The Best Things to Do in Southwest Sweden

The plains and fields of Southwest Sweden—known as Västergötland—are filled with farms and various industries, but the province also played an important part in early Swedish history. This part of the country was inhabited long before Christianity was introduced, and visitors will find rune stones, prehistoric graves, and remnants Viking life in the area.

Spikens Fiskehamn 1, 531 99 Lidköping, Sweden
Lake Vänern is the largest lake in Sweden and so wide from shore to shore that it is sometimes called an inland sea.The Kålland peninsula on its southwest shore is home to Spiken, a picturesque fishing village, andthe impressive Läckö Castle. The landscape seems untouched, and the many nature reserves offers opportunities to enjoy the surroundings on bike, by boat or on foot. You can go hiking, mountain biking or book a fishing tour on Lake Vänern. In autumn, löjrom (bleak, or whitefish, roe) is a seasonal delicacy harvested from the bleak fish during their spawning season. Many restaurants in Spiken feature this golden delight on their menus.
Kinnekulle, 533 94 Hällekis, Sweden
The Kinnekulle area on the south bank of Lake Vänern is a paradise. Home to 18 nature reserves, the unique geology and chalky soils provides the perfect growing conditions for plants like ramps, ivy and various rare species like wild orchids. Kinnekulle is often referred to as “the flowering mountain.” In May, seeing the white ramps bloom thickly over the lush fields of Munkängarna nature reserve and smelling their subtle scent of garlic is something you just have to experience for yourself. A former chalk quarry at the edge of forest is a lovely picnic spot, and there are a number of fishing holes. There are also many medieval churches in the area, some of which date back to the 12th century.
Bangatan 1B, 544 30 Hjo, Sweden
The town Hjo (pronounced “yo”) on the western shore of Lake Vättern is small-town gem with many well-preserved 17th-century wooden buildings. During the Middle Ages, it played an important role as connection between the Vadstena Abbey, the motherhouse of the Bridgettine Order, on the eastern shore the lake and the people in Västergötland. In 1876, four wealthy men decided to turn Hjo into a health resort, and a bought a large piece of land on the lake. They constructed grand villas, a spa and a beautiful park surrounding the facilities. Although the spa is long gone, the buildings and the park remain, so stroll along the footpaths and breathe in some of that fresh lake air.
History is often told by the prosperous and successful, but just outside Falköping, you’ll find a small collection of crofter’s cottages and an open-air museum that reveals the poverty and hardship of the people who lived in them during the 18th and 19th century. Too poor to own any land, they built low-ceilinged cabins on the commons outside the villages abd seek daywork on the nearby farms. In many parts of the country these houses were torn down as industrialization and modernization came along, but in Åsle Tå a local historical association moved to preserve them for future generations. Today you can bow your head (the doors are really, really low) and enter the fascinating past.
This museum is on the site of one of the most important places in Swedish history and it gives visitors a vivid taste of Viking life. Cistercian monks came to Varnhem in the 12th century and built the Varnhem Abbey. The ruin has for a long time been considered one of the oldest churches in the country. But archeological finds from 2005 revealed that the Vikings living here were Christians long before the monks arrived. Behind the ruin of the Varnhem church archeologists found the remains of a 10th-century church that was part of the Varnhem estate and graveyard where more than a thousand graves have been identified. The graves of master and the mistress of the estate, Kättil and Kata, were found the beautiful stone crypt, and this enabled the scientists to reconstruct their daily life, habits, clothing, and age when they died.
Skaraborgsvägen 3, 506 30 Borås, Sweden
Modern day Borås, east of Gothenburg, has successfully made the transformation into a creative hub. Since 2008, with the controversial investment in the 30 foot tall bronze statue of Pinocchio called Walking to Borås by Jim Dine, the town has become a hot spot for outdoor and street art. The annual No Limit festival is an outdoor art event with artists from around the world coming to participate in turning public spaces into outdoor exhibitions. Borås has also been the textile capital of Sweden since the mid-1800s, and is home to the the Textile Museum that preserves the history of the once flourishing factories with its unique collections, and the Textile Fashion Center, a former factory that houses creative businesses.
Göta kanal, Sweden
The largest construction project in Sweden, the canal was built from 1810 to 1832 to connects the west coast and the east coast of the country. The 120-mile Göta Canal has 58 locks and enabled Sweden to ship cargo from Gothenburg to Stockholm without having to pass through Denmark and pay tolls. Built by more than 58,000 soldiers, along with 200 Russian deserters (who got part of their pay in aquavit), today the canal is a tourist favorite, where you can bike along the canal or sail by boat, both private or tour boats. It’s a great way to experience the countryside at a slow and comfortable pace.
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