The Rough Guide to Sweden

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9781405389662: The Rough Guide to Sweden

Covering both popular sights and those less well-known, this guide introduces Sweden's highlights with reviews of the best places to stay, eat and drink, plus 'authors' picks' to highlight the best options. It includes advice on exploring the scenery, including information on hiking, winter sports, and the national parks.

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About the Author:

James Proctor is a former BBC Scandinavia correspondent and a presenter of ''Euronews'' and ''Global'', on BBC Radio Five Live. He is co-author of Rough Guides to Scandinavia and Europe.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Where to go

Sweden is principally a land of forests and lakes. Its towns and cities are small by European standards and mostly to be found in the southern third of the country, where most Swedes live. Of the cities, serenely beautiful Stockholm is supreme. Sitting elegantly on fourteen different islands, where the waters of Lake Mlaren meet the Baltic Sea, the city boasts some fantastic architecture, fine museums and by far the best culture and nightlife in the country. Its wide tree-lined boulevards, the narrow medieval streets of the Old Town and some modern, state-of-the-art buildings make Stockholm one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The 24,000 islands which comprise the Stockholm archipelago begin just outside the city limits and are a perfect antidote to the bustle of the capital, offering endless opportunities to explore unspoilt island villages - and, of course, to go swimming. On the west coast, Gothenburg, the country's second city, is also one of Sweden's most appealing destinations. Gothenburgers have a reputation for being among the friendliest people in Sweden, and the city's network of canals, and spacious avenues is reminiscent of Amsterdam, whose architects designed it.

The south is the most cosmopolitan part of the country, owing to the proximity of Denmark and the rest of the European continent. Its surprisingly varied western coast has bustling towns all the way along its length. Helsingborg, near where the Danish island of Zeeland and Hamlet's Elsinore is situated, is small yet breezily continental. To the north lies the Bjre peninsula, offering some of the country's best cycling and hiking, with the home of Swedish tennis, Bstad, nestling at the peninsula's base. Just over 50km south of Helsingborg is the gloriously ancient university seat of Lund, so different from any other Swedish city; hardly any distance away is Malm, Sweden's third city, which heaves with youthful nightlife around its medieval core. The south coast is brimming with chocolate-box villages and a few cultural surprises; inland, southern Sweden boasts some handsome lakes, the two largest of which, Vnern and Vttern, provide exceptional fishing and splendid backdrops to some beautiful towns, not least the evocative former royal seat and monastic centre of Vadstena. To the east of the mainland lie the islands of land - featuring some stunning scenery - and Gotland, justifiably raved about as a haven for summer revelry within the medieval walls of its unspoilt Hanseatic city, Visby.

Central and northern Sweden are what most outsiders imagine Sweden to look like. In the country's centre is Dalarna (literally, "The Dales"), an area of rolling hills and villages of red-and-white wooden houses that is, for Swedes, the most quintessentially Swedish part of the country; it's also home to Lake Siljan, one of Sweden's most beautiful lakes. From Dalarna, the private Inlandsbanan train line strikes north through some of the country's most beautiful scenery, with reindeer - and occasionally bears - having to be cleared off the track as the trains make their way from village to village. To the east, the other train line linking the north with the south runs close to the Bothnian coast. Most towns and cities in the north are located along here: Sundsvall, Ume and Lule are all enjoyable, lively places to break your journey on the long trek north. Equally, the High Coast north of Sundsvall is an excellent introduction to northern Sweden, with its array of pine-clad islands and craggy inlets, which extend deep inland around a patchwork of flower meadows and rolling hillsides.

Both train lines eventually meet in the far north of Sweden, within the Arctic Circle, in the home of the Lapps or Smi - Sweden (and Scandinavia's) oldest indigenous people. The further north you travel into Lapland, the more isolated the towns become - you'll often be covering vast distances in these regions just to get to the next village, and you shouldn't be surprised if you drive for hours without seeing a soul. This is the land of reindeer and elk, of swiftly flowing rivers and coniferous forest, all traversed by endless hiking routes. The Kungsleden, a trail which stretches for 500km from Hemavan to Abisko, passes through some of Sweden's wildest and most beautiful terrain, offering the chance to experience nature in the raw. Two of Sweden's northernmost towns, Kiruna and Gllivare, make excellent bases for exploring Lapland's national parks, which can all be reached easily from there by train or bus. Lapland is also where you will experience the midnight sun: in high summer the sun never sets, allowing you to read the newspaper outdoors or play golf at midnight. In midwinter the opposite is true, and months of complete darkness (not to mention temperatures as low as -30C) can make this one of the most magical parts of the country to travel through, as the sky is lit up by the multi-coloured patterns of the northern lights, or Aurora Borealis. An eerie, shifting shimmer in the sky, in the shape of long wisps, and generally green, blue or pale orange in colour, they are created when charged particles from space interact with the earth's magnetic field.

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