Sweden, a country long known for its wealth of outdoor winter activities and their health advantages, can now add improved memory to the ways one can better oneself during a holiday vacation.
A University of Michigan research study published in the December issue of Psychological Science found that one hour of interacting with nature can increase one’s cognitive benefits up to 20%. And Sweden’s major cities and visitor regions including Stockholm, Göteborg, West Sweden and Swedish Lapland offer a virtual power blast of healthy places to visit due to their focus on nature activities.
Although stylish and cosmopolitan, Stockholm is a capital city with 14 islands criss-crossed by bridges and surrounded by forests with fresh water. Within minutes of the historic center there are a host of down hill and cross country ski facilities and skating tracks. There are short and long trails for slalom, sledding and snowboarding. And rentals are easy. For those seeking to try something revolutionary there is winter swimming -- that is best preceded and followed up by a hot sauna. The hot-cold-hot sessions induce relaxation that is sublime.
To nurture the body as well as the mind visitors will also want to dine in Stockholm, which bears the distinction of being one of Europe’s most creative food metropolises. Whether you prefer gourmet or café your meal in Stockholm is certain to set a standard for all others.
Whether a traveler is seeking to improve memory and attention or simply to perk up one’s spirits, from November through March Swedish Lapland is the ideal place to be. One is outdoors more than indoors to experience an enticing roster of unique activities only found in the Arctic region. These include snowshoeing through pristine forests, husky safaris, elk and reindeer spotting trips as well as silent walks observing the heavens for a display of the shimmering, green Northern Lights.
For those keen to max out their memory improvement potential, there’s the ICEHOTEL by the pristine Torne River in the northern Arctic village of Jukkasjärvi. It’s a winning combination of ice and stellar design that is sure to rev up one’s cognitive skills as well as general pleasure. There is “warm” accommodation as well as “cold”, which invites one to awaken to a cup of hot lingonberry juice after spending the night in a cozy thermal sleeping bag surrounded by an artistically crafted world of ice and snow. The resort, which is also a full-service conference center, offers a bounty of activities including Arctic trail rides, ice sculpting, fishing, snowshoe/skiing, excursions through Sweden’s virgin wilderness and into Norway and Finland and ice driving lessons in a Saab 9-3 Sport Combi. Artistic style and gourmet food go hand in hand at the ICEHOTEL Restaurant, which has been touted in gourmet magazines round the world and wins accolades for its novel presentations on plates made of clear Swedish ice.
The University of Michigan study notes that walks through arboretums rock when it comes to improving focus – even when it’s cold out. Therefore travelers taking a winter stroll through the Göteborg Botanical Garden in western Sweden will be improving their health as they nurture their appetite for botanical beauty. The Rock Garden and Rhododendron Valley are among the winter highlights as well as the Hothouses that hold more than 4,000 plants from around the world including a fantastic orchid collection.
Göteborg is Sweden’s second largest city but is big on small town charm. It offers a rich cultural cache including an opera house, symphony orchestra, many museums and incredible shopping. This port city is a favorite European getaway, especially sought after by foodies who rave about the fresh seafood. Meals are prepared with fine, locally produced ingredients, by cool chefs served in restaurants that are seeped in history or reflect the more modern elements of the city. Restaurang 28+ and Kock & Vin, two of the city’s five restaurants with Michelin stars, reflect the latter trend.
A perfect complement to a gourmet break is a stay in one of West Sweden’s castles or manor houses. In the province of Västergötland, for instance, you will find distinguished choices such as the fairy-tale Thorskog Castle, art nouveau Bjertorp Castle, and the 18th century Knistad Manor House. Even if you cannot overnight in the 13th century Baroque castle of Läckö on Lake Vänern, it is worth visiting. And travelers will be rewarded, in mind and body, by walking amidst the forests and lakes that surround country estates such as Moholms Herrgård located less than one half mile from Göteborg and the Kanalhotellet, situated in Karlsborg near Lake Vättern and Tiveden National Park. Read more about West Sweden here.