As recently as June 2016, a new museum opened its doors in Älmhult, Småland. Since then, you can learn all about the exciting history of how a small company from Småland – IKEA – became the worldwide furniture giant it is today as well as its quirky founder Ingvar Kamprad – a 90-year-old Swede with German roots.
Based on my visit in September 2016, here is a little bit of what you can expect…
So what’s there to see?
There are 4 different floors: Level 2, Level 1, Level 0 and Level -1.I would recommend you take the lift to Level 2, start at the top and work your way down.
Level 2: Meet Ingvar Kamprad – the world’s richest cheapskate!
IKEA’s founder Ingvar Kamprad was born on 30th of March 1926, which means that he has just celebrated his 90th birthday. His parental grandparents were Achim and Franziska “Fanny” Kamprad, who emigrated to Sweden from Germany at the end of the 19th century. Hence the not-so-Swedish-sounding surname “Kamprad”.
IKEA is in fact short for Ingvar Kamprad’s initials as well as the farm (Elmtaryd) he was born at and the municipality (Agunnaryd in Småland, southern Sweden), where he grew up.
Although the IKEA empire has made him one of the richest people in the world, Ingvar apparently stayed true to the money-conscious values, which are, in his own words, are quite typical for the people from Småland.
It has been reported, for example, that Kamprad drove a 1993 Volvo 240 until it basically fell apart and encourages IKEA employees to make full use of both sides of paper. Furthermore, he reportedly pockets the salt and pepper packets at restaurants and has been known to visit IKEA every now and then for “a cheap meal out”.
Now retired, he was also said to have used the public bus instead of the car to get to work in his later years because of the “great senior discount” he received with the bus pass!
Level 1: Where it all began… The roots of IKEA
Dive deeper into the very beginning of IKEA on this level.
Ingvar founded IKEA in 1943 at just 17 years old. At first, the company was as a mail order service for pencils.
After the first Möbel-IKÉA store was opened in Älmhult, Småland in 1958, the business took off big time and has expanded ever since. At first to Norway and Denmark, then West Germany and finally such faraway places as Sydney in Australia or Seoul in South Korea, which is now the biggest IKEA store in the world.
As the company grew considerably in the 1950s, Ingvar even took the whole crew of his employees on a holiday abroad… A real luxury for the time.
It’s refreshing and very inspirational to read that even such a successful businessman says that “Only while sleeping one makes no mistakes” and “A life without mistakes would bring very little success”…
Level 0: It’s Shopping (and eating) time – two of the things IKEA does best!
On this level, you’ll find the reception, the shop and a lounge with IKEA sofas to relax. There is also the restaurant called Köket (Kitchen).
If you want to find out even more about Ingvar Kamprad and his incredible success story or take home an IKEA accessory that you may not find at a regular IKEA store, this is the place to be…
Level -1: More space for temporary exhibitions
The lower floor provides space for free lockers, restrooms, playing facilities for children and a temporary exhibition.
At the moment, this exhibition is all about the design of contemporary Swedish kitchens.
By the way: The whole museum is designed in a way that it’s accessible for visitors with limited mobility such as wheel chair users for example.
Now that you know what’s there to see, let’s answer some of the practical questions you may have…
How do I get there?
The region of Småland is well connected by trains, which you can conveniently book online via the Swedish rail company SJ. Hopping on the train in nearby Växjö, it only took me about 40 minutes to get into Älmhult.
From there it’s a short walk to the museum. After your train has arrived, take the stairs up to the bridge, then turn right and follow the way to IKEAgatan 5 (loved the fact that IKEA even got its own street name here).
You could also go there from Stockholm, although the 3 to 4 hour train journey (one way!) would most likely be too long for a day trip…
Where should I stay?
In case you’re coming from Stockholm, it is best to combine your stay either with a night at the new IKEA Hotel (directly opposite the museum) or a visit to other Småland towns in the nearby area.
One of these towns is beautiful Växjö, which houses the Swedish Emigration Museum and the region’s Smålands Museum.
How much does it cost?
Entry is 60 SEK for adults (about 6-7 Euros / Dollars), so not too bad really. The food in the restaurant is a little more expensive than your average IKEA store, but also a bit posher and nicer. This leads me to the next point…
Where to eat and drink?
The restaurant is a great place to rest and refuel after your visit to the museum. Swedish meatballs are the dish that IKEA is most famous for, so of course you’ll find this staple here! Combine five different meatballs, side dishes and sauces according to your taste.
I chose the veggie meatballs with a side serving of lentils, mushrooms and cabbage as well as tomato sauce. I also got myself a side salad. Altogether, the meal cost me 85 SEK (about 9-10 Euros / Dollars), which is really good for Swedish standards!
Water and coffee are always FREE, you can just help yourself at the convience station.
And for your sweet Swedish tooth, there are of course a range of cakes and pastries to choose from afterwards. Armed with a coffee (or tea) and a yummy pastry, enjoy your typical Swedish “fika break”…!
Still in the IKEA mood? Here are two more sightseeing tips…
1. Head to the (second) biggest IKEA in the world!
I was told at the museum that the biggest IKEA in the world is the Swedish flagship IKEA in Kugens Kurva, just outside of Stockholm. According to Wikipedia, it’s only the second largest store though as Kugens Kurva spreads over 55,200 m2 while the now officially biggest IKEA store is located in Gwangmyeong just outside Seoul in South Korea (59,000 m2).
Nevertheless, the IKEA in Kugens Kurva, which architecture is inspired by the Guggenheim Museum in New York, is still worth the visit – especially for budget travellers! If you’re staying in the city centre of Stockholm and don’t want to spend a penny / cent / kroner, take the FREE shuttle bus (Mondays to Fridays only), which drops you off right in front of the store!
Plus, there are two shopping centers nearby with one of them housing a cinema at the top.
2. Enjoy the cheapest meal in Stockholm!
Let’s be clear though: The real reason why we all want to head to IKEA are the cheap meatballs! I got all this (veggie meatballs with vegetables, potatoes, a salad and a drink) for just 47 SEK (about 5-6 Euros / Dollars).
Most likely, that is the cheapest meal you could get anywhere in Stockholm!
For more info, check out the website of the IKEA Museum
Read more and start planning your trip:
Disclosure: I received no financial or other promotional funding for this trip – neither from IKEA nor any affiliates or tourism boards. Furthermore, there are no affiliate links in this post. All opinions expressed in this blog post are therefore entirely my own, personal and unbiased.
All photos in this post were taken by © Sonja Irani