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.
Bird’s-Eye Views of Stockholm: Where to Go to See the City from Above
Built on 14 islands at the junction of the Baltic Sea and Lake Mälaren, Stockholm is beautiful no matter how you look at it, but one of the best ways to get a feel for the city’s intricate maze of islands and waterways is to head to one of the viewing towers or scenic viewpoints where you can look down on Stockholm from above. Here are some of the best places to get a bird’s-eye view of the “Venice of the North.”
In Sweden, Easter is a Time for Witches
In the Christian calendar, the Thursday before Easter is a holy day that kicks off the celebration of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, which culminates on Easter Sunday. In Sweden, it’s also a day when witches come out. Known in English as Maundy Thursday, the day is called Skärtorsdagen in Swedish — a name…
A Spring Spectacular: The Great Eurasian Crane Migration in Sweden
One of the surest signs of spring in Sweden is the arrival of tens of thousands of Eurasian cranes at Lake Hornborga (Hornborgasjön) in Västergötland, the most important stopover on their annual migration from Spain to their breeding grounds in the far north. The cranes typically begin to arrive around the second week of March,…
The Ramsund Carving: A Legendary Tale Inscribed in Stone
Carved into a rock face in the woods south of Lake Mälaren is one of the most impressive runic inscriptions in all of Scandinavia: Sigurdsristningen — literally the Sigurd Carving, but more commonly known in English as the Ramsund Carving. The carving dates from the 11th century A.D. and tells the story of Sigurd Fafnesbane…
Gripsholm: A Renaissance Castle Steeped in Swedish History
In the pretty town of Mariefred on the southern shore of Lake Mälaren, just an hour southwest of Stockholm, sits one of Sweden’s most impressive castles, Gripsholm, constructed during the first half of the 16th century on the site of an earlier 14th-century fortress. Built in red brick with round towers, it has served as…
Döda Fallet: The Dramatic Story of Sweden’s Dead Falls
Once upon a time there was a waterfall known as Storforsen (the Great Rapids), which tumbled 35 meters (115 feet) out of Lake Ragunda along the Indalsälven river in Jämtland, Sweden. Yet in 1796, this mighty waterfall was silenced forever due to a combination of human interference and the power of nature. The site of one…
Unity and Conflict: Queen Margrete I and the Kalmar Union
The Middle Ages were a time of intermittent warfare in Scandinavia, with recurring power struggles and ever-shifting borders. Yet in the late 14th century, a remarkable woman, Queen Margrete I, managed to unite the three kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway in what became known as the Kalmar Union. The decades leading up to this…
Raiders, Traders, and Settlers: A Brief History of the Vikings
“Never before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race, nor was it thought that such an inroad from the sea could happen. Behold the church of St. Cuthbert, splattered with the blood of the priests of God, despoiled of all its ornaments.” So wrote Alcuin, a Northumbrian scholar…
Celebrating the Cinnamon Bun, Sweden’s Favorite Baked Treat
If there’s one baked item that is quintessentially Swedish, it’s the cinnamon bun – or kanelbulle, as it’s known in Sweden. Cinnamon buns even have their own holiday, Kanelbullens dag (Cinnamon Bun Day), which has been celebrated annually on October 4 since 1999.
A Royal Visitor Remembered: The Thai Pavilion in the Swedish Countryside
Deep in the countryside of Jämtland stands a surprising structure: an authentic Thai pavilion. The story of how this incongruous structure came to be built among the forests and fields of north-central Sweden dates back to the late 19th century and the connection between two monarchs from very different countries.
The French Army Officer Who Became a Scandinavian King
In 1818, a Frenchman named Jean Baptiste Bernadotte ascended the Swedish throne as Karl XIV Johan. The new king was a career soldier whose life took an unexpected turn due to a combination of the Napoleonic Wars, the decline of Swedish power in the Baltic region, and the premature death of a Danish prince.
Free Museums in Stockholm
Stockholm has dozens of fascinating museums covering everything from history, archaeology, and natural history to art, architecture, design, and cultural traditions. Although admission to some of the city’s most famous attractions can quickly add up, especially for a family, there’s good news: There are plenty of museums in Stockholm that won’t break the bank. Here…
Build Your Own Timber Raft and Float Down a Swedish River
Have you ever dreamed of escaping everyday life and floating down a river on a raft like Huckleberry Finn? If so, you’ll find your opportunity on Klarälven in the province of Värmland in the heart of Sweden.
Sweden’s High Coast: A Masterpiece of Post-Glacial Uplift
In the province of Ångermanland, between Härnösand and Örnsköldsvik, lies one of Sweden’s most stunning stretches of coastline, known as Höga Kusten, or the High Coast. Thanks to its dramatic and varied landscape of mountains, forests, bays, and islands, the region was voted Sweden’s most beautiful natural area in a 2016 poll organized by Naturskyddsföreningen (the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation).
The Moose Man of Sweden
Leffe Lindh loves moose. He exchanges kisses with them daily and even sleeps with them on a regular basis. But lest you think this is some sort of kinky fetish story, allow me to explain.
Sweden’s National Day: Flags, History, Strawberries, and Song
Sweden celebrates its National Day on June 6, a date that is associated with significant events in the nation’s history.
Public Transportation in Stockholm: Getting to and around Sweden’s Capital
Stockholm has an excellent public transportation network of commuter trains, subways, and buses, making it easy to get around the city and its suburbs. For trips on the city’s abundant waterways, there are passenger ferries and excursion boats into the archipelago on the Baltic Sea side and into Lake Mälaren. The city also has extensive rail, bus, and air links to destinations throughout Sweden and beyond.
The Dala Horse Factories of Nusnäs: Where Sweden’s Most Famous Handicraft is Made
Few symbols of Sweden are more famous than the painted wooden Dala horses from the province of Dalarna, in the Swedish heartland. People have been carving wooden horses as toys and decorative items for hundreds of years, but it was in the early 1800s that the Dala horse began to take its classic shape, with bright colors and painted flowers. The production of Dala horses was localized to four villages outside Mora, especially the small community of Nusnäs, where they are still produced today.
The Nobel Museum in Karlskoga and the Story of the Prizes that Almost Never Were
The prizes established by Swedish inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel in his will are generally considered the most prestigious awards in the world. Yet the Nobel Prizes almost didn’t end up existing at all. During the last years of his life, Alfred Nobel spent the summers at Björkborn, a 17th-century manor in Karlskoga in the…
Interview: Stefan von Bothmer on Organic Gardening, Permaculture, and Life in Sweden’s Koster Islands
Stefan and Helena von Bothmer have lived in the Koster Islands, the westernmost inhabited islands in Sweden, for more than two decades. They run Kosters Trädgårdar (Koster Gardens), an organic garden, permaculture center, and restaurant on South Koster Island. Much of the Koster archipelago is part of Kosterhavet National Park, which was established in 2009.…
On the Viking Trail through Scandinavia
A thousand years after Scandinavian raiders went a-Viking throughout Europe, their story continues to fascinate. The Viking legacy remains in the thousands of runestones scattered throughout Scandinavia, as well as in archaeological sites and museums where you can learn about how they lived, fought, and sailed the seas even beyond the boundaries of the known world.
A Walking Tour of Stockholm’s Old Town
No one knows exactly when people first settled the place now known as Stockholm, but the city was first mentioned in writing in 1252 in documents signed by the regent Birger Jarl and his son, King Valdemar. Walking through Gamla Stan is like walking through Swedish history.
Mine, All Mine! The Underground World of Sala Silver Mine
Deep underground at the Sala Silver Mine, my guide, Marcus, begins to sing. I close my eyes as the words of the psalm reverberate around me in the appropriately named Echo Chamber. There’s no other sound except this single voice bouncing off the soaring stone walls, 155 meters (more than 500 feet) beneath the surface. It’s unexpected and altogether magical.…
What to Read Before You Go: Scandinavian Crime
There must be something in the water in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark that helps authors write good mysteries, because Scandinavian crime writing has taken the world by storm. If you’re dreaming about an upcoming trip to Scandinavia—or reliving memories of a past visit—check out these authors. Stieg Larsson: Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the…