Sweden when the sun shines
You think Sweden you think snow, right? Think again. When the warmer weather comes – and it can be surprisingly warm – this country’s packed with outdoor pleasures.
Visit the Arctic for the midnight sun
Nothing is more truly odd than pulling aside heavy black curtains at three in the morning to bright blue skies, white fluffy clouds and birdsong. It messes with your head in the most delightful way. The Arctic is astoundingly green and warm during the Swedish summer; take a horse-back day trip with local Sami guides through the forests outside of Kiruna. Lunch on a haunch of dried reindeer in the eerie quiet of the forest.
Catch Valborg (Spring Festival)
Valborg is a big celebration around Sweden, particularly in Uppsala, where centuries-old student traditions remain strong. Celebrations start in the morning down by the river Fyris and keep going well into the early hours. Don’t miss the Champagnegalopp: thousands of students mass around the Carolina Redivialibrary, waiting for a signal from the balcony to rush to the nearest student club and begin downing champagne. It’s quite a spectacle.
Take a walk around Stockholm’s Old Town
Bits of The Old Town (Gamla Stan) of Stockholm date back to the 13th century and the area is stunning, particularly when the sun shines off the water. Many of Stockholm’s major sights are here, but don’t forget to stroll around the winding cobbled streets and take in the vibe of the area.
Cycle around Gotland
Gotland, Sweden’s largest island, is magic in the summer. Ferries arrive in the medieval town of Visby, where the city walls still stand and old siege weapons are on public display. Hire bikes and camping gear and cycle south, taking in farmland and forests, stopping to have a look at the occasional village church. There are no stresses about where to camp – Sweden’s laws allow you to camp pretty much anywhere that isn’t private land.
Try some local delicacies
Swedes love their sil (herring) and pickle it every which way (try mustard!). It’s often served with snapps. If you’re particularly adventurous, sampleSurströmming, raw jellied fish fermented in a barrel for a few months. Or not…a lot of Swedes won’t touch the stuff!
In the summer, you’ll see this game being played everywhere. Think of it as a complicated version of skittles. It’s a game that lends itself to being played with a beer in hand and the rules make it easy for newcomers to jump in part-way through, so if you see a game, ask if you can join in. Rules can vary, so just go with the flow and aim at whatever your friends seem to be pointing at.
Visit a holiday cottage
Sweden, with its many lakes, is covered with holiday cottages in bright reds and yellows. Spend a couple of days chilling by the water out in the countryside. Make bonfires. Go swimming. Drink some snapps.
Sweden’s winter Sámi festival
Despite the chilly temperatures, more than 30,000 people flock to Swedish Lapland every February to revel in the history of one of the world’s oldest nomadic cultures.
Jokkmokk Market (Jokkmokksmarknad), the largest indigenous Sámi festival in the world, celebrates the lives and traditions of the Sámi people, who are native to the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. Archaeological artefacts from the area, collectively known as the Sápmi region, date back 10,000 years, and for centuries the Sámi lifestyle has centred on reindeer husbandry, fishing and hunting. The village of Jokkmokk has been a key trading post for many Sámi groups who herd reindeer between Sweden in the winter and Norway in the summer.
The festival officially kicks off on the first Thursday of each February, but visitors should plan on arriving a few days earlier for the “Historic Market”, a look back to the Middle Ages with handmade balms, medicinal salves, dried mushrooms, jams, fur clothing and carvings for sale. Feast on traditional reindeer and moose meat, fish, root vegetables, herbs, berries and other local foods, prepared over open flames.
There is a host of activities to enjoy while the festival is in full swing, such as folk dancing, traditional jojking (similar to yodelling), dog sledding or reindeer racing. Try searching for the Northern Lights, take an excursion to the Ice Hotel or spend the night in a handmade snow igloo.
Do not miss the reindeer caravan at noon each day. The procession is led by local Sámi elder, Per Kuhmunen, whose working reindeer pull his grandchildren along on wooden sleds through the market’s narrow alleys.
Swing by the Ájtte Museum, the official Sámi museum, with permanent exhibitions such as “The Passage of Time”, which chronicles 9,000 years and 270 generations of indigenous life, as well as “Costume and Silver”, which displays traditional clothing and handicrafts.
Reindeer is integral to the Sámi culture, as most parts of the animal can be used – meat and fat for cooking, fur and skin for clothing, and horns for tools and crafts.
Head to Restaurang Samernas to try seasonal, local dishes made by Sámi elder Greta Huuva, like Renspån – torkat renkött och varmrökt rentunga (dried reindeer meat and smoked reindeer tongue), Kams (chunks of curdled reindeer blood) and Torrköttsoppa (dried reindeer-meat soup). Or locate Wild Hasse’s booth at the market – easy to spot as he will be bellowing out to passersby – and sample some of his dried meats and jerky made from local game like reindeer, moose and bear.
Hit the runway
Visiting Sámi will often be wearing ‘Gákti’ designs from Sweden, Finland and Norway — traditional clothing with embroidered belts, boots and gloves made from reindeer skin and fur. Sámi artist and designer Elise Tullnär puts on a fashion show each day during the festival which spotlights locally deisgned winter clothing made from fox fur, reindeer skin and wool. Handcrafted jewellery and original artwork are also on sale.