Sweden is a traveler's dream with an abundance of cool places to visit. Easy transit, friendly residents, world-class dining, picturesque towns and a vibrant economy make this Scandinavian country a fantastic tourist destination. Sweden is home to a variety of entertaining and intriguing cities, from Stockholm, to Gotland, to Malmö, to Lapland. With several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, thousands of years of preserved history, lakes, museums, and restaurants by the hundreds, a visit to Sweden will certainly keep you busy, engaged, and happy!
Here are Sweden's ten best places to visit. Lycklig resa!
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Stockholm, Sweden's capitol resting on the western edge of the Baltic Sea, is comprised of 13 distinct islands. The heart of this centuries-old city is Gamla Stan, where the cobblestone streets lead to 13th century cathedrals and modern cafés alike. Stockholm is a city of history and sophistication. You'll find all of the modern, upscale establishments expected of a world-class metropolitan city juxtaposed with fading facades and pastoral island getaways. Many visitors to Stockholm choose to view the city from below, taking boat tours around the islands. For those staying on land, Swedish public transit has a stellar reputation for frequency and accessibility.
Trip Tip: Visit Djurgården to layout on the grass beside locals and enjoy its popular museums and cafés.
Uppsala is another nice summer day-trip destination about an hour north of Stockholm. Home to Scandinavia's oldest university (Uppsala University), it also has strong religious ties and some wonderful architecture as a result. Most visibly, the Uppsala Cathedral has magnificent spires that extend up into the sky against a backdrop of university buildings and the River Fyris. A popular study abroad destination, Uppsala is a younger town with plenty of history and culture.
Trip Tip: Like all Swedish destinations, this town gets cold in the winter, and is thus best experienced spring through fall.
3. Visit Birka
Birka, regarded as one of Sweden's oldest towns, dates all the way back to the 8th Century A.D. Located on the island of Björkö, Birka was a major trading post in the days of early Scandinavia. With strong Viking roots and lots of historical artifacts, Birka is ideal for a summer day trip from Stockholm. As with most of the Stockholm archipelago, boats and ferries will get you to and from this island, Björkö. While there is a museum that reconstructs the story of Birka, visitors can simply step foot on this island and picture the many centuries of travelers that have done the same. And of course, Birka has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993.
4. Visit Drottningholm Palace - Drottningholm
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Just a twenty minute drive east of downtown Stockholm you'll find Drottningholm Palace, residence of the Swedish royal family. The 17th century palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features a Chinese Pavilion, Baroque and English gardens, and a well-preserved 17th century theatre. Open year-round, it is perhaps best to visit Drottningholm Palace during the summer while the gardens are blooming with life, or in the fall when the leaves beautifully change color. The grounds are free but a tour of the palace will require purchasing a ticket.
Trip Tip: Looking to make a grand entrance? Visit the estate by boat when the weather permits.
Top Drottningholm Rental: Stay in This Beautifully Restored 17th Century Country Cottage
Visitors to Sweden would be wise to make time to travel to the country's second largest city, Gothenburg. Located on the western coast of Sweden, north of Malmö, Gothenburg is a modern city housed in ancient architecture. First built up as a port city in the 17th century, Gothenburg has continued to evolve with the industries, becoming a manufacturing destination and now a hub of innovation. Gothenburg is currently considered one of the world's most inventive cities based on patent applications per capita. Summer visitors will likely spend their days by the water or at music and cultural festivals. A modern, approachable city that serves as a great destination for families, it’s certainly worth a visit.
Trip Tip: Visit in winter to enjoy the Gothenburg International Film Festival.
Top Gothenburg Rental: Book this Sleek and Spacious 2br City Apartment
6. Visit Malmö
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Tucked away in the south-western corner of Sweden, just across the strait (a.k.a. Øresund) from Denmark, lies the hip, sustainable city of Malmö. Malmö has made it a priority to become a world leader in civic sustainability and this is reflected in everything from education and city politics to organic restaurants and fair-trade clothing. Malmö is also home to some striking architecture (notably: the Turning Torso), and is linked by bridge and tunnel to the Danish capital of Copenhagen, providing another reason to visit the city. Malmö is most popular in the summer, though Christmas festivities bring visitors to the city in the winter.
Trip Tip: For a more affordable stay, visit in the shoulder seasons of fall and spring.
Top Malmö Rentals: Visit Birka
7. Visit Visby
Visby is the main entrance to Gotland, the country's largest island located off the Eastern coast of Sweden in the Baltic Sea. Rich with medieval history, Visby is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town is ringed by a 15th century stonewall and contains the ruins of several centuries-old churches. Some buildings survived the many medieval conquerors and are still standing today. The island is accessible by plane and ferry year-round, though the island is busiest during the summer months. Those visiting in August might be lucky enough to catch Medieval Week, an annual celebration of Visby's cultural history.
Trip Tip: Catch a ferry to the neighboring island of Fårö, where visitors can observe the island's beautiful sea stacks.
The northern third of Sweden is part of a larger Scandinavian area referred to generally as 'Lapland'. Mountains and valleys create a sweeping pastoral landscape that is home to an indigenous population known as the Saami people. The Saami are one of the last known populations to base their activities and lifestyle on the seasonal migration habits of their livestock (mostly reindeer). It is this ancient practice that earned the area a designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors will enjoy getting away from the hustle and bustle of southern Sweden, seeing pristine natural beauty and visiting with the inhabitants of this mellow, quiet land.
Trip Tip: Visiting in the winter will be quite cold, but rewards the bold traveler the opportunity to ski downhill in the snowy solitude.
Top Lapland Rental: Stay in a modern treehouse (like the one shown above)!
9. Visit Åre
For those travelers seeking adventure, Åre is the place. Winter visitors to this Swedish resort town will find themselves hitting the slopes on one of 30 ski-lifts, while summer visitors will be cruising down the slopes on mountain bikes. Offering bird watching, caving, fishing, climbing, hiking, horseback riding, paragliding, and more, Åre is the perfect destination for the active traveler in Sweden.
10. Visit Gammelstad
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On the northern coast of the Baltic Sea rests yet another Swedish UNESCO World Heritage Site, this time the historic Gammelstad Church Town. These types of towns used to be scattered all through Scandinavia, but few have withstood the test of time like Gammelstad. This perfectly-preserved town will take visitors back in time, as the town consists of more than 400 church cottages that surround a medieval stone church. Bring a camera and enjoy this northern city in the warm summer months.
Trip Tip: Stop by the Gammelstad Church Town Visitor Centre to arrange for a guided site tour.
This article was written by Maxx Kaplan and edited by Tripping.com Content Specialist Lexi Perman.