Summer on the Beach: The coast of Sweden

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Between Gothenburg and Stockholm is a U-shaped shoreline edged by long sandy beaches and pretty ports. Go inland, and there's Viking sites to explore. Mark Rowe tests the (surprisingly warm) waters

Swedes are well-known for migrating in their droves to winter sun destinations, but in the summer many of them choose to stay put, in the knowledge that their own beaches, weather and unexpectedly temperate waters can be hard to beat.

And here's a couple more surprises: prices can be lower than the Mediterranean, and the Swedish concept of open access to land and coast, enshrined in law as Allemansratten (Every Man's Right), means that snooty exclusivity is rarely to be found – you'll see plenty of VW camper vans parked next to the more top-end Saabs.

Sweden's beaches nudge up towards the Arctic Circle in the upper reaches of the Gulf of Bothnia, but for practical purposes the ones where you'll want to kick back, sunbathe and drink akvavit, can be found in the large U-bend of coastline that connects Gothenberg in the west with Stockholm in the east.

Here, the wild coast backs up against pretty seaside and fishing ports, with secluded coves and vast beaches in between, fringed with fragmented archipelagos. This landscape is pockmarked with windmills, wooden cottages, turreted villas, pretty meadows and fields of poppies, dramatic cliffs tumbling to the sea and, as you'd expect, no shortage of Viking sites to explore if the beaches begin to pall.

Most of the best beaches are to be found in Skane, where crescent-shaped coastlines with a backdrop of forested hinterlands lure visitors throughout the summer. But wherever you visit, the coast will not disappoint, from the red-rock sandstone of the Bjare peninsula south of Gothenburg, to the pretty town of Kalmar, spread over a lattice of islands as the coast turns north towards Stockholm, and the islands of Gotland and Oland, which get as close to the Costa del Sol experience as anywhere can in Sweden.

Some destinations can just get too crowded, but what is striking about the Swedish coastline is the scale of space and tranquillity. One June morning I woke early and headed for the elongated sausage of beach at Sandhammaren in southern Skane. A light film of mist ran along the beach, perfectly parallel to the shoreline, two metres wide but seemingly as long as the beach. I sat down, enchanted by both the spectacle and the sound of songbirds. Two hours later, the mist started to evaporate and revealed the first advance parties of holidaymakers as they tumbled down the high sand dunes to the beach.

The beaches

Arguably the most delightful of all Sweden's beaches is Sandhammaren, near the southernmost tip of the country in Skane – with dunes at the back, and a long, linear stretch of fine white sand pushing out west and east along the cape towards the horizon. Alternatively, Mossby beach near Ystad is a beautiful stretch, popular with Swedish families. Gotland has many delightful beaches, too. Head for those around the resort of Ljugarn, which cater for all tastes, from partying sunworshippers to spots for a quiet beachside drink. Wonderful Tylosand stands by the west-coast village of the same name and suits both those in search of partying and those looking for relaxation, though the crowd here tends to be slightly older than on Gotland. Nearby Svarjarehalan has a bathing beach adapted for people with disabilities. Ostra Stranden, close by, has shallow waters and is a good bet for children.

The islands

There are 24,000 or more islands in the archipelago extending from Stockholm. But for a mix of leisure and culture, take the 30-minute boat ride to the island of Ven, located off Landskrona on the west coast of Skane, south of Helsingborg. Ven is a pint-sized gem, just three miles long and two miles wide. Beaches, sports and museums are the key attractions for the many Swedes who visit the place. A gently sloping plateau, the island is ideal for taking a bicycle and exploring the artist and craft studios that dot the landscape, though horse-drawn carts and tractor-drawn wagons can also be hired. Views are outstanding: in good weather you can see all the way to the dramatic Oresund bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark. Another curiosity worth visiting is the museum, dedicated to the pioneering 16th-century astronomer Tycho Brahe.

The resorts

Simrishamn, in south Skane, is a charming port, with a picturesque harbour, excellent cafés, pastel-coloured houses and a 12th-century church. Even in summer it is far from overwhelmed, and it's popular with Swedish painters and authors – a low-key St Ives. Further west, sleepy Ystad is Skane's main market town. Ystad is the centre of the Inspector Wallander novels by Henning Mankell. The town was built around St Maria's church that dates from the 13th century. The town's night watchman still sounds a bugle on the quarter hour. Bastad is a small but exclusive resort at the top of the Bjare peninsula, with a picturesque waterfront and fine restaurants. This is the Swedish equivalent of Sandringham – the Swedish Royals holiday here – it's also where the Swedish Tennis Open takes place, with an attendant social set. Visby, Gotland's main city, is a superbly preserved medieval Hanseatic town that almost seems to have been relocated here from Ibiza in the summer months. It is hugely popular with fashionable Stockholmers.

A day off the beach

You just can't avoid prehistoric and Viking sites either along the coast or in the hinterland. Sweden's answer to Stonehenge, Ales Stennar, is a megalithic site of standing stones erected in the shape of a Viking longboat and dramatically perched on high cliffs overlooking the Baltic Sea, on the southernmost coast of

Skane. An hour's drive north from Ales Stennar lies the intriguing Bronze Age burial cairn of Kungagraven, or King's Grave. A cobbled path descends into an inner sanctum where eight runic slabs are etched with animal figures, including seals. Wherever you are based along the Skane coast, it should be easy enough to divert to Olof Viktors Café, well signposted from main roads north of Sandhammaren. This café routinely wins national awards for its drinks, ambience, and food. An in-house bakery makes delightful cakes, the café sprawls around a wooden conservatory, and the gardens are a delight for children to explore.

Compact Facts

How to get there

Mark Rowe travelled to Sweden by train with Rail Europe (08448 484 064; raileurope.co.uk). It offers return fares to Malmo from London St Pancras via Brussels and Copenhagen from £205 per person.

Further information

Skane Tourism (00 46 40 623 98 00; skane.com).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

    £15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence