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Central Sweden

Cradle of civilization    

For centuries Svealand – Central Sweden, the historical core region of the nation – has attracted settlers from throughout Europe.

There were, to name just a few, the Finnish farmers who slashed and burned forests to clear them for cultivation, the

Walloon ironworkers, and the French artists who came to decorate the interiors of wealthy citizens' homes with landscape and figurative paintings.

These newcomers in turn came to appreciate and publicize Sweden's own artistic and folk traditions, in the capital and in the countryside, perhaps most notably in Dalarna with its distinctive music, costumes and handicrafts.

Central Sweden is the powerhouse of the nation: home to multinational industrial giants, fons et origo of a culture whose influence extends across northern Europe and beyond, the veritable cradle of Nordic civilization.

Its beating heart is of course the glorious capital city of Stockholm and environs; but its geographic and cultural scope is wide, stretching from the plains of Örebro to the mountains of Dalarna in the north, from deep inland forests to the Baltic Sea. Spanning provincial and county boundaries, its mining district, known as Bergslagen, gave rise to the giants of modern Swedish industry and remains a hotbed of technology and innovation.

Even away from the cultural and intellectual ferment of the capital, the region has been home to and/or inspired many of Sweden's finest artists, writers and scholars. Selma Lagerlöf, Carl Larsson, Anders Zorn Ingmar Bergman and Linnaeus are just a few of the great names to conjure with.

To the south of Dalarna, Värmland rejoices in its wide open spaces, its patchwork of forests and lakes, and the mighty Klarälven river. The scenery is no less enchanting in winter, when snow glistens on roof tops and gardens, and horse-drawn sleighs are a common sight.

In and around Central Sweden's historic and elegant cities – Uppsala, Sigtuna and the rest – ancient churches, castles and manor houses are reminders of the nation's medieval heritage and commanding history as a former European superpower, while the beautifully preserved mining and iron works bring to life the industrial revolution of a hundred years ago: the extraordinary Stora Kopparberg complex at Falun, for example, is one of the world's great industrial heritage sites.

All of which is perfect preparation for beautiful Stockholm, the epicentre of Sweden's cultural and political life, Scandinavian capital of art, design and commerce, offering so many tourist attractions it's hard to know where to begin.

Gamla Stan, of course, the Old Town, with its boutiques, restaurants and beautiful buildings. But then what? The Vasa Museum with its 17th century warship? Skansen, with its open air exhibits, markets and displays of folk dancing?

The Royal Palace, most of which is open to the public, is surely worth a visit. And the National Museum of Fine Arts, with its permanent exhibition of Swedish design and collection of Swedish painters – not to mention the works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Goya, Renoir, Degas, Gauguin.... And let's not forget the Nobel Museum: everything you ever wanted to know about the Nobel Prize, Alfred Nobel, the Laureates and their groundbreaking discoveries and ideas.

    
 
 
Photo: Jupiterimages

  
     

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