The Swedish Province of Småland
With her beloved children’s books, the Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren has shaped the image that many of us have of Småland today: sparkling lakes, dense, untouched forests, and log cabins in that classic Swedish shade of red that simply burst with charm all year round.
With its diverse landscape and its culturally rich cities, the southern Swedish province doesn’t just attract travellers from abroad – Swedes themselves are also very fond of their homeland, and rightly so. Småland has a variety of excursion and travel options where both nature and culture lovers will get their money’s worth. Let’s find out more about them now.
Getting To Småland
The easiest ways to reach Småland is by flying into one of the regional airports Växjö/Kronoberg (VXO), Kalmar (KLR) and Jönköping (JKG). This is usually only possible with a stopover, either in other European countries, or in Sweden’s larger airports (like Stockholm, Skavsta or Gothenburg).
Cities in Småland
The most note-worthy cities in Småland include Kalmar, Växjö, Jönköping and Vimmerby.
Nestled by the Baltic Sea in the southeast, this coastal city is a particularly interesting spot. On the one hand, it boasts a connection to the island of Öland via the Öland Bridge – also a beautiful destination with beaches and quaint harbour villages. On the other hand, Kalmar itself has much to admire, especially for those interested in culture. The main sights here include the old town, the cathedral, and Kalmar Castle – all of which will introduce you to Sweden’s history.
This university town is relatively central in Småland and is considered the capital of the “Kingdom of Crystal”, as the southeast is commonly referred to. It will come as no surprise to learn that visiting glass factories is one of the most popular activities here. So why not check out the glassblowers at work? Or go taste the traditional food of the glass masters at the Hyttsill?
Apart from all that, you can visit Teleborg Castle on the university campus, the cathedral in the city centre, or the rune stone on the east side of town. And have no fear – the nature lovers out there have plenty of options too, thanks to the surrounding lakes, rivers and forests.
Jönköping lies in the northwest of Småland on the southern shores of lake Vättern, the second-largest lake in Sweden. The town became internationally known thanks to it being home to a long-running matchstick industry. Interested in learning more about this part of history? No worries, there’s even a Match Museum here!
The city also boasts a large open-air museum of art, culture and history with farmhouses, churches, excavation sites and much more. Art shows and information talks are held here regularly. In the surrounding area, you can go hiking, swimming or climb the Taberg mountain, located 10 km away.
Having been settled since the Neolithic and Bronze Age, Vimmerby is considered one of Sweden’s oldest towns. It was an important trading town that repeatedly survived both raids by the Danes and devastating fires. It’s also the birthplace of famed children’s writer, Astrid Lindgren.
Close to the town, you’ll find attractions such as the giant rocking stone, Runkesten, and the thickest oak in Europe, the Rumskulla Oak. However, the biggest attraction is probably the theme park, “Astrid Lindgren’s World”. Here, the settings of her beloved stories (such as Mattisburg, Katthulthof and Villa Kunterbunt) are brought to life.
Forests and Parks in Småland
Many know Sweden for its connection to nature and its unspoilt landscapes, it goes without saying that there are numerous national parks to explore. Småland, in particular, has a lot to offer in this respect.
Åsnens National Park
Named after Småland’s second-largest lake, the 160 km² lake Åsnen, this park features a huge cluster of islands, some of which completely untouched. The lakes, marshlands, beach dunes and forests are also home to osprey and black-throated divers, among others. If you’re lucky, you just might spot some!
Apart from the lake itself, the surrounding land also has plenty to offer. The centuries of settlement in the area become evident through the orchards left behind from previous inhabitants. Explore the area however you like – by land via hiking trails through the ancient forests, or by water in canoes.
Store Mosse National Park
Situated in western Småland, this park is the largest marshland in southern Sweden. It is home to a variety of plants and birds otherwise only found in northern Sweden, such as the jack snipe and the whimbrel. Lumber pathways that meander through the forest allow you to explore this special landscape for yourself.
And why not grab a pair of snowshoes and hike through the marshes, off the main trails? Just remember to bring a ranger with you who is familiar with the area.
Norra Kvill National Park
Norra Kvill National Park can only be described as a true jungle, since no trees have been cut down here for over 150 years. It is only about one square kilometre, but it is teeming with plant life. There are two hiking trails (Stora and Lilla Idgölen) that loop through the forest via boardwalks. You can also hike up to the highest point of the park by taking the steep path to Idhöjden. From there you have a breathtaking view of the park and its lake, Stora Idgölen, also known as the “magic lake”.
Blå Jungfrun National Park
In the Baltic Sea lies the island of Blå Jungfrun, that rises out of the water like a dome. It’s the smallest national park in Småland, the location of annual witch-hunts, and it is even said to be home to mermaids. Despite a dense deciduous forest, most of the attention goes to the stone and rock formations in the area. On the east side of the island is a Stone Age labyrinth, whose original function is unknown. Also, within the confines of the park you’ll find caves and a former quarry where red granite was once mined. In the summer months, you can even travel to the island on a tour boat.
Sights in Småland
We’ve already introduced you to some of the main attractions, such as Astrid Lindgren’s World, Kalmar Castle, the open-air museum in Jönköping and the national parks. But there are still a few more sights worth mentioning.
Habo Church, Jönköping
This old wooden chapel stands out for the wall and ceiling murals inside. Located just outside Jönköping, this would make a great stop along a cycling tour.
Glasriket’s Moose Park, Nybro
You’ll find this moose park just outside the town of Nybro where you can learn all about the mighty beasts of the north – and see them for yourselves on a tour of the reserve. You’ll also learn more about the characteristics of moose and their relationship with humans, especially regarding wildlife accidents.
Kleva Gruva, Holsbybrunn
About 10 km east of the town of Vetlanda, in northern Småland, you’ll find the former copper and nickel mine, Kleva Gruva. You have the opportunity to explore the dark tunnels and shafts where the miners once worked. You’ll discover something wondrous around every corner, from hibernating bats to a green mountain lake. Tours are available to teach you more about the history of the mine. Other activities such as gold panning, treasure hunts (for adults and children) and rock climbing are also on offer.
Gamleby Trollskogen, Gamleby
Just outside Gamleby, you’ll find that the Troll Forest (“Trollskogen”) is a great place for hiking. Though short, this nature walk is full of character, with concrete trolls, fairies, goblins, nymphs, gnomes, lime worms and dragons dotted along the way. The Nordic mythical creatures were created by the artist Jerzy Przybyl under the alias Jan Pol. Over time, they have started to blend in with the natural world, gradually morphing into their environment, lending the place a sense of magic and fantasy.
As you can see, Småland has a lot to offer for culture and nature enthusiasts. The south of Sweden features a wide range of excursions and recreational opportunities all year round. So, what are you waiting for? Plan your next trip through Sweden and Småland!