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Summer in Sweden: ten reasons you should visit Dalarna 

Whether you prefer hiking or heritage, wilderness or wild adventure activities, Dalarna in central Sweden has plenty to offer. If you’re looking for a summer break, this could be the answer – for a long weekend or something more.

Summer in Sweden: ten reasons you should visit Dalarna 
Photos: Katarina Jansson and Visit Dalarna

With a little help from Katarina Jansson, a Stockholm-born blogger and podcaster now living in her “childhood paradise” of Särna in Dalarna, The Local presents ten reasons to visit this enchanting region.

Mountains, lakes, craft traditions, and industrial history: find out why visiting Dalarna is like experiencing ‘Sweden in miniature’

1. To go hiking amid unspoilt nature

Dalarna is home to large areas of untouched nature. Escaping into its many accessible forest trails and wide-open fells near lakes and rivers is easier than you might think. 

Some of the best walking areas are easy to reach by car. Once there, you’ll find plenty of signs with distances and directions, as well as rest huts and shelters where you can cook in the open air – or even stay overnight!

Head to Dalarna and you could soon be picking lingonberries and cloudberries as you ramble through the countryside, enjoying majestic views.

2. And see Sweden’s magical mountains

In the north of Dalarna lie Sweden’s southernmost mountains. The varied terrain and moorland in Fulufjället National Park makes it an ideal place for walking and hiking, with 140km of marked paths. Popular trails include the child-friendly path to Njupeskärs waterfall or a trip to see the world’s oldest tree – a 9,550-year-old spruce.

But there’s also far more to enjoy, says Katarina. “Fulufjället is so beautiful, with the old-growth forests and the ancient trails and monuments,” she says. “The views from the mountains give me a sense of freedom and humility – feeling small but in a good way.” 

Fulufjället. Photo: Katarina Jansson

Just a little further north, she also recommends hiking and fishing around Idre and Grövelsjön. 

Ready for an outdoor summer? Whether you want hiking, biking, fishing or anything else, find out more about your options in Dalarna

3. The wildlife: reindeer, moose and more 

If you love wildlife, visiting northern Dalarna in summer could prove a real treat. June is the best time to spot Fulufjället’s rich diversity of birdlife. You may also see moose or beaver – if you don’t make too much noise! 

You can also see reindeer and other wildlife around the region. Katarina, who lives less than 30 minutes from Fulufjället, says: “I live across the lake from Särna village and we see reindeer here in the summer – adults and young together. I also see moose and foxes quite often.”

Photo: Visit Dalarna

4. For fun and family-friendly activities

In winter, Idre Fjäll is a ski resort. But in summer, you’ll find a host of exciting activities, such as river rafting, kayaking, horse-riding and swinging through the trees in the adventure track.

There’s also an outdoor pool with waterslides. You might even consider a wilderness experience to really get away from everything – are you brave enough to go walking in the tracks of the Swedish brown bear?

Further south, you’ll also find fun family experiences in the Siljan region. Your options include everything from Leksand Sommarland water park to Orsa Predator Park – the biggest park of its kind in Europe. Visitors to the latter can see animals including polar bears, Persian leopards and a Siberian tiger, the world’s largest feline

5. To see the origins of a national Swedish symbol

You can’t spend much time in Sweden without seeing a Dala Horse. The colourful carved wooden statues are a national symbol – and as the name suggests, their origins lie in Dalarna.

In the village of Nusnäs outside Mora, you can closely observe skilled craft workers creating the famous horses – or paint your own.

Enter Dalarna from the south, and the world’s biggest Dala Horse (13 metres high) welcomes you to the region at Avesta, only two hours northwest of Stockholm.

Photo: Visit Dalarna

6. And discover the source of Sweden’s red cottages

Many homes and cabins in Sweden are a distinctive rusty-red colour. This is another national feature with its roots in Dalarna.

The paint, known as Falu Rödfärg, contains pigment from Falun Mine – a copper mine that operated for a thousand years! Today, the area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit Falun and it will be easy to impress your friends with your knowledge of Swedish history after returning home.

7. Food glorious food!

Food and drink are also a big part of Dalarna’s heritage. See how traditional local flatbreads are baked at Rättviks Tunnbrödsbageri in the pretty lakeside town of Rättvik. The smell is sure to have you wanting a taste!

In Borlänge,  you can visit an ostrich farm. Will you try an ostrich burger? Or some ostrich-egg ice-cream? Check out the Taste of Dalarna network for more ideas about tasty regional food experiences.

Katarina’s recommendation? A traditional dish called kolbotten, a kind of pancake with pork and cream. “The men who work in the forest used to eat it and it’s delicious,” she says.

8. The unique accommodation options

Ever stayed in a floating hotel room in a lake? How about a floating cottage with a cosy fireplace? Or a forest camp? Or a peaceful mountain station where you wake up to the freshest of fresh air? You can find all these options and more in Dalarna. 

The floating cottage. Photo: Föreningen Allmogen/Visit Dalarna

There are also a wide range of options for more conventional stays in hotels, bed and breakfast accommodation, and campsites across the region.

9. To swim in the great outdoors – while you can!

For most of the year, it’s fair to say that swimming in any of Sweden’s almost 100,000 lakes has limited appeal. But in summer, a dip in the pristine waters is an invigorating and even life-affirming experience. 

Lake Siljan in central Dalarna is one of the region’s biggest attractions. But wherever you go in Dalarna, you won’t be far from some inviting waters.

10. To see Sweden’s southernmost Sami village

Want to understand more about Sweden’s Sami people? Idre is home to Sweden’s southernmost Sami village, Idre Sameby, around which reindeers graze on mountain slopes and in the forests.

One local Sami family, the Andersson family, runs Renbiten, which combines a shop and cafe with reindeer herding. Take a guided tour with their tame reindeer to join the reindeer herders at work and listen to stories around the fire in the gåetie, the nomadic Sami’s traditional tipi or tent. 

Want to discover Dalarna this summer? Find out more about the many outdoor activities and attractions you can enjoy.

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SCHOOLS

Schooling: What you need to know when moving to Sweden with children

Sweden is often cited as one of the best countries in the world for raising children, but what do international parents need to know when planning a move here with their family? And can your children access schooling without a Swedish personal number?

two children on a swedish farm
From the age of six, every child in Sweden has access to free education. Photo: Ann-Sofi Rosenkvist/imagebank.sweden.se

Depending on your child’s age, there are a few things you should be aware of when planning a move to Sweden. If you’ve recently arrived in the country and didn’t have to apply for residence permits before entering, you and your family may not yet have their Swedish personnummer – the 10 or 12-digit personal number linked to everything in Sweden from healthcare to gym memberships. This guide will give you some advice on how you can sign your child up for school before they have received their personnummer.

Firstly, you may be wondering how the Swedish school system works. Sweden has three different types of school: the first type of school is voluntary preschool – förskola – for children from 1-6 years of age.

Starting at 6 years of age, schooling is compulsory, starting with förskoleklass, a one-year preschool class as a sort of bridge between preschool and primary school. Then, from age 7, primary or grundskola starts. Grundskola stretches from age 7-16 and is split into three stages: lågstadiet for 7-9-year-olds, mellanstadiet for 10-12-year-olds and högstadiet from 13-15. From the year a child turns 16, they can attend gymnasieskola (which is voluntary in theory, but many Swedish jobs require a gymnasie diploma) – lasting three years.

Some schools offer both grundskola and gymnasieskola, some only offer some of the grundskola stages, so check directly with any schools you are considering to see how many stages they offer if you want your child to stay in the same school for the majority of their schooling.

Check out the websites Skolverket and Skolinspektionen for more information on Swedish schooling.

How much does it cost?

The vast majority of schooling in Sweden is free, apart from förskola, where fees are heavily subsidised by the state and are income-based – costing a maximum of 1,510 kronor ($175) per child per month in 2021. Free school meals are also offered for all children. For teenagers at gymnasium level it is up to the municipality to decide whether school meals are free or have to be paid for.

Many independent schools – such as bilingual and international schools – are also free to attend. It’s also helpful to know that these schools aren’t allowed to charge for textbooks or school trips.

There are a few fee-paying private schools in Sweden, but not as many as in other countries.

If you’re moving to Sweden with teenagers, they might qualify for a study allowance (studiestöd). This is available to young people between 16 and 20 attending gymnasium full-time, and amounts to 1,250 kronor a month, paid out from September to June. It is possible in some cases to get this study allowance without a personal number, but you will need to contact the Swedish Board of Student Finance (CSN) directly to register. See more information here to find out if your child qualifies.

The type of school you need to apply for will depend on your child’s age. Photo: Maskot/Folio/imagebank.sweden.se

How do I apply?

Many schools, especially in the big cities, have long waiting lists, so it pays to sign your child up early. If you have a personnummer, the sign-up process is relatively simple – for förskola and grundskola, your municipality website will have an online sign-up service (e-tjänst) which you can sign in to with your BankID. If you’re still waiting for your personnummer, this process is a bit more difficult – you can still apply, but you will most likely have to apply via a paper form.

Even if your child does not yet have a personal number, they still have the right to attend school while they wait for their personal number application to be processed – you may have to supply documents showing that your family intend to stay in Sweden for an extended period of time before your child can access schooling – your municipality will be able to help you with this.

Contact your municipality if you are unsure of which form you should use and who you should send it to. They should be able to help you if you move to Sweden after application windows for schools in your area have already closed. If your child is old enough to attend grundskola or gymnasieskola, you may need to contact the school directly for advice on how to apply.

This is part of The Local’s series about what you need to know when moving to Sweden with children. If there are any particular topics you would like us to cover next, you can always email our editorial team at [email protected]. We may not be able to reply to every email, but we read them all and they help inform our coverage.

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