Southern Sweden road trip
From roadside Viking runestones to cinnamon buns larger than your head, Sweden offers something for everyone.
It’s not the first place you think of for a European road trip, but the Scandinavian country, roughly half the size of New South Wales, boasts some of the world’s best historic sites, food and innovations.
While you could do the trip in a day (6.5 hours from Stockholm to Malmö), take a week or two to appreciate all this Nordic gem has to offer.
Don’t worry about the language barrier as the majority of Swedes speak impeccable English and will jump at the chance to speak to a native English-speaker.
After more than 24 hours of travel, we arrived in the Swedish capital to one of the hottest Swedish summers in more than 160 years.
With fatigue one of the biggest killers on roads, we spent three nights in Stockholm to fully recuperate from jetlag and make the most of the beautiful weather.
Summer is the perfect time to search for 1000-year-old Viking runestones at Vallentuna – just 30 minutes’ outside central Stockholm – cruise the archipelago to idyllic Sandhamn island or hike a nearby forest to spot wild elk, foxes, reindeer or baby boar.
Stockholm to Örebro (200km, 2.25-hour drive)
Once we were fully recovered from jetlag, we picked up our rental Audi A3 and began the two-hour drive to the historic city of Orebro.
Leaving Stockholm city was a challenge as we juggled driving on the opposite side of the road for the first time and malfunctioning GPS equipment, but it was smooth sailing once we hit the E20 highway.
Sweeping green pastural lands gave way to lush green forests as we drove west towards Sweden’s sixth largest city.
Arriving in Örebro, we checked into our hotel and took a short walk to Örebro Slot, a medieval castle right in the centre of the city, then grabbed a traditional wallenburgare and one of the 26 craft beers on tap at Örebro Ölhall.
Be aware the blood alcohol level in Sweden is .02, which usually takes less than one beer or glass of wine to reach.
Örebro to Göteborg (280km, 3.5-hour drive)
The longest stretch of driving was south-west along the E20 towards Göteborg.
We broke up the trip with a stop in the industrial town of Trollhatten (which translates to “Wizard Hat” in English), famous for being the birthplace of Saab Automobile.
Whether you’re a car enthusiast or not, the Saab Museum is a must-see. The museum showcases more than 70 years of Swedish automobile innovation, including aspects of modern car design that we now take for granted such as seatbelts as standard, side mirrors and crumple panels that protect the driver, passengers and pedestrians in the event of a crash. You may be lucky enough to see the famous PhoeniX concept car and true fanatics can pick up a range of Saab memorabilia.
After an hour’s drive south, we arrived in Göteborg, Sweden’s second largest city.
We took the tram from the city centre to Haga and browsed dozens of tiny independent shops and cafes in one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods. When you feel like a break, indulge in fika at Café Husaren and share a hagabullen– a cinnamon bun the size of a dinner plate.
Visit Göteborgs Stadsmuseum to see a Viking ship recovered from a nearby river and learn how the city has evolved since it was settled 12,000 years ago.
Göteborg to Helsingborg (215km 2.5hr drive)
Our next stop was Helsingborg, one of Sweden’s most important historic ports.
Just four kilometres of ocean separate Sweden and Denmark at Helsingborg, so we boarded the ferry for a day trip to the Danish town of Helsingør, home to Kronberg Slot – the real-life Elsinore castle out of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Watch Hamlet come life as roving theatre troupes act out key scenes from the play and explore the castle’s gloomy underground passages which housed more than 1000 soldiers when the castle was under attack.
Once back in Helsingborg, climb the Kärnan tower for pristine views over the city and the Öresund strait.
Stop for dinner at Olsons Skafferi for some of the best Italian food you’ll ever eat and look out at the picturesque 700-year-old Mariakyrkan (St Mary’s church). To our surprise, one of the waitresses at Olsons was a Queenslander who had lived in Sweden for several years and gave us great insider tips to make the most of our time in the city.
Helsingborg to Malmö (65km, 50-minute drive)
The coastal city of Malmö is a short 50-minute trip down the E20 from Helsingborg.
You could visit Malmö for a day-trip, but the town has so much to offer that it’s worth spending a couple of nights in Sweden’s third largest city.
Malmö is a city of contrasts, with gabled Dutch-renaissance buildings giving way to the modern architecture of the chic Västra Hamnen waterfront and Scandinavia’s tallest building, the Turning Torso. If the weather is warm you can even swim at the nearby beach, although it’s a very different type of beach to what we’re used to in Queensland.
Visit Lila Torg (Little Square) for a beer and a meal at one of the many al fresco pubs and restaurants surrounding the cobblestone square and stroll down Stora Nygatan and Södergatan to pick up some local handicrafts and designer goods.
Bonus: Malmö to Copenhagen (41km 40-minute drive)
Copenhagen lies just over the famous Öresund Bridge (yes, THAT bridge) from Malmö.
Visit Copenhagen’s most famous tourist attraction, the Little Mermaid sculpture which was inspired by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale of the same name.
The picture-perfect Nyhavn is the ultimate place to unwind after a long day. Prices at Nyhavn’s many restaurants and bars may be higher than the surrounding areas, but the unparalleled view is worth the extra kroner.
We ended our day with a visit to the 176-year-old Tivoli amusement park and rode one of the world’s oldest wooden rollercoasters – one of just seven in the world that is operated by a brake man on each train.
Tips for driving in Sweden:
- Drive on the right-hand side.
- Headlights must always be on.
- The blood alcohol limit is .02.
- You must be 18 or over to legally drive in Sweden, even if you can get your licence earlier in your home country.