This article was published on Skyscanner.
The best autumn holidays are the ones that don’t need much planning. So if you have a few free days before winter (and the Christmas season) begins, why not consider a last-minute holiday in Sweden? The Scandinavian country has a bit of everything: fascinating culture, breathtaking nature and endless opportunities to shop and eat your heart away.
Sweden is a big country. So to make the most of your last-minute Swedish trip, we’ve created four different itineraries. All you need to do is choose the one that best appeals to your personality and your interests, then embark on an unforgettable getaway.
Holiday in Sweden #1: A chic Stockholm city break
A holiday in Stockholm seems like the obvious choice when you think of Sweden. And for good reason: the Swedish capital may be the most densely populated city in all of Scandinavia, but it still manages to maintain its old-world charm (while respecting social distancing measures).
Plus, Stockholm has the most single people in Europe and the continent’s highest usage of dating apps, so it’s a great destination in case you’re considering a solo trip with a side of holiday romance.
There are so many things to see and do in Stockholm. But to make sure you’ll experience a bit of everything, take a look at our suggestions below:
Walk into the past in Gamla Stan
Taking a stroll in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town, is like stepping back in time. The city was founded in 1252 and most of the original building facades, alleyways and town squares are still preserved to this day.
Walking the cobbled streets of Gamla Stan you’ll encounter cultural gems such as the Stockholm Cathedral (dating back to 1279), the Royal Palace and the Nobel Museum. Situated in an 18th-century building, there you’ll discover all the Nobel laureates from 1901 to today, as well as the life of Alfred Nobel himself.
Soak in Swedish culture
Your museum tour doesn’t end in Gamla Stan. Stockholm is, after all, the city with the most museums per capita in the world. Book lovers will appreciate a visit to Astrid Lindgren’s flat, where the author wrote her famous Pippi Longstocking books (book a tour here). And if you’re a theatre buff, look no further than Strindberg’s Museum, where you can learn about the famous playwright.
Some other must-visits are The Nordic Museum, where you’ll find Swedish folk art and ethnography, Fotografiska, which contains one of the largest collections of modern photography in the world (and has an award-winning restaurant on the top floor) and the Stockholm Public Library. Granted, the last one is not a museum, but enter its dome and you’ll feel like Samwell Tarly in Game of Thrones, stalking the shelves of the huge library buildings of the Citadel.
Cultural gems also await outside of Stockholm proper. Drottningholm Palace, the private residence of the King and Queen of Sweden, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and located on an island in Lake Mälaren. (Get your tickets here.)
Explore the local art scene, with a view
On Värmdö, in Stockholm’s archipelago, is a unique venue for art, events and food. Artipelag is a favourite spot of the Swedish art crowd: you’ll have to take a bus from the Stockholm station to reach it, but both the trip and the destination are worth it. Artipelag features exhibitions of contemporary artists and also has a great design boutique, plus a cafe views over pine trees and the sea.
Elevate your style and mood
You’ve probably noticed that Swedes are an exceptionally stylish bunch. And although you could spend your holiday in Sweden mapping out the many H&M stores, your time would be much better spent exploring the unique fashion DNA of the city. Hunt out local designers like Naim Josefi, whose sustainable, high-end streetwear can be browsed at his studio in Rörstrandsgatan.
Sustainability is key to the local scene, as Stockholm is big on vintage shopping. Visiting stores like Beyond Retro might help you snag second-hand treasures at great prices, but if you prefer a shopping mall experience, check out MOOD. Stockholm’s newest shopping centre is home to cool design labels like Mayla (famously worn by Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden).
After a full day of shopping, you’ll need some pampering. Head to Yasuragi, where you can lounge in a Japanese bath or have a bamboo massage. Their plant-based restaurant, Saishoku, is also worth sampling.
Sample local foods and spirits
Stockholm can be an expensive city for eating out. That said, there are some local culinary experiences that should be on your list.
First up, the Museum of Spirits, where you can sample locally brewed ciders and spirits at their bar and restaurant. Another great option for dining is Restaurant Kvarnen, where you can enjoy traditional Swedish cuisine with a refined twist. Don’t miss out on their tasting menus on the weekends and their awesome brunches.
Craving a Michelin experience? Then Mathias Dalhgren’s restaurants should be on your list. The distinguished chef does next-generation vegetarian dishes at Rutabaga, while also offering casual dining with sharing plates at Matbaren and artisan baked goods at Green Rabbit.
And if you want to bring some Swedish flavours home, head to the Cajsa Warg deli at Vasastan for produce from small-scale, ecological producers.
Find hotels in Stockholm: Bank Hotel, in Östermalm, makes a great base for exploring the capital. Or you can check out Ett Hem, located in a historical building just outside the city centre. Both score 5/5 for cleanliness, in our new hotel cleanliness ratings system.
Holiday in Sweden #2: A design weekend in Gothenburg
Sweden’s second largest city, on the west coast, is another great option for a weekend break. With two universities and Scandinavia’s largest port, buzzing Gothenburg is an ideal destination if you love design shopping and being surrounded by quirky architecture.
Have a fika
First things first: you’ll need fuel to start your day. You may have heard of the Swedish concept of fika, which is basically a coffee break accompanied by something sweet. Thankfully there are many great places in Gothenburg to have a fika along with a traditional cinnamon or cardamom bun. Pay a visit to elegant Brogyllen on Västra Hamngatan, near the Gothenburg cathedral, or grab a legendary cinnamon bun at Café Husaren in the charming Haga neighbourhood.
Explore the vibrant cityscape
Now that you’re fully caffeinated, it’s time to take in the sights. Check out Kuggen, the Chalmers University of Technology’s new centre for innovation and entrepreneurship. It’s a cultural landmark in Gothenburg, with its red and green terracotta exterior making it extremely photographic. The building has won awards for sustainability and currently functions as a meeting place for students, teachers and businesses.
Your next stop should be Kronhuset, a mid-17th century building behind Gustav Adolf square which now operates as a craft centre. Here, you can browse locally made jewellery and pottery, leather goods, handmade chocolates and a wealth of other things. Stop by Stora Teatern, a grandiose Neo-Renaissance building that has housed the theatre since 1859, for some pictures of the building’s ornate facade (even if you don’t have time to watch a show).
Don’t forget to pay a visit to the Gothenburg Museum of Art, whose art collection is considered one of the finest in Northern Europe. And the Göteborg Opera, with its cutting-edge design that becomes beautifully illuminated at night, is a must-see. (This autumn, they’re putting on Cabaret.)
After taking in the sights, it’s time for lunch. Gothenburg’s indoor fish market is eye-catching for its unique design, which recalls Gothic churches (hence its name Feskekörka which translates to ‘fish church’), and its fresh fish and seafood offerings. In its two restaurants, you can also sample fresh oysters and do wine pairings. Check out their Facebook page for the latest opening hours.
To unwind after a busy day, head to the communal sauna at the Frihamnen port. Made from reused materials, the sauna looks like an imposing, metallic beast from afar, but it’s much friendlier inside. Check out opening hours here.
Finally, it’s time for a well-made drink in a gorgeous setting. Bar Amuse at Hotel Pigalle has you covered. The 1920s boutique hotel combines luxurious design with delectable wine offerings at the bar for Gothenburg’s hip crowd.
Take a deep dive in design history
As well as architecture, Gothenburg is big on design. Check out Grandpa, a charming boutique in Vallgatan where you can find anything from ceramic mugs to furniture and art works (as well as clothing). Another must-stop is Designtorget, where you’ll find Scandinavian interior design.
If your interest in design is more of a theoretical nature, the Röhsska Museum of Design and Craft in the city centre will delight you with exhibits such as plastic bikes from the 1980s and mid-century furniture, as well as Asian ceramics dating all the way back to 2500 BCE.
Venture outside of the city centre
Your holiday in Sweden should be about more than strolling around a city (even a city as cool as Gothenburg). If you’re lucky, Liseberg may be open by the time you visit (it opens in mid-November). The amusement park just outside the city is home to Sweden’s largest traditional Christmas market. boasting a whopping, five million Christmas lights.
Tanum, in the north of Bohuslän, is worth a trip to take a look at some unique rock carvings. The place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it gives a glimpse of people’s lives during Bronze Age. Wall paintings depict animals, weapons and boats, and they’ve been exceptionally well preserved.
If the weather is nice, try to extend your stay on the Bohuslän coastline. The area is also a great destination for kayaking and there are several companies that offer year round kayaking and paddling opportunities.
Find hotels in Gothenburg: For a luxurious stay with a roaring ’20s aesthetic, check out Hotel Pigalle. Otherwise Hotel Bellora in the city centre is a convenient option. Both score highly on our new cleanliness ratings scale, at 4.5/5.
Holiday in Sweden #3: A romantic getaway in south Sweden
The south of Sweden looks like a fairytale all year long, but especially at this time of year, when the foliage turns red and gold. Whether you’re taking in the endless nature in Småland, visiting castles in Kalmar or exploring Skåne’s picturesque towns, this makes an autumn holiday in Sweden to remember.
Step into a fairytale
If the thought of hiking amid fragrant pine trees and bubbling creeks gets you going, make a beeline for Notteryd Nature Reserve in Småland. Just a few kilometres away from Växjö, the reserve features steep cliffs, dense forests, rare birds and shrubs filled with bilberries (especially during autumn, and foraging is allowed). You’ll also find a lake and the ruins of a Bronze Age fortress, to ensure total fairytale vibes.
Småland has its fair share of nature reserves and another one that’s worth a visit is the nature reserve in Höö. Höö is an island in lake Möckeln, with a bridge connecting it to the mainland. The whole area is one of the most species-rich environments in Småland – there are almost 200 different plants in Höö’s six-hectare meadow. This nature reserve is great for hiking and excursions, but also for interacting with farm animals, like the ponies that graze the grass.
If a few more castles are in order to complete your fairytale getaway, you’re in luck. The Kalmar castle, once again in Småland, has a rich history spanning back to 1200 and is also home to several exhibitions. This is where the famous Kalmar Union was established back in 1397, uniting the countries of Norway, Sweden and Denmark together for two centuries and founding the basic origins of Scandinavia. The castle is usually open on the weekends and you can find the opening hours here.
There’s one more castle to tick off. At Cronovall Wine Castle in Skåne, you can sample local wines and a champagne-style sparkling wine, go on a tour of the premises (and wine cellar) and enjoy fine dining with a slice of history. After all, the castle was built in the mid 1700s.
Explore Skåne’s picturesque towns
The municipality of Skåne is a bit like Sweden’s own Cornwall. Think picturesque little towns, flat farmlands and sandy beaches and mild temperatures all year long. There’s much to explore around here, but if you love Scandi noir literature, pay a visit to Ystad. The medieval town features an impressive castle from the 1600s, Marsvinsholms Castle, but that’s not why you’ll be visiting.
Ystad is where the famous detective Kurt Wallander (in Henning Mankell’s novels) solves his cases. You can even get a map that guides you around 109 famous places from the books and films at Ystad Studio’s Visitor Center (where The Bridge show was also filmed) and at the city’s tourist office.
Another thing Kurt Wallander loves? Visiting Ales Stenar (‘Ale’s Stones’), to gather his thoughts. Once you’ve been there, you’ll know why the fictional detective favours this place so much. The megalithic landmark comprises 59 massive rocks arranged like the outline of a ship and it was erected 1,400 years ago… but no one knows why. There’s truly something awe inspiring about walking along it, looking out at the Baltic Sea.
Lund is another must-visit place in Skåne. It’s one of the oldest cities in Sweden and has managed to maintain its historic charm while gaining a contemporary vibe. Home to one of the best universities in the world (and one of the first in the world, est. around 1425), Lund gives off Oxford vibes with its rambling campus and cobblestone streets. Rent a bike and take a stroll around the city. You’ll have the chance to admire Lund Cathedral, consecrated in 1145 and visit Kulturen, an open air museum showcasing everyday life from the Middle Ages to the 1930s.
Find hotels in the south of Sweden: PM & Vänner Hotel in Växjö is a great pied-a-terre for exploring Småland’s nature reserves. In Skåne, check out Hotel Oscar conveniently located by the train station. Both score highly on our new hotel cleanliness ratings system.
Holiday in Sweden #4: A trip back in time, in Gotland
Want to venture off the beaten path? Pick the island of Gotland, in the Baltic Sea, for an autumn holiday in Sweden. Gotland and its surrounding islets feel like a portal to a different era: think medieval towns and abandoned churches, ancient trees and 10-metre-tall sea stacks. The area is small enough to explore comfortably on a weekend getaway, but impactful enough to make a long-lasting impression.
Explore the main island
Make your base in Visby, the biggest town of the main island. Visby is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in all of Scandinavia. Strolling through its cobblestone streets will lead you to a centuries-old cathedral, St. Mary’s, as well as to the ruins of several medieval churches. The town itself is surrounded by its medieval wall, most of it still standing. To learn more about the area’s fascinating history, pay a visit to Gotlands Museum.
Gotland has a great local cuisine. Try the seasonal, locally grown food at Tuppens Krog, a neo-rustic restaurant in Visby, or try the tasting menu at Furillen, a hotel restaurant at the northeast cost of Gotland.
If you want to feel like you’re in an African savannah, take a trip to the Närsholmen peninsula on Gotland. There you’ll find rare juniper trees alongside a beautiful lighthouse, grazing animals and 45 bird species.
Take a day trip to Fårö
The small island of Fårö is located northeast of Gotland, and it’s well worth an excursion. Here, you’ll find the house where the famous filmmaker Ingmar Bergman used to live in the 1960s, which today has been transformed into a museum that celebrates his legacy. The Bergman Center hosts exhibitions from Bergman’s most famous films and gives insights into his life and work.
Want to finish off your holiday in Sweden with a slice of magic? Visit the ‘rauks’ of Fårö. These limestone monoliths were created during the Ice Age, are 10 metres tall and surround the coastline. Photographic gold.
Find hotels in Gotland: The Best Western Hotel in Visby’s old town is great value for money while Hotell St Clemens, also in Visby, will give you a bird’s eye view of the medieval wall. Both score highly on our new hotel cleanliness ratings system.