Sweden is quite simply a magnificent country blessed with a fascinating history and cities rich in character, and all of it tempered by an extraordinary wilderness, pristine, vast and scattered by 100,000 lakes.

Consistently rated Europe’s most attractive capital city, Stockholm manages to be relaxed, charming and civilised all at once. Capital cities are seldom representative of their countries, but Stockholm is a manifestly Swedish city, exhibiting the national love of open spaces and intelligent urban planning. Stockholm is both deeply historic and effortlessly modern.

There is more to Sweden than its charming capital though, so it’s a shame that so many visitors miss out on the numerous unique features of this regal Nordic queen. Lapland, in the north of the country and home to the Sami people, is Europe’s last true wilderness, a bracing wonderland of lakes and pristine forest. Gotland, with historic Visby as its tourist centre, is a perfect blend of rural bliss and extraordinary history, and Gothenburg is famous for being a vibrant and exciting destination in its own right. Malmö, the well-named Green City, and richly historic Karlskrona are hidden gems in a country that still seems surprised by the curiosity of outsiders.

Although cosmopolitan Stockholm and erudite Gothenburg champion their multicultural virtues, Sweden is in many ways a remarkably homogeneous culture and the stereotypical Swede of glowing health and blond hair is not too far from the truth. The people are also notably tolerant and liberal in their social attitudes and although reticent with strangers, they are uniformly friendly and helpful when it matters.

Summer is the most popular time to visit. The winter months might be short on sunlight but they compensate by lending the countryside and city buildings a clean, frosted air that stirs the soul. In summer, the waters of the numerous archipelagos and lakes assume great importance to this historically sea-faring nation with fishing and sailing popular pursuits.

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