Wild cooking, beautiful serene lakes, summerhouses and magical forests – welcome to Sörmland – the perfect weekend break from Stockholm.
When you think of Sweden, no doubt you have visions of magical forests, pretty lakes and traditional summerhouses. Of people celebrating midsummer with crayfish and schnapps, and cosy saunas followed by icy lake dips.
I’ve visited Sweden several times, but only stepped foot in the cities of Stockholm and Gothenburg. Beautiful cities though they are, I was ready to slow down the pace and head out to the countryside.
It was time for my Stockholm country break.
I’d be spending four days exploring a few highlights of the region – just a short drive from Sweden’s capital. I’d take part in activities I’d never done before, meet some of the locals, and truly immerse myself in the stunning Scandinavian countryside.
I was hoping Sörmland would be THE place to switch off from the world inside my phone; a place to breathe deeply and reconnect with my passion for travel.
I. Was. Excited! So before telling you more about my trip, watch my video and then scroll down to find out more about Sörmland.
Where is Sörmland, Sweden?
Sörmland is located southwest of Stockholm. Incredibly, it’s only around one hour’s drive from the city, yet it feels like worlds away. Eskilstuna and Nyköping are the biggest cities in the region, but in general as you drive around you’ll pass through small villages and towns, along with a LOT of stunning countryside.
What is Sörmland known for?
It’s a region known for serene countryside, lakes and islands, historic palaces and mansions, and cute summerhouses. When Stockholm’s residents need a break, Sörmland is an easy place to escape to. It’s sometimes referred to as the ‘Cotswolds of Sweden’, and while the areas look nothing like one another, the reasons for visiting are exactly the same!
Why visit Sörmland, Sweden?
If you’re craving a relaxing break, Sörmland is the perfect place for you. Fresh air, beautiful landscapes and few distractions mean you’ll leave feeling refreshed. Spend days reading by the water’s edge, kayaking through the archipelago and cooking outdoors. Go lake swimming in summer, or warm up in a sauna in the winter.
I’d recommend visiting as part of a bigger holiday in Sweden, in particular as an addition to a trip to Stockholm. I love the city, but this region offers a total contrast, and I think by visiting both you’ll feel like you’ve had a great introduction to Sweden as a country.
Things to do in Sörmland, Sweden
If you’re already keen (and no doubt the photos are making you want to visit already!) it’s time to share a little of what I got up to in Sörmland and a few recommendations for first-timers.
From wild cooking using local ingredients and hiking one of the longest trails in Scandinavia, to interacting with wildlife and staying in some truly stunning places, here’s are my top things to do in Sörmland.
Kayak Through Sormland’s Archipelago
We enjoyed a few very special experiences with Apelago, a company based in the adorable town of Trosa. The company is run by Johan, who is warm, enthusiastic and truly flies the flag for the region. A highlight was our time kayaking through the archipelago. There’s something so liberating about hopping on board your own floating vessel and going exactly where you fancy.
It’s a beautiful region to kayak in. There are so many tiny islands dotted throughout the large expanses of water, some topped with colourful summerhouses.
I loved taking in the scenery from the water, and at a few points I popped my oar down and just sat there, absorbing the sounds of nature. The water lapping the shore. A few birds tweeting. A branch or two blowing in the wind. It’s one of the calmest moments I’ve had on my travels.
Johan at Apelago builds bespoke packages depending on what experiences you’re looking for, including boat trips through the archipelago, helicopter tours, wild cooking, and kayaking.
Go Donkey Trekking Through The Swedish Forests
*update* I’ve now written a full post about this experience, as it was such a highlight! Read all about it here.
Before our visit I had no idea what ‘donkey trekking’ would involve. It turned out to be an uplifting experience – in fact I’d say it was a highlight of our trip to Sörmland. In all honesty, I never usually recommend animal activities. I hate zoos and am careful to look at the ethics of any animal experiences on my travels.
With this experience, I didn’t need to worry one bit. The day began at Håcknesta Gård, a farm in the most incredible location overlooking Lake Runniviken. Monica, the owner, greeted us, and it wasn’t long before we were collecting two of her beloved donkeys from their field. She’s passionate about animal welfare, choosing to take care of two gorgeous rescue donkeys and help aid their rehabilitation.
We went on a little trek alongside Eeyore and Reuben, two beautiful donkeys. We learned about them as we walked through fields and magical forests before reaching a clearing overlooking the lake. The forests were a highlight for me. Seeing the golden sun beaming through the trees, illuminating the path for the donkeys? I felt like I was part of some kind of fairy tale!
We stopped for fika, and enjoyed another moment of tranquillity – incredible views, and the donkey’s calm nature adding to the zen vibes.
Hike Along The Sörmlandsleden
Starting just outside Stockholm, this system of hiking trails is around 1,000km long, and passes through many of the region’s highlights. Whether you’re an avid hiker who fancies trekking for several days, (perhaps even pitching a tent along the route) or you’d rather spend a few hours on a leisurely stroll, there are trails to suit everyone.
Rocklösa Gård, our final accommodation of the week, offer guided tours in English, so once we’d checked in and packed up some snacks, we set off on a 12km hike. Our guide Ivika was full of passion for the area. As we wandered the trail (marked by bright orange posts with the letter S) we heard about the flora and fauna, the wildlife, and got a flavour of what life is like in Sörmland.
While the other places I’ve mentioned may sound pretty remote, I’d say this was the furthest we felt from civilisation during the whole trip through Sörmland. We passed 8 others on the trail across our 7-hour hike. We trekked through thick pine forests, passed serene lakes and meadows, all while spotting spring flowers and listening to the calls of birds.
After several hours hiking along the well-maintained trails, we were rewarded with fika – Sweden’s answer to afternoon tea. We devoured sticky cinnamon buns, washed down with strong coffee while looking out over a heart-shaped lake. What a perfect end to the afternoon.
Visit One Of Sweden’s Most Famous Castles
Sörmland is famed for its manors, castles and rich royal history. While most of the manors are privately owned, a few are luxurious hotels or rental properties. If your budget allows, you really could live like a king for a few days!
Gripsholm Castle in the picture-postcard town of Mariefred is a must-see. Surrounded by the waters of Lake Mälaren, it was founded by Gustav Vasa in 1537, and has been in the Swedish royal family ever since.
For the best experience, and to really get to grips (pardon the pun!) with the royal history, I’d recommend booking onto an English guided tour. You’ll hear tales of the royals form the time of Gustav Vasa right up to the present day. As a theatre lover, I was particularly fascinated by Gustav III’s 18th century theatre, which is still in working order.
Art lovers might be interested to hear that Gripsholm Castle is also home to Sweden’s National Portrait Gallery – a historic art collection that is spread across several floors of the building. Also, it’s not just a museum! The castle is still used by the current royal family for special events, such as the World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child (previously won by Malala Yousafzai).
If you’re visiting Gripsholm Castle, stop for lunch at Gripsholm Värdshus – Sweden’s oldest inn. It sits on the remains of an old monastery and the outdoor terrace has a great view across to the castle. The menu features plenty of traditional Swedish dishes. For an extra special experience, visit on a Sunday and enjoy their classic Sunday Brunch. With plenty of hot and cold options available, it’ll fill you up for the rest of the day!
Enjoy A Wild Cooking Experience
*update* I’ve now written a full post about this experience, as it was such a highlight! Read all about it here.
Two out of three of our evening meals were cooked outdoors, using locally sourced ingredients.
Håcknesta Gård has just started offering a wild cooking experience in one of their fields overlooking the lake. Asa, originally from Northern Sweden, set up a grill pan, laid out ingredients and invited us to chop, fry and help her prepare a delicious feast. As a total foodie, I was in my element – I loved it!
A delicious fiery scent filled the air as we fried mushrooms, carrots, peppers and onions, followed by slithers of venison. We cooked the venison in a rich, creamy sauce and added lingonberries, before creating flatbreads to toast on the heat.
We ate and drank, sitting on hay bales, and chatting with Monica and her family as the sun started to set over the farm. It was a wonderful experience – not only was it a great opportunity to try a few Swedish delicacies, it really felt like we’d been welcomed into the fold.
Stay Somewhere Truly Amazing
How better to immerse yourself in Sörmland, than to wake up to beautiful views and enjoy the local hospitality.
During our trip we stayed at three incredible spots – all different and unique. It’d be impossible to choose a favourite so here’s all you need to know about each of them…
Apelago – Apelago arranged an overnight stay at a beautiful summerhouse in the archipelago. It was large enough for a family, with a few bedrooms, a huge lounge and study, bathroom and a fully functioning kitchen. We reached it by boat and couldn’t believe how peaceful it was!
It was right on the water, so we spent time walking along the shore, kayaking around the archipelago, and even enjoyed a bottle of bubbly by the boat dock. If you get the chance to enjoy Johan from Apelago’s cooking – you won’t regret it. He’s a former chef, and cooked the most incredible dinner outside on the griddle for us.
Håcknesta Gård – The most luxurious of the three options, this farm is home to a huge converted barn, with six bedrooms, a kitchen and a large banqueting hall. It overlooks the lake and is a short walk from beautiful Swedish forests.
The décor is modern and stylish, and it’s a great option if you’re travelling as a family, as there’s so much space. Outside is a BBQ cabin, sauna, Jacuzzi and sauna. Plus, Lake Runniviken is just a few minutes walk away, where you could hop on a boat or kayak.
Rocklösa Gård – When I say Swedish house, you probably think of the red houses with the pointy roofs. Well, that’s exactly what this accommodation is like! Based on a farm, moments from Lake Övre Gällringen, it’s a great base for hiking some of the Sörmlandsleden, or exploring the region on horseback.
Inside Rocklösa Gård are several bedrooms, a sauna, kitchen and huge living room. Lena, the owner, is a passionate lady who adores cooking. She creates the most incredible ‘family style’ dinners using ingredients found moments from the door. Each course came with the story of why she’d cooked it and where she’d sourced the ingredients from, which really added to the experience.
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