From shore to shore: a 10-day scenic road trip through Sweden

From its famous Viking heritage to its innovative take on design and technology, Sweden is both fascinating and diverse. Embark on a scenic ride from Malmö to Stockholm

Ponder the meaning of life at Stockholm archipelago, an island paradise just 20 minutes outside of Stockholm

Ponder the meaning of life at Stockholm archipelago, an island paradise just 20 minutes outside of Stockholm

Category Beach & nature Cities

Date 30th June 2017

With the Baltic Sea to the east and Norway and Denmark to the west, south and central Sweden is a rich landscape of rolling hills, historic port towns and countless lakes, rivers and ponds. Though relatively manageable – you could drive from Malmö to Stockholm in about seven hours without stopping – why rush it? Hit the highway for a 10-day road trip to Sweden and explore the country’s diverse cultural tapestry on the open road.

Our itinerary dwells in Lund and Gothenburg and drives through the heart of Svealand, in central Sweden, before finally resting in the Swedish capital. On your way, you’ll see some of the country’s cutest and oldest towns and a number of hand-picked Sweden attractions. Thanks to its reliable network of roads and railways, navigation through Sweden has never been easier. Whether by car, train or motorcycle, travelling through this country is so smooth you’ll find yourself asking why you’ve waited so long to hit the roads.

Day 1 Malmö

Bright wall painting on the Lilla Torg square in the city centre
Bright wall painting on the Lilla Torg square in the city centre © Bjørn Giesenbauer

Whether arriving by plane or train from Copenhagen, your trip to Sweden begins in Malmö, the country’s third-largest city. Malmö bears its reputation as Sweden’s chief gateway city with pride, as a major hub for international cuisine and technology. Once a major port town, the city now boasts an impressive immigrant scene, with one-third of its population originating from countries other than Sweden! Where other towns have their kebabs or burgers as cheap eats, Malmö has the delectable falafel, a fact evidenced by the city’s chief moniker, Falafelstaden, ‘Falafel City.’

Gustav Adolf’s Square is the heart of the city centre, home to lovely historic buildings, cafes with outdoor tables and a generally laid-back atmosphere. As expected of a cosmopolitan city, Malmö has an impressive collection of diverse and experimental restaurants, from traditional Swedish dinners to Thai takeaway and stylish cocktail bars. The Scandinavian restaurant Vollmers recently acquired the city’s first double Michelin star. You’ll definitely also want to scan the aisles of Chokladfabrik – a boutique shop dedicated solely to (what else?) chocolate.

Recommended hotel: Comfort Hotel Malmo (rates start at 868 SEK [£78] per room, per night)

Day 2 Lund

A small coffee shop at Lilla Fiskaregatan in the centre of Lund
A small coffee shop at Lilla Fiskaregatan in the centre of Lund

Just a 20-minute drive from Malmö lies the neighbouring town of Lund. It’s petite, walkable, with a hip yet cosy ambience, thanks to the internationally renowned Lund University, which draws a large student population. Best seen on foot or bicycle, Lund is like a smaller, more adorable version of Malmö, with smart cafes and history museums that collect oddball relics from around the world.

Drop by the Lund Cathedral, which dates back 900 years, for a glimpse of its fairytale astronomical clock. In the summer, the Botanical Garden is ideal for slow walks and reflection. If you’re on the lookout for traditional Swedish fare, book a table at Restaurang Bellman to try its famous herring sandwich and gooey meatballs. For those short on time, pick up an afternoon snack at the Saluhallen Food Hall, which displays an impressive collection of Swedish charcuterie, cheeses and drinks – or head over to Klostergatan, a trendy food boulevard for fresh pastries and fish dishes.

Recommended hotel: Winstrup Hostel (rates start at 374 SEK [£33] per night)

Day 3-4 Gothenburg

Kick back and enjoy some sun in one of Gothenburg's cosy cafes
Kick back and enjoy some sun in one of Gothenburg’s cosy cafes

If you thought Lund was the ultimate student town, be prepared for Gothenburg city, no more than three hours away. From its humble fishing roots, it’s grown into its own with a vibrant restaurant scene, engaging museums and an easy trolley system that you can take just about everywhere. You can easily spend a week exploring all of its endearing neighbourhoods, but two days will be plenty to see the highlights.

The vibe in Gothenburg is laid-back and creative, leaning towards the alternative when you count the city’s steampunk bar, the first of its kind in the Nordics. The city has cultural offerings aplenty, with several galleries and museums, not least the fascinating Natural History Museum. Head to the Haga neighbourhood, with its cobbled lanes, cinnamon buns and niche Japanese shops, or visit the picturesque Feskekörka seafood market. Satisfy your inner child at the Liseberg amusement park, or Universeum’s science centre and rainforest zone next door. Also, there are few excursions more amazing on a sunny day than sailing around Gothenburg’s picturesque archipelago.

Recommended hotel: Hotel Pigalle (rates start at 1191 SEK [£107] per room, per night)

Day 5 Karlstad

View across Lake Vänern right outside of Karlstad
View across Lake Vänern right outside of Karlstad

A three-hour drive north will take you up to Karlstad, a lively city on the banks of Lake Vänern. Said to be the sunniest town in Sweden, Karlstad’s mascot is a smiling waitress statue that represents the sunny disposition of the locals.

Wander around the attractive town centre, the Old Harbour and Karlstad Cathedral, then sit down for lunch at Tiffany’s, a cosy restaurant with an outdoor veranda in the summer. A bit south of Karlstad is the island of Hammarö, home to the family-owned fish smokehouse Lillänghamnens Fiskerökeriet. Visit Mariebergsskogen park for a picturesque stroll beside the lake. Top it all off with a tasteful cocktail at the Koriander bar and deli.

Recommended hotel: Clarion Collection Hotel Bilan (rates start at 1084 SEK [£97] per room, per night)

Day 6 Örebro

Get active or take a relaxing stroll at Oset Nature Reserve
Get active or take a relaxing stroll at Oset Nature Reserve

Drive east, for approximately one and a half hours, and you’re in Örebro. Örebro might not be on the average traveller’s radar, but it doesn’t get more Swedish than this! Located in the heart of Sweden, the city is famous for its terrific outdoors, delicious food options and the picture-perfect Örebro Castle. Situated next door to Oset Nature Reserve, the town is perfect for hiking, cycling, jogging and strolling.

The first stop on any itinerary should be the 13th-century Örebro Castle, built by the royal House of Vasa. Resting neatly on the Svartån River, the castle’s iconic circular towers provide endless postcard moments.

Forget the rest of the world at Hjälmaren Lake in Örebro
Forget the rest of the world at Hjälmaren Lake in Örebro

Remember to pack your swimsuit – and head to Gustavsvik, a famous, world-class swimming park with rushing waterfalls, wild rapids and cool waterslides. Climb up the Svampen water tower for panoramic views of the city. Inside, you’ll find the water museum Aqua Nova and learn all about the mushroom-shaped tower.

Örebro’s cuisine is surprisingly diverse, with excellent Italian, American and Japanese restaurants – but the local kitchen still wins. Try the Bröderna I Hallen restaurant, with its poached salmon, fish soup with mussels, grilled beef tenderloin and lime-marinated tuna.

Recommended hotel: Elite Stora Hotellet Örebro (rates start at 884 SEK [£79] per room, per night)

Day 7 Västerås

Quaint houses in Västerås, one of Sweden's oldest cities
Quaint houses in Västerås, one of Sweden’s oldest cities

The next stop on your Swedish road trip is less than an hour away. One of Sweden’s oldest cities (founded in 990 AD), Västerås is also one of the most charming cities, with medieval architecture and historical sites that date back to the Viking Age. Västerås Cathedral, which dates back to the 13th century, houses the remains of Erik XIV, who quite famously was poisoned by pea soup.

Yet another magnificent view, this time from Västerås across Mälaren Lake
Yet another magnificent view, this time from Västerås across Mälaren Lake

Shake off the history lessons at Kokpunkten Water Park, one of the best indoor water parks in Sweden, with slides, rides, spas and soaking pools – fun in rain and in sunshine. Enjoy long walks at Djäkneberget Park, which stretches over nearly 12 hectares on a hill that overlooks the city. Here you’ll also stumble on a mini-golf course, playground and restaurant, and you can’t beat those exquisite views of the Cathedral and Mälaren Lake!

Finally, Krukmakeriet, a pottery workshop open only on Fridays and Saturdays, is the perfect place to find a local souvenir.

Recommended hotel: Hotel Utter Inn – a floating, underwater hotel! (rates start at 1200 SEK [£108] per night)

Day 8 Sigtuna

Sweden boasts an impressive amount of pretty old towns, this time we're in Sigtuna
Sweden boasts an impressive amount of pretty old towns, this time we’re in Sigtuna

The drive to Sigtuna is only an hour from Västerås. One of the prettiest towns in Sweden, Sigtuna is also one of the oldest, established in 970 by King Erik the Victorious. This pleasant, pedestrian-friendly town draws visitors from all over the world to its medieval town centre and cute storefronts. Check out the town’s runestones and stop by a handicraft shop for more souvenirs. Sigtuna also loves its water activities, with ample opportunities for cycling, canoeing or golfing – it’s a popular weekend destination among Swedes in the summer.

Enjoy a cosy meal at the Boat House on Lake Mälaren, with baked trout served with butter sauce and beef tartare with tarragon emulsion. If you fancy escaping for the afternoon, join an excursion out to the region’s five historic grand estates: baroque Skokloster Castle, ornate Steninge Palace, manor house Skånelaholm, medieval Wenngarn Castle, and the royal Rosersberg Palace.

Recommended hotel: Sigtuna Stadshotell (rates start at 1790 SEK [£161] per room, per night)

Day 9-10 Stockholm

Spend one or more days in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s charming historic centre
Spend one or more days in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s charming historic centre © Carles Tomás Martí

Drive southward to Stockholm, situated around one hour away. Sweden’s bustling capital is everything they say it is – a centre for technological innovation, of cardamom buns and cafes, and of tasty food halls and labyrinthic waterways. You could literally spend days wandering around the historic centre of Gamla Stan, hanging out with young creatives on Södermalm, or browsing world-class shopping centres in Norrmalm.

What better way to round up your journey than by soaring above Saltsjön bay in Gröna Lund's wave swinger?
What better way to round up your journey than by soaring above Saltsjön bay in Gröna Lund’s wave swinger?

Take a break on Djurgården, the forested island where you’ll find most of the city’s famous attractions: the Skansen open-air museum, Gröna Lund amusement park, the ABBA Museum and the Vasa Ship Museum. Don’t leave town without engaging in the age-old ritual of “fika”, the Swedish afternoon coffee-and-bun break.

Recommended hotel: Victory Hotel (rates start at 927 SEK [£83] per room, per night)

Find a flight to Malmö
Eager to hit the Swedish roads? Learn how to plan the perfect road trip, and download our momondo places city guide app to Stockholm for free. It’s available for iPhone and includes 200+ hand-picked local tips and an offline map

Originally published

30th June 2017