Sweden’s official capital, Stockholm, is built on 14 islands, each with its own personality and flair—from edgy Södermalm and glitzy Östermalm to old town Gamla Stan and Kungsholmen filled with young creatives. Its subway, T-bana, is the world’s longest art exhibition. Gothenburg is Stockholm’s nicer cousin, with a more laid-back feel despite being a port city. It has a noticeable hipster culture, and is framed by Sweden’s largest amusement park, Liseberg. Gothenburg is also Sweden’s culinary capital, with great emphasis placed on seafood, and is home to the largest fish market in Sweden. Culturally diverse Malmö is just a 35-minute train ride over the Öresund Bridge from Copenhagen, Denmark. Trace Sweden’s Viking and medieval history every summer on the island of Gotland. Umeå was the official European Capital of Culture in 2014. In Northern Sweden, Luleå is the gateway to Swedish Lapland, and Jokkmokk and Kiruna give you access to indigenous Sámi culture. For your best chances to see the Northern Lights, head to Sweden’s northernmost town, Abisko.
Valborg is a festival celebrating the arrival of spring with bonfires, vigils, and revelry around the country. You’ll find the blue-and-yellow Swedish flags flown all around towns on National Day, June 6. Midsummer, celebrated every year in late June, remains Sweden’s most iconic cultural event. Also in summer is the three-day Way Out West Music Festival in Gothenburg. Stockholm Film Festival takes place in fall, and in winter, Swedish Lapland celebrates an ice festival as well as the 410-year-old indigenous Sámi market in Jokkmokk. Other key events in winter include Gothenburg Film Festival and Sonar music, creativity, and technology festival in Stockholm. There are several iconic Christmas markets in various cities and towns, and Stockholm hosts the prestigious Nobel Prize awards and dinner every December.