The lively, youthful and handsome town of ÖREBRO lies on the shores of the country’s fourth largest lake, Hjälmaren, roughly two-thirds of the way between Stockholm and Karlstad and around 110km north of Vadstena. Örebro’s development was dictated by its important strategic position: the main route from southwest Sweden to Stockholm, King Erik’s Way, ran right through the centre, where a build-up of gravel made the river fordable (Örebro means “gravel bridge”). The heart of Örebro comes as a pleasant surprise, its much-fortified thirteenth-century castle forming a magnificent backdrop to the water-lily-studded Svartån River. Aside from the town-centre attractions, there are a couple of fun trips you can make by bike, namely to the Naturens hus nature centre, just east of town on the shores of Hjälmaren, and to Tysslingen lake, a few kilometres west.
Given Örebro’s easy access to Lake Hjälmaren just east of the town, you might want to consider taking a boat trip around the lake on M/S Gustav Lagerbjelke, which operates from late June to mid-August. There are several options available but the most popular is the five-hour cruise out into Hjälmaren and through the Hjälmarekanal with its many locks. Transport back to Örebro is by bus and the return ticket costs 320kr. Alternatively, shorter lunch cruises including a dish of salmon with pesto, parmesan and potatoes cost a good-value 270kr. There’s more information at
Another option is to rent your own canoe or kayak and paddle out yourself: both are available from KFUM Örebro Kanotcenter located out of town at Hästhagsvägen (t 019 26 04 00; 50kr/hr, 200kr/day). Give them a call and they’ll help with pickup and drop-off.
Norrköping’s north–south central artery, Drottninggatan runs ruler-straight from the train station and crosses Motala ström, the small, rushing river that attracted the Dutch industrialist Louis De Geer (1587–1652) to the town in the early seventeenth century. He was known as the father of Swedish industry, and his paper mill, became the biggest factory in town. Many of Norrköping’s buildings, and the trams, are painted in De Geer’s colour of choice – a tortilla-chip yellow – which has become synonymous with the town.
Just a few steps down from the station, compact Carl Johans Park has 25,000 cacti, formally arranged in thematic patterns and interspersed with brilliantly coloured flowers and palm trees. Glance to the right from here (with the train station behind you) across Slottsgatan, and you’ll see the splendid 1906 city theatre, with its Art Nouveau curves and double Ionic columns. Over the river, follow the tram lines up cobbled Drottninggatan and after a few hundred metres turn right into Repslagaregatan for Gamlatorget, overlooked by a charismatic Carl Milles sculpture of Louis De Geer with a bale of cloth slung over his shoulder.
Every odd-numbered year, between mid-June and early September, the city’s pedestrianized centre is transformed into a huge open-air contemporary art exhibition, Open Art (Wopenart.se), as designers and artists display their work. Past displays have included a gigantic upside-down teddy bear made of wood and a floating platform for model ducks and seals on the water below the castle; you name it, anything goes – the aim is to provide an urban forum for thought-provoking modern art.