With a heritage trip to Smaland, you will not only get the chance to gain a lot of new insights about the daily life of your Swedish ancestors, but also enjoy the various summer activities that make this region one of the most popular holiday destinations in Sweden…
To get some inspirations for planning your own heritage trip to Smaland, here are six great experiences that I came across during a travel blogger fam trip back in July 2016…
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1. Learn all about your Swedish ancestors at the Emigration Museum in Växjö
Many Swedes that emigrated to America in the 19th and 20th century came from Smaland, or Småland, which is the correct spelling in Swedish. Located in the South-East of Sweden, this region relied mostly on agriculture. Farming, however, became increasingly difficult to do during the 19th century due to factors such a rapid population growth, famines and large stones spread all around the farming fields (Sawyer, 1999).
So if you have Swedish ancestors or even ancestors from Smaland, a great place to check out is the emigration museum House of Emigrants in Växjö called “Utvandrarnas Hus” in Swedish.
The museum is small, but will give you lots of insights surrounding Swedish emigration to America. For example :
- why so many people left Sweden (and Smaland) to emigrate to America in the 19th and 20th centuries
- where they settled in the States (Minnesota was quite a hotspot for Swedish immigrants and so were the city of Chicago, Washington State and, especially during the gold rush, California – statistically the state where most Americans with Swedish heritage live today)
- what kind of professions they carried out in their new home country and
- how they shaped the American heritage with their customs and beliefs
Practical information: For up to date information on ticket prices etc. check out the museum’s website in English.
Check out the IKEA museum in Älmhult
Here, you can learn all about the worldwide success story of the self-made billionaire Ingvar Kamprad, who came from a rather humble family background in Smaland.
2. Take the kids or be a kid again yourself at Astrid Lindgren’s World in Vimmerby
Sweden’s most famous author (and perhaps most famous citizen in general) is children’s book author Astrid Lindgren (1907-2002). Pippi Longstocking is her most successful figure to date. At the theme park of Astrid Lindgren’s World in her former hometown Vimmerby, there is a lot more to discover though than just Pippi’s colourful topsy-turvy house…
Because Astrid Lindgren grew up in Smaland herself and had a very happy childhood there, much of her stories and novels take place in Smaland.
So at Astrid Lindgren’s World, you can enter the homes and watch stage performances of the cheeky blond-haired boy Emil from Lönneberga, the strong-minded Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter or the upper class country girl Madicken (also known as Madita).
Practical information: The park is open during each year’s summer season (mid-June to late August) as well as during weekends in September and the Swedish autumn half term break.
For up to date information on the park, check out the website of Astrid Lindgren’s World.
For more information on the surrounding areas, check out Visit Småland.
3. Learn more about Sweden’s most famous author Astrid Lindgren at her childhood home Näs
If Astrid Lindgren’s World has made you curious about where the inspirations for Astrid’s countless novels came from, there is no better place to find out than her very own childhood home, the former farm of Näs.
Conveniently located just a short walk from Astrid Lindgren’s World, you can take part in a guided tour through the house. Afterwards, you can pick up an audio guide and explore Astrid’s life at your own pace in the adjacent museum.
In many ways, Astrid Lindgren’ childhood memories of growing up in Smaland are very typical for growing up in the Swedish countryside at the beginning of the 20th century. Thus, it might be a good way to get an impression of how your Swedish ancestors used to live in Sweden.
PS: The house Astrid Lindgren grew up in is super tiny, but they lived here with a large family and that was quite normal in Sweden at the time.
Practical information: Näs is open almost all year round (with the exception from mid-December to mid-March). Guided tours are for adults and children from 0 to 15 years. A minimum age of 8 years as well as booking the tour in advance in recommended.
For more information, check out Visit Vimmerby.
4. Visit a glass factory in the “Kingdom of Crystal”
Aside from Astrid Lindgren, Småland is known as Sweden’s hub for glass making, so a trip to the “Kingdom of Crystal” simply had to be included in our itinerary. We visited two glass factories which also housed shops and exhibitions: One was Målerås Glassworkss in the town of the same name and the other one the Glass Factory in Boda.
At Målerås, some of us had a go at trying glassblowing themselves, while we all enjoyed a traditional Swedish “fika” break (coffee and pastry) as well as an exhibition of the glass artworks by the local glass artist Mats Jonasson. If you have some spare cash, you can even buy a piece of Jonasson’s art.
Practical Information: Målerås is open all year round and entrance is FREE. At the Glass Factory in Boda, you have to pay an entry fee for adults. There are a variety of guided tours, work shops and activities to choose from.
5. Marvel at a medieval castle and typical Swedish town houses in the seaside town of Kalmar
Our next stop was the seaside town of Kalmar. Here, we took part in a guided tour, which provided us travel bloggers with plenty of opportunities for great shots.
There were the stunning baroque-style cathedral of Kalmar, the typical Scandinavian wooden houses, the cute, hidden alleys and of course – Kalmar Castle.
Practical information: The castle is open for visitors all year round, but not every day, so be sure to pre-check their website if you’re planning to visit.
Find more information to plan your trip at Visit Kalmar.
6. Take a coffee break – Swedish style
On our way to Västervik, we stopped by in the small village of Mörtfors for some “fika”. As we all learnt by now, the Swedes take their coffee breaks very seriously! There should be at least one per day, but most often there is one at 9 am in the morning and another one at around 5 pm in the afternoon.
So this was our morning one and – oh, my gosh – the traditional Swedish pastries and cakes were delicious! We had to try a bit of everything of course.
Afterwards, we had some time to wander around. Mörtfors truly is the idyllic Swedish village like you would imagine it from all those Astrid Lindgren films.
Practical information: The town of Mörtfors is best to be reached by car (or bus if you are on a tour).
7. Take an island break – Another Swedish (summer) essential
For the last stop on our tour, we did what almost every Scandinavian does in the summer: We made a trip to the nearby archipelago.
Just like Stockholm and Gothenburg, Smaland has many little islands scattered all around its coastline. The island of Öland just outside of Kalmar is the biggest one. Even the Swedish Royal Family comes here to relax in the summer.
Our archipelago adventure took us to the town of Västervik, from where we took a high speed boat to get to the island of Idö. We were then shown around the island by Lasse, who is one of only 5 (!) permanent local residents on the island.
Practical information: The best way to plan your trip to Västervik and the surrounding islands is to check out the website of the local tourist office.
Practical Travel Tips for visiting Smaland
How to get there:
We took the train from Stockholm, which took a little less than 3 hours.
Where to stay:
We stayed at the Best Western Stadshotellet Vimmerby as well as the Stadshotellet in Kalmar, which were both right in the center of town. AirBnB may also be a good alternative as it will let you experience the local life in Smaland first-hand.
View from my room in Vimmerby
Where to eat:
During our stay, we were treated to delicious dinners at the Stadshotellet Vimmerby (very good Swedish cuisine) and the castle restaurant at Kalmar Castle (3-course-meal).
We had lunch at one of the restaurants in Astrid Lindgren’s World. The food here comes close to what Astrid would have eaten in rural Smaland during her childhood, so eating here is a great way to get a taste of the traditional dishes your Swedish ancestors would have eaten in rural Sweden before they emigrated . Another plus is that the food here is also very affordable.
We also had lunch on the island restaurant on Idö, which offered a good selection of fish, burgers and salads including vegetarian options.
The food at the the IKEA museum in Älmhult was also very good. Here, you can get the kind of stuff that IKEA is famous for (for example köttbullar = meatballs, even vegetarian options for people like me). But the traditional dishes come with an interesting twist and are generally a bit higher end than at your usual IKEA restaurant, yet still affordable. Get some tasty ideas at the IKEA museum restaurant page.
Disclosure: As part of my participation at the TBEX Europe Travel Blogger Conference in Stockholm, this fam trip was funded by Visit Sweden, Visit Småland and the SJ train company. The views expressed in this blog post, however, are entirely my own and therefore personal and unbiased.
Unless otherwise credited, all photos in were taken by © Sonja Irani | RevisitEurope.com
Covid-19 Update:. Some museums and tourist attractions in Smaland, such as Astrid Lindgren’s World, are currently planning to reopen in May 2021. Read the lastest about travel restrictions to Sweden on VisitSweden.com.