One hour from Stockholm

Find the bones of a berserker in Birka

When you've sampled the watery delights of Stockholm, get out and about and explore the surrounding archipelago.

When you've sampled the watery delights of Stockholm, get out and about and explore the surrounding archipelago.

Birka

This ancient Viking trading centre and Unesco World Heritage Site on the Baltic side of Lake Malaren dates from AD760. Its population of merchants and craft workers peaked at 700, before it was abandoned in the 10th century. The site is surrounded by the largest Viking cemetery in Scandinavia, with more than 3,000 graves, and excavations of the complex are still taking place. Be sure not to miss the excellent museum, which is open daily from 10am to 6.30pm.

By boat: take the Stromma Kanal Batar from the pier next to Stockholm City Hall.

Uppsala

Sweden's oldest and fourth-largest city is crammed with ancient monuments and a university founded in 1477. Until the mid-18th century Swedish sovereigns were crowned in the imposing cathedral (the largest church in Scandinavia), which was consecrated in 1435. Uppsala Castle contains an art museum along with a chamber of horrors waxworks museum in the dungeons. There are several pre-Viking burial grounds of note to the north of the city.

By car: take the E4 north to Uppsala.

By train: frequent trains from Stockholm Central station.

Gripsholm Castle

Gripsholm is in the small town of Mariefred in Sodermanland on the shores of Lake Malaren. The castle (which is all turrets, spires and a drawbridge) dates from 1526 but was much renovated and extended during the reign of Gustav III in the late 1700s. The castle's highlights include the best preserved 18th-century theatre in Europe, Gustav's Round Drawing Room and his Hall of State. An impressive art collection features portraits of prominent Swedes from the time of Gustav III to the present day.

By car: take the E20 highway, and the Mariefred exit.

By train: hourly from Stockholm Central station to Laggesta, then a bus to Mariefred.

Gustavsberg

For porcelain lovers, the Gustavsberg ceramic museum displays a phenomenal selection of china from 1825 onwards. And for wannabe artists there is the opportunity to decorate your own plate and take it home. The factory-outlet shop sells Sweden's best-known porcelain brands – at knock-down prices. The museum is open daily from 10am to 5pm weekdays; 10am to 3pm weekends.

By car: take the 222 south and follow the signs for Gustavsberg/Ingaro.

By bus: take the 435 from Slussen to Gustavsberg.

Drottningholm

The most stunning attraction at the royal family residence of Drottningholm on Lovon is the Chinese Pavilion (Kina Slott), a small pleasure palace in the grounds. Built as a birthday present for Queen Lovisa Ulrika in 1753, the pavilion combines the European Rococo with allusions to China. The lacquer-red walls and sculptural decorations have been carefully restored, along with a sumptuous collection of Chinese and Japanese decorative arts. A number of other Chinese pavilions adjoin the main building, including a dining room with dumb waiters, which allowed the royal family to dine without any of their servants being present.

By car: follow Drottningholmsvagen from Fridhemsplan to Brommaplan, then follow the signs for Drottningholm Palace.

By train: take underground (T-bana) to Brommaplan, then change to bus 301 or 323 to Drottningholm.

Fjaderholmarna (Feather Islands)

The four Feather Islands were traditionally the last refreshment stop for farmers as they rowed towards the city to sell their produce. Today, city dwellers make for the islands to swim and relax on the beaches, enjoy fresh seafood from the fish smokery and take advantage of the excellent selection of restaurants and craft shops.

By boat: take the Rederi Stockholms Strom (Fjaderholmslinjen) from Slussen.

Scantours (020-7839 2927) offers a two-night break at the Hotel Esplanade from £270 per person, including return scheduled flights and b&b accommodation. Hertz (0870 848 4848; www.hertz.co.uk) offers weekend car hire in Stockholm from £75, fully inclusive.

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