Holidays in Sweden: Småland – Castles, Crystal, and Culture

July 1, 2019

kalmar castle

Easy to reach from Stockholm, Småland is one of Sweden’s most beautiful areas, full of authentic Swedish experiences, culture, and outdoor natural beauty to enthrall your holidays in Sweden.

I know, the first thing that popped into your head was the “Småland playground” at IKEA.  It’s true that the Scandinavian furniture distributor started from the town of Älmhult in 1943 (there’s a museum there too), but there’s so much more to discover in Småland.

Literally translated as “Small Lands,” tiny, tranquil towns with charming red cottages dot the countryside landscape alongside abundant forests and shimmering lakes.   The region is filled with arts, culture, and activities that will thrill your kids abound.

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Here are some things to do and see in Smaland to make the most of your holidays in Sweden.


holidays in sweden

The city of Kalmar is one of the oldest cities in Sweden. In the medieval period, it was the country’s southernmost and the third-largest city.

holidays in sweden

holidays in sweden

Best known as the place where Norway, Sweden, and Denmark signed the 1397 unification treaty, Kalmar is a charming cobblestone city best explored on foot.

holidays in sweden

The city sits on the banks of a picturesque lake, great for canoeing, boating, or kayaking on a summer day.

holidays in sweden

Highly recommended is the stunningly beautiful walk from the city center to nearby Kalmar castle, especially at sunset.

kalmar castle

One of three castles in Småland, Kalmar Castle has a history dating back 800 years when the fortress was the strategic core during the violent years of war against Denmark. Surrounded by a moat, the medieval castle, courtyard, and grounds are fun to explore.  Towers, turrets, and ramparts create an old-world vibe and make it the most-visited spot in Kalmar.

holidays in sweden

Open to the public with tours and exhibitions, the castle also offers special activities for children, such as dress-up sessions and treasure hunts.  There are also events geared towards adults, too. Our guide was able to arrange a private catered dinner in the castle, in the centuries-old dining room.

INSIDER TIP: Click here to compare prices on hotels in Kalmar.


holidays in sweden

Dating back to the 14th-century, Vimmerby’s cobblestone main streets and old, brightly painted wooden houses still look much the same as they did in medieval times.

Astrid Lindgren

Peeking at Astrid Lindgren’s manuscript!

Vimmerby is best-known for its historical links with Swedish author Astrid Lindgren (1907–2002) of the highly-acclaimed Pippi Longstocking children’s books.  Her childhood home with beautiful gardens and a museum tracing her life is open to the public.

Astrid Lindgren World

Astrid Lindgren’s World, the“Pippi Longstocking” theme park, is the main attraction in Småland and a favorite in all of Sweden. I was a fan of the books as a child, so I enjoyed the live shows featuring Pippi herself – the strongest (albeit quirkiest) girl in the world and wandering around the storybook village.

INSIDER TIP: Click here to compare prices on hotels in Vimmerby.

Kingdom of Crystal

A portion of Småland called the Kingdom of Crystal been associated with glasbruk, glassmaking, since the 1700s. With an area rich in the right natural resources, the dense forests provide wood to fire the ovens and the many lakes supply sand, melted to produce the glass.

Astrid Lindgren

The Crystal Kingdom stretches between Växjö and Kalmar and there are lots of stops along the way allowing you to see experienced glassblowers in action.

Astrid Lindgren

One of the most famous is Kosta Boda in the village of Kosta, which has an art glass gallery and an upscale gift shop.

Astrid Lindgren

In some of the glassworks, you can try glass blowing.  Getting the molten mass of glass to become a delicate, saleable shape is much harder than it looks! #epicfail



The only thing we did in this tiny village was to stop for Swedish fika, but it was so worth it!

While many other cultures have coffee breaks, to the Swedes – the world’s third-largest coffee drinking country – the coffee break isn’t a dash for caffeine.  It’s considered a social institution.


Our destination for this luscious, late-morning treat was Mörtfors Pensionat, a shabby-chic country guest house set on a shimmering blue lake.

fika cakes

Swedish etiquette dictates that seven types of fikabröd (cakes, cookies, or pastries) are served with the coffee.  What’s not to love about that?

Read more about our experience with Swedish fika here.

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Västervik is a quaint seaside town with quaint cobbled streets, most frequented during the summer holiday season.  Strolling around downtown, you can’t miss the dramatic spires and buttresses of the church of St. Petri (St. Peter).

holidays in sweden

But the city is best-known as the entrance to a 5000-island archipelago. One of my favorite pastimes while visiting Stockholm and Småland was taking a boat ride traversing the gorgeous seascape.

holidays in sweden

Sandy beaches and shimmering rocky isles beckoned.  We cruised by several of these lovely islands, finally stopping to explore the island of Idö.

island of ido sweden

I loved climbing a fire tower to get an incredible 360-degree panorama.

Make sure to have at least one meal for alfresco, waterside dining during your holidays in Sweden!

Swedish Food

swedish food

Do indulge in the delicious Swedish cuisine!  I enjoyed the meatballs, freshly-baked bread, salmon, chilled shrimp, fried fish, moose sausage, dilled potatoes, pickled beetroot, lingonberry jam, and all the aforementioned fika cakes.

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Disclosure:  The author was honored to be the guest of Visit Sweden during her stay in Småland, but as always, the opinions, reviews, and experiences are her own.

About the Author

Patti MorrowPatti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning blog Luggage and Lipstick. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials.”  Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal.bPatti has traveled six continents looking for fabulous places and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer (and Gen X!) tribe.


  1. Comment by Visiit

    Visiit Reply July 11, 2019 at 6:45 am

    Hi Patti,
    Thanks for sharing your exploration i didn’t hear much about Sweden but now i have clear cut Idea of Sweden. The image you have posted in your entire blog is really good.

  2. Comment by Cindy Ann Carlsson

    Cindy Ann Carlsson Reply July 11, 2019 at 10:13 pm

    Fun to see a little more of this part of Sweden. I’ve visited Kalmar Castle, but I see there is a lot more to see and do. Like trying glass blowing. . .

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