Smaland, Sweden (or Småland, if you know how to find the “å” on your keyboard) holds a special place in my heart. It is where several of Astrid Lindgren’s books were set, and having grown up in Scandinavia, I grew up reading them and watching the TV adaptations. If you are not familiar with Astrid, you will be now; she wrote dear children’s classics such as Pippi Longstocking and the Brothers Lionheart. So many of her books and stories have been translated to English (she was the world’s fourth most translated children’s author in 2017) that you are bound to have come across some of them.
// Trip in collaboration with Visit Sweden
The reason I am sharing this is that I had seen the beauty of Småland in so many books and movies growing up, and couldn’t wait to visit for the first time myself. I spent 4 days exploring the beauty of Smaland, Sweden, and all the fun things to do there (and I have a feeling I still have lots of great experiences left). If you are planning a trip to Sweden and you’re not quite sure where to go, Småland is a destination that should be on your list!
Heading to Halland, Sweden? Don’t miss my guide to Varberg.
13 Fun and unique things to do in Smaland, Sweden
Now, let’s cover the basics. Småland covers three Swedish “Läns”, or counties, as we would call them. These are Kalmar Län, Jønkøping Laän and Kronoberg Län. By definition, Småland is an area that used to be it’s own governed county in the middle ages; called “landskap” (landscape). Today, it is known for its many lakes and the vast archipelago, being the birthplace of Astrid Lindgren (and thus having lots of fun activities for children), and for housing the troll-like “Bauerland”, where the artist John Bauer found his inspiration.
#1 Visit Gunillaberg
Gunillaberg is an old estate owned by Danish artist Tage Andersen. Here, you can enjoy walks in the beautiful landscape surrounding the main house, browse his art, and even take some of it home. We were treated to a “fika” (more about that below) consisting of Tage’s very own “Karamellkrans” (a Caramel Twist), which he invented at 17 for his confectionary exam. Gunillaberg is open every day in the summer months, and is worth a visit if you find yourself in Smaland, Sweden! Get the exact opening hours and driving directions from the website.
#2 Åsens By Breakfast Experience
If you enjoy going back in time, you’re gonna love this. Åsens By is a Cultural Reserve, consisting of farms and houses dating back to the turn of the 19th century. And that’s where you’ll be taken back to. Walking around Åsens By, the buildings and vibe seem frozen in time, and visiting is a truly unique experience of its own. To take it one step further, however, you should to as we did and join the incredible breakfast experience they offer!
As part of this experience, you’ll get up before the sun, just like they did over 100 years ago. You’ll join the gathering of the eggs from the chicken coop, meet the animals as they slowly wake, and enjoy the beautiful views of the fields surrounding you. Then, you’ll be treated to breakfast outdoors, and I swear nothing tastes as good as the food you’ve made like this. You get to fry bread over an open fire, try local delicacies and spreads, and truly enjoy nature at its finest.
I have never experienced anything like this, and strongly recommend this experience! Learn more here.
#3 Stay in Bauerland
As mentioned above, John Bauer was a Swedish artist who painted beautiful, troll-like paintings. A quick Google image search will show you what I mean. He was inspired by the dramatic landscape that is now known as “Bauerland” to many, and it is clear to see why. During our visit and stay at Bauergården, we were treated to the sunset below, and I remember staring at it in awe for several minutes, watching the colours shift.
#4 Eat at Bauergården
Bauergården is more than a hotel. They also have a great restaurant, with a truly unique menu. We were treated to the “Bauer menu”, which has been developed and inspired by John Bauer, his art and the breathtaking sceneries surrounding Bauergården. The photo below shows the starter, where 3 different types of sausages were smoked inside the glass. When you opened the glass, the smoke and the smells of the forest came out, and it almost felt like we were dining outside! Such a unique dining experience.
#5 Seal and Eagle safari from Västervik
Västervik is a great starting point for a trip out into the beautiful Tjust Archipelago. With its 5000 islands (!), there are lots to explore, and I recommend starting off your adventures with a Seal and Eagle Safari, starting from Västervik. This fun experience will take you all the way into the open ocean to find the rocks and small islands the seals like to relax on, and if you are lucky you’ll see one of the majestic white-tailed eagles soaring above you. This was such a fun experience, and getting picked up right on the dock of Västervik made it super accessible as well!
#6 Visit Hasselö and Sladö
The islands of Hasselö and Sladö in the Tjust Archipelago are separated by a narrow river and connected by a short bridge. It is actually possible to stay on these idyllic islands, and I’m sure most visitors will never want to leave the quaint and cosy island life that they’ve got going on there. There is a beach on Hasselö, perfect for swimming and working on that tan, and the island of Sladö is actually a natural reserve itself (Sladö is actually just 2 kilometres long).
#7 Eat at Restaurant Sjökanten
On Hasselö there is a truly unique restaurant, called Sjökanten (meaning “the seafront”). This small building has been remade into a restaurant, and it makes for a truly special atmosphere to sit in an old fisherman’s cabin, looking out into the ocean and islands surrounding you. As they have a limited amount of seats in the one room, it is always necessary to book your reservations in advance. Find all the information you need here.
#8 Go on a 4-wheeler guided tour of Hasselö and Sladö
Whilst on the islands, don’t miss this tour! A local will take you around on his 4-wheeler (in a trolly), showing you all the sights of the island. He showed us the old schoolhouse (that is now the hostel) where his wife went to school, the local store that is open 24/7, every day of the year (it’s an “honesty store”, where you leave money if you buy anything), and shared lots of interesting facts about the islands. So, if you are planning on visiting the two islands, make sure to set aside time in your itineraries for this fun way of exploring them!
#9 Stay at Slottsholmen (ABBA-Björn’s hotel)
Did you know that Björn from ABBA was from Smaland, Sweden? Well, neither did I, until I arrived in Västervik and learned that it was his hometown! Slottsholmen is his hotel, and it is actually run by his daughter (but not that daughter. I googled it.). Slottsholmen is a great place to stay, especially for families or anyone visiting for a longer period of time. The hotel rooms are all suites and are equipped with every amenity you may need for a longer stay (such as a washing machine). My favourite addition was the record player and record collection found in every room, and you know I spent a considerable amount of time blasting ABBA.
#10 Join a Kräftskiva (Crayfish Party)
Having grown up visiting Sweden every summer (my grandfather lived in Skåne), my family and I participated in a Kräftskiva every year. This unique Swedish tradition is usually held during the summer months (usually August or September), and it is such a fun experience! Paired with lots of aquavit, fun songs (you have to sing for every time you drink the aquavit), and good spirits, this is something you will never forget. If you ever visit Smaland, Sweden (or anywhere else in Sweden, for that matter), make sure you don’t miss out on this tradition! Learn more here.
#11 Join The Edible Country and eat at The Table in Wallby
The Edible Country is a concept in which you can enjoy fine dining surrounded by the beautiful nature of Sweden. Several tables have been set up around the country, each being matched with an incredible menu taking advantage of local ingredients and delicacies. There are 13 tables in total, placed in some stunning locations around Sweden. We dined at The Table in Wallby, and it was such a fun experience!
When booking a table, you will have the opportunity to add on experiences, such as a chef to prepare your meal, and a nature guide to take you around the surrounding area to forage for food to use in the meal. You start by meeting your guide to forage for edible plants, mushrooms and more, and it was definitely a unique experience! When we arrived at our table, our chef was already preparing a meal fit for a king on an open fire, and we got to help.
Once everything was prepared, we got to enjoy an incredible meal surrounded by nothing but nature, and horses running around on a nearby field. It was so beautiful, and I couldn’t recommend it enough!
#12 Stay at Wallby Säteri
If you watched my stories from Sweden (find the highlight here), you’ll know my Downton Abbey heart almost had a heart attack when seeing this place. Wallby Säteri has a long history, dating back hundreds of years, and comes complete with a main house (the mansion pictured below), cosy red buildings, and a resident ghost that you may meet if you stay in the right one. I could have walked around in the main house forever, pretending to live there (you know I put on my nicest dress for this stint of daydreaming), and I loved that we got to have dinner in the old dining room. This country resort is definitely the getaway you need if you want to unwind, relax and simply enjoy the beautiful nature in “Sweden’s garden” (as the area is appropriately named).
You can’t visit Sweden and not have Fika. This tradition consists of coffee and some sort of cake (usually a cinnamon bun, but anything sweet will do, I have learned), and the Swedish will have it whenever, and as often as they can. The word “Fika” was a play on the word “kaffe” (coffee), during a period in the 19th century when coffee was banned in Sweden. The Swedes would continue drinking it, but under its new nickname, and the name stuck. Today, the tradition is so ingrained that you’d think that to have coffee without anything accompanying it is a crime. So make sure to enjoy a Fika (or five) during your trip!
Those were some of my favourite things to do in Smaland, Sweden, but I can assure you that there are loads more! Småland is home to so many incredible activities, and this is just a handful of them. I know you are going to have an amazing time!
Read next: 9 Unique Things to do in Gothenburg.