Every year, more and more people head to Sweden to experience pristine nature, stylish architecture, and top-notch dining experiences. From medieval cities, Viking lore, and untouched rugged landscapes, Sweden has slowly crept up as one of those must-visit countries while in Europe. While I could tell you about the 101 sightseeing musts, here’s a carefully curated list of the top unique experiences and things to do in Sweden that you can’t miss!
Visit the Underground Art Galleries in the Stockholm Metro
Showcasing Stockholm’s incredible eye for style and design, they have converted over 90 of their subway stations into art galleries, full of colorful cavelike enclosures and art pieces. In fact, the Tunnelbana is said to be the world’s longest art exhibit, spanning over 110 kilometers long. While you don’t need to buy a ticket to this particular art gallery, you do need a subway ticket. These stations have been filled with mosaics, paintings, and various installations by different artists, representing various parts of Sweden’s culture but also representing important advocacies such as democracy and equality.
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Go Ghost Hunting
If you ever find yourself bored while in the capital city of Stockholm, why not sign up for a Ghost Tour which will give you a historical background of the city? Not only is it a fun way to learn about a place’s history, they also give you insight on all the mythical legends, murders, and diseases that plagued our past. It is beyond fascinating and is more of a theater performance rather than a tour.
Sleep in an ICEHOTEL
Located in the heart of the Swedish Lapland in the small village of Jukkasjärvi, guests have a chance to stay overnight in the original ICEHOTEL, built and outfitted with furniture made solely from ice. Seriously, this is like my childhood dreams come alive! Everything that you could ever want for a comfortable night’s sleep is incorporated to the entire experience. From giant ice beds outfitted with thick mattresses, thermal sleeping bags and local reindeer skins for warmth, to the ICEBAR where cocktails are served in glasses made of ice, ice sculpture galleries, and intricately designed hallways, all dreamed up every year by ice sculptors from around the world and using water from the Torne River. Every spring, the hotel melts away again. Apart from the novelty of being able to say that you stayed in an ice hotel, the place is also teeming with fun adventurous activities which you can do during your spare time. If you’re interested in ICEHOTEL holidays check here to find out more about this once in a lifetime experience.
Understand the Viking Life
A huge part of the Scandinavian culture is naturally getting to know and understanding their past. What better way to do this than by paying a visit to The Vasa Museum which is home to the only intact 17th-century warship. The Vasa ship is said to have capsized and sank in Stockholm 1628 and was later salvaged and restored, a whopping 331 years later. The entire place is fascinating and is full of incredible information for those interested in history and culture.
Catch the Midnight Sun
While this isn’t something that is exclusive to Sweden alone as you can experience this in other Nordic countries as well, witnessing the Midnight sun is nothing short of magical. Imagine, sunlight, all throughout the day up until midnight. In fact, in the northernmost part of Sweden, the sun never sets during the summer, giving you grand total of….24 hours of sunlight. Best experienced inside the Arctic Circle in the Swedish Lapland, this natural phenomenon can be seen from the end May until mid-July.
Color By Numbers
Definitely one of the most unusual (yet wildly amazing) attraction is the permanent light installation Colour by Numbers in Stockholm’s Telefonplan tower which can be controlled by anyone with a phone. Whaaaat. I know. People who walk by can change the colors of the upper portion of the building spire to project whatever color people choose in their smartphones using a customized RGB interface. The best part is not only is it a cool concept, but it also has a deeper and more symbolic meaning to it as it represents the power of democracy and change. For those who want to go and get their color on, Colour by Numbers is right next to the metro station Telefonplan which is one the red line south of the central station.
Witness the Cherry Blossom Bloom
Unknown to many including myself, Japan isn’t the only place where you can witness hundreds if not thousands of tiny cherry blossom trees come to life. If you head to Sweden from April to early May, you might just find yourself in awe of the vibrant line of trees blooming with pink cotton candy like blooms. The körsbärsträd trees (cherry trees) can be found all over Stockholm in a large park called Kungsträdgården. However, due to their popularity, more and more cherry blossom trees are being planted, giving you the opportunity to spot them in other places like the Botaniska Trädgården in Gothenburg or in Malmö.
Related: Best Places to Visit in Europe
Go on a Food Tour
While going on food tours are not entirely weird and unusual when traveling, take a walk on the wild side and fully get to know Sweden and all its gastronomical cuisines. From lingonberry jam with your meatballs (or any savory dish) to almost an obscene amount of pickled herring (sill), the food in Sweden is worth exploring and getting to know. In every main city, there are many food tours that you can join to help you discover various types of their cuisine. While you’re at it, join the locals for an afternoon fika and watch yourself fall in love with this wonderful tradition.
Seeing the Northern Lights
Naturally, I can’t come up with best and most unique things to do list for Sweden without once mentioning the Northern Lights. Every year, thousands and thousands of people head to this part of the world in order to bear witness to this fantastic natural phenomenon. While there are plenty of other places to see the Northern Lights, Sweden remains a big contender. The best place to see the Northern Lights is usually from the town of Jokkmokk all the way to the northern border with Norway. This area often puts on a regular display of lights throughout the winter.
Get Your Trek On
Due to weather limitations, most people don’t associate Sweden with outdoor activities. However, it is one of the best place in Europe to explore due to the ruggedness of its wilderness. A classic favorite? The Kungsleden hiking trail (the King’s trail) which is one of the countries best-known hiking routes. If you love the outdoors like us, this is a must! Although remote, the trails are very well marked, taking you through a 425km stretch complete with cabins where you can stay in the night. Many people opt to do certain parts of the trail rather than the whole thing as it will take you a whopping 17 days to complete. There are heaps of self-guided or guided 7-8 day expeditions taking you through some of the best parts of the trail as you navigate your way through forests, valleys, lakes, and mountains. All in all, this place is every adventurer’s dream come true.
Dog Sledding in the Lapland
Okay, so I won’t lie. Dog sledding in Swedish Lapland is a dream come true of mine. In the past, dog sleds have been used to transport people and supplies. However, those methods are now seldomly used as modern technologies have now replaced them. The dogs, however, have now become a large tourist attraction, taking people on a stunning dog sled ride on one of the most beautiful barren landscapes on earth. You can go sledding in Sweden in various places such as Jukkasjärvi (located near the ICEHOTEL), Sarek National Park, and through the Abisko National Park. As usual, when thinking about doing any tour that involves animals, I recommend that you do your research on the company and tour provider to make sure that the animals are well taken care of and treated well.
Attend a Festival
Just like most places in Europe, Sweden has a big festival culture that is incredibly fun. While most of these festivals happen during summer time when the midnight sun makes late nights easy to enjoy, you can either plan your trip around attending one or simply just head there and pray you get lucky. The best part is, there is usually a festival for everyone from EDM house music lovers all the way to rock festivals. A few of their famous ones are Sweden Rock Festival, Summerburst Festival, Bråvalla Festival and Into the Valley. Not only are these festivals fun, but most of them are also located in unique locations. Into the Valley for example, is held in this old quarry creating a natural looking amphitheater where music lovers can dance and groove all night. For a complete list of events, you can check out websites like Time Out which has listings on music, sports, and cultural events.
Read: Europe Festival Guide
Explore the National Parks
As we are obsessed with everything that has to do with nature and the outdoors, we spend a good amount of time planning our trips to a place based on visiting National Parks and other outdoor activities. In Sweden, a visit to their national parks will reward you with picturesque views of incredible landscape and wildlife. A few popular spots to visit are the Tyresta National Park (ideal for those near Stockholm), Ängsö National Park, Sonfjallet National Park, and Sarek National Park. You can combine visits to these National Parks when you’re in your quest to see the Northern Lights.
Clearly, I could go on and on about other unique attractions that makes Sweden such an incredible country to explore but instead, I will let you discover and get to know it for yourself. Between its cityscapes, rugged landscape, incredible people, and a variety of things to do, Sweden is a must visit for travelers eager for unique experiences.
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