Västmanland is Europe’s closest wilderness. Less than an hour from the city of Västerås and only 90 minutes from Stockholm, vast landscapes and deep unspoiled forests offer great opportunities for visitors. The region is particularly attractive for active families. Tour companies offer everything from guided hikes to award winning moose safaris. The Svartådalen (“Black River Valley”) area in the heart of Västmanland is famous for its wealth of bird species and the wetlands and forests offer some great photo opportunities. This is an ideal destination for fishing enthusiasts, birdwatchers and botanists, and for hiking, swimming, cycling or canoeing. In the northern parts of the region the important biological boundary with northern Sweden is found. This beautiful area supports an unusual combination of southern and northern flora.
The Rivers, Lakes and Islands
Västmanland boasts hundreds of lakes and rivers offering splendid fishing, and scores of nature reserves and national parks. Beaver can be found in many of the small forest lakes and there are several companies offering Beaver Safaris and canoe rentals. The old and once very important Strömsholms Canal with 26 locks rises over 100 meters and offers an unusual canoeing experience. All locks are operated manually. Lake Mälaren stretches all the way out to the Stockholm archipelago and with thousands of small islands in the region it is a popular area for boating and swimming. A number of boat trips and sightseeing tours set sail directly from Västerås city harbour to the islands in the Västerås archipelago. Östra Holmen, a favourite for swimming, is serviced by the 107-year-old ferry "Elba".
Västerås is a thousand year old city with a population of over 134 000 people. The city is an immensely popular summer destination in its own right. Step back in time at the graves and stone sships at Anundshög or experience how people used to live at Kyrkbacken (“Church Hill”) or the outdoor museum “Vallby Friluftsmuseum”. Other attractions include bathing, boating, shopping, golf, pavement cafés and restaurants – all within walking distance of the town centre. There are plenty of parking spaces and several thousand hotel beds, plus youth hostels and campsites nearby. There is a congress centre and a number of arenas for big events. Each year in July, the city hosts the world famous “Power Big Meet” festival with over 10 000 American cars and a carnival atmosphere. With visitors from all corners of the world accommodation is often booked up a year in advance during Power Big Meet week.
Västmanland's industrial heritage dates back to the beginning of the 14th century, when iron ore was first mined. Many of the magnificent Manors that today provide visitors with comfortable country side accommodation were originally built for the owners of these industries. During the 16th century the silver mine at Sala generated enormous wealth, inspiring historians of the county to describe it as "Sweden's Klondike”. The industrial heritage of the region provides some fascinating excursions. Visitors to the old silver mine at Sala, once known as "Sweden's treasure trove", can explore the mine workings 155 metres underground. Engelsbergs Bruk is listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, while nearby Oljeön ("Oil Island"), is the site of the world's oldest intact oil refinery. The Lancashire forge at Karmansbo Manor is another good example of well preserved history in the region – the forge is still intact and usable! Many of these attractions are tourist centres today, complete with guided tours, restaurants, handicrafts and souvenir shops, etc.