12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Sweden
In many ways Sweden has become a traveler's paradise. If you love the outdoors, it's certainly hard to beat. The air and water are crystal clean, there are thousands of acres of unspoiled forests and majestic lakes to explore, the roads and public transport are excellent, the citizens are invariably friendly and helpful, and, in recent years, Swedish cuisine has undergone what can only be described as a revolution. Throw in a mind-boggling history from notorious Viking invaders to Royal dynasties and imperial intrigue, and one thing is certain, you'll never be bored. On the contrary, there's so much to see and do, make sure you allow plenty of time to enjoy all the outdoor adventures and historic treasures.
Fairytale Drottningholm Palace on the island of Lovö is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and lies roughly 11 kilometers west of Stockholm city center (45 minutes by boat). Dating from the 17th century, the palace is now the official residence of the Swedish Royal Family. In the beautiful terraced park, with its avenues of lime trees, are bronze sculptures brought back from Denmark and Bohemia as trophies of war. Be sure to take in the Chinese Pavilion which dates from the late 1700s. The 18th-century Palace Theatre (Drottningholms Slottsteater) is still used for performances during the summer months. In the Theatre Museum, you can see period stage costumes and stage scenery.
Hours: Seasonal opening hours
Admission: Adults SEK120, Under 17s Free, Students SEK50
2 Vasa Museum
The Vasa Museum in Stockholm is Sweden's most popular museum and now attracts around a million visitors annually. More than 20 million people have visited since the museum opened in 1990, and it's not hard to see why. In 1628 the pride of the Swedish Imperial fleet, the Vasa battle ship, sank on its maiden voyage. The ship lay below the icy waters for more than three centuries until, in 1961, an incredibly ambitious salvage operation took place. Now visitors from across the world come to marvel at this glorious time capsule. The museum caters to tourists of all nationalities. A visit to the Vasa, which houses ten separate exhibitions, is a day out in itself.
Hours: Open Daily 10am-5pm (Wednesday 10am-8pm), September-May; 8.30am-6pm June-August
Admission: Adults SEK 130, Under 18s free
Location: Galärvarvsvägen, 1411521 Stockholm
3 Stockholm Archipelago, Stromma Boat Tours
Stockholm is often described as the Venice of the North. Water is everywhere, and around 30,000 islands lie in Stockholm's wondrous archipelago (skärgården). Distinctive red and yellow timber summerhouses occupy some islands while others remain totally unspoiled. A trip on the water, either in and around the city or to one of the islands, should be top on your list. Many tours include lunch or dinner and all give a unique vantage point of the city. Hop-on hop-off options are available too. When downtown, the distinctive Stromma boats are impossible to miss.
Hours: Limited winter service
Djurgården park with its many wonderful amenities is a guaranteed draw for visitors and locals alike, particularly during the glorious Scandinavian summer months. Throughout are traditional cafés, restaurants, snack-bars, and even hotels. Canoe and bicycle hire are also available if you're feeling energetic. The newly-opened Abba the Museum can be found here along with the open-air museum and zoo, Skansen, and Gröna Lund amusement park. You can catch a ferry from Gamla Stan or Slussen or take a tram or bus from Norrmalmstorg. Alternatively, the park is a pleasant 15-minute walk from the city center. The Djurgården Visitors' Center has all the information you'll need.
Location: Djurgården, Stockholm
Famous as being Sweden's first ever town and founded in AD 980, the last century of the Viking era, the idyllic village of Sigtuna nestles alongside Lake Mälaren in the lush green landscape of Uppland, north of Stockholm. Sigtuna's amazing history is to be found in the medieval churches, ruins, rune stones, and buildings that remain to this day. Along Storgatan, which has stood for more than a thousand years, are clusters of interesting little boutique shops selling fashion, designer items, and handicrafts. By car, Sigtuna is just 45 minutes from Stockholm, 30 minutes from the medieval university town of Uppsala, and just 20 minutes from Arlanda airport.
6 Visby, Gotland
Steeped in medieval history and brimming with ruined churches, the rose-entwined, walled town of Visby, on the island of Gotland, is a huge draw for visitors from around the world. Quaint cobblestone streets snake about the town, and when exploring, it's all too easy to lose your sense of being in the modern world. Several magnificent medieval trading houses, with their characteristic stepped gables, are still standing, as are many 17th and 18th-century wooden buildings. Clearly, Visby's reputation as 'the pearl of the Baltic' and UNESCO World Heritage Site status are both well deserved. A self-guided or guided tour of the magnificent walls, which date back some 700 years, is a must. Built into the structure are some 44 defensive towers, and the walls still bear the scars of attack in the form of two breaches. Direct flights are available from Stockholm and several other Swedish cities as well as excellent ferry links.
7 The Göta Canal
Often described as Sweden's greatest feat of engineering, the canal dates from the early 19th century and is 190 kilometers in length. It's now one of the country's premier tourist attractions and offers a unique perspective on Sweden's heartland. In addition, by connecting with lakes Vänern and Vättern and the Trollhätte Canal, it forms part of a water link all the way from Stockholm, in the northeast, to Gothenburg, in the southwest. The canal, with its 58 locks and 47 bridges, runs from Söderköping on the Baltic Sea to Sjötorp at Lake Vänern. There's a choice of passenger cruise vessels or you can hire a boat and experience the canal in your own way.
8 Kiruna, Lapland
Kiruna is the most northerly town in Sweden and lies in the same latitude as central Greenland. It's the chief town of the largest commune in the country, which borders both Norway and Finland. The midnight sun is visible here from mid May to mid July. Originally a Lapp settlement, the town began to develop when mining of iron ore started around 1900. Incredibly, due to subsidence caused by mining, the entire city is being slowly moved northwest to the foot of the Luossavaara Mountain. The world's first ever Ice Hotel at Jukkasjärvi is about 17 kilometers outside the city; Sweden's highest mountain, Kebnekaise, is 90 kilometers west; and 95 kilometers northwest is Abisko National Park where the Lapland Railroad runs west to Narvik on the Norwegian coast.
9 Abisko National Park, Lapland
In summer, this is the Land of the Midnight Sun with 24-hour daylight lasting several weeks. The park is some 77 square kilometers in size and famous for its pristine natural beauty and Nordic wildlife. It's a great place for Scandinavian winter adventures and long summer hikes. Abisko is situated approximately 100 kilometers west of the town of Kiruna and is more than 200 kilometers inside the Arctic Circle within the auroral oval, a particular area where there's a higher chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Regular flights operate to Kiruna from Stockholm, and bus, train, or taxi transfers are available to the park. Weather permitting, make sure you visit the spectacular Aurora Sky Station.
10 Liseberg Theme Park, Gothenburg
Liseberg is one of the most popular destinations in Sweden and each year, the park attracts more than three million visitors. It has a huge range of attractions, from gentle children's carousels and a fairytale castle to dizzying high-speed rides, bumper cars, and four roller coasters. A brand new roller coaster, the Helix, opens in Spring 2014. The park stages concerts in summer too and it's a real favorite with both Swedish families and visitors from abroad. At Christmas, the park hosts an excellent market. There are plenty of places to eat and beautiful flowers in bloom during the summer. For the best views in Gothenburg take a ride on the Big Wheel.
Hours: Seasonal & Christmas Opening Hours
Admission: Adults SEK 90, Children under 110 cm are free
Address: Örgrytevägen 5, 41251 Gothenburg
11 Oresund Bridge, Malmo
From Malmo city center, a 15-minute drive takes visitors to the magnificent Oresund Bridge. Famous throughout the world since opening in 1999 and several decades in the planning, the structure has gained further notoriety through the hit Danish/Swedish TV drama 'The Bridge.' This incredible engineering feat now links Sweden to Denmark, and in turn, the continent of Europe. The bridge is both rail and road, and on the Danish side, merges into a tunnel so as not to impact on aircraft at Copenhagen airport. Take a trip across the bridge and through the tunnel to neighboring Denmark, and if you like, spend some time in Copenhagen.
12 Lund Cathedral
This is Sweden's most visited cathedral and one of the most visited sites in the southern province of Skåne. You'll understand why when you stand in front of the imposing Roman structure with its magnificent twin towers. It was founded around 1080 by the Danish King Canute IV and is the oldest and finest Romanesque church in Sweden. The present building dates from the 12th century. Over the altar is a magnificent 14th-century carved reredos, the work of a north German master. The crypt is the oldest part of the cathedral. It's roof is borne on carved stone pillars, with figures that are traditionally believed to represent a mythical giant, Finn, who is said to have built the cathedral. In the aisle is the famous 14th-century astronomical clock with figures of the Three Kings, which emerge twice daily at noon & 3pm on weekdays and 1pm & 3pm on Sundays.
Hours: Open daily all year, Monday-Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday 9.30am-5pm, Sunday 9.30am-6pm
Address: Kyrkogatan 6, 222 22 Lund