Sightseeing in Northern Sweden
Ice is not the most practical building material, but an art exhibit and hotel built entirely out of snow and ice create one of the most unique lodgings in the world. Construction of the world’s first ice hotel was completed in 1989 in Jukkasjärvi, north of the Arctic Circle.
Each spring, the hotel and its accompanying art exhibition melt and the water flows back into the River Thurn, from which the ice is collected. And the following winter, the hotel is rebuilt anew with an entirely new decoration. Artists come from all over the world to help decorate the walls, floors and ceilings of the hotel with unique and ephemeral designs.
In the world’s first ice hotel, pretty much everything is made of ice, even the glasses. In addition to warm or cold rooms, the structure has a church, main hall, reception and bar.
Umeå Cultural Center
Väven (Swedish for “weave” or “loom”) is a cultural center in Umeå, located next to the Ume River. It opened in the fall of 2014 at a time when Umeå was the cultural capital of Europe. The two-building, 24,000-square-meter structure was designed by the architectural firms Snöhetta from Norway and White from Sweden.
The decorated farms of Helsingland were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2012. The farms consist of seven nineteenth-century wooden houses. They show how independent farmers, who accumulated a fortune through forestry and linen production, built new homes with special structures or separate buildings designed for celebrations. Today there are about 1,000 such farms in Helsingland.
Picture museum in Umeå
The picture museum (Bildmuseet) is the center for contemporary art and visual culture in Umeå, the twelfth largest city in Sweden and also the largest city in the north. The museum is located next to the Academy of Fine Arts near the river Ume.
The Wood Hotel
Location: Harads, Luleå, Lapland
The Tree hotel is located in the far north of Sweden near the small village of Harads close to the Arctic Circle. The Tree Hotel is a structure with mirrored exterior walls suspended from a tree trunk. The exterior reflects the forest and sky, creating a cloaked shelter. The interior is made of plywood. To prevent birds from colliding with the anti-glare glass, clear ultraviolet laminated glass panels are visible only to birds. The most striking part of Harads is its magnificent surroundings. From the rooms at the Treehouse, tourists get a fantastic view of the surrounding forest and the Lule River Valley.
High Shore Bridge
Location: Høga Kusten, Ångermanland
The High Bank Bridge (Höga-Kusten-Bron) is a suspension bridge in Northern Sweden and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At 1,867 meters long, the High Bank is the third longest suspension bridge in Scandinavia (after the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark and the Hardanger Bridge in Norway), the fourth longest in Europe and the fourteenth longest in the world.
Location: Swedish Lapland
The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis is a glow often produced during the winter months in the upper atmosphere. Due to Sweden’s geographic proximity to the Arctic Circle and the magnetic North Pole, much of the country lies in an area where particles of solar plasma collide with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere to create these colorful ribbons of light. The aurora usually comes in red, green or purple and lasts from a few minutes to a few hours. The best chance to catch a glimpse of the northern lights on cold winter nights is when the sky is clear, dark, cloudless, and without a single moonlight.
Padielanta National Park
There are 29 national parks in Sweden, one of them being Padjelanta in the very north of Sweden. It is the largest national park in Sweden in Laponia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park consists mainly of a vast plateau around two large lakes. For the most part, the landscape is rolling hills with a few high peaks. Padielanta is a habitat for animals such as lemmings, reindeer, wolverine and arctic fox.
Ore ski resort
Sweden has four great seasons, and many people prefer winter as a display of activity, such as skiing. There are many family-friendly resorts to choose from during the winter vacations in Sweden. The Ore ski resort is one of the most popular destinations. Although the Swedish mountain range is not excessively high (no more than 2,100 meters), it offers both family runs and off-piste skiing.
Location: Swedish Lapland
Kungsleden or the Royal Trail is the longest and most famous trail in Sweden, and is most often visited during the summer, but there are equally exciting skiing adventures during the winter as well. Hiking or skiing on the Royal Trail between Abisku and Hemavan is a journey through the Scandinavian mountains. The route is just over 400 kilometers in total. The name “Royal Trail” was first used by the Swedish Tourist Association in 1928.
Kiruna, a city on the move
The mining town of Kiruna is the most northern city in Sweden. The whole town, house by house, is in the process of moving a little eastward. The soil beneath the town will soon become too unstable to support buildings due to the deep-water mining operations nearby. Kiruna’s movement will be slow for 85 years. As new neighborhoods are built on the eastern edge of Kiruna, the old ones will be demolished. The idea behind the move is to preserve as many of the city’s heritage buildings as possible, like the clock tower and the city church. The structures will be dismantled and reassembled in the new city center. Other materials will be recycled and reused in the restoration and renovation of the new Kiruna. Old Kiruna will be transformed into a park area.
15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sweden
Sweden is known for many achievements and natural beauties, but few know that it is among the 20 countries with the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Below are 15 World Heritage Sites in Sweden that are of great importance to humanity. These places are on a par with the Egyptian pyramids, the Great Wall of China, the Acropolis in Greece and the great cathedrals of the world.
Karlskrona Naval Port
Karlskrona Naval Port is one of several UNESCO World Heritage sites in southern Sweden. This seaport, built in 1680, is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a European maritime city. The shipyard still has its buildings and docks specially designed for the construction of sailing warships. The UNESCO heritage area also includes the fortifications, the Old Town of Karlskrona and the sites in the vicinity.
There are many places to stay in and around Karlskrona, with stunning views of the sea and its famous harbor. There is also no shortage of restaurants, cafes and bars. Indulge in Swedish fika at Café Sistrarna Lindqvist with its own bakery.
The historic agricultural landscape of Åland
The island of Öland in the Baltic Sea is a popular holiday destination even among the nobility: the Swedish royal family comes here in the summer to their summer residence, Solliden.
At the southern end of the long, narrow island, where the climate is fairly dry, is a huge limestone plateau. Despite these geological constraints, the island has been inhabited for 5,000 years. People have adapted their way of life to nature and built their homes in the midst of this special landscape, which is still cultivated today. The island can be accessed from Kalmar by a six-kilometer bridge. Another attraction of Åland is Borgholm Castle.
Since Swedes flock to the island in the summer to spend the warm months here, it is best to book accommodation in advance. You have a choice of hotels, B&Bs and campsites. There is also a harbor for relaxing and sailing boats. If you want to try traditional Swedish dishes, such as dumplings called “kroppkakor”, make a reservation at Arontorps Restaurant.
Hanseatic City of Visby on Gotland
The island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, northeast of Åland, is another place Swedes seek out during the sunny season. The island’s main attraction is its capital, Visby. It was founded in the 12th century as a port and trading town and flourished during the Hanseatic League. The urban buildings of that period have been preserved, as well as ruins, old churches and a medieval curtain wall with towers surrounding the city center. Krutornet Tower is the oldest preserved structure in the city. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Visby attracts tourists who enjoy walking among history, learning about the culture and landscape of their destination.
There are so many recommended restaurants and cafes in Visby that it can be hard to decide. Warning: some places are only open during the warm season. Bakfiskan is synonymous with excellent seafood, historic Mencallaren promises the best lamb on the island, and Lilla Bjerg will allow you to dine in a charming farmhouse greenhouse.
Grimeton’s longest-wave transmitter near Varberg
The long-wave Grimeton transmitter in the municipality of Varberg in western Sweden was built in 1922-1924 and is a monument to early wireless communication across the Atlantic to America. Located on the west coast within the “great circle,” an area free of obstructions to radio waves, it faces New York City . The transmitter was originally used to communicate between Radio Grimeton and Radio Central on Long Island near New York City. That is, the two stations sent Morse messages back and forth.
The system is still operating, and short messages are sent out on special occasions. The station site consists of transmitting equipment with six steel towers 127 meters high for antennas, buildings housing the Alexanderson transmitter and the shortwave transmitter with their antennas, and apartments of former employees. It all sounds very technical, but you don’t have to be a nerd to gain access to this industrial landmark. The station has its own café, named after the boss of the Telia telephone company, so that visitors to the attraction don’t go hungry.
Warberg, just under six miles from the Grimeton radio station, has several hotels, including the majestic Stadshotell & Asia Spa with a pool. Warberg’s most charming address is the Hotel Gstis, whose rooms are all differently decorated and look like real aristocratic dwellings with bookshelves, paintings on the walls and antique furniture. Drinks are available at Vin & Skafferi Hus 13 in Warberg Fortress and at Grappa Restaurant, where delicious pizzas are served in a relaxed atmosphere.
Tanum Rock Art
Tanum rock paintings are an outstanding example of Bronze Age art. A total of 1500 cave paintings have been found in the western part of the Swedish Bohuslen region. Bronze Age people are forever immortalized in the images carved into the smooth rocks. There are six sites in total on the UNESCO list: Witlikke, Aspeberget/Tegneby, Fossum, Litsleby, Gerum and Calleby. Witlikke has a famous depiction of a pair of lovers. Follow the designated six-kilometer trail to discover more beauty and historical sites. There is also a museum here that tells the story of the cave paintings.
You can stay at the Tanumshede Gestgifveri, a cozy 17th-century mansion, or at the Tanumstrand Hotel overlooking the harbor. Dine at the hotel’s restaurants or at the nearby Kllaren Restaurant, which offers a lunch menu at great prices every day.
Forest Cemetery in Stockholm
Skogskyrkogrden (Forest Cemetery) is located south of Stockholm and has been on the UNESCO list since 1994.
Official website: https://skogskyrkogarden.stockholm.se/
The World Heritage Committee chose this cemetery because of its unique combination of architecture and cultural landscape. The extensive cemetery is set in rolling greenery, has several chapels and impresses with its poetic appearance. Here, the then very young architects Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Leverenz created a new form of cemetery that has since influenced burials around the world.
From June to September every Sunday at 10:30 there is a guided tour in English, which lasts about two hours. The Visitor Center has a store and café in the 1923 building designed by Gunnar Asplund.
Drottningholm Palace in Stockholm
Drottningholm Palace, the residence of the Swedish royal couple, was the first cultural site in Sweden to be inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. The palace and its park are a popular destination for Stockholmers and visitors to the city, as it is only ten kilometers from the city center.
In the well-preserved park with garden styles from different eras, there is also the Chinese Pavilion and the historic palace theater. The theater is the only seventeenth-century theater in the world in which the original machinery and decorations have been preserved. In the summer, plays and operas are still staged here. “Swedish Versailles”, Drottningholm Palace, built around 1680, has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List as a fine example of European Baroque architecture.
Here you can have a picnic or refresh yourself at Café Caramelan . In summer, there is a summer café next to the Chinese pavilion. You can relax like a member of the royal family at the Okeshof Palace in the Stockholm suburb of Bromma, just five kilometers from Drottningholm.
Birka and Hovgarden
The former settlements of Birka and Hovgarden, located about 30 km west of Stockholm on the small islands of Bjorke and Adelso on Lake Mälaren, are complete and exceptionally well-preserved archaeological sites from the Viking Age. From the finds we can infer what a typical Viking trading post was like in the 8th-10th centuries and how the port, defences and prehistoric cemeteries were laid out. Hovgarden was once the royal residencia of Birka.
The Strmma shipping company goes directly to Birka from Stockholm City Hall (Stadshuset). The trip takes two hours, and the season lasts from early May to mid-September.
There is a restaurant and cafe on Bjorke Island. Find lodging in central Stockholm so you can easily incorporate a day trip to Birka into your itinerary.
Engelsberg Metallurgical Works
About 160 km northwest of Stockholm is the Engelsbergs steelworks (Engelsbergs bruk). It has been selected by UNESCO as an outstanding example of an influential industrial complex of the 17th and 19th centuries. The tools and buildings are still intact. There is a forge, a smelting shop, lush gardens and a mansion built in 1746. There is also a craft store and cafe, but they are only open in the summer. Nearby, the Nya Serveringen restaurant in Engelsberg offers homemade lunch with a view of the lake.
Kopparbergslagen mining district in Falun
Mining and copper production began in the Falun area in central Sweden back in the 9th century and continued until 1992. The mining area has influenced mining technology throughout the world. Kopparbergslagen’s authentic buildings, structures and associated equipment are on the World Heritage List as a well-preserved example of mining tradition. Visitors can descend 67 meters into a 17th-century underground mine during guided tours. There is also a mountain museum with a film and interactive tour of the region’s history.
Right on the site is a hotel, half of whose rooms have a view of the giant pit. Also nearby there are several restaurants in historic buildings, such as the restaurant Geshwornergrden.
Helsinghefe – richly decorated farmhouses in the Helsingland region
Seven decorated farmhouses in the central Swedish region of Helsingland date back to the 19th century. They have been inscribed on the UNESCO list because, on the one hand, they testify to traditional folk art and, on the other hand, they also show the affluence and social status of the peasants of the time. Inside the houses, decorated with murals, stencils and wallpaper, there are both biblical and amusing motifs, as well as paintings of the Dalarna kurbites. Most of the farmhouses are privately owned, but tours and open houses are organized during the summer. In addition to the seven Helsinghefe, there are more than 30 more such sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List, some of which are now hotels or cafes.
The Helsingechefe Erik-Anders Hotel in Aste has a café and five rooms for those who want to stay at the World Heritage Farm. The Ystegrn Café and Bistro offers refreshments as well as breakfast-included lodging. Although the farm is not a World Heritage Site, the house dates back to the 18th century and is another place where you can experience the culture and history of Helsingland.
The High Coast and the Kvarken Archipelago
Considering how big Sweden is and how much unspoiled nature it has, it’s actually surprising that (so far) only the High Coast (Höga Kusten) has made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage List. The impressive stretch of coastline of the Gulf of Bothnia is located in the northern part of the Baltic Sea and, together with the predominantly Finnish region of Kvarken, forms a World Heritage Archipelago – the Kvarken Archipelago. The transnational natural beauty has been listed for its outstanding geological value. This landscape was created during the last ice age, when the world’s highest coastline and thousands of low-lying islands, shallow bays and rock-covered plains were formed. Between the open sea, mountains and forests, nature lovers and tourists have much to discover and see.
The High Coast, with its popular 129-kilometer hiking trail, abounds with a variety of accommodations, from luxury hotels to hostels to nature retreats. There are plenty of pubs, restaurants, cafes and grocery stores where you can picnic and enjoy the scenery.
Gammelstad Church Village in Luleå
The town of Luleå in northern Sweden was founded as a small church and trading post ten kilometers west of where it is today. In the 17th century, the town moved away, leaving the original center behind. Nevertheless, the old church village of Gammelstad (“old town”) has survived and is now the largest and best preserved in Sweden with more than 400 houses, a medieval church and other buildings of historical value. Peasants from the area could stay in the typical red wooden houses if they came from far away to attend church services, take part in public meetings or sell their produce at the market. Join a tour or rent an audio guide to immerse yourself in seventeenth-century northern Swedish life.
Luleå and the surrounding area has many lodging options, such as the sophisticated Clarion Hotel Sense in the center and the Sunderby Hotel in the countryside. Popular among the eateries is the modern and relaxed Norrland Bistro, which offers inexpensive dining options and a terrace overlooking the sunset.
Laponia – Swedish Lapland
Sweden’s UNESCO World Heritage Site with the catchy name of Laponia is located in the Swedish part of Lapland above the Arctic Circle. The area of 9,400 square kilometers (about half the size of North Rhine-Westphalia) has been inscribed for both its culture and its nature. Laponia is one of four World Heritage Areas inhabited by indigenous peoples. In particular, the Sami, a northern reindeer herding people.
The World Heritage List also includes four national parks and five nature reserves. The Stora Sjfallet Resort in the national park of the same name, with a hotel, holiday apartments, campground and restaurant, is the only commercial accommodation in this huge UNESCO World Heritage Site. So be prepared to camp or stay in a simple cabin and bring your own provisions. However, there are other lodges and restaurants in Jokkmokk, Jellivare and Jukkasjärvi.
The Scandinavian-Russian Meridional Arc, the Struve Arc for short, is a chain of measuring points stretching from Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea through ten countries. 265 (!) measuring points were established between 1816 and 1855 under the direction of the German astronomer Wilhelm von Struve to determine the size and shape of the Earth. The 34 points in ten countries make up the Struve Arc, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the first scientific instrument to make the list. Four of them are in Sweden, namely Kiruna, Pajala, Overtorneo and Haparanda.
All four cities have housing and restaurants, but the most notable and largest is Kiruna.