Most Swedes that emigrated to America in the 19th and 20th century came from Småland – a region in the South-East of Sweden that relied mostly on agriculture and became increasingly difficult to farm due to the stoney grounds.
These days, Småland has been voted the sunniest region in Sweden several times in a row and is a very popular holiday destination that offers something for everyone’s taste. To get some inspirations for planning your own heritage trip to Småland, here are six great experiences that I came across during my Post-TBEX Fam Trip in July 2016…
1. Learn all about your Swedish ancestors at the Emigration Museum in Växjö
A must-do for everyone traveling to trace their Swedish heritage! At the House of Emigrants in Växjö, you will get lots of insights surrounding Swedish emigration to America. For example :
- why they left Sweden
- where they moved to 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: The entry ticket (about 80 SEK) also includes entry to the adjoined Småland’s Museum and the Glass Museum, where you can learn even more about the region of Småland and how the people used to live here.
Here are four more reasons why I think that the town of Växjö is worth checking out.
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…
Here, 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, the sad, but heartwarming story of the Brothers Lionheart, the lively children of the Noisy Village (Bullerby), high-flying Karlson on the roof 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.
Prices range from FREE entry for 0-2 years to 400 SEK for an adult during the peak summer time season.
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.
Practical information: Näs is open almost all year round (with the exception from mid-December to mid-March) and entry is 110 to 170 SEK depending on your age group and visiting times. Guided tours are 95 SEK for adults and 50 SEK for 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, entry is 60 SEK and FREE for children under the age of 15. 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!
Here, we were treated to a private “after hours” tour of the medieval castle as well as to a delicious 3-course-meal fit for a queen (we were an all-girls-group) in the castle’s restaurant. Being the only guests here as well, it actually got a little bit spooky. 🙂
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. Admission Prices for adults range from 100 to 120 SEK according to the season.
Find more information to plan your trip at Visit Kalmar.
6. Take a coffee break – A Swedish essential
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 parties 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 image it from all those Astrid Lindgren films! 🙂
Practical information: The town of Mörtfors is best to be reached by car (or bus in our case).
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, Småland 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.
A few more Practical Travel Tips for visiting Småland
How to get there:
We took the train from Stockholm, which took a little less than 3 hours with one change in Linköping.
Where to stay:
We stayed at the Stadshotellet Vimmerby as well as the Stadshotellet in Kalmar, which were both right in the centre of town. AirBnB may also be a good alternative as it will let you experience the local life in Småland first-hand.
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 Astrid Lindgren’s World (the food here comes close to what Astrid would have eaten in rural Småland during her childhood) and the island restaurant on Idö (a good selection of fish, burgers and salads including vegetarian options). Yes, we were definitely very well looked after in terms of food and drink. 🙂
Other points of interest:
- Småland is also home to IKEA and its founder Ingvar Kamprad. You can learn all about the worldwide success story of the furniture giant at the brand new IKEA museum, located in Kamprad’s hometown Älmhult.
- The film locations of Emil from Lönneberga (1971) and The children of the Noisy Village / Bullerby (1986) can be found and visited just outside of Vimmerby.
Special thanks to…
… our hosts Visit Sweden, Visit Småland, Visit Vimmerby, Visit Västervik and Visit Kalmar as well as my fellow Travel Bloggers who made this trip such a fun experience! For a different angle on our common experience, check out their blog posts about our Småland trip, too.
Here I am with (from left to right): Mirje from anywhereism.net, Sandy from globalwanderings.ca, Patti from luggageandlipstick.com, Madison from girlinlovewiththeworld.com, Marie from bigtravelnut.com, Monica from monica-suma.com, Melissa from uncloggedblog.com and Leticia from trucosviajeros.com.
Unless otherwise labelled, all photos in this post are copyright by Sonja Irani.
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.