The Best Things to Do in Sweden

A visit to Sweden is all about going on journeys: from dog sledding to traipsing through art galleries or down hiking trails. Or back in time courtesy of the Vasa Museum and Drottningholm Palace, a Unesco World Heritage Site. Whether you soak up the midnight sun on a road trip or stay in one city and day trip out to the Stockholm archipelago or that perfect viewing spot for the Northern Lights, you’ll find your perfect Sweden.

14 Galärvarvsvägen
Located on the island of Djurgården, this purpose-built maritime museum is an extraordinary sight: It houses the massive warship Vasa, which sank just minutes after launching on its maiden voyage in 1628. Raised from the harbor in 1961, it was painstakingly reassembled to its original glory. Head straight to the auditorium to watch a documentary about the salvage, and then slowly meander through the rest of the fascinating exhibits.

130 39 Sandhamn, Sweden
The thousands of islands that make up the Stockholm archipelago have something for everyone. Many are tiny and uninhabited. Some, like Sandhamn, are crowded all summer long and attract hundreds of private sailboats. You can find great food and great places to swim or stroll, and also hotels, hostels, and wooden cabins in which to overnight. You need half a day at the bare minimum to experience the archipelago proper, but if time is short take a ferry to Fjäderholmarna, which is very close to the center. There you can enjoy a waterside meal and get a taste of archipelago living.
Djurgårdsslätten 49-51, 115 21 Stockholm, Sweden
A brief description of Skansen—a 75-acre open-air museum with historic buildings and a zoo—doesn’t convey just how much fun it is. You can easily spend a happy half-day here, looking at wolves, reindeer, moose, seals, and other Nordic creatures, then popping into old buildings that have been brought here from all over Scandinavia and reassembled. In some you can talk to people in costume who are playing the roles of the original inhabitants. Elsewhere you can watch glassblowers at work and visit old-fashioned stores. Open since 1891, it remains one of Sweden’s top tourist draws.
Djurgårdsvägen 68, 115 21 Stockholm, Sweden
Abba, the most successful Swedish group of all time, enjoyed a global return to fame with the success of the musical and the film Mamma Mia! In its home country, however, its popularity never dimmed. The museum allows visitors to guest star in an Abba video and marvel at the gloriously over-the-top stage costumes. For hard-core fans, you can also go to the nearby Abba: The Party, where diners are “transported” to a Greek island for a rambunctious evening of food and sing-along entertainment.
178 02 Drottningholm, Sweden
While the enormous Royal Palace in Stockholm’s Old Town is the king’s official residence, the family lives outside the center at Drottningholm. And this being Sweden, everyone is allowed to stop by. You can visit the interior, excluding the royal family’s private wing, and then roam around the extensive grounds. The estate is also famed for its theater, which still uses the original stage equipment from the 18th century. UNESCO lists Drottningholm as a World Heritage Site: “With its palace, perfectly preserved theatre (built in 1766), Chinese pavilion and gardens, it is the finest example of an 18th-century northern European royal residence inspired by the Palace of Versailles.”
Strandgatan 14, 621 56 Visby, Sweden
After Carcassonne in southwest France, Visby lays claim to the most important and best-preserved medieval city walls in all of Europe. The town’s citizens began building the original six-meter-high (20-foot) fortified walls in the 13th century, and they eventually grew to over 11 meters (36 feet). Today, the wall still stretches for 3.4 kilometers (2.1 miles). Walk in its shadow and explore the 36 intact medieval towers as well as numerous gateways. The North Gate offers the most impressive view of the wall, providing a sense of its enormous scale. St. Mary’s Cathedral, a few blocks inland, also dates to the 13th century.

One of the biggest engineering feats in Swedish history, Göta Canal connects the east and west coasts, along the way crossing Sweden’s two largest lakes, Vänern and Vättern. Originally created to help the country’s industries transport goods, the canal is popular today with tourists who enjoy crossing the country at a leisurely pace. The M/S Juno, for instance, is a 29-cabin cruiser dating from 1874 (it’s one of the world’s oldest cruise ships) that makes the trip in four days. Fans of Scandinavian crime dramas, take note: A cruise on the Göta was the setting for Roseanna, the first novel by famed crime-writing duo Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö.
27 Svartbäcksgatan
It’s a sign of just how revered Carl Linnaeus is in Sweden that for many years many people had a picture of him, and his garden, in their pocket. That’s because the botanist, who is famed for creating the two-name system for classifying plants and animals, adorned the 100-krona banknote for many years. It’s easy to visit the garden where he did his research, as the town of Uppsala can be reached in less than 40 minutes by train. The garden was originally laid out in 1655, then redesigned by Linnaeus in 1745. You can also visit his former home, now the Linnaeus Museum. As for the banknotes: In 2017 Linnaeus was replaced by Greta Garbo.
Kyrkogatan 6, 222 22 Lund, Sweden
Once upon a time Lund was one of the most important towns in Denmark. These days, it’s one of the most charming towns in Sweden with its cobbled streets, flower-filled parks, and medieval buildings. Towering over everything is the Lund Cathedral, a Romanesque cathedral which was consecrated in 1145 and includes a huge astronomical clock created around 1380.

It wasn’t until 1658 that the region, Skåne, became part of Sweden. Visitors can descend into the crypt, where the most popular attraction is a column bearing a sculpture of Finn, a giant who reportedly helped build the cathedral.
618 92 Kolmården, Sweden
It’s not just the real animals that attract people to Sweden’s largest zoo and wildlife park, located two hours’ drive southwest from Stockholm. Many Swedish children love to come because of Bamse’s World, an amusement park dedicated to a popular cartoon bear, Bamse, who is the world’s strongest bear due to his consumption of thunder-honey. There are real brown bears, too, at Kolmården, along with the big-name Nordic animals (moose, wolves, reindeer, etc.) and foreign visitors (elephants, giraffes, tigers, gorillas, and bottlenose dolphins in Scandinavia’s first dolphinarium), plus roller coasters and other rides.
Arendal Skans
For a long time Swedes took great pride in the fact that they had two world-renowned car companies. Since the untimely demise of Saab in 2012, Volvo is now the pride of the nation. (Even though the company is now owned by a Chinese company, its headquarters remain in Gothenburg.) The Volvo Museum follows the company’s story since it was founded in 1927, showcasing the models that helped the company build its reputation for designing some of the safest cars on the road.
Kiruna, Sweden
Many people don’t realize just how big Sweden is. It has a population of less than 10 million, but it is a huge land, the third largest Western European country after France and Spain. As a result, Sweden does wilderness on a grand, majestic scale. Abisko National Park, in Swedish Lapland close to the border with Norway, is popular with hikers and with people who want to see the northern lights as it has so little light pollution obscuring the view of the stars and the sky. It even offers courses in how to photograph the aurora borealis, to ensure your holiday snaps impress.
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