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Swedish castles with sizzle: a sampler

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Swedish castles with sizzle: a sampler
11:35 CEST+02:00
Sweden is home to hundreds of castles featuring tales of bloodthirsty royals, quirky millionaires, adult-rated films, and other untold secrets.

While several of these impressive edifices are open for the public to enjoy and attract throngs of visitors, others are simply off the beaten path or privately owned, but nevertheless have fascinating histories.

Check out the following selection of some of Sweden's more memorable manors for some tips on where to spend your next day trip, as well as a host of historical nuggets that will be sure to spice up your next after-dinner conversation.

Gärsnäs

Gärsnäs castle is located on the southern tip of Sweden, Österlen, often described as Sweden's own version of Tuscany.

The castle dates back to the mid-14th century, meaning it has held both Swedish and Danish flags, as some of present-day southern Sweden actually belonged to Denmark until the mid 1600s.

Over the years, Gärsnäs has been home to many prominent people such as Danish polyglot Falk Lykke, and Swedish General Jöran Adlersten.

The latter, legend has it, met his fate while dining in the pompous abode.

Chewing on a chunk of rost veal, Adlersten got a piece of bone stuck in his throat. When everything else had failed, he saw no better option but to attempt a handstand to let gravity help him. Unfortunately, his acrobatic stunt instead proved fatal, as he tipped over and broke his neck.

In more recent years, the old castle was brought to the public spotlight after a Swedish porn film was recorded there. Then Danish owner Erik Söndergaard rented out all of Gärsnäs's stately rooms -- including the kitchen -- to the filmmakers, who built their gripping storyline on the legend of an old witch that haunted the castle.

Strömsholm

Strömsholm is one of ten official royal castles in Sweden, and has a long and proud tradition of horse breeding and competitions.

Gustav Vasa, considered the father of the modern Swedish kingdom, introduced the lucrative business to the estate in the 1500s as a way to supply his expanding army with four legged warriors.

Today, horses still flock to the yellow baroque style castle, but for more peaceful activities such as a riding school and annual competitions. During the summer, concerts and weddings are arranged in the surrounding parks and greenery.

The castle is located in Strömsholm, on the western shores of Lake Mälaren and is open for visitors year round.

Ulfsunda

Although not royal, Ulfsunda castle in Bromma close to Stockholm, has neverthelss attracted plenty of royals in the 364 years it's been standing tall by a quiet bay of Lake Mälaren.

It was built during close of the Thirty Year's War in the mid 1600s by a prominent Swedish general. Ornament-covered stone stairs escorted sea-bound guests from Mälaren's shores to the impressive castle for the many glamorous festivities hosted there.

Ulfsunda remained private property until it was converted into a municipal education and healthcare facility for much of the 20th century. After being privatized once again, it has now turned into one of Stockholm's highest ranked luxury hotels.

The castle offers a wine cellar with a truly medieval atmosphere, as well as a spa, art exhibitions and an impressive kitchen run by Swedish Chef of the Year 2011, Tomas Diederichsen.

The 54 individually designed rooms are split up into four wings, and range in price from about 1500 to 4500 kronor a night ($230-680).

Ållonö

Ållonö castle recently became one of the most well-known private castle in Sweden after being featured in the reality TV show, Swedish Millionaires (Svenska miljonärer).

Rags-to-riches millionaire owner Anders Sydborg, who made a fortune selling scrap, bought the late-17th century castle in 2008, taking over a property that had once housed a number of famous Swedish noble families such as Oxenstierna and Ekeblad.

The castle survived a raid from the Russian Navy in 1719, as well as several years of occupation by stray cats.

Nowadays, Ållonö stands splendidly restored by Sydborg, who has also taken the liberty of adding a motocross track and helipad to the castle's expansive grounds.

gripsholmsslott.4.19ae4931022afdcff3800013027.html>Gripsholm

Gripsholm is also among Sweden's ten royal castles, and has entertained a myriad of royal and historic figures throughout its 600-year history.

In its early years, Gripsholm was for a time controlled by a bailiff by the name of Hartvig Flögh, who was nothing more than a tyrant in the eyes of the poor peasant population. During the famous Engelbrekt rebellion in 1434, the castle was surrounded by an mob of angry peasants, prompting Flögh set it on fire to cover his own escape.

In the mid-sixteenth century, Gustav Vasa restored and rebuilt the castle for the crown and it has since been expanded with extra wings and a royal theatre, as well as a comprehensive collection of art.

Gripsholm is also known for its extensive collection of royal portraits, having served as a national portrait gallery since the early 1800s, today housing thousands of works.

Gripsholm castle is located in Mariefred about 70 kilometres southwest of Stockholm, and is open to the public most of the year.

Kalmar

The first version of the massive Kalmar castle was built in the 12th century, and throughout medieval times it developed into the most important stronghold in Sweden.

Would-be attackers had to breach five towers armed with cannons, a massive stone wall several metres tall, and something even more effective at keeping adversaries at bay than a moat - an entire lake.

The castle was tactically built on an island off the Kalmar coast, just big enough to hold the fortress. Kalmar castle had a central part in the foundation of the Kalmar Union, which joined Sweden, Denmark and Norway under the same king, King Erik av Pommern, in 1397. But the Nordic neighbours still couldn't get along, and time after time they drew arms around the castle.

Kalmar castle was eventually merged with the ever expanding Swedish crown under Gustav Vasa, who had big plans of making the castle worthy of the crown's emblem. One upgrade included building a stairway made of tomb stones from a nearby cemetery.

His efforts were however a waste, since much of the castle's dignity was lost during the Kalmar war of 1611-1613. It soon lost its meaning as a stronghold, and has since been used for diverse pursuits, including distillery and a prison (although not at the same time).

Today the castle is state owned and open to the public.

Drottningholm

There is plenty to say about Drottningholm castle. For starters, it's where the Swedish royal family has lived for the last 30 years. It is also on the UN list of World Heritage Properties, and it is today the best kept castle in the country.

Drottningholm castle is located just west of Stockholm by the waters of Lake Mälaren. Its history stretches back to the sixteenth century and has throughout the years been home to many kings and queens. In fact, King Adolf Fredrik gave the castle to Queen Lovisa Ulrika as a wedding gift, and since then it came to be known as a castle of the queens.

But that wasn't enough to show the beloved Lovisa Ulrika how much she meant to her king, and for her birthday in 1753 he extended her property with the fashionable China Pavillion.

Drottningholm is one of Sweden's ten official royal castles and is open to the public year round.

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