October 31, 2014 | West Sweden
Here’s the latest selection of wintery holiday ideas and travel news – from a festivity-filled break in Gothenburg to horse & sleigh riding in Dalsland, cross-country skating in Grebbestad and winter paddling in Lysekil…
Gothenburg the Christmas City
Feel festivity levels soar with a winter break in Gothenburg, just a short (two-hour) flight from London. Central Gothenburg is transformed into the Christmas City from 14 November. Mixing a warm sense of tradition with contemporary Swedish design, highlights of Gothenburg the Christmas City include…
Scandinavia’s biggest Christmas market
One of the city’s most traditional festive highlights is Liseberg Amusement Park’s Christmas market, decorated with five million twinkling lights and some 700 Christmas trees. It features 70 rustic market stalls selling everything from arts and crafts to seasonal foods such as traditional Swedish marinated herring, roasted reindeer served by Sami reindeer herders from Lapland, marzipan pigs and traditional mulled and spiced wine, known as glögg.
One of the new features of the market is the Traditional Christmas area, offering visitors a chance to see how the festivities were celebrated from the 1930s to the 1940s, and a 10,000-square-metre Rabbit Land playground. There is also an ice-skating rink, a chance to meet Santa Claus and a range of children’s rides. The market opens from 14 November on weekends and Tuesdays to Sundays from 3 until 23 December, with entry costing £9 pp.
More traditional Christmas markets…
Get a flavour of Christmas in the countryside too, by visiting one of the many traditional markets held in quaint towns across the region. Highlights include the Christmas market at Gunnebo House & Gardens, one of Sweden’s finest 18th century estates, about ten minutes south of Gothenburg. There’s the Christmas market at Baldersnäs Manor house – 1.5 hours north of Gothenburg – where visitors will find everything from woodwork, handmade candles, glassware and ceramics to delicious traditional Christmas fare such as game sausages and locally-produced foodie goods. Or why not explore the Christmas Market at Falbygdens Ost – the cheese-makers in Falköping, about two hours from Gothenburg – where they offer a delicious assortment of Swedish cheeses and other locally-made tasty Christmas treats?
The Lane of Light
Walk the unique 3 km illuminated trail through the heart of Gothenburg (from 5 December to 11 January). Set off on a magical meander from the central harbour all the way to Liseberg Amusement Park’s Christmas market. Combining innovative lighting design with a love of Christmas the old-fashioned way, the city architects and light designers have created this year’s Lane of Light around the theme of a sea of light. If you don’t fancy walking, Ringlinien vintage trams transport visitors from Drottningtorget, near the city’s central station, to Liseberg Amusement Park, too.
The tradition of St Lucia
The Lucia tradition is a key event in the Swedish Christmas calendar. Witness a delightful, candle-lit Swedish national tradition: every year (12 and 13 December), towns and cities across Sweden hold Lucia concerts. Gothenburg’s chosen Lucia (Queen of Light) is duly crowned with a halo of candles, and her coronation is marked by a majestic concert held in candle-lit churches across the city, including the incredibly atmospheric Vasa Church. Choral pieces sung by the Lucia troupe of seven girls bring divine enchantment to the packed churches.
Gothenburg the Christmas City tour operator packages:
Three nights’ B&B at Hotel Vanilla, set in the heart of Gothenburg, costs from £480 pp (two sharing) including a 24-hour Gothenburg City Card (includes free public transport and access to many attractions such as Liseberg Amusement Park’s Christmas Market), guide notes and flights (London). Breakfast can be enjoyed at Kafé Vanilj – on the ground floor of the hotel – one of the city’s most popular cafés, thanks to its giant cinnamon rolls and home-made apple pies! To book this trip, call Inntravel on 01653 617006 (www.inntravel.co.uk).
Three nights’ B&B at the Elite Park Avenue, return flights and a 48-hour Gothenburg City Card (includes free public transport and access to many attractions such as Liseberg Amusement Park’s Christmas Market) costs from £220 pp (two sharing).Valid for travel from 14 November to 30 December 2014. To book this trip, call Best Served Scandinavia on 020 7838 5956 (www.best-served.co.uk).
Christmas fun isn’t limited to Gothenburg…
Beyond Sweden’s second city awaits the majestic winter wilderness of the Bohuslän west coast and Dalsland lake district, all easily accessible from Gothenburg (up to a maximum 90-minute drive north). Relax in cosy, candle-lit accommodation, tuck into a traditional ‘Julbord’ Swedish Christmas buffet, wander around rustic Christmas markets and wrap up warm to indulge in some adventurous and energetic outdoor winter activities, such as snow-shoeing or exhilarating walks.
There is an array of festive breaks on offer in the region, including these holidays that mix a city break with the Swedish countryside or coast…
Gothenburg Christmas markets with an outdoor activity twist
Combine Gothenburg the Christmas City with outdoor winter adventure around the thick forests and sparkling lakes of Dalsland. Take in all that festive Gothenburg has to offer and then enjoy a full-day excursion to Dalsland to take part in activities such as ice-skating, snow-shoeing or ice-fishing and to tuck into the finest local cuisine. The trip costs from £599 pp (two sharing) including two nights’ B&B at the five-star Elite Plaza Hotel and a day’s excursion to Dalsland, with two winter activities, lunch and a traditional Christmas Smörgåsbord dinner. Flights extra. Call Off The Map Travel on 0800 566 8901 (www.offthemaptravel.co.uk).
Gothenburg and the magical archipelago
Spend a winter break in Gothenburg and the unspoiled Bohuslän region – an archipelago of 8,000 islands and many quaint fishing villages. Stay at the Elite Plaza Hotel in Gothenburg for two nights and journey 45 minutes north to the peaceful coastal setting of Ljungskile for an extra evening at the charming Gothic villa by the sea, Villa Sjötorp. Guests will enjoy an eight-course dinner at its Taste of West Sweden-accredited restaurant and the dreamiest view of the archipelago. The trip costs from £771 pp (two sharing) including three nights’ B&B, eight-course dinner at Villa Sjötorp, airport transfers, two days’ car hire and flights (London). Call Sunvil Discovery on 020 8758 4722 (www.sunvil.co.uk).
If you’re organising your own trip over the Christmas period, these hotels have some fantastic options…
Salt & Sill is a fabulous floating hotel and restaurant, in Klädesholmen, on scenic Tjörn Island (an hour’s drive north of Gothenburg). Feel a sense of inner calm – and very smug – this Christmas, as you chill out in the floating sauna, overlooking the ocean, before tucking into a delicious Christmas buffet at the award-winning restaurant. One night’s B&B costs from £135pp (two sharing) including glögg on arrival and the festive buffet. Call Salt & Sill on 00 46 304 673480 (www.saltosill.se).
Villa Sjötorp, in Ljungskile (less than an hour’s drive north of Gothenburg), is a cosy coastal retreat and a large gingerbread-style former family house, overlooking the sea and nearby islands. Guests can enjoy coffee, glögg and ginger snaps on arrival, perhaps followed by an exhilarating walk along the shoreline before tucking into a special nine-course feast at the Taste of West Sweden-accredited candle-lit restaurant. One night’s B&B costs from £152 pp (two sharing) including refreshments on arrival and the festive feast. Call Villa Sjötorp on 00 46 522 20174 (www.villasjotorp.se/eng)
Hotel Koster is a delightful guesthouse and is the only oceanside hotel on Koster island. Guests can enjoy glögg and gingerbread in safari tents, perhaps followed by a relaxing wood-fired bath in one of the hot tubs. A wonderfully traditional Christmas dinner is then served in the evening. One night’s B&B including all of the above costs from £118 pp (two sharing). Call Hotel Koster on 0046 526 20250 (www.sydkoster.se).
Why not spend New Year’s in West Sweden too?
Upper House in The Gothia Towers is offering a fantastic New Year’s package. Stay in 5-star luxury, indulge in a spa visit, and then enjoy a delicious six-course meal and champagne, with spectacular views over Gothenburg. One night’s B&B costs from £436 pp (two sharing a superior room) including spa entry and a ‘Spa Experience ritual’, a six-course New Year’s menu, a glass of champagne on arrival and a bottle for the table, plus breakfast on the 25th floor. Call Upper House on 0046 317 088200 (www.upperhouse.se).
Winter paddling with Nautopp in Lysekil
Paddling around West Sweden’s archipelago in the winter is an exhilarating experience. It’s deserted, peaceful and simply breath-taking. Birds and seals are braver when the waters are deserted, too – you may even be lucky enough to witness a curious seal swim right up to your kayak! There’s no need to worry about the cold either, as a dry suit and all the relevant kit is provided. No previous experience is necessary – if you’ve never been paddling before, you’ll be paired up with someone in a double kayak. Two nights’ B&B at the Strand hostel (part of Strandflickorna Hotel) costs from £139 pp (two sharing) including a day’s guided kayaking trip, all equipment and clothing. Lunch and dinner not included. Call Nautopp on 0046 523 29200 (www.nautopp.com).
Cross-country skating with Skärgårdsidyllen in Grebbestad
From December to March, West Sweden’s extensive network of lakes turns into natural ice-rinks just longing to be explored. A professional guide can be arranged (two days is recommended) and all skates and equipment are provided. Guests stay in a quaint little cottage with magnificent views over Skagerack and the Weather Islands. One night’s B&B costs from £127 pp (two sharing) and a guide costs £127 a day. Call Skärgårdsidyllen on 0046 702 66 70 80 (www.skargardsidyllen.se).
Cross-country skiing and a new snowboarding park at Ulricehamn Ski Centre
Billingen mountain in the Västergötland region has more than fifty kilometres of cross-country skiing tracks to choose from in the winter. The Ulricehamn Ski Centre, situated to the north of Lake Åsunden, is also a fantastic option for all skiing abilities. There are seven slopes including a slope for beginners and children, a dedicated snowboarding area with a Quarterpipe and Big Jump, a restaurant, heated shelter, barbecue facilities and a kiosk. Skis, snowboards and helmets can also be hired from the newly-opened ski shop.
For an insider’s guide to events and experiences in West Sweden, follow the latest blogs at www.explorewestsweden.com.
Holidays to West Sweden are available through numerous specialist tour operators, including Best Served Scandinavia, Black Tomato, Discover the World, Inntravel, Nature Travels, Off The Map Travel, Original Travel, Seasoned Travel, Simply Sweden, Sunvil Discovery and Taber Holidays.
West Sweden can be reached by a short (two-hour) direct flight to Gothenburg with British Airways (Heathrow), Ryanair (Stansted and Edinburgh), SAS (Heathrow), Norwegian (Gatwick), British Airways/Sun-Air of Scandinavia (Manchester) and bmi regional (Birmingham).
Ends – 31 October 2014