Did you know?
- Lingonberries were such a profitable export during the 19th century, they were known as ‘red gold’.
- The popular saying ‘inte för allt smör i Småland’ (not for all the butter in Småland) is similar in meaning to the English phrase ‘not for all the tea in China’. It comes from Småland’s history as a lead butter exporter (a valuable commodity) during the Middle Ages.
- Famed scientist Carl Linnaeus, known as the ‘father of modern taxonomy’, was born in Råshult, Småland.
Småland is as Swedish as it gets
A visit to Småland takes you to a region of dense old-growth forests, sparkling lakes, quaint red cottages and vibrant green meadows. It offers the perfect balance between nature and culture, with over 5,000 lakes and rivers, 200 km of coastline, 400 nature reserves and several cities offering world-class dining and cutting-edge arts scenes.
One of the larger provinces in Sweden, Småland is also a hub of innovation and creativity. The Kingdom of Crystal (Glasriket) – a cluster of villages between the cities of Kalmar and Växjö – has been the centre of the country’s world-renowned glassblowing community since 1742. And the small town of Älmhult, on the central southern border of the region, is the site of the first IKEA store, now the IKEA Museum.
Småland’s cities have a lot to offer
While its small towns and verdant countryside are this region’s claim to fame, Småland’s cities offer the perfect harmony between urban life, outdoor activities and timeless culture – Sweden for real.
Sitting on the southern edge of Lake Vättern – the second largest lake in Sweden – city life, beach vibes and outdoor adventures blend seamlessly in Jönköping, making it the perfect base for exploring the region. The city has a unique collection of museums – such as Tändsticksmuseet (Match Museum) and the Husqvarna Museum, featuring royal weapons, motorcycles and other equipment made by this internationally popular brand (named after a town just east of Jönköping).
For a taste of the coastal life, make your way down to Kalmar on Småland’s southeast coast. This seaside city is awash in history, with its 16th century castle – complete with moat. It also offers several local boutiques, cosy cafés and restaurants. Do your taste buds a favour and book a meal at Postgatan, serving small dishes "Smapas" as well as à la carte based on local ingredients, combining Swedish flavours with an international twist.
You can’t leave Kalmar without popping over to the stunning island of Öland. In the summer you can take a ferry to this popular island, or go by car on the connecting 6 km bridge. With white sand beaches and endless hiking trails, this is a favourite summertime escape for Swedes from all over the country, including the royal family who have summered here since the 16th century. You’ll find yourself spoilt for choice with the large selection of restaurants on the island.
Växjö is a ‘small metropolis’ nestled away in the heart of Småland. Located a little over an hour by train inland from Kalmar, and 2,5 hours from Copenhagen, Växjö’s culinary scene rivals that of any larger city. Five of its restaurants are featured in the White Guide (Scandinavia’s leading restaurant guide), and the hotel/restaurant PM & Vänner was awarded a Michelin star for its modern take on Småland cuisine. In 2015, Växjö was named Gastronomic Capital of the Year by the Swedish government.
Welcome to Gränna, the origin of the candy cane
A short half-hour drive up the lake from Jönköping takes you to the sweet little town of Gränna, where one of the world’s most beloved sweets were created. Known in Sweden as ‘polkagris’, you’ll instantly recognize these red and white striped peppermint candies. It was back in 1859 that single mother Amalia Erikson whipped up the first batch of these stripy confections. The first versions took the shape of peppermint rocks, but later took the shape of the banded canes that are now a Christmas staple around the world. If you want to stretch and twist your own minty treat, visit Grenna Polkagriskokeri. All the candy makers offering these workshops can be found at visitsmaland.se.
Polkagris is a special candy stick made in Gränna, Småland. Photo: Tina Stafrén/imagebank.sweden.se
Childhood classics come to life at Astrid Lindgren’s World
A favourite for families, and those who are young at heart, the theme park of Astrid Lindgren’s World in Vimmerby will unleash your childhood fantasies. This is where famed Swedish children’s book author Astrid Lindgren was born, who may be best known for the international classic “Pippi Longstocking”. And here, her books come to life – recreated down to the last detail in this magical world where imaginations can run free. If you’d like to stay the night and explore more of the park and surroundings, Astrid Lindgren’s World offers self-catering accommodation – from camping to cottages.
Take a hike through Småland’s mythic forests
There’s a stretch of forest between Gränna and Husqvarna so beautiful it served as a muse to famed Jönköping painter John Bauer, known for his landscape and nature paintings with gnomes, trolls and other mythological creatures from Swedish folklore. The 50 km hiking trail, known as John Bauerleden (John Bauer Trail), takes you through lush green meadows, deep forests, stunning coastal walks and charming villages. Thanks to Sweden’s Right of Public Access, you can camp almost anywhere you please along the way.
If you’re up for a longer adventure, strap on your hiking boots and embark on the 160 km Ostkustleden, which snakes through old-growth forests, past tranquil lakes and along the coastline. Lilla Hycklinge, one hour up the coast from Kalmar, is the most popular starting point for this circular route. Every 20 km, you’ll find a cabin, open year-round, to recharge your batteries before hitting the trail again the following day.
From foraging to fine-dining, Småland is a foodie’s playground
In addition to upscale dining experiences like Växjö’s PM & Vänner and inventive local eateries sprinkled across the region, Småland’s forests offer a cornucopia of fresh ingredients waiting to be plucked and prepared for a foraged feast. A visit to one of Småland’s Edible Country tables is the perfect way to experience nature and prepare your findings. Read more about the Edible Country.
In keeping with its claim of offering ‘Sweden for real’, Småland is home to some of the country’s most iconic dishes. ‘Ostkaka’ translates directly to ‘cheese cake’ and traditionally, rennet is added to a milk and flour mixture giving the cake a soft, curdy texture. (The rennet can be exchanged for microbial or vegetable enzymes). Ostkaka is not as sweet as American-style cheesecake but has a slightly sugary, almondy taste perfectly complemented by some jam and a dollop of whipped cream.
‘Isterband’, a pork sausage with a slightly tangy bite, is another Swedish classic with Småland roots and typically served with dill stewed potatoes, pickled beetroots and sometimes with lingonberry jam. And if you’ve eaten a serving of Swedish meatballs, you are well-familiar with the tart red lingonberry. Småland loves its lingon, which can be found in the forests between August and September. Lingonberry jam is a favourite accompaniment for meat dishes across Sweden.
Things to do in Småland
The countryside of Småland offers a variation and variety of outdoor pursuits and activities, for example hiking trails that include the Store Mosse National Park and Isaberg, a beautiful forest and lake area between the towns of Jönköping and Halmstad. Bundles of activities are on offer such as cycling, canoeing, horse-riding and fishing. Or rent a cabin for a couple of weeks and let the kids do the activities.
Things to do in Småland with kids
With deep forests, hills, moors, more than 5 000 lakes, numerous rivers and 200 km coastline, and even an archipelago, there is plenty to do in Småland for families. We’ve got a list for you!