Drenched in history but never stifled by the past, Uppsala has the party vibe of a university town to balance out its large number of important buildings and general atmosphere of weighty cultural significance. It’s a terrific combination, and one that makes the town both fun and functional, not to mention very rewarding for the interested traveller.
Typically, when you ask Swedes where in Sweden they would most like to go on holiday, they get melty-eyed and talk about Lake Siljan. It’s understandable – the area combines lush green landscapes, outdoor activities, a rich tradition of arts and crafts, and some of the prettiest villages in the country.
A substantial, culturally rich city, Örebro buzzes around its central feature: the huge and romantic castle surrounded by a moat filled with water lilies. The city originally sprang up as a product of the textile industry, but it’s now decidedly a university town – students on bicycles fill the streets, and other relaxed folk gather on restaurant patios and in parks.
With its cobbled streets, higgledy-piggledy houses and flourishing flower gardens, Västerås’ old town is an utter delight. But Sweden’s sixth-largest city is a place of two halves: head just a few blocks southeast and you’ll find modern shopping centres, large industries and sprawling suburbs that bear no resemblance to the teeny lanes and crafts shops you’ve left behind.
An unlikely combination of industrial and adorable, Falun is home to the region’s most important copper mine and, as a consequence, the source of the deep-red paint that renders Swedish country houses so uniformly cute. It’s the main city of Dalarna, putting it within easy striking distance of some of Sweden’s best attractions, and the town itself is a pretty place to roam.
A pleasant and compact town centre wrapped in layers of perpetually snarled traffic, Karlstad makes itself useful as a base for travellers pursuing outdoor activities in Värmland. There are several sights worth seeing in town, and a large student population means it has a decent restaurant and bar scene.
Rättvik is a totally unpretentious town in an area that sometimes borders on the precious. Nonetheless, it’s a very pretty place, stretching up a hillside and along the shores of Lake Siljan. There are things to do year-round, for kids and adults alike, whether you like skiing, cycling, hiking or lolling on beaches.
The source of tiny Sala’s parklike charm is distinctly unfrivolous. The local silver mine made Sweden rich in the 16th and 17th centuries, and its creation changed the face of the town: those small rivers, ponds and canals that weave so prettily through and around the neighbourhoods were actually built to power the mines.
If you're here from abroad, locals may very well ask you, 'Why Eskilstuna, of all places?' Although its suburban ordinariness doesn’t exactly scream ‘tourist destination’, Eskilstuna has some family-friendly sights, primarily its famous zoo, and just northeast of town is one of the most extraordinary rock carvings in Sweden.