Sweden is a great Scandinavian country for a family holiday whether you want to play on beaches in the south; explore the wilds of Swedish Lapland in the far, far north; or stay in the central region for big cities and endlessly lovely countryside.
The Swedes are charming, cultured, great fun and good with kids: almost nothing’s off-limits; most accommodation has child-rates; all museums and galleries are free for under 18s; family fares are available on flights and longer rail journeys.
In fact, the only complaint you could possibly have about Sweden is its size and overwhelming choice of places to visit, all amazing in their own way. And that’s an easy gripe to get over, you just have to keep coming back to catch what you missed last holiday.
Direct flights from UK to Stockholm and Gothenburg all-year-round; two hours or less flying time.
Free entry to many attractions
Sweden has free entry to thousands of attractions all over the country from immense baroque palaces like Skokloster to museums and galleries in towns and cities.
Several UK tour operators specialise in Swedish Lapland holidays including visits to Abisko National Park and the Aurora Sky Station.
Scandi-Noir was born in Sweden, if you’re a fan you want: Malmo for Wallander; the Øresund road bridge for The Bridge; Stockholm for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; and Uppsala for Modus.
Many different regions
Sweden is the largest Scandinavian country, and is a year-round destination with beaches, islands, accessible snowy wildernesses, cultured cities and an extensive transport network covering the entire country from Malmo in the south to the furthest northern reaches of Kiruna.
Sweden has 29 National Parks including: Pieljekaise, land of the reindeer herding Sami; Gotska Sandon, famous for beaches and holiday cabins; Tyresta, for primeval forest hiking trails; and Store Mosse, home of the Golden and White Tailed Eagle feeding observatory.
The Gothenburg Archipelago
The Gothenburg Archipelago is made up of twenty islands within easy reach of the city and is one of the most popular summer holiday destinations for Swedish families – good area to rent traditional cottages and cabins.
Where to go
Sweden’s west coast stretches from Gothenburg to the border of Norway. It’s the place for island adventurers, dreamers, beachcombers and the true romantics with their hearts set on quaint little fishing villages, immense sea views, dancing Cranes and cute holiday cottages.
Herring Day’s on 6 June, but every day’s good for fresh fish, fantastic seafood restaurants and harbour markets on the seafaring Swedish west coast.
Go summer or winter kayaking in calm waters round the Väderöarna Islands – if you only stop off at one, make it Käringön for the traditional fisher huts and sea gardens.
Visit Kosterhavet, Sweden’s first National Marine Park, for stunning beaches and the Koster Islands.
Don’t miss: the Dance of the Cranes in spring on Lake Hornborga; Läckö Castle; the Göta Canal; Dalsland Province; café society Swedish style (coffee and cinnamon buns) in Alingsås; the Bohuslän archipelago; and Västergötland’s immense forests.
Sweden’s second largest city, Gothenburg’s the one to walk around as much as possible (or catch a pretty blue tram). Art and design are a powerful presence and quite a few of the best Swedish museums and galleries are here. This is a good family holiday base for the amazing Gothenburg Archipelago , the country’s largest amusement park and national parks like Västergötland and Kosterhavet.
The magical 20-island Gothenburg Archipelago’s close to the city for seal safaris, sea fishing, cycling, sailing and walking.
18th century Haga is the oldest city district and now one of the coolest quarters for shopping, eating and just wandering round cobbled streets.
The annual Gothenburg Culture Festival in August hosts over 1000 events and they’re all free.
Don’t miss: Liseberg amusement park; Gothenburg City Museum; Feskekörka Fish Church; neo-classical Gunnebo House; Universeum discover centre; Gothenburg Art Museum; Röhsska Museum.
Central Sweden is thousands of lakes and idyllic countryside, graceful cities, charming traditional villages, ancient customs and inspirational landscapes.
Stay in delightfully pastoral Dalarna Province where Anders Zorn and Karl Larsson both lived and worked.
Värmland Province is where to find 10,000 plus lakes, the Klarälven River, eco-holiday cabins and guided canoeing holidays.
Even Swedes think Uppsala’s the prettiest city in Sweden, but nearby Sigtuna runs a close second, and both are a day trip from equally lovely Stockholm.
Don’t miss: Carl Larsson-Gården at Sundborn; Mora’s Zornmuseet; Selma Spa; rafting and camping on the River Klarälven; Sigtuna Museum; Uppsala Cathedral; Midsummer festivities in Dalarna.
Sweden’s capital sits across 14 islands on Lake Mälaren and it doesn’t really have a bad angle. Another ideal base for family holidays, the city’s within easy reach of the entire Central Region. But it’s also one of European greats; so you might not feel the need to travel anywhere else.
Medieval Gamla Stan is one of the most beautifully preserved historic centres in the world.
Fika is the Swedish tradition of ‘coffee and cake’ and it’s respected in hundreds of gorgeous cafés all over the city.
Walk around as much as you can and fill in the gaps with river boats and old fashioned steamers.
Don’t miss: Vasa Museum; Skeppsbron; Kungliga Slottet; Moderna Museet; Skansen Open Air Museum; the Nybrokajen district; Stockholm Cathedral.
If Malmo rings a bell it’s probably from its connections to Scandi-Noir classics like The Bridge. But the city, which stares over the Øresund at Copenhagen, is far from the only reason Southern Sweden deserves attention.
Malmo’s in Skåne Province, land of wild beaches, over 300 historic castles, rolling fields, pretty fishing villages and irresistible seaside towns like Torekov, Båstad and Helsingborg.
Take the ferry or fly to the island of Gotland for its medieval walled city, Visby; Gotska Sandön National Park; Ingmar Bergman’s home at Faro; and 800km of beachy beautiful coast.
Don’t miss: the Øresund road bridge; Smaland Province; Wallander tours like Ystad; Malmo and Skåne beaches; sea swimming at Ribersborg Kallbadhus.
Swedish Lapland doesn’t have Father Christmas but compensates by being the land of the Sami and blessed with eight different seasons, the Midnight Sun and quite probably the best sightings of the Aurora Borealis on earth.
Remote and magnificent Swedish Lapland is one of Europe’s last wildernesses, so plan any family holiday in the region with that in mind.
The Lapland cities of Kiruna and Luleå might be on the Arctic Circle but they’re well connected to Central Sweden, even in the depth of winter.
There’s a surprisingly wide choice of places to stay in Swedish Lapland ranging from five star hotels and spas to enchanting island cottages, cosy cabins and treehouses.
Don’t miss: the Aurora Sky Station; extreme skiing at Riksgränsen; Jukkasjäroi Ice Hotel (built from scratch every year); fat bike snow and ice cycling; island stays on the Luleå Archipelago in summer; skating Luleå’s Frozen Sea in winter; Abisko National Park.
What to do
Sweden’s first national cycle route runs for 370km along the country’s west coast from Gothenburg in the north to Helsingborg in the south (or the other way round). It’s divided into eight sections and includes everything from big, golden beaches to maritime heritage, wine country and wild seascapes.
Moderna Museet, Stockholm
One of the finest collections of modern and contemporary art in Europe, Stockholm’s Moderna Museet and its sister museum in Malmo are both free and have excellent multi-lingual guide apps and a year round programme of temporary exhibitions.
Aurora Sky Station, Abisko National Park
The vast Arctic wilderness of Abisko in the furthest reaches of Swedish Lapland is one of the best places in the world to witness Northern Lights at the purpose-built Aurora Sky Station.
Skokloster Castle, Sigtuna
Imposing Skokloster is one of the finest Baroque palaces in the world. Sail to the castle from Stockholm for the day and the experience is even more of an adventure.
Eagle Feeding Station, Store Mosse National Park
Two hours drive from Gothenburg, Store Mosse is one of the most southerly of Sweden’s 29 national parks with over 40km of year round walking trails and the country’s only Eagle Feeding Station where kids can see Golden and White Tailed Eagles being fed from November to March.
Squeaking Sand Beach, Stenshuvuds National Park
One of the loveliest beaches in Sweden is famous for the squeaking noise of its sands when they’re walked upon. Stenshuvuds National Park’s an hour’s drive from Malmo.
Nordiska Museet, Stockholm
This grand museum on Djurgården island in the heart of Stockholm houses Sweden’s largest cultural history collection.
Vasa Museet, Stockholm
An incredible museum built around the restored 17th century warship, Vasa, which sank in the middle of Stockholm in 1628. The 69m ship is astonishing and accompanied by ten different exhibitions. This is Scandinavia’s most visited museum.
Liseburg Park, Gothenburg
Scandinavia’s biggest amusement park is open all year round and holds spectacular Christmas and Halloween events.
Dance of the Cranes, Hornborga Lake, Västergötland
Every year in late March, vast flocks of cranes descend on Hornborga Lake in western Sweden to perform the mating ritual known as ‘The Dance of the Cranes’. This natural wonder attracts 1000s of visitors to the area about two hours east of Gothenburg.
Educational value for kids
Sweden’s lovely in winter. Plan to visit with kids 13 December for St. Lucia day and see atmospheric ‘Queen of Light’ processions in towns and cities all over the country.
Skansen open air museum in Stockholm holds the biggest Walpurgis Night on 30 April to 1 May each year. It’s a traditional family event and everyone’s welcome to enjoy enormous bonfires, traditional storytelling, singing and feasting.
Every Swedish man, woman and child celebrates Midsummer Eve in June. The occasion’s momentous, colourful and filled with enchanting customs. There are always plenty of all-welcome community events between 20 and 25 June.
Åre in Osterlund is Sweden’s biggest ski area and has three resort villages. One’s designed specially for beginners, families and children with excellent ski schools, nursery and intermediate slopes, snow parks and kids’ activity programmes.
The Right of Public Access is written into the Swedish constitution. So one of the greatest outdoors in the world is open to explore, roam, camp, drive and play in – without boundaries. Take a guided forage in Gullstang; see the Northern Lights from Abisko National Park or go free-camping in Skane – it’s all allowed.
Sweden’s deeply committed to conservation, find out about the country’s unique geography, wildlife and its protection at museums like: Biotopia in Uppsala; Gothenburg’s Universeum;
Ancient Nordic legends aren’t any less thrilling for being centuries old, the excellent Gamla Uppsala Museum is steeped in mythical tales but grounded in facts and artefacts from Central Sweden’s extensive archaeological explorations.
Getting around with kids in Sweden
The largest Scandinavian country’s well connected from its beachy south to the far frozen deserts of Lapland in the north. Trains run almost everywhere and Sweden counts several of the world’s great rail journeys on its scheduled routes. More remote areas are linked to railway stations by buses and the road network is as well managed and wide-reach as you’d expect from the nation of Volvo.
Sailing’s another Swedish passion and anywhere with sea, lakes, archipelagos or rivers has historic steamers, passenger cruise boats, ferries and water buses. Public transport in cities and towns is excellent, affordable and runs long hours – most major cities have congestion charges now, so driving’s not the way to get about. On the other hand, car hire’s by far the best way to explore the different regions, access more interesting places to stay and get to know the exceptional national parks.
Don’t think about driving in the north of the country in winter: many areas are ice-bound for months and conditions are often too hazardous for seasoned locals to attempt. Domestic flights are the way to go for Lapland from November to March and SAS has flights from Stockholm and Gothenburg to all Swedish airports, north and south, kids often travel half price.