For the next eleven months, Stockholm will be my home base. Not only am I excited to explore more of one of my favourite cities but I’m excited to use it as a jumping off point to explore more of Sweden.
Sweden is the third largest country in the European Union and one that offers so many fascinating places to explore, unique foods to eat, and once-in-a-lifetime events to experience. It was quite the chore, but after much research and careful consideration, I was able to narrow it down to create a bucket list that would take me from east to west, south to north, and a few spots in between this year.
So, without further ado, here are the top ten things I’m excited to see, do and eat in Sweden this year:
Uppsala is one of Sweden’s oldest yet most dynamic cities. Located just an hour from Stockholm, Uppsala is often described as the historical and spiritual heart of the country. Picturesque with fascinating architecture and a river that flows through the centre, Uppsala sounds like the perfect destination for a day trip.
Explore the Archipelago
The Stockholm Archipelago is a series of approximately 24,000 islands (give or take a few) and inlets that extends roughly 60 kilometres around Stockholm. It is the largest archipelago in Sweden and one of the things Stockholmers love most about their city.
The archipelago is famous for the quaint red cabins that pop amongst the lush, green forests. These rocky islands attract visitors all year round and are the perfect place to while away a day in nature.
Given that the archipelago is so vast, I don’t have grand ambitions to see all the islands (is that even physically possible in a year?!) but I would like to see as many as I can, whether on foot or by boat.
I am a tiny bit obsessed with the Gävle Goat, a giant version of the traditional Swedish Yule Goat constructed out of hay. Each year on the first day of Advent, local community groups build the goat and place it in the centre of the city. The goat itself is pretty impressive, but it’s become most famous because almost every year arsonists burn it to the ground.
But that’s not why I want to go to Gävle (I swear). It was a few years ago that I first heard about the Gävle Goat and was intrigued by the story. I’ve followed it pretty much every year since then, and have also been known to check in on it using the Gävle Goat cam (true story).
So, imagine my uncontrollable glee when I discovered that Gävle was just a short two-ish-hour journey from Stockholm. The date is marked in my calendar and Dave’s already promised that he’ll accompany me to see this magnificent Christmas beast (my Christmas wishes are so easily satisfied), so fingers crossed that we can make it before the vandals strike!
Get Festive in Gamla Stan
It’s no secret that I love Christmas markets, and they’ve become somewhat of a tradition since we moved to Europe. The Christmas Market is Gamla Stan is the oldest market in Sweden dating all the way back to the late-1830s. It features more than 40 stalls of traditional foods, drinks, crafts and clothes, and I can think of no better place to get in the festive spirit.
Located on the west coast, Gothenburg is Sweden’s second largest city. It’s home to two universities, up and coming design and restaurant scenes, and even features a canal that weaves throughout. Sounds like a pretty great city break destination to me!
Malmo is Sweden’s third largest city, after Stockholm and Gothenburg. Located on the west coast, Malmo is a city that flawlessly combines old and new, from its Gamla Staden (the ‘Old Town’) to the cosmopolitan and modern waterfront.
Malmo is also the home of The Bridge, one of our favourite Nordic Noir TV programmes. We sped through last summer on the train en route to Copenhagen, catching just a glimpse of the cities trademarks. This year I hope to have the chance to actually explore and experience some of its iconic locations up close and personal.
Visit Kiruna, Explore Lapland
Kiruna is a city located 200km north of the Arctic Circle. A mining city, Kiruna isn’t described as the most aesthetically pleasing town, but as a friendly place with accommodations and restaurants for those hoping to visit the north; the perfect base for a Swedish Lapland adventure.
Although I’m not super excited to experience winter again (those winters in Madrid and Leeds have made me soft!), I would love to make the trek North, above the arctic circle to see the Northern Lights and experience a bit of Swedish Lapland.
I’d also love to visit Kiruna because the entire city is planning on moving 3km to ensure a more sustainable future for its inhabitants. I mean, how often is it that you can really visit a town on the move?!
Gotland is the largest island in Sweden, located in the Baltic off the country’s southeastern coast. It is home to lakes, beaches as well as the town of Visby, and is a frequent destination for vacationing Swedes.
Not only does it look beautiful but it would satisfy mine and Dave’s goal of visiting cities of the Hanseatic League. This all started as a bit of a joke a couple of years ago. As Dave and I travelled around Europe, we kept, unintentionally, visiting cities that were part of the Hanseatic League. Since then, we’ve just decided to go for it and see how many we can visit, which is why we will definitely be taking a trip to Visby, the most important Hanseatic city in the Baltic Sea.
Celebrate Midsummer Eve
For many Swedes, Midsummer marks the beginning of their five-weeks of annual holidays. So, it’s no wonder they want to celebrate! The day before everyone leaves town, they gather in the countryside for one last hurrah. Families and friends get together to eat traditional foods, like herring and potatoes, drink schnapps, and dance the night away.
Another summertime tradition in Sweden is crayfish parties, which are generally held during August. Friends and families get together for these outdoor feasts to celebrate summer and make the most of the last warm nights before autumn. Sitting under colourful lanterns, attendees sport festive paper crowns and bibs and sing traditional songs whilst enjoy a feast of cold crayfish.
I had *really* a hard time narrowing down this list. My inner-Scandophile just wants to see, do and eat everything while we’re based in Stockholm, but I know that might be slightly unrealistic. So, if I can only accomplish a few things this year, let’s hope it’s a few of these!
Have I missed anything? What would you recommend I add to my list?
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