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  • Writer's pictureGreen Traveller

Local Attractions in West Sweden

As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to West Sweden we've picked out a selection of local attractions.

Countless idyllic islands, stunning nature reserves, rock carvings dating back thousands of years and canals that snake on for miles - the only difficulty will be fitting it all in.

West Sweden is a true haven of natural beauty. Vast nature reserves are home to hundreds of species of flora and fauna, while a myriad of animals, birds and fish thrive on the canals and islands just off the western coast. Head to the Weather Islands to catch sunbathing seals, or delve into Dalsland's forests for the chance to enounter the King of Sweden's forests, the moose.

The area is also extremely rich in culture and history, with the rock carvings at Tanum dating back to the Bronze Age and the gardens at Gunnebo House charting man's changing relationship with nature.

Google map: shows the location and details of all the places to stay, local food and drink, nearby visitor attractions and activities in our Green Traveller's Guide to West Sweden:

Green = Places to stay Blue = Local food & drink Yellow = Attractions Purple = Activities

Places of interest in West Sweden

The Weather Islands

Otherwise known as the Väderöarna Islands, the Weather Islands number in their hundreds and offer some of the wamest and windiest climates in Sweden. This climate has created a wealth of vegetation amidst the craggy peaks, making this an ideal location for exploration. There's also plenty of space to relax - every summer, scores of Norwegians sail across to bask on the sun-kissed rocks. For nature enthusiasts there are plenty of birdwatching opportunities, and the islands are also home to one of Sweden's largest seal colonies. If you're looking to stay overnight, the Väderöarnas Värdshus is the islands' only accommodation and is famed for its fresh seafood.

The Koster Islands

North and South Koster, Sweden's most westerly inhabited islands, are largely made up of picturesque nature reserves. Both islands offer beaches, moors, forests and rocky landscapes that are great for both walkers and cyclists - bikes can be hired at almost every pier on either island. South Koster offers some fantastic beaches, including Rörvik and Kilesand, as well as great views out over the archipelago at Valfjall. North Koster is slightly smaller (only 4km sq) and boasts a newly restored lighthouse - the view from the top is well worth the effort of climbing the steps. If you're a nature lover, there's also the chance to spot a number of endemic species of orchid throughout the north island. It's not surprise to us that it was shortlisted for the Best Emerging Destination in the World in the High Life Award 2011.

Marstrand Island

Marstrand is perhaps one of the most recognisable towns on the coast of Bohuslän, renowned for its boating culture, Carlsten's Fortress, and for being a playground for the social elite since the 19th century. With a great deal of attractive wooden architecture, the island is worth at least a few hours of exploration while Carlsten's Fortress, once considered one of Europe's strongest maritime defence facilities, can be explored on your own or with a guide, and it even has its own hotel for those looking for a little unusual accommodation. The Grand Hotel Marstrand (this has been renovated but the grand architecture remains) and the Societetshuset are also beautiful areas from which to admire the town.

Biosphere at Lake Vänern

Lake Vänern is Sweden's largest lake, and the Biosphere Reserve comprises of around 63% of the total surface area (including 4,569 islands). The lake itself dates back to 6500 BC and boasts over 20,000 small islands, islets and rocks making it the largest freshwater archipelago in the world. Also at the centre of the biosphere reserve is the impressive Mount Kinnekulle, Västergötland’s highest plateau mountain, and the entire reserve has been protected by UNESCO since 2010. With a national park to explore, plus numerous nature reserves, this is an ideal adventure for all nature lovers. On top of that, a project is currently underway to make the area Sweden's first 'Destination of Eco Tourism'. This involves creating lots of new hiking and biking trails, as well as strengthening ties with the local community.

Gota Canal

Constructed in the early 19th century, the Göta canal is 118 miles long and stretches from the Great Lake Vänern in the west to Söderköping on the Baltic Sea. The banks of the canal are lined with scenic vistas, beautiful towns and quaint villages. One of the canal's most popular attractions is the chain of locks at Berg, where seven connected locks lift the boats some 18 metres out of the water. Many visitors explore the canal in their own boats, but it is also possible to book classic canal boats offering both long and short-term trips. If you fancy exploring on land, the old labour road is a popular cycling track and there are a number of walking and hiking paths along the way.

Dalsland Canal

Dalsland Canal is a haven for canoeists and kayakers, a 240km system of serene lakes, lush wilderness and picturesque campsites. A number of tour operators also offer organised canal cruises between May and September. There are a selection of sights and attractions along the canal, including the passage at Haverud - a combination of roadway bridge, railway bridge and aqueduct dating back to 1868. The House of Crafts, located by the beautiful Lake Upperudsholjen, is one of the best places to find local Swedish arts and crafts, and Dalsland's Museum is also close by.

Gunnebo House and Gardens

Just outside of central Gothenburg, Gunnebo House and Gardens is known as one of Europe's foremost 18th Century country estates. A fine example of neoclassical architecture, the grounds also feature three separate gardens; the formal garden, the landscape park and the kitchen garden - all of which are open every day, all year between sunrise and sunset. Each of these was originally designed by architect Carl Wilhelm Carlberg and are lovingly maintained by hand, without using any pesticides. Particularly interesting is the landscape or 'English' park, which tells the story of the late 18th Century, in which the Age of Enlightenment saw a changing of attitudes towards man's relationship with nature. Gunnebo boasts impressive environmental credentials, having been awarded Gothenburg's Environment Diploma in May 2006, and guests can try fruit and veg grown on site in the restaurant.

Tanum Rock Carvings

In the north of Bohuslän, the area around the locality of Tanumshede has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the large collection of 'petroglyphs' or rock carvings that date back to the Bronze Age. These fascinating carvings are believed to have been created at around 1700 - 500 BC, stretching along some 25km of coastline. Scandinavian Bronze Age people were sophisticated craftsmen and competent travellers by water, with many of the carvings depicting boats and fishermen as well as numerous animals and weapons. They have been interpreted as primitive symbolic art with specific motifs and carefully planned positioning. As such, the carvings offer a great insight into the social and religious life of the Bronze Age people.

Karlsborgs Fortress

With a circumference of 5km, this awe-inspiring fortress is one of Europe's largest built structures. Originally created to house the Swedish parliament, the crown jewels, the royal family and the country's gold reserves in the event of war, this magnificent building is deservedly popular throughout the year. Visitors can join one of the guided tours, which starts with a film on life in the fortress in the late 19th-century; you'll then explore the underground network of tunnels below and get a fascinating insight into the role of the fortress throughout the past two centuries. Definitely worth the detour.

Läckö Slott

The magnificent baroque castle with its fairytale splendour of turrets and domes lies on the edge of Lake Vânern, Sweden's largest lake. There are beautiful gardens to roam, including herb and kitchen gardens, and wildflower gardens. There are various places to eat, such as the restaurant which uses vegetables from the garden and fish caught in the lake, and a lovely café on the embankment with homebaked bread. The castle hosts a series of fascinating exhibitions throughout the year, as well as opera evenings in the beautiful courtyard. Plenty to keep the children entertained too, from puzzles and trails to puppet theatre.

Carlsten's Fortress

This impressive stone fortress on Marstrand Island was originally built by King Carl X of Sweden in 1658 to defend the newly acquired province of Bohuslän from invaders. The dramatic history of the fort is perhaps best experienced with the help of an expert guide, while those that conquer the steps up to the top of the tower will be rewarded with with truly stunning views out over the entire Marstrand archipelago. During the traditional fort festival, life in the 1700s is colourfully recontructed, complete with prisoners, soldiers and firing cannons. A range of re-enactments, conferences and historical meals are arranged at the fort throughout the year.

Nordiska Akvarellmuseet

Jutting out over the water on a rocky outpost, the long, sleek, award-winning Nordic Watercolour Museum houses an impressive collection of world-class art from across the Nordic countries. The venue also holds courses in watercolour painting, as well as hosting children’s workshops, art lectures, music concerts and guided tours. Four studios across the water are available to rent overnight. There’s a gourmet café and restaurant specialising in fish dishes, and an interesting, well-stocked museum shop. Take a bracing dip outside, paint in one of the open workshops, enjoy a concert: this is definitely an art museum with a difference.

Glasets Hus

Founded in 1740, Glasets Hus is Sweden’s oldest glassworks, producing over 1.5 million glass bottles daily. Although best known for the production of the iconic Absolute Vodka bottles, which accounts for 95% of glass produced, the glassworks also oversees screen printing, etching and glass painting. In 2012, it opened its doors to the public, allowing visitors the opportunity to delve into four centuries of the glassworks’ history, as well as view exhibitions by local and national artists. You can even try your hand at glassblowing in the workshops. Round the visit off with a coffee in the beautiful winter garden.

Havets Hus

Watch congers swim overhead in the 140,000 litre tunnel aquarium, get up close and personal to starfish and crabs in the touch pool, learn about the different sea beds and the sorts of creatures that live down below. There are over 100 species in Havets Hus, from the colourful Cuckoo Wrasse to the endangered lesser spotted dogfish, all of which you will find in the Skagerrak and Kattegak Seas outside the aquarium. There’s a daily seal safari departing from Lysekil, as well as guided tours, an underwater safari, and a great gift shop where you can pick up a memento of your visit.

Gothenburg Botanical Garden

Home to one of the finest collections of wild Japanese plants, and widely regarded as the most beautiful public gardens in Sweden, Gothenburg Botanical Gardens comprises 175 hectares of wild and cultivated gardens, including rock and bamboo gardens, rhododendron gardens, herb gardens, woods, a Japanese glade and a nature reserve, as well as greenhouses filled to the brim with tropical plant species, including 1,500 orchids. You can easily lose a day wandering round the various areas, and there are trails and puzzles to keep the children amused, as well as a shop and a small garden centre.

Kosters Gardens

The old fish farm has been completely transformed into a series of orgnically-run gardens – produce from the land goes straight to the restaurant and café on site, where head chef Anna uses the seasonal ingredients to whip up fantastic dishes, from freshly-baked bread and cakes to simple lunches and delicious dinners. The old sheds are now a clutch of intriguing shops and workshops: visitors can stock up on garden goodies in the farm shop, such as homemade jams, eggs, as well as gardening tools, art and pottery, hammocks and other garden items. Pop by for a wander round the gardens and a lesson in permaculture: the dedicated team will happily share their gardening tips with visitors.


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