You may not have heard of Småland. But, when we tell you it's where Ikea was born you may recall seeing or hearing about this area that literally translates to “small land”. Located in southern Sweden, it's in the southernmost part of northern Europe closest to Denmark and literally the gem of the region, that proves Sweden is so much more than just a city break destination. For families looking for adventure Småland is an area of glistening freshwater lakes, quiet forests and home to Swedish wildlife such as moose, wild boar, lynx, osprey, and the white-tailed eagle. It is also an area perfect for adventure of all kinds - whether that be a full of adrenaline experience or, at a more calmer pace to take in the wilderness around.
In Småland living the Swedish lifestyle - the kind where being up close to nature, where you take your cup of coffee outdoors and breathe in the fresh air - is a simple one. This is the sort of place where you pack your backpack with all that need for the day and take off until home time (that's if you're not sleeping outside among the stars!)
Junior discovered Småland for ourself when our Editor and her daughter headed on an unforgettable adventure weekend. Our editor admits to not being all adventurous or outdoorsy type but all the name of research - and it always good to go out of your comfort zone - we've compiled this guide to 9 things not to miss in Småland, Sweden with children:
1. Kosta Lodge, located between Växjö and Kalmar, Småland
Kosta Lodge is a newly opened holiday village in the middle of the south-swedish forest. The perfect basecamp to explore Småland. Kosta Lodge is located very close to the famous glass factory of Kosta and the Kosta Boda Art Hotel (more on that below).Simple and modestly furnished, the traditional red Swedish wooden lodges at Kosta lodge offers 26 rooms either in the main building or annex where you'll also find the cozy lounge, reception and dining room - where a simple buffet breakfast is served. Here there is also access to midsommarbjörk ( a spearmint scented sauna), relaxation area for up to 8 people, the 2 pools and hot tubs.
Kosta Lodge also offers 13 newly built twin cottages that are fully equipped with beds for up to six people. Privately situated within the beautiful surroundings with two ponds and barbecues, the apartments are built with modern furnishings. With the tranquility, greenery and a private patio here you can enjoy some family time, rest and relax.
2. Grönåsen Moose and farm animal park, Kosta, Småland
Grönåsen Älg and Lantdjurspark (Grönåsen Moose and farm animal park) was one of the first moose parks to open in Sweden in 1994. The woodland lane take you on a walk round three extensive moose enclosures but you can also visit African pygmy goat, fallow deer and more. As one of the biggest parks in Sweden, Grönåsen also has an extensively stocked moose shop selling gifts and food, a museum where you can see up close live size elks and their enemies (bears, wolves and hunters) and you can also cook up moose sausages in the barbecue and picnic area.
3. Café Mjölnaren, Korro
Right next to Ronnebyån river lies the Korrö Restaurant & Cafe at the heart of this quaint typical of Småland. It shows the traditional, red Swedish houses and gives you an instant feel of the Bullerbyn village from (the native) Astrid Lindgren books and stories (see more below) and serves up traditional Småland and Swedish meals on raw materials derived from soil, forest and water produced by there very own kitchen. The Korro Cafe is also a great place to experience a typical traditional Swedish midsummer (June) as our editor did on the trip with Visit Sweden making floral crowns, gathering flowers and leaves for the maypole and dancing around it in a true Swedish tradition. There is also many other traditional meal experiences and events held throughout the year.
4. Getnö Gård, Lake Åsnen, Småland
Getnö Gård is a privately-owned nature preservation with a rich history. With its own archipelago of 1000 islands located in the middle of beautiful Lake Åsnen, Getnö Gård is an outdoor activities centre perfect for a family getaway. Getnö Gård is surrounded by birdlife protection areas, nature reserves and soon-to-be national park. A paradise in which to discover nature and wildlife with activities suitable for the whole family including fishing, canoe safaris, bike trails, lake swimming and camping. Activities especially for younger children can be arranged in the nature school (more information below).
Getnö Gård is also home to nature camping and is located close to the lakeside. With 150 (120 with electricity) very large site areas for tents, trailers or camper vans, each site has its own camp fire and barbecue area.
5. Fishing and Canoeing, Lake Åsnen
Getnö Gård sport fishing waters are privately owned and located in the heart of Lake Åsnen and known for its abundance of fish where you can learn to fish - whatever your level and age - with the helpful and knowledgeable fishing guides who know the waters like the back of their hands. Here they guide you to the hottest fishing spots with its "fish and return" policy.
The lake is also the perfect place to canoe and kayak in groups as they have all equipment you need and can help you to plan a canoe tour safari around the lake to get closer to nature to discover the peace and tranquility of the waters while admiring the fauna and birdlife.
6. Little Rock Lake Zipline, Klavreström, Småland
As one of the premier providers of zipline and Canopy tours in Europe and the longest zipline in Europe, Little Rock Lake is the perfect outdoor, eco adventure for children (aged 5 and above) and adults and offers breath-taking adventure and views among the tree-tops. With various courses to suit all abilities, levels and ages - children aged 5 – 10 years can tandem zip with one of the guides or an adult. Our editor and her daughter went on the blue-green course - a family-friendly zipline ride lastly approving 2 hours. (But as the youngest child in the group only managed 3 zippiness out of the 6).
This amazing interactive experience offers stunning views - of course, due to the higher altitude - of the big, green forests and blue lakes of Småland. As well as the opportunity to explore the forest in an adrenaline fuelled way, engage with nature and hopefully learn more about yourself in unusual conditions.
7. Kosta Boda Art Hotel, Kosta, Småländ
The Kosta Boda Art Hotel opened in 2009 and is within the grounds of the infamous glass factory that produces Orrefors Kosta Boda, one of Sweden's most famous brands (founded by two foreign officers in Charles XII's army in the 17th century). The Kosta Boda Art Hotel is of course decorated with art glass, both in the form of fixed installations and art glass exhibitions - where several famous Kosta Boda designers have participated in the conception where they have put their unique stamp on the rooms and corridors of the hotel.
The hotel offers a five-star spa, wine tasting, excursions to local shopping outlet, hiking trails, berry and mushroom picking tours and a visit to the glass factory and glass blowing classes (more below.)
8. Kosta Glass Center, Kosta, Småländ
The Kosta Glass Centre is at the very heart of Kosta and the Glassworks school for glassmaking has been there for more than 20 years - and is where glass crafters from all the nordic countries come to get their education and hone their skills. Kosta Glasscenter now offers shorter glass blowing classes - perfect for visitors and tourists - allowing visitors to work with the hot molten glass and create something to take home with them.
With a guided glassblower you'll learn how shape hot glass with the traditional tools – a glassblowing pipe, sheers, blocks and moulds - and then decorate the cooled glass with sandblasting, grinding and engraving.
9. Astrid Lindgren World, Vimmerby, Småländ
Astrid Lindgren was a Swedish writer of fiction and screenplays and best known for children's book series featuring Pippi Longstocking, The Brothers Lionheart and the Six Bullerby Children - and is also one of the worlds most translated authors.
The Astrid Lindgren World theme park is located in her native city Vimmerby. Opened in 1981 as a sagobyn (Fairytale Village) all of the theme parks environments are built to replicate those described in her books to give young visitors the possibility of entering into the stories of Lingren's beloved characters and even meet them in person too.