Swedish summer – the top 10 tips

Sweden might not have an official religion, but summer is worshipped as if it was one. From Malmö in the south to Lapland in the north – here are our top 10 tips for enjoying Swedish summer.

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The Öresund Bridge forms the perfect backdrop for an evening swim.

Photo: Werner Nystrand/Malmotown.com

Swedish summer – the top 10 tips

Sweden might not have an official religion, but summer is worshipped as if it was one. From Malmö in the south to Lapland in the north – here are our top 10 tips for enjoying Swedish summer.

Whether you wish to stay in a cottage, check out the city scene or go to a “loppis”, possibly the most important word to know on a trip, here’s a little guide to Swedish summer activities and the culture that comes with it.

#1 Go for a swim in Malmö

Sweden’s Copacabana is in Malmö. The sandy beach of ‘Ribban’, Ribersborg, stretches for about 2.5 kilometres and is surrounded by green areas. Neighbouring Västra Hamnen (Western Harbour) is a Swedish summer hot spot as well, boasting wooden swim decks all along the boardwalk. This sustainable district grew out of a housing exhibition, Bo01, and is filled with interesting architecture. Its restaurants and cafés burst with life during the summer – and you’re only a five-minute bike ride from Malmö’s city centre.

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Very Swedish summer cottage in Vimmerby, Småland.

Photo: Andreas Nordström/imagebank.sweden.se

#2 Stay in a cottage

There are nearly 600,000 summer houses in Sweden. And more than 50 per cent of the Swedes have access to them through family or friends. A few of the most popular summer house destinations for Swedes can be found in the provinces of Småland, Skåne and Öland. Also, there are cottages for rent all over the country. The Dutch, Danes, Norwegians and Germans, among others, have already discovered the charm of the Swedish sommarstuga (summer cottage). If you want to spend summer like a Swede, make sure to spend a few nights in a cottage.

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The medieval city wall of Visby in blossom.

Photo: Emelie Asplund/imagebank.sweden.se

#3 Follow the trail to Gotland

The island of Gotland is where half of Stockholm goes during the summer. In the medieval city of Visby, a UNESCO world heritage site, ancient cobblestoned streets and fortified city walls meet modern restaurants, cafés and shops. A short ferry ride northeast of Gotland lies the smaller island of Fårö, where demon director Ingmar Bergman used to live. Its natural limestone monoliths, raukar, dramatically dot the coastline. Both Fårö and Gotland are famous for their many flea markets – but more about the latter later.

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Gothenburg is Way Out West.

Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

#4 Check out a music festival

Swedish summer is festival season. Way Out West, or WOW, is the most popular music festival with about 30,000 visitors – more won’t fit into the Gothenburg park of Slottsskogen where it takes place in August. It has been prized as the ‘Most Innovative Festival’ by MTV and, since 2012, WOW only serves vegetarian food. The decision, hailed by Jamie Oliver, has reduced the festival’s carbon footprint with 20 per cent. SJ, a state-owned railway company, contributes to the cause of sustainability with a special festival train from Stockholm. WOW is also Europe’s biggest combined music and film festival.

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Kayaking in the west coast archipelago.

Photo: Henrik Trygg/imagebank.sweden.se

#5 Explore the archipelago

Sweden has tens of thousands of lakes and islands – and the archipelagos of Gothenburg and Stockholm are just a short ride from the city centres. There’s always the possibility of going boating or kayaking, something that Swedes really make use of. Allemansrätten, the right of public access, makes it easy to explore small islands and inlets on your own. And there are boats in abundance, with Sweden being the world’s fourth most pleasure boat-dense country.

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Picnic with a view on Skinnarviksberget, central Stockholm.

Photo: Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se

#6 Hang out in central Stockholm

Stockholm, the ‘Venice of the North’, is situated on 14 islands, where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea. The city has as many as 30 official beach baths, but many more unofficial ones. Summertime, people tend to take a dip wherever they feel like it; Lake Mälaren has been clean enough to fish and swim in since 1971. Climbing Skinnarviksberget on the island of Södermalm for a stellar view and an ad-hoc barbeque is another popular pastime during the Swedish capital’s bright summer nights.

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Sun-ripened blueberries, courtesy of allemansrätten.

Photo: Johan Wilner/imagebank.sweden.se

#7 Pick blueberries in Dalarna

Dalarna is perhaps the quintessential Swedish province, with its red wooden cottages, deep green forests and Dala horses. The red colour of the houses, falu rödfärg, consists of ochre pigment from the copper mine in Falun mixed with linseed oil. Using a few more colours, the famous painters of Carl Larsson and Anders Zorn captured the spirit of Dalarna. This region is perfect for immersing yourself in traditional Midsummer celebrations or listening to Swedish folk music. When you need a break from all of this loud Swedishness, head into the woods for some quiet blueberry picking.

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This pretty much means ‘Please stop here’ in Swedish.

Photo: Justem Johnson/Scandinav

#8 Hunt for bargains at flea markets

If you drive through the Swedish countryside, you’re bound to come across a few loppis signs. Loppis, or loppmarknad, means flea market and could very well be the most important word to know on a Swedish road trip. Follow one of those signs for a chance to hang out with the locals and check out their (soon to be former) belongings in garden or garage sales. Items may include anything from treasures to trash, but that’s all part of the flea market charm, right? Either way, a fika is most likely on offer, and going to loppisar is a Swedish folk sport if any.

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A video glimpse of Höga Kusten.

A video glimpse of Höga Kusten.

#9 Go hiking by Höga Kusten

Höga Kusten, ‘the high coast’, is a UNESCO world heritage site. Its hilly scenery with high islands, steep shores, smooth cliffs and deep inlets is the highest land uplift in the world. Formed during the Ice Age, it is literally rising from the sea. So is the lighthouse hostel of Högbonden, an interesting place to stay the night. Höga kusten is popular among hikers, who take advantage of the right of public access. The area is also home to Sweden’s weirdest food, surströmming, fermented or sour herring. Chances are you won’t want to eat it after you’ve had a sniff.

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Camping near Kebnekaise, Sweden’s highest mountain.

Photo: Tomas Utsi/imagebank.sweden.se

#10 Catch the midnight sun

The further north you go, the brighter the Swedish summer nights. If you go all the way up above the Arctic Circle, the sun doesn’t set at all between 25 May and 19 July. That’s 56 days of pure daylight! Summer temperatures in the sparsely populated north of Sweden are often a comfortable 15°C, but can reach up to 30°C. Tip: Go trekking above the tree line – there are no mosquitoes up there, and the view’s better too. You can stay in cabins along the road or bring a tent. If you’ve already experienced the northern lights, why not catch some midnight sun?

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Last updated: 8 August 2016