What comes to mind when you consider Sweden? Is it the multicoloured buildings of Stockholm, the arctic forests of Norrland… or maybe it’s simply IKEA (you can be forgiven for that, we’re sure that’s what pops into Kanye West’s mind). But with such a diverse landscape and culture, how can you know how to best experience this Nordic nation of natural beauty? We’re here to lend a helping hand.
First things first: since it’s so soon, we have to talk about Way Out West, Sweden’s biggest music festival, which is taking place in Castle Forest, Gothenburg between 11th-13th August. The festival features four outdoor stages; Flamingo, Azelea, Linne and Dungen, and gigs at Stay Out West clubs, each of which this year is playing host to some massive names in music such as Jamie xx, Grace Jones, Morrissey, Sia, Skepta, Stormzy and so many more great acts. Way Out West also offers film showings and talks on a range of subjects, meaning you can get a bit more cultural in between all the inevitable dancing and drinking. If you’re looking for a festival that’s a little different, get your tickets and get over to Gothenburg by Thursday!
Of course, if you do venture over the North Sea, it would be unforgivable to forgo exploring the rest of this historic, mysterious, and at times breathtaking country – even if it’s not the hot holiday you may want in August, with 20˚C highs in the capital Stockholm. Whatever Sweden lacks in tanning temperature, it makes up for in its sights and experiences, and one such attraction is Drottningholm Palace on the lake island of Lovön in Stockholm. The palace is the official residence of the Swedish royal family and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, partly due to its theatre which is one of the only 18th century theatres in Europe still functioning as a theatre and using its original stage machinery, with their summer opera at the moment being Don Giovanni. This theatre, the Chinese Pavillion pleasure palace, and the magnificent palace gardens make a day out at Drottningholm Palace a must on a trip to Stockholm.
Other attractions include Uppsala Cathedral, which is the largest and tallest cathedral in Scandinavia, and offers daily services as well as tourist access to its treasury which features medieval textiles and royal funeral regalia, amongst other displays. The city of Visby in Gotland is another popular summer attraction for tourists and Swedes alike, and is argued to be the best preserved medieval city in Scandinavia, with a multitude of church ruins dating back to the middle ages, and this week in the city is Medieval Week. The festival is made up of 500 events, including jousting, street theatre, fancy dress and fireshows amongst much more, unsurprisingly attracting around 40,000 visitors each year.
The Swedish sense of style is so spot-on that it’s pretty simple to find a beautiful place to stay, but while you’re at it you may as well go all out and spend the night in one of the unique hotels this country has to offer. Possibly the most famous is ICEHOTEL, which was founded in 1989 as the world’s first hotel made of ice and snow in the Swedish village of Jukkasjärvi, which is located 200km north of the Arctic Circle! In the summer, the hotel melts meaning each year there is a brand new incarnation, but also unfortunately means it’s not open for business at present (mainly due to it being a big puddle of water, presumably). For a hotel you can actually stay in this summer, Treehotel is an equally exciting option. Six rooms make up the hotel, all of which are in pine trees, yet each has a completely different exterior and interior to the last, and includes The Mirrorcube, The UFO and The Bird’s Nest. There are plenty of activities available while staying in the Treehotel, such as dog sledding, pine forest walks, and a visit to a forest spa, and guests also have access to The Tree Sauna.
Natural beauty is one of Sweden’s greatest assets, and anywhere you go in the country you are guaranteed to see something amazing, and places such as Kiruna in Swedish Lapland and Abisko National Park have no shortage of spectacular sights. Kiruna is the northernmost town in Sweden (ICEHOTEL is located nearby), and due to its position in the Arctic Circle the city experiences both polar night (24 hour darkness) and midnight sun (24 hour daylight). The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are a major tourist draw for both Kiruna and Abisko, as the low light pollution and clear skies provide an ideal environment for viewing the spectacle. Alpine skiing, dog sledding and snowmobiling are popular activities in both locations, amongst a multitude of other experiences.
And, of course, no trip to Sweden would be complete without a trip to the IKEA Museum in Stockholm, topped off with a serving of Swedish meatballs.