Ask a Swede, and they are likely to say that their favourite holiday spot is in the southeast of Sweden. Eastern Småland and Öland offer a smörgåsbord of all the things dearest to the Swedes - from the beloved children's book author Astrid Lindgren to deep forests, long sandy beaches, perfect spots for that all-important 'fika', and a surprising amount of space, peace and quiet.
Many come to Sweden for its nature, and no one can blame them. Eastern Småland and Öland boast more than their fair share of stunning scenery, from Öland’s Alvar landscape full of orchids to long coastlines with fishing and sailing opportunities and forests rich in moose and roe deer.
This is also where Astrid Lindgren grew up, and the area is full of little red cabins and cobbled streets, all right next to well-preserved castles, a rich cultural life, and a glass blower’s district known as the Kingdom of Crystal. Get to the heart of Sweden with these picks from the Swedes’ favourite gems.
Vimmerby: for the child in you
The town where Astrid Lindgren grew up is a popular destination for families with children, not only for attractions such as Astrid Lindgren’s World, where you can explore Pippi Longstocking’s Villa Villekulla and meet the people of Lönneberga, but also for the moose park, Virum älgpark, and Nils Holgersson’s World.
Top up on youthfulness, fantasy and adventure, and take a break by going for a swim in a nearby lake before returning to pop by Astrid Lindgren’s Näs, the writer’s childhood home with a museum about her and her work.
Vimmerby town is also a destination in its own right, making a great example of a genuine Swedish small town with shopping opportunities, historical sites, and great cafés and restaurants. This year, a new addition to the list of must-see attractions opens its doors: MX World Collection, a motocross museum with over 100 bikes from six decades on display.
Öland: marrying nature and culture
If you love the sea, go to Öland. The island is long but thin, so wherever you are on the island, you are only a short bike ride away from the coast. Nature has been generous here: the Alvar landscape offers fields full of orchids, there is a rich bird life, and the sunsets are simply magical.
A total of 25 camping sites, all right by the sea, help you make the most of it. But Öland is not just for the summer. The cycling and walking routes are enjoyable all year round, and who said that spa experiences, museums, Renaissance castles, locally-sourced food and whisky tastings are for hot summer’s days? It has been described as a little part of paradise, so prepare to feel seduced.
Photo: Mats Jonasson, courtesy AB Glasriket
Glasriket: a kingdom of crystal
Take 12 glassworks and put them all in one place, and it is bound to be referred to as some sort of kingdom. Glasriket, or the Kingdom of Crystal, is home to renowned Swedish crystal brands such as Orrefors and Kosta Boda, and visitors can take guided tours and have a go at blowing glass.
Stay at Kosta Boda Art Hotel, where you can also grab a bite to eat, and do not miss the new exhibition that opens this year.
Västervik: the archipelago town
Take shopping, great food, picturesque 14th century streets and charming hotels, and bring the mall right out into the heart of an archipelago. This is what gives Västervik its own special character: whatever you do, when you go to a gig or grab a drink, even when you go to bed at night, the sea is always right there.
Naturally, the water and the 5,000 islands are themselves worth exploring, and indeed there are boats and beaches to help you do so – but why choose? Enjoy the waterfront promenade, the old castle spa in a nature reserve area, and the cosy cobbled streets.
Shop until you drop, and end the night in style with an ‘archipelago box’, a special meal with fresh seafood, and a glass of something refreshing while watching the sun set over the water.
Photo: Magnus Bremerfors
Kalmar: come alive in the city
What first meets the eye is a beautiful old castle and an old ring wall, topped up with cobbled streets and green areas. And Kalmar is pretty – there are no two ways about it. But this small city has a buzz and a pulse that will satisfy both sports fanatics and culture vultures.
Between the Ironman Kalmar, the brand new Guld Agility, and countless other races and sporting events, there is plenty to keep both legs and heart going. Add museums, a theatre, and regular live gigs at the central square, and you have got yourself a lively and exciting few days.
If nature and charm are Eastern Småland and Öland’s buzz words, Kalmar sure is a good place to wrap up your trip. Now, who is up for a swim in the canal?
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This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by Visit Småland