TWO MAIN CITIES OF SWEDEN
Sweden’s capital is one of the most beautiful major cities in the world, a mirage of saffron- and terracotta-colored buildings shimmering between blue water and bluer skies all summer, or covered with snow and dotted with lights in winter. It’s also a vibrant, modern city, famous for producing sleek designs, edgy fashion and world-class nightclubs.
The old town, Gamla Stan, is a compact little maze of cobblestone streets apparently built for small, thin people with very sturdy ankles. The stucco walls of its red, orange and vanilla buildings sag toward each other exhaustedly over countless souvenir shops and ice-cream parlours, while the Royal Palace crowns the tiny island. Just to the south of Gamla Stan is another island neighborhood, Södermalm, where high waterfront hills are graced by lovely old residences and the main drags are lined with bohemian shops, art galleries and rollicking clubs. On the other side of Gamla Stan is the main city Centre, a buzzing metropolis whose boutiques and restaurants can hold their own against just about any big city on the continent.
Surrounding all of this is every Stockholmer’s pride and joy — the 24, 000 or so rocky islands that make up the archipelago (skärgård).
Stockholmers themselves are almost uniformly polite and friendly, making travel both easy and rewarding.
Northern Sweden, including legendary Swedish Lapland, is unique. Where else can you visit the ICEHOTEL? Where else can you sit around the campfire with a Sami guide, sharing stories of your day’s dog sledding adventure, and sampling local delicacy souvas. Or gaze in wonder at the Northern Lights at the Aurora Sky Station.
In summertime go fly-fishing for salmon and arctic char in the midnight sun, or lace up your hiking boots and tackle the world-famous King’s Trail (Kungsleden).
Arctic Circle cities Luleå and Kiruna are the last major outposts of civilization, modernity and comfort just minutes from the wilderness.
There is nowhere like Northern Sweden and Swedish Lapland.
The citizens of Kiruna (Giron, in Sami) live up to their nickname — the ‘No-Problem People’ — by remaining unperturbed at the news that their city is on the verge of collapsing into an enormous mine pit. Plans are to move the entire city a couple of miles northwest within the space of 20 years, starting with the town Centre in 2016. Check out the model of Kiruna inside the tourist office to see exactly what’s going on.
Scarred by mine works, Kiruna may not be the most aesthetically appealing city, but it’s a friendly place with the highest concentration of lodgings and restaurants in the northwestern corner of Sweden. Its proximity to great stretches of hike able wilderness, the iconic Ice hotel and the proliferation of winter activities make it an excellent base.