Photo by Emelie Asplund/imagebank.sweden.se
The interesting world of the Vikings has come to British shores this year with a new exhibition at the British Museum – the first major Viking exhibition at the museum for 30 years.
You’ll be transported back in time to the Viking era, see new archaeological discoveries and really be able to understand what it meant to be a Viking.
Once your appetite for all things Viking has been truly whetted then why not visit the beautiful Skåne in southern Sweden and uncover its Viking history?
Skåne is steeped in history with over 200 castles dating back from the 12th - 19th centuries and the area is dotted with Viking monuments. Take a visit to Ales Stenar (Ale’s Stones), which is Sweden’s answer to Stonehenge. The 59 huge stones were placed to form the shape of a Viking long boat around 1,400 years ago. Nobody really knows the significance of the stone placement but it is speculated that it would have been a meeting place or somewhere to celebrate the changing of the seasons.
No Viking themed trip to Skåne would be complete without a visit to Foteviken, the Viking ‘reserve’. The living history museum is unlike any other museum: here real people are working and living as their Viking ancestors would have. An entire Viking Age town has been reconstructed using techniques and materials of the time and is as historically correct as it can be.
The museum is open from May to September and costs 90 SEK for adults (£8) and 30 SEK for children aged 6 – 15 (£3)
Travel back to the age of the Vikings in Skåne - find out more here
Photo by Erik Leonsson/imagebank.sweden.se
We love food in Sweden! Each Swedish child is raised with a sense of the fundamental connection between food and landscape, giving us a very different attitude to eating.
One of the main reasons for this is Sweden’s unique range of fantastic ingredients – from oysters through to reindeer and lingonberries to chanterelle mushrooms - whilst hunting, fishing and foraging is a natural part of the Swedish lifestyle.
Whereas diet and healthy eating has become an ongoing preoccupation for us in the UK, the Swedish eat healthily without even realising it. The diet is full of whole grain products, rapeseed oil, fish, lean meat, low-fat dairy, berries, root vegetables and legumes. According to research from the Nordic Centre of Excellence, this diet lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and strokes, whilst also improving mineral and vitamin uptake and assisting metabolism.
That’s not to say that all Swedish food is super healthy (the classic cinnamon bun puts paid to that idea!) – more that Swedes understand the value of ‘everything in moderation’. Rather than a cause of anxiety, food in Sweden is always an experience, whether it be foraging for mushrooms in vast forests, cosying up by a log fire with a cup of coffee and a piece of apple pie, or laughing with friends whilst tucking in at a summer crayfish party. What’s not to like?
If you want to start eating like a Swede, why not try one of these delicious, easy recipes?
Photo of Turning Torso in Malmö by Silvia Man/imagebank.sweden.se
Foodie fanatics will be excited about the new openings and tours in Skåne this year. There’s everything from Swedish craft beers, Absolut Vodka tours and new restaurants on the menu, making this dreamy part of southern Sweden ideal for a relaxing weekend break.
Although known as the ‘breadbasket of Sweden’, Skåne is becoming known for its wine and beer o
ffering too. Helsingborgs Bryggeri (beer brewery) is a new local favourite run by two beer enthusiasts. They strive to produce great beer using raw materials and treating them with the utmost respect while staying true to old Skåne beer brewing heritage. They recently won the ‘Best Pale Lager’ award for their first beer at the Gothenburg Beer Festival. Guided tours are available in English on Saturdays from SEK 250 (around £25) per person. It’s well worth a visit, especially if you like to enjoy a beer or two!
Now everyone has heard of Absolut Vodka, but did you know it’s produced in Skåne?
The Absolut Vodka distillery produces over 600,000 litres of vodka every day using local sourced produce. The winter wheat comes from surrounding farms; the yeast is made in Stockholm and the water is collected from wells surrounding the factory – each of these features is completely unique to Absolut which makes it one of the top selling vodkas in the world.
Tours of the distillery run from June to August. Visit www.abslout.com/uk to book your place.
If your passion is more food than drinks then you will love the new restaurant openings happening this year.
The first is the hotly anticipated Bistro Royal. The Royal Waiting Hall at Malmö Central station has been closed for over 30 years, until now! It has been lovingly restored to its former glory under the supervision of Malmö restaurateur Andreas Pieplow, and this will be the first time the space has been open to the general public. In its heyday royals and dignitaries would use the rooms whilst waiting for their trains. Check out their Facebook page for more information and pictures of the renovations.
Followers of the slow food movement will be excited about the opening of Bantorget 9, a new 70-seater restaurant in Lund - a pretty university town just nine miles from Malmö. The menu will offer inventive small plates using only organic locally sourced ingredients.
It is -12 degrees, the wind is howling and a thick crust of ice reaches out across rivers and roads into the far horizon. I am firmly holding onto my seat, as Love Rynbäck, our guide, races up the snowy track into the hillside by snowmobile to the cabin of Lars, a local Sami man, deep in the ancient pine forest.
It’s the recipe for an epic adventure. Four British journalists heading out to Luleå in Swedish Lapland to cross the ice-cloaked wilderness by snowmobile, husky dog sled, hovercraft and sturdy winter shoe. Perhaps a little too intrepid sounding for some. Yet, as we discover throughout our trip, this is not a truly cold country, as we are in for some of the warmest welcomes we have ever experienced.
From the moment we arrive, we are surprised not only by the local people’s friendliness but by their warm and happy attitude toward the Arctic elements. In temperatures where in Britain, schools would shut, trains would stop and people would huddle up by the central heating not leaving their homes, here children are playing outside, families are snowmobiling out on the archipelago and friends are fishing for Arctic char and some of the freshest salmon you’ll ever taste.
Fredrick Broman, an expert photographer, who worked across East Africa before returning to his hometown in Luleå to set up the magical Aurora Safari Camp deep in the forest, is the perfect example of the local warmth, welcoming us to his Sami style camp like it’s his home, helping us settle into the wild environment and cooking up hot lingonberry juice to sip by the roaring fire.
Later we wander out from camp onto the frozen lake with our cameras to try and capture the moonlit night. But my favourite moment is stepping out of my toasty warm tepee to brush my teeth. The views across the forest floor and out to the lake are breathtaking, a real privilege to encounter.
Similarly, we are welcomed to Jopikgården guesthouse, cast out on the outer archipelago (only reachable via hovercraft, snowmobile and a special ice road) surrounded by the frozen sea, yet with an incredibly homey feel: Lotta serves her home smoked salmon for breakfast and the house is decorated in simple Swedish style.
The personal touch goes far here. At Sörbyn Lodge, Fredrik stokes up the sauna for us and stocks the fridge with snacks and local beers (a custom that surely deserves to be picked up in the UK).
Back at the Sami cabin, our frosty faces are soon treated to a expertly lit fire and stories of the old way of life here in Swedish Lapland: no running water, no electricity, no central heating in an often extreme environment.
But from what I have seen, the local people here in a Luleå would all have taken this in their stride. It is a warm and wondrous place
Photo by Martin Jakobsson/ imagebank.sweden.se
Spring is our favourite time of year in Gothenburg. The Swedish sun has started shining, the flowers are in bloom and the whole city becomes a riot of colour and activity. This year, it’s not just the plants that are springing to life – Gothenburg is awash with new attractions, from dizzying rollercoasters to wholesome restaurants.
Sweden’s top tourist attraction, Gothenburg’s Liseberg Amusement Park, is launching a brand new roller coaster when it opens for the summer season on 26 April. In building the Helix, Liseberg aimed to create the best roller coaster in the world, two minutes of pure fun! The ride lasts for just over two minutes, hits speeds of up to 100 km/h and has a track length of almost 1.4km, including two high speed launches, seven inversions, three airtime hills, and loads of drops, twists and turns. We can’t wait!!!
Swedish food is having a heyday, and Gothenburg is leading the charge. Over the past few months, numerous new restaurants have opened in the city to rave reviews, including Barbicu, Upper House Dining, Levantine and The Barn. Two of our particular favourites, thanks to their distinct West Swedish flavour, are Deliverket - with its delicious local oysters, shrimp and charcuteries matched with micro-brewery beers and fresh wines - and Koka, a new restaurant from Michelin-star chef Björn Persson focusing on high quality local ingredients.
If that weren’t enough, there are also some great new Gothenburg hotels on the scene to match every budget. Five-star Upper House is a beautiful new boutique hotel offering fantastic views of the city, clean Scandinavian lines and a luxurious spa. Meanwhile, the new, centrally located STF Gothenburg Hotel and Hostel has also just opened at the end of March, offering both luxury hotel rooms and quality hostel accommodation.
Photo by: Tuukka Ervasti via imagebank.sweden.se
If you are heading to Sweden for your next spa weekend why not try one of the award winning spas in Stockholm, Gothenburg or Falkenberg in West Sweden?
The winners of the SpaStar Awards 2014 have just been announced and Spa of the Year 2014 went to Yasuragi Hasseludden spa in Nacka outside Stockholm. Upper House at Gothia Towers hotel in Gothenburg won both newcomer of the year and best spa kitchen.
Here are the winners:
Spa of the year : Yasuragi Hasseludden, Nacka, Stockholm
New comer of the year: Upper House – Gothia Towers, Gothenburg.
Day spa of the year: Grand Hôtel Nordic Spa & Fitness, Stockholm.
Spa conference of the Year : Skepparholmen Nacka, Stockholm.
Spa ritual of the year : Diamond – The Retreat Club/Falkenberg Standbad.
Spa kitchen of the year: Upper House – Gothia Towers, Gothenburg.
Spa treatment of the year: Elemis Exotic Lime and Ginger Salt Glow –Sankt Jörgen Park Spa, Gothenburg
Can diversity and openness help promote creativity? To explore this question Sweden is launching Democreativity, a collaborative tool, where the world is asked to contribute with underrepresented ideas to co-create the most unlikely video game ever.
The platform Democreativity.com is a collaborative tool designed to promote diversity and create new ideas, and in doing so encouraging creativity all over the world. Sweden is now inviting gamers to submit ideas they see as underrepresented in games today. Ideas from the games community together with input from industry experts will later be developed by students at the Swedish University of Skövde, as a voluntary project assignment. All ideas will also form a brief that will be posted on democreativity.com, accessible to anyone and everyone to realise. Sweden welcomes all creators to join in the quest for new formats, stories, heroes and heroines beyond best-seller charts and media headlines.
In 2011 the Global Creavitity Index ranked Sweden as the world’s most creative country due to its high level of talent, technology and tolerance. The latter is where Sweden stands out compared to other countries. Being open to new ideas and promoting diversity, having “freedom of impression”, have proven to be successful conditions in which to build its creative industries.
“Our belief is that creativity is less about pulling ideas out of thin air and more about connecting things. But in order for this to happen one must be open to new ideas, and that is why receptiveness is essential to all creative work. Democreativity is an open invitation to explore the potential of creativity and aims to highlight diversity and underrepresented ideas, hopefully inspiring creators all over the world in the process,” says Sofia Kinberg, Global Marketing Director, Visit Sweden.
Sweden has a very strong position within the gaming industry, having created some of the world’s most popular games, including Minecraft, Candy Crush Saga and Battlefield. The gaming industry also has a long history of being open to external impressions, for example in how they work with player involvement in order to test and improve the products, which makes it a fitting industry for this initiative.
Building a creative nation
The creative process has been revolutionised in most areas - from music and fashion to technology and business – social platforms, user-generated content and crowd funding have democratised the process and made it possible for anyone to participate. This development goes hand in hand with the Swedish tradition of participation, collaboration and non-hierarchy.
“Sweden ranks first in our global creativity index with high scores in both talent and technology. Sweden stands out as one of the most tolerant societies in the world, welcoming all types of people from all walks of life. Together, these qualities put Sweden in an excellent position to attract creative ingenuity and talent globally,” says Charlotta Mellander, research director at the Prosperity Institute of Scandinavia and close collaborator with Professor Richard Florida at the Prosperity Institute in Toronto.
Sweden’s new initiative Democreativity, following on from the much publicised Curators of Sweden @Sweden project (www.curatorsofsweden.com), is a tribute to the development of democratised creative processes. It’s designed to promote creativity and the underlying factors that have helped Sweden achieve enormous success in industries such as music, cinema, literature, food, games and fashion despite its small population.
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Photo: VisitSweden/Fenella Mett
(February 2013) Stockholm has been selected to host Bocuse d’Or Europe 2014, the prestigious biennial world chef championship, from 7-8 May 2014. This year’s competition is tougher than ever, with the most experienced field of competitors to date, including four chefs who have competed in the Bocuse d’Or in previous years.
“Being chosen to host the world’s most prestigious cooking competition, Bocuse d’Or, demonstrates how prominent a culinary city Stockholm has become. The event helps to attract both visitors and future investors and strengthens the image of Stockholm as a creative gastronomic destination”, says Sten Nordin, Mayor of Stockholm.
The world famous competition will see 20 chefs, representing countries across Europe, compete using only Swedish sourced ingredients. 12 countries will then qualify to proceed to the world championship in Lyon 2015. It will be the first time the competition has been hosted in Sweden, and will take place at the Gastro Nord venue in Stockholm.
Mathias Dahlgren, the 1997 Bocuse d’Or champion for Sweden and owner of the eponymous, two Michelin star Stockholm restaurant, has been selected as honorary president and is ultimately responsible for the Bocuse d’Or Europe in Stockholm.
The chef has said of the competition: “nothing in my career has been more important than winning in 1997. Having Bocuse d’Or in Stockholm shows Sweden as a culinary nation and gastronomic inspiration.”
“Sweden is reinventing its culinary roots and traditions, with Stockholm in particular attracting talented, international chefs. Stockholm combines gastronomy with other creative arts like fashion, music and design”, says Mr Florent Suplisson,gastronomic events director at GL Event, responsible for the Bocuse d’Or.
Competitors will have five hours and 35 minutes to cook a fish and a meat dish for 12 people. For the first time in the competition’s history, all of the main ingredients will be sourced from the host country: saithe will be delivered by Nordsjöfisk, oysters from Bröderna Klemming in Grebbestad and mussels from Scanfjord in Mollösund in West Sweden, whilst Swedish young pigs will be provided by Havor Gård in Southern Gotland.
The arrival of the Bocuse d’Or Europe in Stockholm signifies the long heralded rise of Swedish food. In the UK, sales of Swedish food are up by 30% since 2006 and Swedish restaurants and bakeries are popping up everywhere in London. Michelin-star restaurant Hedone in Chiswick, West London, has received rave reviews since it opening in summer 2011, as has Swedish bakery Fabrique, which opened in Shoreditch at the end of 2012.
Scandinavian food is now sought after in the world–Sweden’s unique geography – 9 climate zones, 500km wide, 1,572km long, with only 9.3 million citizens and 3% of its land inhabited – means it is blessed with a diverse set of pure, natural ingredients and an unexploited coastline teeming with fish and shellfish.
Sweden is one of the up and coming culinary regions of Europe thanks to its diverse climate and unique approach to food. One of the birth places of new Nordic cuisine, which is currently sweeping through Europe, Sweden is rediscovering its culinary heritage. It is embracing old gastronomic traditions and ingredients in a modern way, resulting in authentic and accessible dishes with influences from all over the world.
For more information on Bocuse d’Or Europe, go to www.bocusedor-europe.com
- Ends -
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In Luleå, Swedish Lapland you cross a threshold, transported into a sumptuous and whimsical frozen wonderland with the most beautiful music wafting through the cold air.
Welcome to Ice Music.
Inside the massive snow igloo, looking down at the round stage, the musicians are performing. It is unfathomable that such beautiful music could be played on such fragile-looking instruments.
Ice Music is the original creation of ice sculptor and alchemist Tim Linhart and this is the whimsical world he shares with his wife Birgitta.
Tim and Birgitta first met at the Ice Hotel in 2003. She sculpted ice for the deluxe suites and New Mexico native Tim was there to create a spectacular Ice Music concert for Queen Sylvia’s 60th birthday.
Since meeting 11 years ago , Tim and Birgitta have taken the magic of Ice Music throughout the world and they are now performing in Luleå in Swedish Lapland.
An avid skier, Tim began sculpting as a way to bargain for a lift pass. Tim quickly discovered he enjoyed the solitude of being alone on top of a mountain. Most of all, he loved the creativity of the ice.
About 15 years ago, he and a friend talked about sculpting a guitar. Tim was excited about the artistic details, but his friend was curious to hear what this guitar would sound like!
His first ice instrument, a stand-up bass, took 1 month to build-just to have it explode 10 seconds after he began to play it! Yet, in those very 10 seconds, the sound made was so beautiful and the experience so pivotal, that he was forever transformed.
Nowadays, a guitar can take him just 5 days to sculpt. Tim usually works on multiple instruments simultaneously, as each step requires time and patience. The thinnest part is about 2 millimeters thick.
To prevent melting the delicate instruments during shows, the guitar necks are made of exotic wood, and plastic neck guards are added to the violins. All of the string instruments are made with a full set of strings and strung tightly.
The key is not to rush things. Tim’s motto is ”the slower you go, the sooner you are going to finish!”
The ideal temperature for the instruments is about 25F or -5C. Too hot, and the instruments can melt. Too cold and they could explode. Tim spends a lot of time keeping the conditions perfect.
There are a total of 15 different instruments created for the Ice Music orchestra. Including violins, guitars, mandolins, bongos, drums, xylophones and more to satisfy a variety of musical genres.
Birgitta is the concert producer. With new baby, aptly named Frost, on her arm, she makes the call for ”what will happen when.” Tim does, what she describes, “the fun stuff.”
Tim’s own philosophy on the ice instruments is in the spiritual and in the scientific realms: ”Music is physics: at the layer beneath the spiritual artistic layer, it is physics. You have to make sure you have the ice in the right place to receive that energy.”
It is said that modern alchemists creates gold from water. But Tim Linhart has proven he is the ultimate alchemist, turning ice into pure golden music.
By Georgia Makitalo
Photos by Graeme Richardson
Full list of our recommended specialist tour operators to Luleå in Swedish Lapland
Sunvil has a three night break in Luleå, which includes return flights, accommodation at the Hotel Elite Stadshotellet with breakfast, an ice breaking tour, and snowmobile pack ice tour and a ticket to the ice concert from £1,052 per person. Book at www.sunvil.co.uk.
Few things in life compare to the thrill of driving a team of excited and energetic sled dogs.
There is something magical and exhilarating when going out into the untamed forest with a team of well trained huskies. The combination of cold air, soft snow and an enchanting setting gives a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
For over a decade, Caisa and Ulf Ohlsson and their 65 enthusiastic sled dogs have guided visitors through the beautiful, snowy wonderland of Swedish Lapland.
Upon arrival, you know you have come to somewhere special. A huge, wooden, Sami-style teepee dominates the landscape. Inside this magnificent building is a huge fire pit, and along each wall are huge picture windows with incredible 360 degree views of the snowy landscape. Visitors are greeted with a mug of hot berry juice and invited to relax in the cosy room. Here, the charismatic Ulf and Caisa introduce themselves and start explaining the basics of driving the sled dogs.
Most guests will go out with their own sled, with one person sitting and the other driving the sled dog team, swapping places half way through. Caisa and Ulf accompany those who are new to dog-sledding on a small run around the nearby lake before they take the reins. Dog-sledding is actually easier than you might think.
After learning how to drive the dog sled, guests get the opportunity to meet the cute sled dogs.
The biggest surprise is always the incredible speed at which the dogs run. When you ride in the forest you feel the speed, but when you are out in the open, with nothing but snow surrounding you, everything feels like it’s in slow motion. Out here, the sleds travel at speeds of around 20km per hour!
The dogsledding season begins at the end of December and lasts until mid-April. After the season finishes, Ulf and Caisa take tours out to the mountains, near the Norwegian border. Whilst the winter is dramatic, with 20 hours of darkness and the frequent Northern Lights, the spring is also wonderful, with warmer weather and increased daylight.
In addition, they offer food tours, where theycook locally sourced, Swedish Lapland cuisine over the open fire. The most traditional food is Sovas, smoked reindeer meat, with potatoes, onion and a little bit of pork, accompanied by lingonberries from the nearby forest - a fitting ending to a perfect day!
Photos by Graeme Richardson
Full list of our recommended specialist tour operators to Luleå in Swedish Lapland