Sweden in miniature     

Östergötland sees itself as a "Sweden in miniature", combining the best the nation has to offer in a variety of landscapes and environments.

From the wooded mountainsides of the highlands in the southern and northern reaches, encircling productive flatlands in the centre, to the shores of lake Vättern and the beautiful archipelago tying the county to the Baltic Sea in the east, the landscape of Östergötland throws up a new surprise around every corner.

There are more than a thousand lakes in the county, including lake Tåkern, northern Europe's largest bird lake, while to the southeast of Linköping the area known as the Oak District – thought to contain the largest concentration of old oaks in Europe – is one of the continent's most important examples of this type of habitat.

Approaching the university town and county capital Linköping from any direction, the way is lined by billowing cornfields and the sweet-smelling Östergötland soil. From a distance the tower of the famous medieval cathedral, one of the finest in Scandinavia, seems to rise above the plain.

Linköping, one of Sweden's larger municipalities with almost 145,000 inhabitants, has a long history as a regimental city, a city of learning, and most recently a world-class, hightech, centre of excellence, not least in the IT field.

Tourist attractions include the historic and lively Old Linköping, and several castles. Nearby, a section of the Göta canal runs into lake Roxen, while the Kinda canal links that lake with a number of others to the south.

Excellent fishing
In the city of Norrköping, the Motala river, which runs through the town centre, is regularly stocked with salmon and trout, and offers excellent fishing. The wildlife zoo at Kolmården is popular with visitors.

Östergötland is one of the old core counties of Sweden, with five of its towns dating back to the Middle Ages. Its cultural heritage includes some of Sweden's most outstanding architecture from medieval times onward, and historic monuments such as parish churches, castles and manor houses. Most prominent is Linköping Cathedral, one of the most lavish and well-preserved medieval cathedrals in Scandinavia. The Monastery Church in the town of Vadstena is built according to plans made by Saint Birgitta (Bridget), one of Europe's patron saints, in the middle of the 14th century.

Equally remarkable is the Rök Stone, raised during the early Viking Age, which bears the longest known runic inscription. In the western part of the county, well known tourist attractions include the ruins of Alvastra monastery, which was founded in the 12th century by Cistercian monks, and the monastery church of Vreta Kloster close to Linköping.

Nature reserves
Nature reserves are plentiful throughout the county. Pålsbo, in Boxholm municipality, is both unusual and typical of the surprises in store for nature-lovers: an old agricultural area that slopes down to the river Åsboån, combining the beauty of a meadow unusually rich in species and a pasture with tall birches. In the southeast are the Tuddebo spring made famous by the Romantic poet and Pålsbo native Per Daniel Amadeus Atterbom, and a commemorative stone.

From spring and early summer, before Pålsbo is mown, there are cowslips, heath spotted orchids, globe flowers, quaking grass and many other meadow plants, plus large characteristic cone-shaped hazel bushes interspersed by oaks and lime trees.

Once the meadow was the farmer's most important source of winter fodder for his livestock in the form of hay after mowing and leaves after pollarding the trees. Only a few such "working meadows" remain in use in Sweden.

Productive flatlands

Photo: Ulf Huett Nilsson Photo: Can Burcin Sahin, Visit Linköping Photo: Ryan McVay
Kolmården wildlife zoo Linköping Fields, meadows, pasture...