When the August winds blow and the fields turn yellow, what better thing to do than go on yet another Sweden road trip? We write a lot about travel, but sometimes it is easy to forget the domestic aspect of wandering and exploring. Last weekend we decided to inspect our nearest surroundings, so we borrowed a car and hit the road. And guess what we found? A lot of the sweet life!
Sweden Road Trip For Anyone With A Sweet Tooth: Östergötland
Östergötland, or East Gothland, is situated in south-eastern Sweden along the shores of the Baltic Sea. Jesper has studied in its main city, Linköping, and he wanted to show me around in the area.
The area boasts with a long and interesting history. One of its most famous citizens might well have been the viking Beowulf, the hero of the Geats. The region kept its own laws, the Östgötalagen, into the Middle Ages. It was also an important religious center after Christianity came to Sweden. The most important cities in modern times are Linköping and Norrköping.
Östergötland is also famous for the canal Göta kanal – the longest canal in Sweden. As it crosses most of the province (and is known from the movies), our first stop during our second Sweden road trip was at the canal.
Stop 1: Berg
Berg is a small locality right next to lake Roxen. There are several locks here and it was amazing to see how they worked. The place is called Bergs slussar by the way. I’m a bit ditzy I admit, but I honestly thought they were called bergsslussar (mountain locks) at first. It was us and a lot of German tourists admiring the functionality of the canal. The area is great for a walk. If the weather is good, have an ice-cream, your sweet tooth will thank you for it!
Berg is famous for another attraction as well. Vreta kloster (the Vreta Abbey) was the first nunnery in Sweden and it was in operation from the beginning of the 12th century to 1582. The church is still open to visitors.
Stop 2: Ljungsbro
Not far from Berg lies Ljungsbro and this is where the sweet part of this Sweden road trip begins. The library is nice and the supermarket as well. However, the crowds flock to the chocolate factory in town. Confectionery company Cloetta has one of its biggest factories in Ljungsbro and here you can marvel at such Swedish delights as kexchoklad and Polly. The factory shop offers good deals on all types of sweet. My favorite? Salty licorice.
Stop 3: Brunneby Musteri
A few kilometers further from Ljungsbro you find yourself at a big parking lot. It belongs to lovely Brunneby Musteri, a small family owned business that processes berries and different kind of fruit. It is located next to a medieval church and there is also a cozy restaurant on the site. This is the perfect stop for a delicious lunch and some serious shopping in the farm shop.
Stop 4: Borensberg
Imagine a small – and idyllic – Swedish town sitting next to a lake. The kind of town where the houses are red (or yellow) and the flag waves slowly in the air. Welcome to Borensberg! This is yet another locality by Göta kanal, and Motala is only 15 kilometers away. The lake is called Boren. Really, you need about 20 minutes for a quick stroll and that’s about it.
Stop 5: Motala
The closest big city (to Borensberg) is Motala. It is the third city of Östergötland and it is an important center of the Göta kanal and the surrounding lake region. What I especially liked about Motala is the presence of water: it really is everywhere. Apart from the canal, lake Vättern – the second largest lake in Sweden – is nearby. The river system Motala ström (Motala stream) runs parallel to Göta kanal.
During the first stops of our Sweden road trip we visited some places of historical importance. Motala is not to be forgotten on the list of important places. The city has a very old church, but for centuries it was considered a stopping post to nearby Vadstena – one of the most important cultural centers in medieval Sweden. The history that is present in Motala is one that bares witness to a time created and characterized by industrialization. Although the town is fairly small (with under 30,000 inhabitants) it felt lively. We saw plenty of cafés and bars, and people seemed to be enjoying themselves quite a bit. Motala is definitely a place that I would like to return to one day as we did not see all that it has to offer. There are plenty of museums and other sites of interest.
Stop 6: Vadstena
I already mentioned Vadstena. Approximately 40 minutes by car and to the south of Motala lies a very compact and picturesque little town. It is quite incredible that a locality the size of Vadstena (the population is below 6,000) is even called a city. This is because it received its city privileges in 1400. During our visit we were really amazed by the castle (one of the best-preserved castles in Sweden), the coziness of the narrow streets in the old town, and the great views over lake Vättern. We also visited the grounds of the first monastery in Sweden. The church is still open and running, and it probably fits all the citizens of the town.
In Vadstena we also decided that we hadn’t had anything sweet in a while, so we took an ice cream break. Believe it or not, Swedes eat a lot of ice cream. They do it in the summer, and in the winter. Although the ice cream doesn’t taste nearly as delicious as the one in Finland. Just so you know.
Oh, and by the way. Vadstena wants to grow. So, if you are looking for a quaint town in Sweden, you know where to go.
Sweden Road Trip For Anyone With An Even Sweeter Tooth: Gränna
Unlike Östergötland, Gränna is not a historical province. It’s just a small town. It is also a very famous town, so that’s why it deserves a headline of its own. Once we had made it all the way to Vadstena, we decided that we had enough time to drive the 40 extra minutes to Gränna in neighboring Småland. Småland is another historical province in Sweden.
Stop 7: Gränna
Sweden is famous for many things. If you ever visit Gränna you will probably wonder about all the candy shops. It is the home of the polkagris or the “polka big”. Don’t worry, no real pigs are involved in the making of this stick candy also known as peppermint rock. The candy was invented in 1859 by poor widow Amalia Eriksson, and it would take until 2011 before a shop was opened outside Gränna. This candy – mainly sold in a town with a population of around 2,500 people – attracts roughly one million visitors a year. Not bad!
You do not need much time in Gränna – a couple of hours is enough. It is funny in shape as it’s located between a steep hill and a big lake, so it’s very long. Gränna is a nice town to walk in (lots of old wooden houses), but it’s quite hilly and the distances are fairly long. We especially enjoyed the atmosphere near the camping area. There were quite a few bars and restaurants to try. From here you can take the ferry over to the island Visingsö in lake Vättern.
If you’re looking for fantastic views, we recommend Brahehus Castle. The ruins of the castle sit 180 meters above lake Vättern, 3 kilometers from Gränna, and conveniently enough right next to the E4 highway.
Fancy Going On A Sweden Road Trip Like This One?
Here are some links that will give you inspiration and some help on your way.