An American’s First Real Visit to Sweden

Article photos courtesy of Sara Broyles; Header image: Edward stojakovic


An American’s First Real Visit to Sweden

Sara Broyles with travel partner Brooks Menefee

Here at Umgås, we’ve shared a few things to add to your itinerary when visiting Sweden: from must-see museums and the best places to shop to world-renowned restaurants and scenic parks.

Today, we’re sharing an American’s firsthand experience during a recent trip to Sweden.

Sara Broyles, a Virginian of Swedish decent, visited Sweden earlier this summer to see relatives and vacation around the country. During her nine-day trip, she stayed in Gävle with family, ventured to Ljusdal, followed by a trip to Uppsala and ended the trip with a three-day excursion in Stockholm.

Broyles shared highlights of her trip along with recommendations for any newbies who might be planning a trip Sweden in this Q&A.

Fika in Gamla Stan

Was this your first trip to Sweden?

Technically no, but the only other time I went is when I was 2-years-old.

Did you experience any culture shock?

Not so much shock, but a few fun things we learned that came across as different are: Everyone Snuses, Swedes hate cherry and vanilla coke, and they add weird [to me] toppings to their pizza like bananas and tuna.

Did you fika?

Of course we did! In Ljusdal, we had fika at my second cousin’s house where she served kladdkaka, a really dense chocolate cake, and drank coffee. During the whole trip, we drank so much coffee. We also had fika at a couple cafes in Stockholm in the Södermalm neighborhood and in Gamla Stan at a cafe called Under Kastanjen.

Speaking of food, where were some of your favorite places to eat?

In Stockholm, I had one of the best meals of my life at AG. It was the first time I had Kobe beef, and it was incredible. As for a more traditional meal, we ate at Pelikan, also in Stockholm, which is one of the oldest restaurants in the area serving a Swedish menu. I ordered the Swedish meatballs, and my boyfriend had reindeer, which he let me try. It was my first time trying reindeer, and it was less gamy than I expected, tender, too. We also enjoyed lots of ice cream. Swedes are obsessed with it, who knew? There were some flavors I chose not to try, like salted licorice ice cream, but really enjoyed the sweet treat throughout my trip.

Where did you stay?

My grandma is from Ljusdal and a lot of my cousins live in Gävle, so we stayed with family for a lot of our trip in Gävle and one night in Ljusdal. In Stockholm we stayed in the Södermalm district. Södermalm was a fun neighborhood to stay in, there were a lot of young people, markets and bars.

View in Ljusdal

Tell us about the activities. What were some of your favorite things to do in Uppsala?

Visiting Uppsala overall was pretty incredible. Gävle was very modernized and Ljusdal was very country-esque, but walking through Uppsala is when it really hit us that we were in a really old country filled with history. The architecture walking along Gamla Uppsala dates back to Viking era, and the entire area was made up of giant burial mounds and old churches. It was absolutely beautiful, and we saw historic sites like the Gustavianum, the oldest anatomical theater in the world. The Uppsala Cathedral is also a site I recommend people visit, it’s the tallest church in Scandinavia, and you can pretty much see it from anywhere in the city.

Vasa Museum

Same question for Stockholm?

My overall recommendation for tourists visiting Stockholm is to check out Gamla Stan, because of the historic architecture. Some of the buildings date back to when Stockholm was first established and have a medieval look to them. And in Södermalm, I recommend Medborgarplatsen, a square plaza of markets, restaurants and bars. It was definitely the hip place to be. The Vasa Museum was on our itinerary long before our trip, and it was better than I expected; the pictures really don’t do it justice. Skansen is also a must see! It’s the world’s oldest open-air museum and is basically a huge park filled with gardens and Scandinavian animals like reindeer, otters, moose and more. It was definitely one of the more touristy things to do, but well worth it. Finally, Livrustkammaren (the royal armory museum), was very impressive and not a typical museum you can visit anywhere in the Unites States. It was really cool to see actual suits or armor.

What was your overall impression?

Overall, the trip to Sweden was more than I expected and was a full experience. We saw rolling hills, country backdrops and really got to know the tiny cities of Gävle, Valbo and Ljusdal ̶ where you could literally walk everywhere, hundreds of years of history and buildings that dated back to the Viking era and touristy attractions in Stockholm. I highly recommend a visit to Sweden.

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