Way up north
The town of Jokkmokk in Swedish Lapland has always been a place for gatherings, trade and festivals and a meeting place for the indigenous Sami people of Lapland. The town is home to the Ájtte Museum – the Sami Centre that presents exhibitions such as Costume and Silver, Getting by, about surviving inside the Arctic Circle and Drum Time about religion and mythology. Through the exhibits the museum tells the story of Lapland and how the Sami have lived and survived for generations here. Well worth the visit to find out more about the original Swedes.
‘Kooky’ hardly cuts it when describing the Surströmming Museum at Skeppsmalen near the High Coast in northern Sweden. The museum is dedicated to everything about fermented herring (surströmming) – an institution in Sweden. The museum is set in the utterly delightful surrounding of Skeppmalens fishing village.
Way out west
Tanum, a UNESCO World Heritage site, includes the Vitlycke Museum on the northern West Coast of Sweden. Here you get to see the rock carvings, which are the highlight of the show, depicting life in Bronze Age Sweden. The artist(s) of 3,000 years ago tell their story through 350 highly varied and richly-coloured groups of rock art vividly depicting people, animals, ships and sleighs, as well as hunting scenes and domestic life. The Vitlycke Museum is worth a visit for its bronze-age site reconstruction and its rock carving reference library.
Housed in a beautiful landmark neoclassical building in front of the Götaplatsen square and the main boulevard (Kungsportsavenyn/‘Avenyn’), The Gothenburg Museum of Art (Göteborgs Konstmuseum) prides itself on featuring the world’s most splendid collection of national-romantic Scandinavian late 19th century art, with many key works by artists such as Munch, Zorn, PS Krøye and Carl Larsson. Also check out the excellent Hasselblad Center for photographic exhibitions, as well as the art hall for temporary art exhibitions.
On nearby Vasagatan, the Röhsska houses Sweden´s most comprehensive permanent exhibition of contemporary and historic Swedish design, as well as interesting temporary design and craft exhibitions, with an excellent shop and a popular café.
Accidents of history are not a topic often covered by museums, but this is done in breathtaking style at the Vasa Museum (Vasamuseet) in Stockholm, A tragic beauty. The museum is built around the Vasa, the world’s only surviving 17th century ship and the story of her rescue is as dramatic as her sinking. The sheer scale and the beauty of Vasa are stunning: almost 700 wooden sculptures and figures adorn her length and breadth. The museum tells the story of how she was built, how and why she sunk and how she was lifted from the murky depths of Lake Mälaren in Stockholm and then perfectly preserved for future generations to admire. Don’t miss this.
Skansen on Djurgården is no ordinary museum. It is a living, working Sweden of the 1900s and hosts Christmas and Midsummer celebrations and other festivals across a large area dotted with farm buildings, mills, ‘olde worlde’ shops and a stunning wooden church. Some 160 buildings have been gathered here from all over Sweden to form a living, working society of the 1900s. Skansen also has a zoo featuring elk, wolves, lynx and brown bears. This is a must if you are in Stockholm and it is open every day of the year. Moderna Museet, Dansmuseet, for its beautiful costumes and Tekniska Museet should be on your list when visiting the capital.
The Malmö Art Museum (Malmö Konstmuseum), Stadsmuseet, the Museum of Natural History and the Science and Maritime House are housed in Malmöhus Castle (Malmö Museer).
Go to the Stadsmuseet to find out about the history of Malmö and surroundings, the Malmö Art Museum for the largest collection of 20th century Nordic art in Sweden, and the Museum of Natural History for its fabulous aquarium and stuffed animals. And for trams, jets, a real U3 submarine and science experiments go to the Science and Maritime House.
In the heart of Sweden
A museum with a difference and a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the Falun Mine at the Great Copper Mountain in Falun, an unnatural wonder that is as renowned for its size as its importance to the economy of Sweden down the ages. On the edge of the Great Pit, the site of a giant cave - in 1687, is the Mining Museum. The museum tells the story of the mine and the company that ran it. The mine and museum have both received two stars from the Guide Michelin. So they must be pretty good.
Get the most out of your visit to a museum by taking a guided tour. Most museums in Sweden are also great places to eat or have a coffee. Check out the museum shops too, they are brilliant for Swedish design and local handicraft gifts.
The museums of Sweden are open the year-round.