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Once around lake Vättern

Sweden’s best ice cream, fantastic views, and handmade candy. Follow us as we travel around Lake Vättern – to picturesque towns, fairy-tale like castles, and crystal-clear water.

TEXT: MARIA LINDBERG PHOTO: MARTINA WÄRENFELDT

 

The sweet smell of sugar wafts all the way out to the street. Venus Choklad in Askersund, at the northernmost point of Lake Vättern, makes high-quality pralines and desserts. Everything is made by hand and can be purchased in the café.
“We only use natural flavours and colours in our chocolate,” explains Tea Malmborg, who works in the store. She offers us a praline and tells us about the craftsmanship behind its creation. Chocolate is not the only handmade candy in the Lake Vättern area. A bit to the south lies Gränna, which makes a popular peppermint candy, but we will come back to that later. A visit to Askersund should absolutely include the picturesque town and a meal at the tables by the harbour.

Polkagrisar

We move on. Route 50 runs parallel to Lake Vättern’s eastern shore and takes travellers past the old springs at Medevi Brunn, which has an inn and a café. A “porridge walk” is held every day – a tradition dating back to the 1860s when Medevi was a health spa. A band marches through the village together with the day’s visitors. Further south lies Motala, which has a slightly odd car museum that draws more than just four-wheel fanatics. Classic cars stand side by side with old typewriters, motorcycles, a complete garage from the 1920s and the cars of several stars from earlier generations — for example Siv Malmkvist’s touring car from the 1960s.

“It’s fun with this kind of museum, where you recognize things from your childhood,” says Bertil Lundin, who’s visiting with Ingegerd Wennbrom.

Museum

Beautiful views and rose bushes

The view of Lake Vättern is stunning. To get the best views, stay on the roads that run parallel to the shore. Travellers are transported along the way back to the 1300s (Vadstena Castle) and 1500s (Vadstena Abbey). Vadstena’s narrow, winding cobblestone streets lined with rose bushes and small, pastel-coloured houses frame the grand castle, which has a dramatic history. Learn more on exciting tours, where visitors can be shouted at by Gustav Vasa or meet the women around the Vasa throne.

Home of the polkagris candy

The small village of Hästholmen is easy to miss. But make sure you don’t. Here, there’s a wonderful little harbour and, perhaps most importantly, what might be Sweden’s best ice cream. Karolina and Håkan Johansson run 31:ans Glass och Kök.
“We make 120 different types of ice cream, and we use milk instead of cream just like in Italian ice cream,” says Håkan proudly.
At the cosy café, ice cream lovers can enjoy the national champion flavour, apple pie.

Just north of Hästholmen lie the ruins of Alvastra Abbey, a beautiful and magical place that takes us back to the 1100s. Saint Birgitta had many of her most famous visions at Alvastra. Your taste buds may need a rest before visiting the polkagris metropolis Gränna. If so, stop at Ellen Keys Strand between Vadstena and Ödeshög. The author and women’s rights activist built a stylish home in 1911 on the beach of Lake Vättern. She allowed working women from the cities to come to the countryside and rest. Visitors can wander through the steep garden and take a guided tour of the amazing house.

To continue southward, the best option is the small road at the edge of the lake – not highway E4. The view is unbeatable, and it takes you straight into Gränna, where the street is lined with shops that cook, roll and pack the polkagris candy. For antique lovers, there are lots of secondhand and craft shops along the streets leading down to the water. To learn about an exciting and slightly crazy story, visit the Andrée Expedition at Grenna Museum. In an interactive museum that displays real hot-air balloons and the dead Andrée’s fingernails, learn more about this fatal hot-air balloon journey to the Arctic.

Finish off the day with a wonderful dinner outside. There are two excellent restaurants close to Gränna: Västanå Castle and Gyllene Uttern. Gyllene Uttern, which was built in 1930, was Sweden’s first motor hotel and is an institution in the town. It serves dinner on the veranda with a view of the lake. Västanå Castle offers a luxurious three-course dinner in a well-preserved castle environment from the 1920s. Walking around inside the castle among the large paintings, armour, art, and elaborate old furniture feels like something from a movie.

Göta kanal

 

Charming Jönköping

Jönköping lies like a glittering anchor at Lake Vättern’s southernmost point. Here, there’s a rich selection of restaurants and other entertainment. For families travelling with kids, a visit to the central park’s large playground is very popular. The Stugan restaurant, which is also located in the park, has a wonderful view of the city and the lake. A slightly strange sight is the beautiful brick building, Fågelmuseet, located next to the restaurant that’s full of stuffed birds.

There are also charming old brick buildings in the matchstick area. The Match Museum is located here, where visitors can learn how the safety match put both Sweden and Jönköping on the world map. It’s also suitable for families with kids.
“This museum is perfect for us on a rainy day like today,” says the Carlquist family, which is visiting Jönköping.

Almost half-way up Lake Vättern’s western coast is Hjo, with its pastel-coloured wooden houses featuring turrets, towers and exquisite carpentry. The old swimming huts dot the coastline like small pieces of candy. With its lighthouse and harbour, Hjo is a must-see – if only to admire the sunset.

More substantial is the fortress in Karlsborg, 30 km north of Hjo. This impressive construction is still used for military activities but also offers something for both history buffs and hungry travellers. There are not only several cafés but also a museum featuring historical adventures, a hunt for the lost gold reserve, and a mini gold hunt for the littlest visitors.

Vättern

A small detour from Lake Vättern’s shoreline, and only 10 minutes from Karlsborg, is quaint Forsvik. This is where Forsvik Mill is located, with 600 years of Swedish industrial history, and don't miss the restaurant’s fantastic outdoor seating next to Göta Canal.

Regardless of where you are around Lake Vättern, it’s always possible to find a place to take a dip. Lake Vättern is a deep lake with cold, clear water. The best swimming is at Djäknesundet – a hidden sound 20 minutes north of Karlsborg. A small road through the forest leads down to a parking lot large enough for campers and caravans, and from there it’s a short walk to a nice sand beach framed by cliffs and trees. The best time to visit is during the morning – when the sun offers heat before the invigorating swim.

Campsites around Lake Vättern

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