In September, we started our moms trip up in Scandinavia with a tour through southern Sweden. We met my mom and her lovely friends, Karen and PO, who showed us all around their home. It was an awesome start to our trip to be hosted by such kind and welcoming hosts who spent so much time touring us around and introducing us to Sweden.
If you’re planning a trip to southern Sweden, check out this itinerary on how to make the most of a road trip through the south of Sweden (and Denmark!).
Day 1: Copenhagen
Surprise! This southern Sweden road trip itinerary actually starts in Denmark. The south tip of Sweden is connected to Denmark by bridge and it would be a shame not to pop over and visit this neighbouring country. Plus, most international flights will be a lot cheaper and easier flying into Copenhagen.
You can spend your first day in Copenhagen playing at Tivoli Gardens, admiring the views of Nyhavn, checking out the royal palace, climbing the Round Tower, hitting some museums and seeing Copenhagen from the water on a canal tour. For more on our rainy day in Copenhagen, check out that post!
Day 2: Castles & Rocks
A royal morning
On your second day, you’ll leave Denmark and explore some of southern Sweden. Head out on the castle route where you’ll catch glimpses of some of the cool little castles dotted around Sweden.
These aren’t giant castles like Versailles or Buckingham Palace. But they are still castles! And the coolest part is that because they aren’t big name castles, you’ll likely have them all to yourself.
The best castle we visited was Marsvinsholm Castle, located in Ystad, Sweden. The land was owned in the 14th Century by the Danish royal family and the castle itself was built in the 1640s. Since then, the castle has switched owners quite a few times, bouncing between Swedish and Danish ownership. Today, the castle is privately owned but the public is welcome to walk around the outside and adjacent garden.
We had all of Marsvinsholm to ourselves when we visited. I loved seeing the castle up close, and the moat all around it that was full of ducks. I’d be happy to move in if they’re looking for new tenants!
A cozy lunch
After a morning of castles and countryside, it’s time for a cozy and cute lunch stop. We had lunch at the delicious and adorable Olof Viktors. I definitely recommend a stop at this place! It’s an old house that has been turned into a bakery and cafe, but still has all the charm, separate rooms and tiny doorways of a house. And the food is amazing! I had a great crayfish sandwich and I’m still dreaming about the amazing carrot cake I had.
Following lunch, you can pop into the store next door and pick up some more Olof Viktors to take home. They make fresh bread, pastries, cookies and a bunch of cool spreads and spices. If you’re looking for the perfect southern Sweden souvenir, you’ll find it here!
Afternoon amongst the rocks
Once you’ve gotten your fill of the Swedish bakery, it’s onwards to Ales Stenar. I like to think that Ales Stenar is southern Sweden’s version of Stonehenge. It’s an ancient viking site, likely where chiefs would meet as it has a perfect vantage point over the land and sea. It’s not a burial ground, as no body remains were found. But others have theorized that it was used to build ships or as a life-sized sun dial.
Whatever it was used for, it’s super cool! A short walk finds you at the top of a hill where a giant circle of humongous rocks await. And unlike Stonehenge, you can actually go up and touch these rocks and walk amongst them. When you’re done admiring the rocks, you can walk over to the cliff’s edge and see the Baltic Sea. Just be warned that it’s very windy by the edge!
The coolest part was when we visited in early September, we had this place all to ourselves! It was only as we were leaving that a few more groups started to show up. But even then, there was never more than a dozen or so of us up there.
Stroll through Ystad
Your last stop of the day is a stroll through the super cute town of Ystad, located quite close to Ales Stenar. I loved seeing the little houses, most with rose bushes out front, and beautiful old buildings. We walked around a church and its garden, a lake with tiny little fairy houses on its shores, and through a cobble-stone shopping street. I couldn’t get enough of the adorable doorways!
Traditional crayfish dinner
If you really want to take your southern Sweden trip to the next level, end your night with a traditional crayfish dinner. Our amazing hosts went above and beyond to prepare this for us, buying crayfish in advance and even setting up with crayfish-themed plates, hats and streamers (yes, these exist in Sweden). And it was delicious!
Day 3: Lund & Malmo
Lund in the morning
On Day 3 of your southern Sweden road trip, it’s time to explore the most well-known towns in the neighbourhood. Start your morning in Lund, the adorable university town that won my heart pretty quickly. I can see why my friends enjoyed studying abroad here!
I really loved walking around this cute town, especially the Lund University buildings. They’re beautiful and definitely a nice place to stroll if the weather is good. For more of the outdoors, you can head to the Botanical Garden or Stadspark, as recommended by our host, Karen. Or if you prefer to head indoors (especially in bad weather), check out the Lunds Konshall art gallery in Martenstorget or Skissernas Museum, a museum of sketches, which I’d love to check out on our next visit.
And you definitely need to make it to the Lund Cathedral. Check their website to see what time their astronomical clock show is happening (times change depending on when during the year you’re visiting). To be honest, the show isn’t anything to get excited about. But the clock is worth seeing! And while you’re there, you should also check out the crypts in the basements. There’s even a legend about the giant who built the church. Go find him!
For lunch, we went to Gattostretto, an authentic Italian restaurant with a very simple menu. There are only a few options, but the food is great. And the restaurant is built overtop of the ruins of the original Lund Cathedral, so be sure to pay a visit to the bathrooms in the basement!
On the way out of Lund, we stopped at a couple of chocolate shops (I never say no to chocolate). I would definitely recommend visiting Chocolaterie Hovby No 9. This place is a true hidden gem – you have to walk through two courtyards and then a set of stairs down into a tiny basement chocolate shop. And they only use dark chocolate. But the flavours are pretty incredible! In true Ang style, my mother cut up each chocolate into tiny pieces so we could all sit around the table and do a taste test.
Malmo in the afternoon
After lunch, it’s time to visit another well-known town in southern Sweden, Malmo. To be honest, I didn’t find Malmo as charming or cute as Lund. But it’s definitely still worth a visit. And hey, maybe you’ll like Malmo better! It’s like a New York vs LA thing.
We started our time in Malmo with a canal tour, and I think it’s a great way to learn more about the city and get oriented. It was fun to be out on the water, learning about the history of Malmo and seeing some of the sights from our boat. Highly recommend!
Following our boat tour, we wandered through town, checked out City Hall and some of the cute squares with restaurants and shops, like Lilla Torg. We also walked over the water and saw the shoes of famous Swedish people and cat statues on the steps. If you’re into museums, Karen suggests the Moderna Museet Malmö for modern art (there was a Warhol exhibit on while we visited which would have been fun to catch) or the Malmö Museum, located inside the Malmo Castle.
And, of course, you have to make time for fika while you’re in Sweden. We stopped at a great little cafe in Malmo (that I can’t remember the name of) and got our fill of cakes and coffees. It’s one of my favourite Swedish traditions!
Need more time in Lund or Malmo? Feel free to visit just one city per day and extend your trip by a day!
Day 4: Hamlet’s Castle
Ferry to Denmark
From your base in southern Sweden, you’ll drive out to the Swedish town of Helsingborg. You’ll then take a ferry across the Øresund Strait to the Danish town of Helsingør. The ferry crossing is very short, at just 20 minutes, but the ferry itself seems pretty fun with a restaurant, cafe and bar. Our host PO was telling us that some people just ride the ferry back and forth!
Once you reach Denmark, you’ll have a short walk until you reach Hamlet’s Castle, aka Kronborg. This is the castle that Shakespeare based Hamlet in, despite never having visited the castle himself. But friends of Bill’s visited and described the place in such detail that he decided to set Hamlet there. And thus, it’s become known as the Hamlet Castle! They even put on a performance of Hamlet on the castle grounds, which would be very cool to see.
The castle itself is beautiful. We arrived towards the end of the day and, honestly, I would recommend going late. We had lots of the castle all to ourselves as most of the other visitors had left. We started by touring the royal apartments and the tapestries. The great hall was very impressive, just by its sheer size. There was also a Hamlet room showing off all of the famous actors who have played the titular role.
But the best part was the casements. The basements of the castle were where the soldiers used to live. The casements were huge! There were tons of hidden little spots and apparently bats live down there as well. I couldn’t believe how big the casement area was. We also saw a statue of Holger the Dane down there, a hero from Danish legend who will defend the country in times of need, and who entices Danes to visit the castle. Our tour guide (I highly recommend going on a tour of the casements) explained that English-speakers come to the castle for Hamlet but Danes come for Holger.
Traditional midsummer dinner
For our last dinner in Sweden, our awesome hosts treated us to a traditional midsummer dinner, even though midsummer had already passed. It was the perfect end to our southern Sweden road trip! On the menu? A classic Swedish dish: herring! And while some people can’t stomach it, I actually enjoyed it. I mean, I won’t be ordering it for dinner or anything but it wasn’t bad!
We also had home made salmon, Swedish meatballs, potatoes, pickled cucumbers, ligonberry jam and gravy. The perfect (and delicious) Swedish meal!
Where should you base yourself for a southern Sweden road trip?
We stayed at Karen and PO’s beautiful home just outside of Lund. Their home was so nice and it was such a treat to be able to stay at someone’s house, play with their dog and have homecooked meals. But just in case you can’t find such great hosts for your southern Swedish trip, I still recommend staying in or near Lund. From their home, we were never more than an hour’s drive from any of the stops on the itinerary. Plus, Lund is such a cute town and would be a great base for this trip!
Tips & tricks for your southern Sweden road trip
- This might not be news to you but Sweden is COLD! We visited in early September and it was really chilly. My weather app told me it would be around 19 degrees but 19 in Sweden is different than 19 in Prague. We were in pants with sweaters, coats and scarves most days. I would certainly recommend layers (and maybe visiting in summer).
- The easiest way to visit southern Sweden is to fly in and out of Copenhagen. We found flights from Prague to Copenhagen for just $25 each!
- Another tip you probably have heard but bears repeating: Sweden is expensive! Scandinavia is pricy and Sweden is no exception. While you can stick to a budget, this isn’t a cheap destination, so come prepared.
- The best way to do this road trip is definitely with a car. While you can certainly get to some of these places by train or public transport, not all of them will be accessible. I would recommend renting a car for your trip!
- It’s really not a trip to Sweden if you’re not stopping for fika. Fika is a Swedish tradition of taking time out of the day to enjoy a cup of coffee and a good pastry. We enjoyed daily fika and it’s definitely a routine I’d like to adopt in my everyday life.
- As I mentioned in my Stockholm tips post, English is widely spoken in Sweden and Denmark and you won’t have any problem only speaking English. In fact, I would bet most people in Scandinavia speak better English than we do!
- Even though both Denmark and Sweden are Schengen countries, and therefore theoretically borderless, Sweden has begun checking passports at their border. Due to recent immigration and migrant influxes, this policy has come into effect (read whatever racial undertones you will into that). Regardless, you should have your passport or ID with you anytime you’re planning to enter Sweden.
- As awesome as this southern Sweden road trip is, it’s even better if you have two kind, knowledgeable, generous and incredible hosts like we did. Karen and PO, thanks again for showing us such a wonderful time in your home!
We had the best time on our southern Sweden road trip! I was lucky enough to visit Sweden twice in a span of a few weeks (you can check out my 3 days in Stockholm) and I have to say, I’m a fan! I would definitely love to go back to Sweden and see more of the country.
Help a fellow traveller plan their southern Sweden road trip – Pin it!