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Bridge shrouded in winter
A bridge in the west of Sweden. The surrounding landscape is shrouded in winter. Some years this far south, there is basically no snow at all during winter, whereas in the northern mountains, snow can arrive while the rest of the country is still enjoying autumn colours.
Photo credit: Per Pixel Petersson/imagebank.sweden.se

On the road between Gothenburg and Stockholm – a cultural adventure

Driving from Gothenburg to Stockholm is a Sweden holiday of dreams, particularly for the culturally inclined. This suggested five-day route is studded with tips – from sculpture parks and historic architecture to culturally significant places to spend the night.

It’s an easy drive along well-maintained roads of almost 500 kilometres, passing by two of Sweden’s mightiest lakes, Vänern and Vättern. This road trip of sorts incorporates everything from medieval castles to charming wooden towns and other cultural sights.

Day 1 – starting in Gothenburg

Gunnebo House – 15 kilometres from Gothenburg

A neoclassical idyll immersed in greenery and steeped in history, Gunnebo House is an 18th century mansion with many strings to its bow – and plenty of activities for grown-ups and children alike. You’ll reach the mansion in some 20 minutes by car from Gothenburg.

Tour Gunnebo House – inside and out

Gunnebo House is one of northern Europe’s best preserved historic mansions. Join a guided tour – replete with guides dressed in historic attire – to admire the magnificent halls and learn about the past residents of this mansion. The grounds span formal gardens, an English park and a sizeable kitchen garden – all of which were designed in the 18th century by the mansion’s architect Carl Wilhelm Carlberg. Take the opportunity to have brunch in the resident organic restaurant – Kaffehus och Krog – where you can sample produce from the kitchen garden. The nearby farmyard play area will be a hit with children.

Refuel courtesy of the Edible Country DIY concept

Gunnebo House and Gardens has its own Edible Country table. This Sweden-wide culinary concept makes use of delicious ingredients found in nature – in this case the kitchen garden and vast grounds of Gunnebo House. You’ll be dining in the midst of a stunning oak grove by lake Stensjön.

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Gunnebo House and Gardens, Gothenburg

Gunnebo House & Gardens near Gothenburg in West Sweden.

Photo: Lina Ikse/Gunnebo castle

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Gunnebo House and Gardens, Gothenburg

Photo: Lina Ikse/Gunnebo castle

The Edible Country, Gunnebo

Photo: Jonas Ingman

Spend the afternoon in Alingsås – 54 kilometres from Gunnebo House and Gardens

Alingsås is a charming city with much to offer in terms of culture and history – here’s a handful of tips that capture the spirit of the destination (some 50 minutes’ drive from Gunnebo).

Indulge in a Swedish fika tour

Known as “the capital of fika”, the streets of Alingsås are lined with quality cafés and patisseries. Discover a whole string of them by taking a 90-minute fika tour (every Saturday April-October), during which you’ll learn about this cherished Swedish custom and why Alingsås has been at its centre since the 19th century. Naturally, this delicious adventure involves plenty of sampling of Swedish pastries, cakes, coffee and other treats. If you’d rather steer your step to a single café only, one of the best is Nolbygård. Its organic bakery offers everything from Swedish cinnamon buns to kombucha bread. Lighter meals of home-made soups and sandwiches are available, too.

Absorb the creative spirit of Alingsås Kulturhus

Alingsås Kulturhus is a creative hub housing the history focused Alingsås Museum and Alingsås Konsthall – a contemporary art gallery. The gallery aims to break boundaries and inspire debate with an experimental exhibition programme, featuring local talent as well as artists from the rest of Sweden and beyond. This centrally located spot also hosts film festivals, stand-up shows and concerts.

Dine at Grand Hotel and stay the night

Grand Hotel swung open its doors in 1911 and has remained one of Alingsås’ most beloved hotels and meeting places – complete with a restaurant, gym and nightclub. The menu at Grand Matsal & Bar is sprinkled with Swedish classics, such as luxury shrimp sandwiches, as well as international flavours. Regardless of your choice, you’ll be tucking into locally sourced, seasonal produce.

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Alingsås town

Alingsås is a town in the west of Sweden. It received a Royal Charter in 1619. Among its historical inhabitants is Jonas Alströmer, who was born in Alingsås in 1685. Alströmer is credited for introducing the potato plant to Sweden. Unrelated to potatoes, it is also the self-proclaimed capital of Swedish fika (the famous Swedish coffee break).

Photo: Per Pixel Petersson/imagebank.sweden.se

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Alingsås town

Photo: Per Pixel Petersson/imagebank.sweden.se

Fika moment

Photo: Tina Axelsson/imagebank.sweden.se

Day 2 – leaving Alingsås to discover a castle

Läckö Castle by lake Vänern – 106 kilometres from Alingsås

Less than two hours’ drive from Alingsås , you’ll find the spectacular medieval landmark Läckö Castle. The castle is situated by Vänern, Sweden’s biggest lake, on a hill, overlooking stunning waterside views.

Tour the unique castle and its awe-inspiring gardens

Explore the castle – independently or as part of a tour – and learn about how past residents lived (and worked) within these historic walls. As you wander from one room to the next, you’ll discover opulent halls filled with rare antiques and paintings. Most of these lavish interiors were created during the 17th century, under the creative direction of resident Count of Läckö Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie. The idyllic castle garden is a thing of beauty and function, with nutritious greens and plants being used in the nearby restaurant.

Dine at Hvita Hjorten Restaurant

Taking full advantage of its beautiful surroundings, restaurant Hvita Hjorten – located within the Läckö Castle grounds – has a terrace with spectacular waterside views. As for its culinary spirit, most of the organic dishes served up are cooked using ingredients sourced from the on-site kitchen garden and via small-scale farmers, food producers and fishermen local to the area. The menu changes according to season but consistently caters for all tastes, incorporating dishes for meat-eaters and vegans alike.

Stay the night at Naturum Vänerskärgården – Victoriahuset

Idyllically located within the grounds of Läckö Castle, Naturum Vänerskärgården – Victoriahuset offers comfortable accommodation in a modernist, nature-inspired setting – think Scandinavian stylishness enrobed in wood. The Naturum concept, meanwhile, is a well-established Swedish visitor centre with branches across the country, so take the opportunity to learn about the plants and animals thriving in this spectacular terrain that incorporates a nature reserve.

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Läckö Castle and Naturum Vänerskärgården, West Sweden

Two architectural gems, Läckö Castle and Naturum Vänerskärgården, by lake Vänern in West Sweden.

Photo: Jonas Ingman/Westsweden.com

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Läckö Castle and Naturum Vänerskärgården, West Sweden

Photo: Jonas Ingman/Westsweden.com

Läckö Castle Garden, West Sweden

Photo: Faramarz

Dinner at Hvita Hjorten, West Sweden

Photo: Tina Stafren/Westsweden.com

Day 3 – driving along coastal shores to Mariestad

Mariestad and Göta Kanal – 78 kilometres from Läckö Castle

Continuing east along the shores of Lake Vänern, Europe’s second biggest lake, in approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes’ drive, you’ll reach the culture-rich town of Mariestad, which connects to the Swedish landmark of Göta Canal.

Discover the architecture of Mariestad’s beautiful old town

Mariestad is a draw for many reasons, one being its architecturally significant old town – one of Sweden’s best-preserved city centres. Wander the streets and marvel at the many centuries-old buildings – most of which date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Don’t miss Mariestad Cathedral – an interesting fusion of Renaissance and Gothic styles. When it’s time to refuel, you’ll find plenty of cosy cafés and restaurants in the area and along the Mariestad harbour.

Learn about Mariestad’s history and discover the city’s art exhibitions

One of the city’s key cultural establishments, Vadsbo Museum, is housed in the old county governor’s former estate. Documenting the history of Mariestad and its surroundings across several on-site buildings, it’s also home to Mariestads Industrimuseum (industrial museum of Mariestad), where the city’s industrial development is outlined. The city also offers art exhibitions in galleries as well as outdoors.

Dine at Restaurant Kingfisher

With a focus on game – wood pigeon, red deer, boar and the like – Restaurant Kingfisher defines its ethos as “modern with a sprinkle of inquisitiveness”. There are vegetarian options and fish dishes, too, plus the restaurant’s very own whisky – The Jelos. The interior as well as the menu has Indian influences.

Glide along Göta Canal

Also known as “Sweden’s blue ribbon”, Göta Canal is a true Swedish landmark. Constructed in the early 19th century, it stretches across 190 kilometres and has 58 locks. Set off on a canal cruise from Mariestad on one of three passenger boats – M/S Wilhelm Tham, M/S Juno and M/S Diana, all of which offer different cruises. Should you be tempted to extend your trip, cruise packages is available, taking you from Mariestad to Norsholm.

Stay the night at Börstorp Slott – 16 kilometres from Mariestad

Immersed in idyllic nature, you’ll find the 17th century mansion Börstorp Slott, which now serves as a much-loved bed & breakfast offering cosy accommodation with uniquely designed rooms. The castle also runs Europe’s first eco-certified beef farm.

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Autumn at Göta Canal

Autumn at Göta Canal.

Photo: Hasse Schröder/Göta Kanal

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Autumn at Göta Canal

Photo: Hasse Schröder/Göta Kanal

Norrqvarn in Göta Canal

Photo: Jonas Ingman

Göta Kanal in Västergötland

Photo: Roger Borgelid

Day 4 – see sculptures in Kumla and discover the town of Nora

Kumla – 92 kilometres from Börstorp Slott

Following a relaxing breakfast at Börstorp Slott head east, for approximately one hour, towards the delightful town of Kumla and its famous sculpture park.

Get an art-fix at the Kumla sculpture park, “Konst på Hög”

Konst på Hög (Art on the mound) is a highly regarded sculpture park, located a 15-minute drive from central Kumla. It perches atop Kvarntorpshögen – a 100-metre tall, ash-based mound. Since the mid- 1990s, this oil industry remnant has served as a somewhat surreal platform for art, showcasing some 30 sculptures by Swedish and international artists, including Lenny Clarhäll, Maria Miesenberger, Ulla Viotti and Anders Krisár.

Keep an eye out for Peter Johansson’s work “Utan Titel” (no title). Perched on an elevated position on the mound, it’s a nod to the famous Hollywood sign, though this version celebrates Sweden’s most common surname – Johansson.

Next, continue your adventure towards the equally captivating town of Nora, 53 kilometres from Kumla.

Tuck into a plant-based, eco-farm lunch at Jannelunds Gård – 41 kilometres from Konst på Hög

Eco-farm Jannelunds Gård is situated just outside Nora, a 40-minute drive from Konst på Hög. The farm has its own plant-based restaurant, Mull, serving up dishes based on produce harvested on its doorstep. Dishes are made from seasonal ingredients, so the menu is constantly changing but always carefully considered.

Discover Nora – 69 kilometres from Jannelunds Gård

A little like a museum in its own right, the unique town of Nora, less than an hour away, is defined by its well-preserved wooden houses, dating from the first half of the 18th century. It’s a charming place where you’re likely to want to linger, exploring the independent shops and cosy cafés that line the picturesque, cobbled streets.

Eat and sleep in style at Grythyttans Gästgivaregård – 41 kilometres from Nora

Grythyttans Gästgivaregård, half an hour’s drive from Nora, is a Swedish classic, celebrated for its culinary eminence. Aside from fine dining – replete with exquisite wine – you’ll be able to stay the night in an elegant boutique-style environment.

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Konst på Hög in Kumla

”Yggdrasil” by the artist Cecilia Jansson, co-created with inmates of the Kumla prison, at Konst på Hög in Kumla.

Photo: Kumla Kommun

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Konst på Hög in Kumla

Photo: Kumla Kommun

Konst på Hög in Kumla

Photo: Kumla kommun

Day 5 – explore Eskilstuna and its museums before heading to Stockholm

Eskilstuna – 156 kilometres from Grythyttans Gästgivaregård

Proud of its past as an industrial hub, Eskilstuna invites you to experience its cultural history in a range of inspiring ways before you make your final approach to Stockholm.

Step back in time – hit the Rademacher Forges

A remnant of Eskilstuna’s forging industry, the Rademacher Forges (Rademachersmedjorna) collectively serve as an outdoor museum, complete with guides clad in 17th century gear and blacksmiths at work on their craft (some items can be purchased).

Get to know Eskilstuna via its eminent museums

Learn more about Eskilstuna’s industrial past by visiting Eskilstuna Stadsmuseum (city museum), which houses a mechanical workshop and a machinery hall where machines from all over the world are lined up. Don’t miss Eskilstuna Konstmuseum (art museum), a notable art establishment which houses a significant collection of Swedish works by the likes of Sigrid Hjertén and Isaac Grünewald.

A spot of lunch in Eskilstuna’s charming old town

Wander the cobbled streets and little alleys around Köpmangatan – Eskilstuna’s oldest street. Located right by the Eskilstunaån river, it’s a picturesque place to have lunch – try Gästgifveriet or Jernberghska – and there are lots of little independent shops and art galleries to discover.

Visit Retuna – the world’s first recycled goods shopping mall

A retailer with a difference, Eskilstuna’s second hand shopping mall is located next to a recycling centre – utilising it to the full. Everything is pre-loved in this eco-friendly shopping mecca that has received international attention. Some items are up-cycled and others sold as is, such as vintage clothing.

Leaving Eskilstuna behind for Stockholm, in less than 1.5 hours, you can expect an inclusive, welcoming city offering world-class cuisine, accommodation and a wealth of cultural experiences.

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Eskilstuna

View of Eskilstuna city.

Photo: Micke Sandström

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Eskilstuna

Photo: Micke Sandström

Munktellstaden, Eskilstuna

Photo: Micke Sandström