Where to Vacation Like the Swedes
Sweden has one of the best time-off policies in the EU—and that’s saying something. Employees are entitled to 25 paid vacation days each year, including four consecutive weeks of unplugged bliss during the summer. That number is regulated by the Swedish Annual Leave Act and doesn’t even take into account things like public holidays. When you add it all up, Swedes could be OOO for up to two months!
Once July rolls around pretty much everyone seeks out coastal towns and country cabins to unwind for a while. (Remember when you begged your boss for that extra summer Friday? Sheesh.) Needless to say, that’s hardly the only time Swedes go away. Winter brings snowy escapades and trips to storybook villages.
Realistically, you likely don’t have such generous PTO benefits. But that’s even more reason to make your precious vacation days count! And where better to garner inspo than a nation that puts such value on holidays? Scroll on for the top spots Swedes go to reset and recharge.
Editor’s note: Please be sure to check local health and safety guidelines before you travel.
1. STOCKHOLM ARCHIPELAGO
With the warmer months on the horizon, Swedes start plotting escapes to their second homes in the photogenic Stockholm archipelago. From Öregrund to Landsort, there's a lot to love about this cluster of islands—starting with the rocky bluffs, sandy beaches and woodland trails. Don’t forget heritage-rich landmarks and ancient villages. Add to that contemporary art galleries, cultural exhibitions and quaint shops. Finally, let’s not overlook the fact that all this exists just minutes away from the city.
2. LAKE HALLA, SWEDEN
When summer hits, Lake Halla—two hours by car from Gothenburg—beckons with scenic environs, laid-back atmosphere and loads of leisurely pursuits. Consider straight-up camping or book a minimalist cabin at Stedsans in the Woods, a fairytale retreat with a farm-to-table restaurant and sustainable mindset. After a week here, you’ll be asking yourself, “wait, what is stress anyway?” And that’s exactly the point of Lake Halla, a place where trouble tension doesn’t exist, and the biggest decision of the day is whether to go fishing or bird-watching.
3. KIRUNA, SWEDEN
A popular spot for Swedes to spend the winter holidays, Kiruna is a terrific home base for soaking in indigenous Sámi culture and exploring the snow-capped wonder of Swedish Lapland. A playground of outdoor adventure, Abisko National Park presents opportunities for dog sledding, snowshoeing and hiking. Head to the mountaintop Aurora Sky Station for your best shot of peeping the awe-inspiring northern lights. Vacationing in Kiruna also means the chance to turn your Frozen fantasies into reality by staying in at a real-deal ice hotel!
4. GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN
Situated near the Göta älv river, Gothenburg strikes the perfect balance between urban and utterly enchanting. Sweden’s unmistakably charming “second city” is often lovingly referred to as the “Scandinavian Amsterdam” due to its picturesque canals. Cobble-stoned lanes dotted with cute cafés and boutiques strengthen the comparison between the two seaports. A tour on a Paddan boat gives visitors a wonderful waterside perspective as it passes bridges and key sights. Join Swedes for thrilling rides and nostalgic games at Liseberg, a historic amusement park dating back to 1923.
5. GOTLAND, SWEDEN
Gotland is a beautiful and bucolic holiday haven in the Baltic Sea. One of the larger Swedish islands, it’s chocked-full of stuff to do—from swimming in Blå lagunen and cave tours to boat excursions and axe throwing. Many people opt to hunker down in Visby because it’s home to many key attractions, including the Gotland Museum and St. Mary's Cathedral. Of course, the art of relaxation is also a cherished pastime. Not to be overlooked are the peaceful smaller isles off the coast of Gotland.
6. ÖLAND, SWEDEN
Fresh air, pine forests, sunny skies, sandy beaches, scenic bike trails, intriguing rock formations and a slew of kid-friendly activities make Öland, located just off the southeast coast of Sweden, a favorite summer vacation destination for many Swedish families. Campsites across the island accommodate mobile homes, RVs and tents. There are quaint cottage and cozy cabins for rent, too. Wherever you choose to stay, don’t miss the chance to check out fascinating landmarks like Borgholms Castle, Eketorp Fortress and Stora Alvaret, a UNESCO-listed limestone plateau.
7. COPENHAGEN, DENMARK
The Øresund Bridge connects Malmö and Copenhagen, making it a cinch to bop over to Denmark’s capital for a quick weekend getaway. It’s not just proximity that draws Swedes to this elegant city. We could easily name 50 awesome things to do in Copenhagen—starting with Nyhavn, a storybook canalside district lined with colorful townhouses. It also has regal landmarks such as Amalienborg Palace and the Renaissance-era Rosenborg Castle, plus Michelin-starred restaurants and high-end accommodations (hello, Hotel D'Angleterre). It certainly doesn’t hurt that Copenhagen is a great year-round destination.
8. STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN
Approximately 1.6 million people live in Stockholm. And while the majority of residents flee the urban gridlock in late June, that’s the perfect moment for out-of-towners (both Swedes and international travelers) to enjoy the beauty of Gamla Stan (Old Town) and the myriad museums without crowds. It’s easier to snag dining reservations and deals on hygge hotels like Downtown Camper by Scandic as well as Ett Hem, which is popular with millennial urbanites. Gröna Lund amusement park hosts summer concerts. Plus, Stockholm remains light well past 10 p.m., so you can really maximize your days.
9. BERGEN, NORWAY
An 80-minute flight from Stockholm lies the rugged, unblemished beauty of Bergen. This idyllic destination on Norway’s southwestern coast dazzles visitors with its magical peaks, fjords and crystal-clear lakes. Wake up early and take the funicular to the top of Mount Ulriken. After snapping a few glorious photos, embark on the beloved eight-mile hike to Mount Fløyen. (We promise, it’s not too grueling and totally worth the effort.) Back in town, Bryggen greets weary wanderers with its colorful wooden houses and waterfront charm.
10. SIMRISHAMN, SWEDEN
Simrishamn, the heart of the wildly magnificent Österlen region on the southeastern tip of Skåne, has oodles of culture and sublime scenery. Its main street is a mix of adorable stores and eateries. Be sure to carve out some time for biking around town, too. And who wouldn’t want to visit the best-preserved medieval stronghold in Scandinavia? BTW it’s called Glimmingehus and was built in 1506. From Simrishamn, travelers can drive to local vineyards, orchards and family-operated fruit farms or hop on the ferry to neighboring islands.