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LISA BJURWALD

Six staycationers you’re bound to run into at these Swedish holiday spots

Many are avoiding international travel this year due to flight chaos across Europe's airports. Swedish writer Lisa Bjurwald reflects on the types of holidaymakers you'll definitely run into around the country, and, perhaps, what your choice of destination says about you.

Six staycationers you're bound to run into at these Swedish holiday spots
Ferry passengers arrive in Visby, on the island of Gotland. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

The hipster at Stockholm-on-Sea

They’re going to Ön (“the island”), their friends are going to Ön and they assume everyone else is going to Ön, too. They’re the seasoned Gotland traveller (perhaps even the owner of a traditional limestone cottage or a fashionably dilapidated farmhouse), an urbanite in search of an idealised version of the Tuscan-like countryside at Sweden’s largest island, preferably sans peasants.

Their next-door neighbours on the island are their neighbours in Stockholm, too. There’s no need to sample the local fare as their favourite Södermalm food truck relocates to the medieval alleys of Visby city in July, just like their favourite boutique. The islanders grin and bear this seasonal affront only because they’re able to charge them 150 kronor for a panini that normally costs 75.

The wannabe sculptor

White, sandy beaches, barns turned into chic art galleries, even wineries – you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in the south of France rather than the south of Sweden. Bohemian Österlen is a national treasure, colonised by artists and writers moving out of the big cities in the 1970s and sprinkled with pristine golf courses, fishing villages and artsy markets.

Today, this kind of Swedish holidaymaker is either one of the lucky few (or one of their heirs) who got their hands on a local property back in the day, or a middle-aged city dweller renting a villa for a week or two for a taste of the good life (and a sighting of a Swedish superstar like singer-songwriter Ulf Lundell). Retiring in Österlen is every Swede’s dream, but very few can afford it.

A sandy beach at Knäbäckshusen, Österlen. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

The rest-when-you’re-dead explorer

No strolling along the beach for these people: summer is for hiking, and the long Swedish annual holiday offers you a chance to head north for some serious physical challenges. Fjällen or “the Fells” is cold, full of mosquitoes but completely devoid of 08:or (Stockholmers) – just how they like it.

If they’re a woman, they’ve only ever worn a dress at their baptism or wedding, and if they’re male, their idea of dressing up is rolling down their cargo pants. Their baby is finally ready to climb Kebnekaise (2,103 metres) at the age of 10 months. That’s what the Babybjörn baby carrier was made for, right?

Ready to get your gaiters on and climb Sweden’s highest mountain? Photo: Fredrik Broman/imagebank.sweden.se

The class act

Gotland is for hipsters and Österlen feels suspiciously left-leaning (aren’t all artists communists?). The holiday destination of choice, when not in St Moritz or on the Côte d’Azur, is one of southern Sweden’s upper-class enclaves, particularly Torekov, Falsterbo or Marstrand (Båstad is for the nouveau riche).

Their holiday house has been in the family for generations and they wouldn’t dream of refurbishing it and flaunting the new decor on Instagram; the more worn, the better, and that goes for everything from their car to their bathrobe. They can smell an outsider from miles away (including those from the country’s financial elite, desperate to fit in among the aristocrats). But these days, most people in Sweden are oblivious to their snobbery and won’t notice how they shudder when the rest of the holidaymakers inflate their unicorn floats.

Torekov, where the upper class is so upper they don’t have to worry about class. Photo: Björn Larsson Ask/SvD/TT

The happy camper

Criss-crossing the land in search of the best camping spot, they couldn’t be more different from the haughty crew above. But that doesn’t mean camping is without its own set of rules. They pride themselves on knowing crucial camping etiquette, such as proper waste disposal and respecting other campers’ space at all times.

They and their friends or family are found hogging the prime spots at classic campsites such as Böda Sand (Öland) and Pite Havsbad (a one kilometre sandy beach surprisingly found in the northern part of Sweden), where they’re known by first name alone to the owners – but they would never divulge their top-secret smultronställen (literally “wild strawberry spots” – the Swedish word for a hidden gem) to a fellow camper. After all, the brother-/sisterhood of camping only goes so far.

Is a mobile home the ultimate staycation destination? Photo: Anders Bjurö/TT

The bargain hunter

For this staycationer, summer equals waiting, sometimes for hours on end. You’ve come prepared with sudoku, crosswords and snacks, for they’re a veteran bargain hunter, taking pride in bagging as many cut-price goods as their van can hold.

The 35,000 square metre Gekås department store in south-west Sweden – its staff immortalised in a cult Swedish docusoap, currently in its 12th season – is your battlefield, the Crocs clogs their comfy armour. Woe to those who dare get in their way as their trained eyes zoom in on a heavily discounted pink microwave. Onward, brave shopper!

The famous Gekås mall in Ullared, Sweden. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT
 
Lisa Bjurwald is a Swedish journalist and author covering current affairs, culture and politics since the mid-1990s. Her latest work BB-krisen, on the Swedish maternity care crisis, was dubbed Best reportage book of 2019 by Aftonbladet daily newspaper. She is also an external columnist for The Local – read her columns here.
 
Originally published in July 2021.

Member comments

  1. I liked it. I found it lighthearted, sharp-eyed and critical. I miss those aspects in most articles in this paper. Mostly non-confrontational interviews and cheesy, safe topics. The podcasts are too embarrassing to listen to. Everyone wants to be each other friends. The interviewer is noncritical. “Oh you live in ….? oh i am sooo jealous. how is living in a small village. lovely just lovely.. “

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DISCOVER SWEDEN

Five of the best spots in Sweden for a naked swim

As temperatures soar in Sweden this week, even the thought of wearing a swimsuit might seem a bit much. If you feel the need to expose a little more skin to the elements, here are some of Sweden's best nude beaches.

Five of the best spots in Sweden for a naked swim

From vast, sandy shores to coastlines dotted with caves and inlets, Sweden’s as many as 90 nudist beaches span the range of what the country’s beaches have to offer.

According to Malin ArlinderEkberg, chair of the Swedish Naturist Federation, interest in naked swimming and bathing grew significantly in Sweden during the pandemic. 

“Those [nudist] associations which have camp sited had more visitors than they usually do, a whole lot of people who wanted to try something new when everyone was having holidays at home,” she told TT in an interview last summer. 

But she said that while Swedes aren’t particularly shy about getting their clothes off, they were reluctant to tell friends that they visited nudist beaches. 

“On hot days, the nudist beaches are rammed, but I promise you that 90 percent of those there won’t dare tell friends and relatives that they go there. The first step is to talk about it and not make such a big deal out of it. Everyone at my job knows I’m a naturist. I do the same things that you and everyone else does, just without clothes.

But you don’t have to join the federation, or even visit a nudist beach, to enjoy a naked swim in Sweden. 

Almost any spot by the sea or on a lake can be your own nude swim spot, so long as you remain respectful of other visitors who prefer to keep their bikinis and swimming trunks on, and choose a moment when there’s no one nearby to strip off and leap in.  The rule is not to flaunt your nakedness.  

READ ALSO: How to find Sweden’s cleanest and best beaches in the summer of 2022 

Sandhammaren

The Sandhammaren beach in Ystad is among Skåne’s most popular, and it’s easy to see why it’s often considered one of Sweden’s best beaches. Its white sandy dunes and long coastline in the southern tip of Sweden make it a popular spot for swimmers and sunbathers, while the pine forest inland is perfect for walks year-round (clothes not optional when traipsing through the forest).

Watch out for strong currents when venturing out for a swim. Historically, pirates took advantage of the strong currents at Sweden’s southernmost tip to run unwitting ships aground before swooping in to plunder the ships.

When you tire of sun and sea, you can visit a lighthouse that dates back to the 1860s, or head back toward Ystad, which The Local ranked among Sweden’s cutest hidden gems in 2015.

Ribersborg
Another one of the many beaches Skåne has to offer, Ribersborg – or Ribban, as the locals say – is close to Malmö’s city centre.

The nude section at this beach is designated at brygga, or bridge, 10, where you’ll also find a public restroom and outdoor shower. If you fancy getting back into your clothes after a few hours in the sun, there’s an outdoor gym you can use, or you can take your dog to the large, dog-friendly area.

Malin Arlinder-Ekberg, chair of the Swedish Naturist Federation, at Ågesta nudist beach. Pontus Lundahl/TT

Ågesta

Ågesta is Stockholm’s only official nudist beach, although you will find naked visitors at other breaches, such as Brunnsviken, Lövnäsbadet, and Kärsön.

At Ågesta, by Lake Magelungen, you’ll find a sandy beach where you can bring the whole family. There are play areas, picnic tables, and even a barbecue area.

Venture inland from the rocky shore and you’ll find yourself walking through the forest that surrounds the beach. And if you tire of the sand, there’s a large grass-covered area where you can spread your towel and settle in for a day of sunbathing – without any tan lines getting in the way.

Amundön

Gothenburg’s Amundön is more rocky than sandy, but don’t let that deter you. Here, you’ll find a hilly 4.5km trail in a protected part of Gothenburg’s archipelago. On your way to the nudist beach, you’ll pass through various hilly and grassy landscapes on your way to the large rocks and cliffs that make up the coast.

On a warm summer evening, the cliffs are ideal for watching the sunset. Bring your own refreshments, because the amenities here are limited to a public restroom. In between dips in the water, you can sunbathe on the rocks or explore the archipelago.

Gustavsberg

Another official beach, Gustavsberg, by the Nora lake in Dalarna, boasts a sand beach with shallow waters that make it safe for even the youngest swimmers. Between the playground, picnic area, grassy sunbathing area, and large barbecue area, it’s easy to spend long Swedish summer days at Gustavsberg. 

There’s a camping space here too, if you can’t tear yourself away from this idyllic space. Rates are available here.

If the shore and camping area get too crowded, rent a boat – you can also buy a fishing
license – and paddle out into the lake for some solitude. 

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