Move away from Stockholm, and it’s easy to appreciate its unique geographical location. Water surrounds the city and – although you can travel by train and bus – it’s worth making the effort to ply the serene waters of Lake Mälaren or the Stockholm archipelago by boat. The archipelago is made up of a staggering 24,000 islands, islets and rocks, as the Swedish mainland slowly splinters into the Baltic Sea; it’s a summer paradise for holidaying city dwellers.
A boat trip inland along Lake Mälaren is also a must, either to the Viking island of Birka, where you can see the remains of Sweden’s most important medieval trading centre and a dizzying array of ancient finds, or to Drottningholm, the seventeenth-century royal residence situated right on the lakeside. Another easy excursion on Lake Mälaren leads to the impressive castle of Gripsholm at Mariefred.
Also within easy day-trip reach are the ancient Swedish capital and medieval university town of Uppsala and one of the country’s oldest settlements, Sigtuna, complete with its rune stones and ruined churches.
If you’ve flown in with Ryanair, consider spending a day in lakeside Västerås, with its fascinating mix of the new and old – including a sixth-century royal burial mound, or handsome Nyköping on the Baltic coast which rewards visitors with its laid-back seaside atmosphere and impressive castle.