The Independent Parent: 'We'd like to visit Sweden. Is it a good destination for families?'


Q. My husband and I and our four children (all under 16) would like to visit Northern Europe. Sweden sounds interesting, but we'd like to spend our time near water with the possibility of some activity. Can you suggest anything?

Q. My husband and I and our four children (all under 16) would like to visit Northern Europe. Sweden sounds interesting, but we'd like to spend our time near water with the possibility of some activity. Can you suggest anything?

M MacManus, via e-mail

A. Sweden is ideal in summer for active families as it should be sunny but not too hot - temperatures usually hover around the 19-21C mark. You will also benefit from the long, light days. Although alcohol is very expensive in Sweden (about £3 for a pint of beer), accommodation and other costs are lower.

For a beach holiday, I recommend the island of Gotland, which lies in the middle of the Baltic Sea. This is Sweden's largest island, stretching 176km end to end, with long sandy beaches, high cliffs and beautiful flower meadows. It is reputed to have the sunniest climate in the country, as well as more than 100 medieval churches and thousands of Stone Age and Viking remains. It is perfect for cycling as it is very flat - if you get tired you can pile the bikes on to a local bus.

If your children are of an age where they like to see some action, the best place to stay is halfway up the east coast of the island in the walled medieval city of Visby. From 1-8 August the city hosts a Medieval Week when its cobbled streets are thronged with people in costume(00 46 498 29 10 70; www.medeltidsveckan.com). The best beaches are out of town, many just a short ride away.

One of the most popular is Tofta, a long sweep of sand about 20km from Visby, accessible both by cycle route or bus. The children may also enjoy a visit to Kneippbyn (00 46 498 29 61 50; www.kneippbyn.se) a summer adventure-land just south of the town with a water park, themed rides, go-karting and a car museum. It is open 11am-5pm daily and costs Skr85 (£6.55) for anyone over three. It is worth hiring a car to explore the island - make sure you book more than 72 hours in advance to guarantee a seven-seater Chevrolet Trans Port. This will cost £536 per week including insurances, taxes and unlimited mileage with Avis (0870 606 0100; www.avis.co.uk).

A villa within the city walls with a small garden, a double bedroom and a loft room with four single beds costs Skr10,900 (£840) for a week, booked through the Gotland Tourist Service (00 46 498 20 33 00; www.gotlandsturistservice.com).

There are lots of places in town to rent bikes, but as it gets busy in the summer it is worth pre-booking. A seven-gear bike costs Skr80 (£6) per day or Skr400 (£30) for a week - bookable through Ohoy Bicycles (00 46 498 20 12 50; www.gotlandsresor.se).

The easiest way to get to Gotland is to fly to Stockholm Arlanda from London Heathrow, Birmingham, Edinburgh or Manchester, then catch another 45-minute flight to Visby. SAS (0870 607 27 727; www.scandinavian.net) offers fares from Heathrow of £173 per person return. For details contact Gotland Tourist Information on 00 46 498 20 17 0 or go to www.gotland.info/eng.

An alternative is to head inland to the mountainous region of Dalarna, which is 270km east of Stockholm. There are lots of activities on offer here in the summer including fishing, swimming, mountain-biking, climbing and horse riding. The lakeside Safsen Holiday Village has spacious cabins, and there are various escorted activities in the forest.

Norvista (0870 744 7315; www.norvista.co.uk) sells holidays at the Safsen Holiday Village; cabins sleeping six are priced at £388. This does not include flights, which from London to Borlange (the nearest airport) via Stockholm will be around £300 per person.

For further details call the Swedish Travel and Tourism Council (00 800 3080 3080; www.visit-sweden.com).

Send your family travel questions to The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS or email crusoe@independent.co.uk

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