The nation’s capital calls itself ‘beauty on water’, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint in the looks department. Stockholm’s many glittering waterways reflect slanted northern light onto spice-hued buildings, and the crooked cobblestone streets of Gamla Stan are magic to wander. Besides its aesthetic virtues, Stockholm also has top-notch museums, first-class dining and all the shopping anyone could ask for. Its clean and efficient public transport, and multilingual locals, make it a cinch to navigate, and at the end of the day you can collapse in a cushy designer hotel.
Norrland Hiking, Abisko
Sweden has some absolutely gorgeous hiking trails, most of which are well maintained and supplied with conveniently located mountain huts along the way. The season is relatively short, but it’s worth a bit of extra planning to get out into the wilderness: the natural landscape is one of Sweden’s best assets. A good place to start your venture is the Norrland village of Abisko, at the top of the Kungsleden long-distance trail – it’s a hiker headquarters and easily reached by train.
Northern Delights, Kiruna
The twin phenomena that have made the north of Sweden so famous – one natural, one artificial – are both found beyond the Arctic Circle. No other natural spectacle compares to the aurora borealis – the shape-shifting lights that dance across the night sky during the Arctic winter (October to March). The Icehotel, humble igloo turned ice palace just outside Kiruna, takes its inspiration from the changeable nature of the northern lights, and is recreated in a slightly different form every winter.
It’s hard to overstate the beauty of the Hanseatic port town of Visby, in itself justification for making the ferry trip to Gotland. Inside its thick medieval walls are twisting cobblestone streets, fairy-tale cottages draped in flowers, and gorgeous ruins atop hills with stunning Baltic views. The walls themselves, with 40-plus towers and the spectacular church ruins within, are a travel photographer’s dream, and the perimeter makes an ideal scenic stroll. The city is also a food-lover’s heaven, packed with top-notch restaurants accustomed to impressing discriminating diners.
Ambitious Menus, Stockholm
Traditionally, basic Swedish cuisine is a humble, healthy enterprise based on fish, potatoes and preserved meat. But in recent years the country’s top chefs have pushed the boundaries, so that alongside classic everyday dishes such as fried herring or meatballs, or even more exotic northern fare like Arctic char or reindeer with wild berries, you’ll find innovative, experimental dishes that are fiercely global in influence and ambition. Dining out in Sweden can be an adventure and an experience.
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