Falun’s kopparbergs gruva was the world’s most important copper mine by the 17th century. Called 'Sweden's treasure chest', it drove the small country's international aspirations, funded wars and helped paint all those summer cottages that distinctive red. You can opt to take a one-hour underground tour of the mines or simply explore above ground where you'll find the interesting and informative Mine Museum and some heritage outbuildings, cafes and boutiques.
Don't miss the dramatic Stora Stöten (Great Pit), a vast hole caused by a major mine collapse in the 17th century. By some miracle, the miners were on holiday that day and no one was harmed. There are lookouts around the crater edge, and numerous mine buildings, including a 15m waterwheel and shaft-head machinery.
Tradition says a goat called Kåre first drew attention to the copper reserves when he rolled in the earth and pranced back to the village with red horns. The first historical mention is in a document from 1288, when the Bishop of Västerås bought shares in the company. As a by-product, the mine produced the red paint that became a characteristic of Swedish houses – Falu Red is still used today. The mine finally closed in 1992 after nearly 1000 years of almost constant operations.
Admission includes a map of the walking routes around the area – there are some very pretty trails that follow the path of the water once used to power the mine. Suggested routes range from 1.5km to a nice 12.2km ramble.
In summer, tours in English happen hourly depending on demand, but you can always tag along with a Swedish group and you'll get by; from October to April you should book ahead. Bring warm clothing and good shoes – the temperature in the mine hovers around 5-degrees Celsius and there are many stairs.