" to jump on. The fairytale lookout tower offers a great view from a small hill while the large sandbox includes small tables and umbrellas in the shape of flowers.
The phantom world is depicted with an enchanted forest of fibreglass climbing trees and other climbing sculptures that suggest birds and butterflies as well as nests to lie in. There is even a large "toadstool" in the woods complete with a fungus of red rubber.
Bonus – this playground has plenty of well-kept public toilets and a café can be found inside the library building.
Wherever you head, be sure to pack some food as all the parks mentioned offer limitless hours of fun and have excellent grounds for picnics.
Now, get out there and get your play (sun)hat on!