Swedish summer houses

The Swedish cottage remains loved, generation after generation.

Some say the switch to the summer house is a ritual deeply engrained in the Swedish psyche.

Before there was cheap and accessible international travel, many Swedes took advantage of something else cheap and plentiful: land. All across this spacious country, people built simple dwellings, often by the water, to retire to in the warm summer months.

Today, there are almost 600,000 privately owned holiday homes in Sweden, according to Statistics Sweden (link in Swedish).

What is it about the Swedish summer house that attracts generation after generation? Here is one couple's take.

Popular areas

Among the most popular areas in Sweden for summer houses are the Stockholm archipelago, Skåne, islands Öland and Gotland, the west coast and Småland.

The simple life

Anna and PG Wiklund, a teacher and doctor living in Umeå in the north of Sweden, have their own reasons for coming back, year after year, to their summer house in the Hälsingland region of Sweden.

‘It helps you to escape the daily obligations you have back home’, says Anna, whose grandfather bought the lakeside plot of land in 1942 and built the house that she and PG still use today.

‘And because you spend such a long time here, you feel that you live here. If you travel abroad for two weeks, there are so many things to experience and do; it’s not necessarily that relaxing. Most people have some sort of relationship to their summer house environment, through grandparents or through their childhood, so they can completely relax there.’

A small red wooden shed, with a heart cut out of the door.
Some Swedes will tell you that the outhouse – a 'toilet' without running water – is ‘part of the art’. But it’s not a hit with everyone, frankly. Photo: Sonia Jansson/imagebank.sweden.se

No couch potato

For PG, time at the summer house is about working – with his hands.

‘I dig holes, fiddle with bushes, fix things. And it’s not just me. When I look at our neighbours everyone is doing it. It troubles me that we work with our houses so much, but it pleases me too.

‘After a week or two I begin to slow down, and I think that’s what I’m looking for: a gradual winding down to a very lazy state. It’s too much to go from daily life to zero in the time it takes to fly to Greece.’

Most summer houses were originally built to a basic standard, without hot water (or any water at all), drainage, insulation or electricity – this sparseness being an important part of their attraction. But times are changing.

Year-round retreats

Expanding urban populations and increasing property prices mean that what was once a rural summer retreat is now also a desirable property within commuting distance.

Magnus Gidlöf, a former marketing manager for real estate agency Skandia Mäklarna, says: ‘An increasing number of people want a rural house they can live in year round. Around Stockholm and Gothenburg in particular, young people are looking to get a piece of that red house back-to-basics dream, but with good communications.’