In the summer of 2020, we went on a driving holiday around Mälardalen with good friends and three kids in their lower teens. A holiday that definitely could have had better weather and more swimming, but which offered a lot of laughs, a lot of history and plenty of pleasant experiences!
We had pretty high standards for good food, nice accommodation and fun activities, so we made sure to book hotels and several restaurants in advance. However, we left the daytime activities free and instead organized a vote on each evening mentimeter.com. There we could all vote on the things that were to be seen along the road the next day and we then went to the options that received the most votes.
We called the route we chose to take for our road trip "Around Mälaren", but actually we could have called it "Mälaren-Hjälmaren-Vättern-round", as we drove a little further south of Lake Mälaren.
To make it easy to see where all our stops are, I've created one karta on Google maps. Here you will not only find our itinerary, but also tips on more attractions nearby that we had as an option, but didn't have time to visit.
Do you want to read more tips about driving in Sweden? Check out my post 10 things I'm surprised by after our holiday.
Day 1: Stockholm to Västerås
The first day of our driving holiday would turn out to be the only day with temperatures above 20 degrees all week. We therefore took the opportunity to be outdoors as much as we could. The kids thought without a doubt that the pirate golf was the most fun this day and I have to admit that it was incredibly fun!
The first stop of the car holiday was in Sigtuna, one of Sweden's oldest and most charming small towns. We often go here for walks and coffee, both in summer and winter.
Don't miss: Saint Olof's church ruins
Forsby mill cafe
In a 100-year-old mill is located Forsby mill cafe – a White Guide-recommended café with award-winning lemon buns. Here you can have a good coffee by the small pond during the day or eat sourdough pizza in the evening. Cozy place that is worth a little detour!
Don't miss: The lemon buns (they ran out when we were here)
Pirate minigolf – Västerås
Perhaps Sweden's funnest mini golf! Pirate minigolf at Hälla golf outside Västerås is a hit! Hit balls into treasure chests, get over the water obstacle with tug boat and watch out for the pirate on the outdoor deck. There is an easier path and a harder path for the ball to reach the hole, so the whole family can play and compete against each other.
The Steam Hotel – Västerås
The Steam hotel is one of Sweden's few destination hotels. Even if you are not interested in either the spa or the water park, there are plenty of activities here for the whole family. How about a games room with, among other things, billiards, shuffle board and old arcade games? Or a sky bar with a view of the whole of Västerås?
A plus for the fresh breakfast with table service. Much nicer than buffet!
Day 2: Västerås to Skultuna
Depending on how many activities you want to find in Västerås, you can think about where you want to stay overnight. Considering how good The Steam Hotel is for teenage kids, I would probably book another night in Västerås today - although it was fun to stay at Skultuna Brukshotell as well.
Escape room Västerås
Escape room is exciting fun for a family or group of friends, where you are "locked" in a room for 60 minutes and have to solve riddles and puzzles to get out again. As it was a rainy day in Västerås, we started the morning with an hour of brain training. And yes – we managed to crack Nicola Tesla's riddle! 🙂
Skultuna factory stores
Skultuna mill was founded in 1607 by King Karl IX and beautiful things in brass are still being created here. IN Skultuna's factory stores you can buy 2nd sorting on everything from jewelery to home furnishings at very favorable prices, coffee at the fine Å café or visit the factory's museum.
Skultuna utility hotel is a historic hotel located right next to Skultuna's factories, with a nice location by the small river. The hotel has nice family rooms and a lovely breakfast.
NOTE: The hotel's restaurant, bar and spa were closed (due to corona) when we were here. Check out dinner options before you go here - there are no other restaurants in the village other than pizzerias.
Day 3: Skultuna to Vedevåg
The evening's accommodation and dinner at Wedevåg's manor was one of the highlights of the driving holiday, so try to check in at the manor in good time in the afternoon so you can enjoy it to the maximum.
Perhaps one of the craziest sights we stopped at during our driving holiday was Nostalgia Village. Nostaglibyn is a privately owned museum with original items from the 50s, complete with a sausage stand and gas station. Grab a coffee and show the kids how things worked in the old days. Expect about 30 minutes here.
Day 4: Vedevåg to Örebro
After a few days in smaller towns and in the countryside, the kids thought it was nice to come to Örebro and get a bit of a city feeling again - and drink bubble tea!
Limestone quarry Uskavi
The Uskavi limestone quarry is a turquoise bathing lake that you reach via a small forest walk. The water is cold and clear and invites you to take a dip. However, there is not much space to sit down and sunbathe, so it quickly becomes very crowded on nice summer days. On the day we visited the place, it was 15 degrees in the air, but still full of people.
Bai Cha bubble tea – Örebro
It is clear that the kids suddenly get a craving for bubble tea when we are as far from Stockholm as possible! How lucky that there turned out to be a really good bubble tea place in Örebro then! Bai Cha has every flavor and gem you can think of. Just order a refreshing Mango Boba Milk Tea and pretend you're in Hong Kong rather than Örebro.
After spending the last few days in small Swedish towns, the kids thought it was quite nice to come to Orebro and look at street art, stroll in shops, stroll around Örebro Castle and eat sushi.
(Accommodation? We stayed at the Elite Stora Hotellet, but unfortunately it's not a hotel I recommend. The room was incredibly worn and looked nothing like the pictures, the breakfast was chaotic and the staff did nothing to stop a loud party in a of the rooms.)
Day 5: Örebro to Börstorp
A day filled with history and a fantastic themed café ends with one of the highlights of the driving holiday – a bike ride along the Göta Canal.
Wadköping – Örebro
Wadkoping is a city quarter in Örebro with old houses that were transported here from all over Örebro. Here there is, among other things, a country store, ceramics workshop and a forge. Buy sweets piece by piece like they used to do in paper cones and stroll around with an ice cream in hand.
The mighty fortress Karlsborg began to be built in the 19th century in order to be Sweden's reserve capital if the war should come. The fortress took almost 90 years to build and within the thick walls was built a complete city with everything from a hospital to a church and housing. A place to stroll around at your own pace or go on a guided tour.
La Belle Epoque Café – Karlsborg
An incredibly beautiful café and a trading booth that takes you back to the beautiful environments from the end of the 19th century. Good cakes, friendly staff in period clothes and nice surroundings - it's worth stopping in Karlsborg just to visit La Belle Epoque Café and sit in the sun under their white Bali umbrellas and eat a shrimp sandwich.
Cycle Göta Kanal – Sjötorp
Perhaps the highlight of the driving holiday. Rent bikes in Sjötorp and cycle along Göta Kanal. I cannot praise this experience enough. We absolutely loved it. Flat cycling, nice views and nice company. It couldn't have been better. Whether you have 3 hours or 6 hours doesn't matter - it's worth renting a bike regardless!
Read more about our cycling in my post: Cycling along the Göta canal – An adventure with more flavor.
Börstorp Castle B&B
The night was spent on Börstorp castle, in a fantastic pink room with a four-poster bed at the top of the castle. Börstorp is a very cool castle, complete with old armor in the stairwell and the occasional castle ghost. Lovely breakfast and nice surroundings made the stay even better.
A plus was the farm dogs Butler and Svensson who joined us on the morning walk among the cows.
Day 6: Börstorp to Vadstena
A rainy and chilly day meant that we skipped hiking in Tiveden and went earlier to Vadstena instead. It's good to have backup plans when the Swedish weather is changeable!
Just north of Karlsborg is a bathing spot known for its rock baths and turquoise water - Djäknesundet. Very popular during sunny and hot summer days, but a little less popular when we visited the place on a rainy and cold July morning.
The parking lot is very small, so if you want to swim, you need to be out in plenty of time.
Vadstena is one of my favorite cities in Sweden. So small, so well maintained and with both a grand castle and a really good monastery hotel. There is so much history in this small town that you could easily spend a whole day here.
Don't miss visiting Vadstena Castle, Sweden's best-preserved Renaissance castle.
Day 7: Vadstena to Stockholm
Last day of the driving holiday and a lot of driving back to Stockholm! The visit to Tåkern and an ice cream in the sun at Berg's locks was a fitting end to a lovely week filled with history, nature, good food and nice hotels.
The fog is one of Northern Europe's foremost bird lakes and during spring and autumn the lake is absolutely buzzing with migratory birds. Although we visited Tåkern during the month of July, it was full of both swans, ducks and birds of prey in the lake. Visit stylish nature rooms and learn more about birds or walk along the wooden bridges.
Read more about our visit to Tåkern here: Tåkern – Not just for bird watchers
Engineer that I am, I can't help but be impressed by Göta Kanal and its locks Berg's locks. Carl Johan's lock staircase with 7 locks is a crowd pleaser and people everywhere sit on their brass chairs and sunbathe and look at the locks. Buy a monster-sized licorice boat ice cream at the kiosk at the top of the lock stairs and watch the folk festival.
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