From ABBA to IKEA, Pippi Longstocking to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Nobel Prizes to Ingmar Bergman, Sweden has given so much to the world – and it's equally generous to travelers.
Stretching from the Arctic tundra of Lapland to the fertile farmlands and sandy beaches of Skåne, Europe’s fifth-largest country has something for every interest: captivating cities, picturesque small towns, intriguing historic sites and pristine, diverse nature within easy reach, no matter where you find yourself. Here are some of Sweden’s most unmissable destinations.
Delve into history, culture and nature in Stockholm
Few cities blend history, culture and nature as well as Stockholm. Founded around 1252, Sweden’s capital straddles 14 islands where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea. With scenic views galore, distinct neighborhoods and abundant green space, it’s a wonderful place to simply wander.
Explore the winding cobblestone streets of Gamla Stan, stroll along the waterfront boulevard Strandvägen, take a boat trip into the stunning archipelago or stop for a coffee and pastry at one of the city’s many cafés. For more focused sightseeing, Stockholm has endless attractions to keep you busy, from City Hall and the Royal Palace to top-notch museums such as Skansen, Fotografiska and Vasamuseet.
Chic bars, stunning parks and ABBA: Stockholm's neighborhoods have it all
Get to know laidback Gothenburg
Sweden’s second city in terms of size, Göteborg, as it's known locally, has a laidback west-coast vibe that sets it apart. Streetcars rattle past 17th-century canals, lively squares and the broad boulevard Kungsportsavenyn, lined with pubs and restaurants.
Along with verdant parks, diverse walking neighborhoods and great shopping and dining, Göteborg has an excellent city history museum and an art museum with an outstanding collection of paintings by Nordic artists. Ship lovers won’t want to miss Maritiman, where you can climb aboard vessels including a historic lightship, a submarine and a destroyer.
Soak up the coastal scenery in Bohuslän
Sandwiched between Göteborg and the Norwegian border, Bohuslän is an enticing mix of gorgeous coastal scenery, idyllic small towns and fascinating history.
Explore the impressive 17th-century Carlsten Fortress atop Marstrand island, ponder the mysteries of hundreds of ancient petroglyphs near Tanum, kayak the fjords around the region’s many islands, hike a coastal trail or just relax and soak up the natural beauty and lively summer atmosphere in picturesque waterfront communities, such as Smögen, Fjällbacka and Grebbestad.
Take in traditional arts and handicrafts in Dalarna
Few places have shaped Sweden's international image as much as Dalarna, a region rich in cultural history and tradition. The area around Lake Siljan is a center for folk music, dance and handicrafts, including iconic wooden Dala horses, which you can see being carved and painted by hand at factories in Nusnäs.
In Falun, Sweden’s most important copper mine, which closed in 1992 after operating for a thousand years, is now a fascinating tourist attraction with underground tours. Other highlights include the homes of artists Carl Larsson and Anders Zorn and composer Hugo Alfvén.
Get spiritual in Uppsala
Uppsala has been an important center for learning, religion, culture and power for at least 1500 years. At Gamla Uppsala, north of the city center, three large royal burial mounds attest to the site's importance in the 6th century, and its adjacent museum has fascinating exhibits about the area’s history.
In modern Uppsala, stroll along the river Fyrisån, and wander through the parks, squares and cobbled streets around the oldest university and the largest cathedral in the Nordic countries, both dating from the 15th century. Plant lovers won’t want to miss the university’s Linnaean Gardens of Uppsala, comprising a botanical garden, an orangery and a tropical greenhouse, among other attractions.
Tailor a trip to practically any interest in Lapland
Sweden’s far north, Lapland is a huge area, so where to go depends on your particular interests. Looking for majestic alpine scenery and wilderness hiking? The region has both in spades, including several national parks and one of the world’s great long-distance trails, Kungsleden.
Hoping to see the Northern Lights? Abisko National Park is particularly renowned for ideal aurora conditions, though you’ll have excellent chances all over northern Sweden in autumn and winter.
Want an unusual hotel experience? Head to the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi or Treehotel in Harads. Want to learn about Scandinavia’s indigenous people? Jokkmokk is something of a Sámi capital, with an interesting cultural museum, Ájtte, and a vibrant annual winter market.
Hike to great heights in Höga Kusten
Between Härnösand and Örnsköldsvik, the High Coast has been rising steadily since the end of the last Ice Age, elevating the ancient shoreline as much as 286m (938ft) above the present-day coast. Hiking trails, a chairlift and a via ferrata lead to the top of Skuleberget, which has panoramic views.
Head to Skuleskogen National Park for more hiking trails showcasing the region’s fascinating geology, or explore the lovely islands just offshore, including Ulvön and Trysunda. Further south the E4 highway crosses Sweden’s longest suspension bridge; an overlook at the north end provides views of the impressive structure.
See a different side of Swedish history in Skåne
Previously a Danish county, Skåne only became a permanent part of Sweden in 1658, and the region’s unique history is evident in its distinct dialect and in the half-timbered houses of its medieval cities and towns, such as Lund and Ystad. Malmö, Sweden’s third-largest city, is an eclectic blend of history, culture and cutting-edge architecture, including the iconic Turning Torso.
Skåne also has tremendous natural beauty, from the white-sand beaches of Österlen and the jagged coastline of Kullaberg to deep forests and golden agricultural landscapes with vast skies, and its many splendid castles and palaces include Sofiero, known for its beautiful gardens.
Sweden's most beautiful beaches: from sunbathing near the Arctic Circle to lakeside lounging
Go back in time in Kalmar and shop for glass in Glasriket
An important town during the Middle Ages, Kalmar has one of Sweden’s finest Renaissance castles, as well as a county museum with thousands of astonishingly well-preserved artifacts recovered from the royal ship Kronan, sunk nearby in a 1676 battle.
To the west is Glasriket, a forested region known as the Kingdom of Crystal, that's home to more than a dozen diverse glassworks, where you can watch artisans work, shop at company stores and perhaps even try your own hand at glassblowing. The most renowned, Kosta Boda, dates from 1742.
Next door, the Kosta Boda Art Hotel has gorgeous art glass everywhere, including a stunning blue-glass bar. For a completely different style, head to Malerås, which produces unique painted and engraved art glass.
Have a medieval adventure in Gotland
A hotly contested hub of Baltic trade for centuries, Sweden’s largest island is dotted with sheep farms, fishing villages, ancient ruins, medieval churches and sea stacks (raukar) carved by the elements into fantastical shapes. Charming Visby, the largest town, has one of Scandinavia’s best-preserved medieval cores, a largely intact city wall and an excellent museum tracing the island’s history.
A short free ferry ride from Gotland’s northeastern tip lies stunning, windswept Fårö, beloved by director Ingmar Bergman. Off Gotland’s west coast, the island of Stora Karlsö is famous for its huge seabird colonies.
Get outside in Öland
Just a bridge away from Kalmar, the long, narrow island of Öland is a world apart in terms of landscape and nature. Southern Öland has starkly beautiful scenery, with stone walls, wildflowers, windmills and rocky pastures. In the north lie Böda Sand, a spectacular, hugely popular beach, and Trollskogen, a magical forest with pine trees twisted by the elements into fantastical shapes.
Two scenic lighthouses, Långe Erik and Långe Jan, punctuate the island’s northern and southern tips respectively. Other highlights include the impressive ruins of 17th-century Borgholms Castle and the lush park at Solliden Palace, the royal family’s summer home. Öland is also one of Sweden’s top birdwatching destinations, with several nature reserves that attract both resident and migratory species.
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