Sweden has a world-class reputation for fine crystal and decorative glass, and the place to go to explore this art is a region of Småland known as Glasriket, or the Kingdom of Crystal. The neighboring municipalities of Emmaboda, Lessebo, Nybro, and Uppvidinge are home to more than a dozen glassworks and glass studios where you can watch glass being blown, learn about the traditions of glassmaking, shop to your heart’s content, enjoy a drink in a bar made entirely of glass, and even enjoy hot shop herring (“hyttsill”), a festive herring dinner party right in the hot shop. The food is actually prepared in the same furnaces where the glass is left overnight to cool down.
Blowing glass has been a tradition in this part of Småland since 1742, when two men – former bodyguards of King Karl XII – were commissioned by King Fredrik I to start a glassworks. The enterprise, Kosta Glassworks, took its name from the names of the founders, Anders Koskull and Georg Bogislaus Stael von Holstein. A community gradually grew up around the glassworks and became known by the same name.
During its first 150 years of operations, Kosta Glassworks produced window glass, bottles, and tableware for the royal households, as well as chandeliers for churches and manor houses. With the growing industrialization of Sweden, the demand for glass grew, and numerous other glassworks were established in the area surrounding Kosta. Among these were the glassworks at Boda and Åfors, which have since 1964 operated in partnership with Kosta under the name Kosta Boda.
Among the other well-known glassworks in the area are Orrefors, which pioneered a number of innovative techniques during the first half of the 20th century and has earned an international reputation for quality crystal; Mats Jonasson Målerås, known for art glass and decorative pieces; and Nybro, which specializes in hand-painted glass. There are also numerous smaller glassworks producing a wide variety of beautiful glass products.
If you plan on doing a lot of shopping at the glassworks or participating in activities such as glassblowing or hot shop herring, consider purchasing the Glasriket Pass, which costs 95 SEK and offers a wide range of discounts.
There are numerous options for accommodations in the Kingdom of Crystal, from hostels to rental cottages to fine hotels, but if you really want to stick to the glass theme, book a room at the Kosta Boda Art Hotel adjacent to the Kosta glassworks complex. All the rooms are designed by Kosta Bosa artists, and each one is unique. Glass art is found throughout the hotel – even at the bottom of the swimming pool!
If your budget doesn’t stretch to a stay here, make sure you at least stop by the hotel’s bar, made entirely of glass whose blue color may make you feel as though you’ve stepped into an unusual underwater world.
For more information on exploring the area, visit the Kingdom of Crystal website, which has information about all the glassworks as well as lodging and activities in the region.