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Sweden Trip Planning: Needing a Break Point

My sister and I, both in our spry 60's, have developed a routine of taking a late spring European trip together. For 2019, the RS forums were really helpful in planning our epic trip to Italy.

This year, we've set our eye on Scandinavia in May. I know, perhaps chilly but she's from Alaska, so no worries. I love the planning part and am on about Plan G for this trip. We like nice hotels, trains and scenic/historic locations. We've evolved to the point where we don't want to take any tours. I'm a meticulous planner, so it's all good. Basically, we like to know where we're sleeping and roughly how we get around.

I'm looking for advice on a relax break perhaps between Gotenburg and Copenhagen. Last year, between the big cities of Italy, we took four lovely days in Cinque Terra in an Airbnb. While there, we did light sightseeing, drank wine, slept late, did laundry, cooked lovely meals from local products and looked at the sea. We were relaxed, refreshed and ready for the last leg of our trip. When we got home, we weren't as worn out and footsore as we'd been the previous year. It was a highlight, I'd like to replicate.

Does anyone have thoughts? It has to been reachable by train and beautiful. By the water and natural would be preferable. It needs enough infrastructure to have some shopping, sightseeing and activities if we choose to indulge. Touristy is okay since we're going to be there pretty early in the season. We'll need a break from big cities.

Current tentative itinerary leaving around May 12, back June 1:
Stockholm: 4 nights
Gothenburg: 4 nights
Open 4 nights
Copenhagen: 3 nights
Ferry to Oslo: 1 night
Oslo: 3 nights

I appreciate any thoughts you might have.

Posted by
679 posts

My wife has cousins living in southern Sweden. Their town, Morrum, is a charming village of approximately 4K inhabitants. The area is known for trout fishing. Although I suspect an extended visit there would be a little too quiet, there are a number of small towns in the area all on the same line - Karlskrona among them. This side trip is easily reached by train connecting through Lund and Hassleholm. This region of Sweden might be of interest as it was a point of embarkation to North America in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Posted by
1376 posts

Since you'll spend your time in the south it will not be that chilly in May. Weather is always hard to predict, but you can probably expect around 15-20° daytime, maybe even a bit warmer. Although the evenings it will probably go down to 10° or so.

Between Göteborg and Copenhagen, the first place I come to think about is Varberg. A small town at the west coast about 70 km south of Gothenburg. It is big enough to not be completely empty during off season, but small enough to have kept at least part of the small town charm. And twice a week there are markets on the main square, could be worth trying to visit during one of those days. It is a very popular destination in the summer when it sees lots of visitors, mostly Swedes though, there are very few long distance visitors. The beaches are great, even if the water might be a bit cold in May. However, there is a bathhouse where you can combine a swim in the sea with a visit to the sauna. Or just admire the building, it is a very beautiful bath house.

The main sight is probably the 13th century fortress, currently a museum. And a bit outside the town the old radio station Grimeton, now a world heritage site, is worth a visit if you like industrial history. For a nice hotel, Stadshotellet in the middle of the town is probably worth a closer look. Just south of the town is the fishing village Träslövsläge (easy to reach by city bus) and if you are looking for local products for lovely meals, the fishmonger there is a good place to find it.

Mörrum is a great place for fishing, but I don't think it is worth more than a short stop if you are looking for a something else than a fishing trip. And it would be a bit of a detour.

Posted by
228 posts

You can take a direct, 4h train from Gothenburg to Kalmar and a direct, 4h train from Kalmar to Copenhagen (
I'm curious though why you're not taking the Norway in a Nutshell tour? I would give up Gothenburg if time was the essence.
Instead of taking an overnight ferry to Oslo, you can fly nonstop from Copenhagen to Bergen for $53. The flight departs at 9:55p arriving in Bergen at 11:15p (check Norway is known for its fjords so why skip the best of Norway. You can take this tour on your own, starting in Bergen and ending in Oslo.
I would also purchase RSEs Scandanavia guidebook and you can download an electronic version from his app.

Posted by
1432 posts

Suggest to have a look at Helsingør (Denmark). Nice little town with Helsingborg (Sweden) on the other side - ferry needs 20 minutes. The Danish side has a impressive Kronborg castle, a nice old town with cafés and shopping opportunities, smaller museums, two harbors, also a nice coast line for walks. It is not too touristy - especially not in May.

One general thing: you concentrate very much on cities but Scandinavia is also very much nature and also culture with places outside the cities.

Be aware that May 17 is national holiday in Norway which is celebrated very nicely (costumes, little parades, food). Shops and sights are closed.

Posted by
971 posts

I agree with MaryPat here, since your stated interests are trains and your are looking for a nice, relaxing hotel by a scenic body of water, Norway in a Nutshell seems like a no brainer. The trainride between Oslo and Bergen is considered one of the most scenic in the world. Take the train, ferry combo, stay a few nights in the Kviknes hotel and Balestrand and relax.

Posted by
65 posts

Thank you for your input. This is still very much in the planning stages and you've given me much to think about. It helps me to view things from a different perspective. I read through the guidebooks but they don't always tell you about the little places. I need to mull on this for a while and open my mind to the possibilities.

Our family roots are in southern Sweden, so we're trying to wrap that in. As much as we don't want to rent a car, I think that might be the easier route and give us more opportunity to explore. Maybe Varberg on the way.

Kolmar looks beautiful. It seems it would need to be Kolmar or Gothenburg from Stockholm. Otherwise, it's too much travel time. My son visited Gothenburg and recommended it. He spent some time at his wife's family's summer place there which certainly colored his perspective. Is there any thing in the archipelago around there that would suit our need?

Helsingor might work in many senses. I'd have to see how the pieces fit together for travel.

I'd never heard of Norway in a Nutshell until a couple of days ago. Oslo was kind of an afterthought and makes for a good connection to get home. Bergen does sound interesting. Maybe everything shifts forward to more time in Norway. Our experiences with tours, even those recommended on this forum have been disappointing.

My sister is quite taken with the idea of a ferry. As long as I fit a ferry in somewhere, she'll be happy.

Thanks again, so much! Chime in if you have more thoughts.

Posted by
4458 posts

I think renting a car in Gothenburg and dropping it off in Malmö (or somewhere else on the rail line to Copenhagen after you’ve done some exploring would offer you the most flexibility.

While not on your current route, I’ve always wanted to explore the Bohuslän coast north of Gothenburg. I’ve never been to that region of Sweden but have always been tempted to visit by the photos of the beautiful scenery. However, if you did this, it would make sense to reorder your trip so that you visit Oslo and then take the ferry to Copenhagen.

Another option would be to head south to Ystad or Lund. This could easily be done by train.

Posted by
65 posts

Oh, Laura, that looks like a wonderfully soul-refreshing spot. Do you think it would be doable without a car? In a perfect world, we'd want to train somewhere, have a homebase and ferry different places or relax for a few days and train on.

On first dive, this seems like a place that screams "road trip". Drive from Gothenberg north, ferry to Norway and dump the car Oslo-ish? That's a bit ambitious for us as my sister is a bit timid on those things. Ah, more things to think about. I need to let these thoughts compost for a bit.

Stockholm, at the very least, seems right for this trip. Honestly, during this planning period, I've discarded itineraries including combinations with Vienna, Prague, Hamburg and/or Amsterdam. The travel between between was too crazy so I refocused the trip. If Copenhagen follows the pattern, so be it. It's all hypothetical , so anything goes.

Posted by
4458 posts

You can get almost anywhere on public transit, but sometimes it might involve several changes and take longer than you’d like. I am sure you could do it by train/bus/ferry if you planned carefully. The tourist offices can be good sources of information.

Since I have not been to the west coast of Sweden, I can’t really tell you how much effort it would be to travel in this area without a car or whether May would be a good time to visit this area. Hopefully someone who has been to the Bohuslän coast could chime in.

Posted by
1376 posts

MarkK has a great suggestion, the twin towns Helsingborg and Helsingör should be on your list. Although I'd recommend staying in Helsingborg to be able to do daytrips to Sweden easier, a couple of ideas are Lund, Ystad, Ven, Mölle and the Kullen peninsula. And of course Helsingör. There are nice day trips on the Danish side as well, but it might be easier to do those from Copenhagen. Kalmar would in my opinion not be worth the quite long detour from Gothenburg.

Gothenburg is a nice city, and a personal favourite. There are plenty of things to see and there is in general a pretty friendly atmosphere. The archipelago is also very nice and you should take a trip to one of the islands. Bohuslän is also an excellent suggestion. There are trains all along the west coast and buses to places the train can't reach so very much doable without a car. But you can always rent a car for a day if you want. Maybe a couple of days in Strömstad? On the other hand, if you are looking for some place along the east coast, my suggestion is Visby. Even if it is not accessible by train, but would give you two ferry rides. And if you tell us where your family roots are, you can get some suggestions on where to visit in the area or how to get there.

Posted by
726 posts

I will put a third recommendation for Ystad. Very easy to get back and forth to Copenhagen by train. Beautiful medieval town on the sea. Beautiful view of the sea with some Viking stones at Ales Stenar which you can get to by bus or taxi. Lots of cute shops and old buildings to see. A nice church and an old Abbey. Also a bonus if you like Swedish movies/tv there is Cineteket museum.
You could also take a ferry from Ystad to Bornholm. Check it out!
Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
1376 posts

I can also recommend Ale stenar. But they are from the Vendel period, so they predate the Vikings by a couple of centuries.

Posted by
65 posts

My sister is researching our family. According to the records our mother had, our great grandparents were from Ryssby.

Posted by
65 posts

Well, everyone has certainly given me excellent things to think about. We're both intrigued with the Norway piece. I'll probably start another post in the Norway area but everyone here has been so helpful and knowledgeable. Many thanks for that. This way, it's in the same thread.

I'm curious about the Norway in a Nutshell tours. We'd definitely do a self-guided kind of thing but is NiN kind of structured to shepherd everyone though the transportation piece? Is there transportation you can only get on through NiN? There's a lot of little towns that seem to be transfer points. What do you see? I'm trying to get the concept because what I see is a lot of shuttling back and forth.

In my dream world, I can see us based somewhere like Bergen for say, 4 days and doing day trips on trains and ferries. Instead of a big loop in one day, kind of spread it out. Then we could scoot back to Oslo. Doable? Can we arrange things in Bergen (or where ever we base) as we see things that interest us? I'm envisioning like Mexico where you can book a snorkeling trip at the hotel and go the next morning. I don't mind putting the pieces together. I delight in the logistical bit but am always happy for a reality check.

Quickly, I'll tell you why I'm leery of tours: Last year, in Rome, we booked a Pristine Sistine tour of the Vatican based upon glowing reviews and recommendations on the RS Italy forum. It was an expensive disappointment that didn't live up to the hype. Basically, we didn't like being unable to prioritize what we wanted to see and had the feeling of being herded around. There was no pristine about it and even small-group was too big of a group. If I felt like NiN was a good value without us feeling like that, I'd be more inclined to consider it.

Thanks, everybody! You've been wonderful.