Things to do
Cycling holidays in Sweden
Cycling holidays in Sweden are suited to most everyone. Sweden is a big country with a vast, well-developed, and well-marked network of cycling paths that offer everything from urban exploration to long-distance rural rides.
No matter what kind of cycling holiday you’re interested in, Sweden has something for you. Choose from long-distance coastal paths, where you can tour hundreds of kilometres, or rugged mountain trails that will test your abilities. Sweden’s fascinating cities offer urbanites plenty of dedicated cycling lanes and if biking gentle country lanes is more your speed, places like the bucolic Baltic island of Öland might be just the place for your cycling holiday. You can even island hop by bike in the archipelagos of both Stockholm and the west coast. As there are so many options available, finding the right cycling holiday in Sweden won’t be difficult, no matter if you’re training for the Tour de France or are a family with small children.
How to prepare for your cycling holiday
Bike rentals are widely available in Sweden. In the bigger cities you’ll find both private bike rental companies as well as City Bike schemes. Out in the countryside there are also plenty of bike rental companies, many of whom will deliver bikes to your location, as well as pick up the bike when you’re done. Many also offer service packages, which come in handy if you get a flat tyre or run into other trouble. Some hotels also offer basic bikes for local exploration.
What kind of bike is also a consideration. Electric bikes are increasingly popular in Sweden and while not all bike rental companies offer them, they are available in many locations. You can also rent mountain bikes, children’s bikes, traditional city bikes, trailers, and much more. The best advice is to contact a bike rental company prior to your arrival to see what they offer and book in advance.
Explore on your own or take a guided tour
There are a number of cycling options when it comes to exploring Sweden, particularly in the cities, where bike rentals are widely available. In the bigger cities, such as Stockholm, Malmö, and Gothenburg, there are a number of companies offering various types of guided tours. Some will take you through particular neighborhoods, giving you the history of the area as you explore, while others are flexible and will accommodate your personal interests. You can also mountain bike through the outskirts of the cities. In Stockholm there’s even a Wooden Bike Tour, where you ride a traditional hand-crafted wooden bike while visiting some of the city’s top landmarks.
Outside the cities you can also choose to have a guide with you. If you’re interested in a multi-day guided cycling holiday in Sweden, there are a number of companies that will not only provide you with a bike and a guide, but that will also book accommodation along the way.
If you want to take a self-guided tour be sure to research prior to your trip, as Sweden is a big country. Cycling routes are well-marked in both urban and rural areas: blue signs denote local routes, black are for local districts, and green signs are for national routes. Local tourist centres can provide both maps and excellent advice on where to go and what to see. While cycling lanes are safe and Swedish drivers are generally used to cyclists sharing the roads and thus respectful, it’s important to remember cycling rules and to wear a helmet.
Additionally, there can be long distances from one population centre to the next and mobile phone coverage can be spotty in the more remote areas. This is particularly important to be aware of if you’re planning a cycling holiday with children.
If you’re looking for a multi-day cycling holiday in Sweden you’re spoiled for choice. There are around 50 long distance touring routes spread across the country, spanning the majestic north, the verdant south and plenty in between.
In the north you’ll find the 220 kilometre Klarälvsbanan, which runs through the Värmland region and takes you through everything from open fields to mountains and forests. Another long-distance car-free route is Göta Kanal, which takes you along what many say is Sweden’s most beautiful waterway. The 87 kilometre path is relatively easy going, so it’s suitable for cyclists of all skill levels.
Sweden’s first national cycling path Kattegattleden – named European cycle route of the year 2018 – is a 390 kilometre west coast route that runs between the cities of Helsingborg and Gothenburg. It’s divided into eight parts and the entire route is a no-car zone. Some parts are made of asphalt on a disused railway embankment, while other sections are made of gravel or country roads.
The inland route Sydostleden is divided into seven sections and takes you 270 kilometres from Växjö in Småland to Simrishhamn on the southern coast.
Starting in Ystad on the south coast, you can cycle the Baltic Sea Cycle Route, a leg-busting 2500 kilometres all the way through Sweden, up to the northern town of Haparanda on the Finnish border.
While Åre is better known for skiing, come summertime this is where mountain bike enthusiasts flock. The reason is the Åre Bike Park, which offers 35 trails of varying levels of difficulties and styles. There are seven lifts fitted with special bicycle holders. Another ski resort area, Sälen, in central Sweden, is where you’ll find Kläppen Bike Park, which has four trails and 310 metres of vertical drop.
The Kåsjön Lake Trails is a large trail network outside of Gothenburg offering extremely varied terrain, with much of the area classified as natural reserves.
Marstrand Island, in the Swedish west coast archipelago, is accessible only by ferry, car-free, and offers you the opportunity to plough through thick forests and onto slick sea side rocks.
At the Isaberg Mountain Resort in Småland you’ll find something for everyone. Tear up the 12 trails and paths of either asphalt or gravel, or, if you prefer, there are also pump tracks and a technical course to try out. If you’re not very experienced you can take instruction, and there are also guided tours available. Additionally, Isaberg is developing into a must-visit winter destination, so whether you like the heat of the summer or the exhilarating crisp winter air, this is one spot you need to check out.
In 2016, Huskvarna organised the European Mountain Bike Championships, attracting both national and international elite cyclists to the MBT area’s thrill-inducing hills and slopes. The bonus here is that when you pause to catch your breath, you can take in the stunning beauty of Lake Vättern, Sweden’s second largest lake.
Cycling events throughout the country
Cykelvasan is a mountain bike race that follows the same route as the world-famous Vasaloppet cross-country ski race, which runs from Sälen to Mora, in central Sweden.
Vätternrundan is the biggest recreational cycling event in the world, and you can choose between 300 kilometres, 150 kilometres, and a 100 kilometre ladies only event. The Åre Bike Festival, held annually in early July, is one of Europe’s largest cycling festivals and offers a week of various adrenaline fueled events.
Göteborgsgirot is one of Sweden’s premier cycling events and offers something for everyone, no matter your age or skill level. Split in a number of different events, the three-day festival includes a 1.1 kilometre sprint, a 5 kilometre children’s grand prix, and races that range from 35 kilometres to 140 kilometres.
Winter cycling in Sweden
Many Swedes refuse to pack their bikes away when the winter wind starts to blow so why not make like a local? But if you do, be sure to wear appropriate gear, such as plenty of layers, changes of clothing, and water and food. Also, make sure your bike is outfitted for winter riding – that means the right tyres and a good tune up before you arrive.
Now, to the fun: some routes, particularly the long-distance ones, may not be terribly well-suited for winter cycling but in Sweden’s cities you’ll see plenty of people riding in the middle of a snow storm. There are a couple of winter cycling events in Sweden.
- Abloc Winter Challenge is a 300 kilometre ride around Lake Vättern – Sweden’s second largest lake - that begins and ends in Jönköping in southern Sweden.
- The Rapha Festive 500 lays down the challenge to ride 500 kilometres between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
Bicyclist pushing through during a heavy snowfall in Umeå in the north of Sweden. Twenty per cent of Swedes take the bike to work or school every day, and 11 per cent of the population switch to studded tyres and keep it up during winter. Photo: Jonatan Stålhös/imagebank.sweden.se