Sweeping vistas of mountains, bright cities with friendly people and an average summertime high of 73° F, Sweden is the perfect destination for travelers looking for a summer adventure. More than a land of Vikings and IKEA, this Scandinavian nation offers a little something for everyone. It’s a safe destination for solo travelers and families alike, ranking in the top 20 safest countries in the world according to the World Economic Forum. I talked to a born-and-bred Swede about why you should travel to Sweden.

Fredrik Magnusson has blond hair and green eyes, much like how I imagine everyone in Northern Europe looks. He jokes, however, that he is not burly like a Viking, with a beard down to his belly button.

Stockholm, Sweden is where he calls home.

When I asked him about what to do in Sweden, he didn’t know where to begin. Explorations that sound exciting to me (Viking burial sites, Nordic animal preserves) are part of home for him and he says,

“For me, living here­– I get to choose what I want to do.”

For those of us not living in Sweden though, there are some sites, foods and places that should be at the top of our lists.

At IKEA ST. LOUIS with @erinrenee91

A post shared by Fredrik Vispen Magnusson (@vispen103) on

Food

“Basic, easy cooking,”

Magnusson describes Swedish cuisine that way. IKEA made Swedish meatballs famous but beyond that, Swedish food is relatively unknown.

Fresh seafood, especially salmon, is a staple of Swedish cooking. If you can, get a local to cook oven baked salmon for you. Magnusson’s version includes mashed potatoes, a creamy dipping sauce and fish roe.

Pork, beef and cabbage are other staples of Swedish cooking. In Sweden’s larger cities, you can find just about any cuisine you want. Keep costs low by eating at any of the street-side grill and kabob stands. They serve everything from sausages to Thai and Greek food.

Magnusson recommends Jensen Bufehouse and Gyrella for meals out. Both are in Stockhom. Jensen is a Danish restaurant specializing in meat-heavy dishes such as Ox steak. Gyrella is a Greek joint.

 

Museums and Parks

There is a museum for just about every interest and plenty of sites for history buffs. Magnusson recommends going to Gamla stan, the old center of town in Stockholm. The old, cobbled, medieval streets are lined with tall red, orange and yellow buildings indicative of North German architectural influence.

In the old town center you can visit the the Royal Palace of Stockholm, Sveriges Kungahus, the courtyard of which is open year-round. Close to the castle is the Nobel Prize Museum and the oldest church in Stockholm, Storkyrkan.

Located within the city limits is Skansen, an open air museum and zoo. The zoo specializes in Nordic animals such as brown bears, moose, bobcats and wolves. Throughout the museum are constructions displaying how people in the area lived before modern times. Staff wear period appropriate clothing and there are exhibits such as glass blowing, a bakery with coffee and treats and botanical gardens.

If you’re looking for Viking lore, Birka is the place to go. Birka is generally considered the oldest town in Sweden.. It is a small island that you can get to by ferry. There are several archeological sites, around 3,000 Viking graves and reconstructions of Viking homes and boats.

Swedish country-side in Vemdalen, Sweden, January 2014. Photo by Fredrik Magnusson.
Swedish country-side in Vemdalen, Sweden, January 2014. Photo by Fredrik Magnusson.

Culture

The majority of Swedes speak English. To be polite though, there are a few Swedish terms you can employ.

Hej – “Hi!” This is an informal greeting.

Ursäka – “Excuse me.” You can use this when you’re trying to get around someone or to ask for help.

Magnusson recommends visiting in June and July and avoiding April and October, Sweden is windy and rainy during those months.

Most locals in Stockholm use public transportation. It’s cheap and fairly easy to navigate. If you get lost, ask someone for help.

If you have the opportunity, venture out of the major cities to get away from tourists. Nearly every town has a castle to explore and the western coast offers the chance to view beautiful fjords, deep inlets of blue sea between high cliffs.

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