Majority of people sigh picturing the views of Stockholm, the charming capital of Sweden. Some might also praise the cozy Gothenburg, kingdom’s second largest city. Perhaps even Malmö can come to a traveler’s mind – a city kissing Copenhagen in Denmark through a nearly 8 kilometers long bridge of Öresund. However, just as many Nordic countries, Sweden is way more than its admirable cities.
I dare to say that even if you visit all of the Sweden’s biggest cities, you cannot deeply experience the real, raw and captivating beauty of this country. I believe it is impossible without feeling the scent of a lush Swedish forest. Freshness of its cold winds with a spice of crispy snow. And a kiss of warm sunshine on your cheeks after a long winter. Perhaps therefore many healthy people out north spend much time resting in summer cabins, camping, hiking, skiing.
To feel some of that, take this digital journey with me. From Gothenburg where I studied, to mid-north of Sweden where I am currently based. Let’s visit some of the divine places on a way, to help us uncover the beauty of Sweden.
We begin in a city: Gothenburg
As a student, I experienced many joyful moments living in one of the oldest neighborhoods of Gothenburg, the tiny little Haga. This area isbuilt in the landshövdingehus (meaning the ‘county governor’s house’) style, which is characterized by a ground floor in stone and two wooden floors on top. On a corner at Haga Nygatan 28 the Café Husaren is located, well known for huge cinnamon rolls called Hagabullen. Perfectly suitable for sharing with friends!
As adorable as the city is with all of its green parks, what fascinates me the most are its islands! Gothenburg is surrounded by a picturesque archipelago stretching along the west coast. Can I even express how fun it was to go island hopping? Talks and lovely walks with fellow students from university through some of the 21 islands so serene and genuine… Nature therapy at its best!
The Move. From west coast to northern east coast
I remember just before moving from Gothenburg to Sundsvall, one person from Stockholm warned me. “Anna, Sundsvall is a rather ugly city. Rural, industrial, boring and cold. It is so unlike Stockholm or Gothenburg. I cannot see you living there.” I really didn’t know whether I should take his opinion into consideration. Given that many people from Stockholm don’t even like Gothenburg – which I adore.
Traveling by train I saw how the scenery changed from Gothenburg in the west coast – to Stockholm – and then to mid-north, where Sundsvallwas waiting for me on the east coast. The closer I was to Sundsvall, the more rocks and stones I saw, and less plateau. There was something more and more harsh in the nature. When roofs of a huge factory emerged then I thought… Oh my, will this really be an unsightly place?
Let’s take a quick look inside Sundsvall to decide.
Sundsvall: the stone, the green and the snow
Arriving to a tiny central train station, you can tell the city isn’t big. It’s old town just next to the station has experienced a tremendous fire in 1888. It then raised from ashes, was all rebuilt in stone and called Stenstan (literally, the city of stone). Although you can still see many well-preserved wooden houses outside of the old town.
Living in Sundsvall suits just perfectly for someone who does not want to waste life in traffic jams, and… Loves spending quality time in nature! Many unique places are easy to access from here.
There are some not to miss inside of the city too!
Overlooking the Gulf of Bothnia Sundsvall is beautifully located between two hills – North and South. Well, someone wasn’t very creative giving them the names!
On the North Hill you can enjoy the city views and visit an open-air museum of the Swedish household – all surrounded by a forest. Many wooden houses and artefacts from the past are kept here. Exploring the hill, I recommend you to taste homemade gelato from Drakenglass. It can be found at a small local delicacy shop Smakrummet. Even some locals don’t know about this delicious gelato!
On the South Hill, trails for both down-hill and cross-country skiing are waiting for winter sport enthusiasts. In all other seasons it’s a perfect destination for a run, walk or a picnic.
On the top of the South Hill a hotel is overlooking the city and its biggest island Alnö, sandy beaches of which are waiting for your feet during warm summer days.
In Alnö, I love a little café & bakery Virriga Bakverk located at Raholmsvägen 110B. I must admit that the majority of Swedish bakeries bake same kind of pastries and bread, but this one has a way broader taste-map. From Portugese pastel de nata to many sorts of fresh cheesecake. Or maybe everything just tastes better by the sea?
To be continued with getaways to nature around Sundsvall.
About the author:
Anna is a certified career and life coach for young women in traditionally male-dominated fields such as STEM. She is a senior engineer and a board member of labor unions for graduate professionals at a global telco, as well as a wife and a mum. Anna spent her last decade studying & working in several EU countries, and is now based in Sweden.
Text and pictures credit – Anna Balciune
Feature picture credit – Sayaka Yoshida