What I Learned About Sweden at TBEX Stockholm

Boats on Djurgarden
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I have to confess that Sweden wasn’t really on my radar before I attended this year’s TBEX (Travel Bloggers’ Exchange) Conference in Stockholm. I hadn’t been there before (unless you count a quick day trip by train from Copenhagen to Lund), and I didn’t know a lot about the country beyond Abba, Ikea and the Vikings… But it wasn’t long before I realised how much I had been missing.

Boats on Djurgarden
Boats by the central Stockholm island of Djurgarden

Exploring Stockholm

Ofkcourse I only saw a tiny amount of the country. Even in Stockholm I barely scratched the surface, but what surprised me most was the sheer variety that the city had to offer. Some things I had been expecting, like the old town of Gamla Stan and the multi-coloured buildings that line the waterfront. And the natural environment: the city is built on fourteen islands, part of an archipelago of more than 20,000 islands stretching into the Baltic Sea. Stockholm is surrounded by forests, and I took a Night Safari tour to discover the wildlife that lives at the edge of the city.

Gamla Stan
The cobbled streets of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town

What I hadn’t anticipated was the wealth of culture in Stockholm. Everywhere you go you see the Swedish love of art and design. From cutting edge hotel design to art in the subway. From open air sculpture to world class museums. TBEX attendees were treated to admission to two very different, but equally well presented, museums: the Vasamuseet (home to the 17th century Vasa warship) and Abba:The Museum. And one evening we were hosted by the recently opened Haymarket, an Art Deco themed hotel housed in a former department store (where a young Greta Garbo once worked in the hat department).

Outdoor sculpture
An outdoor sculpture on the Gamla Stan waterfront

A Trip to Swedish Lapland

I was lucky enough to be able to extend my travels to Luleå, on the edge of Swedish Lapland. Along with a group of other bloggers, I headed north on the night train, journeying 900 km through the distinctive landscape of forests, lakes and meadows.

Lulea at midnight
Almost the midnight sun… Lulea at midnight

Luleå may be remote, but it is modern, with a thriving IT industry that includes Facebook’s only data centre in Europe. From here we visited Gammelstad Church Town (a very Swedish concept that I will explain in a later post). And we ate some excellent meals. That was another surprise: I hadn’t expected to find such an innovative cuisine.

Arctic char
Sweden’s cuisine uses fresh, local ingredients – here a dish of Arctic char

What I really learnt on this trip was how much Sweden has to offer as a tourist destination. This is a massive country, about twice the size of the UK, with much more than you could explore in one trip. I want to go back and explore some of the historic towns, and to eat some more Swedish food – I’m already planning the return visit!

(I’ll be writing a lot more about what I saw and did in Sweden over the next few weeks. Many thanks to the Stockholm Visitors Board and to all the other sponsors who provided hospitality while we were there.)

Looking for a hotel in Stockholm? Check out the recommendations on Booking.com.

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10 thoughts on “What I Learned About Sweden at TBEX Stockholm”

  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences of Sweden. I’ve never been – but hear from others as well that it’s cultured, clean and style is right up their street.
    I have to say, though, that I have been told that the people, whilst polite, are not particularly ‘warm.’ But I live in a southern European country and maybe I’m used to people being very loving and kind. I’d be intrigued as to what you thought of this aspect of the Nordic country.

    1. Interesting – I found everyone quite friendly, but perhaps being north European myself I might not notice a lack of warmth! What I did see though was a no-nonsense “get on with things” sort of attitude.

  2. I kind of regret not going to TBEX in Stockholm. I’m like you when it comes to knowing about Sweden: Abba, Ikea and the Vikings. Seeing your photos and others, I can see there is a lot more culture (and great food) than I knew about or expected. Looking forward to reading more about your journey. 900km on the night train is a LONG distance.

  3. You say “Of course I only saw a tiny amount of the country. Even in Stockholm I barely scratched the surface.” Isn’t that often the case when we travel, especially to a new country? I am always surprised by what a small little piece of a place I actually see. Your scratch has made me even more interested in seeing Stockholm for my first time.

  4. We love Sweden, and were sorry to miss this TBEX. It’s great to know that your trip piqued interest in further travels there. I’ve not been to Lapland yet, so that is definitely on the radar for a future visit! Thanks for sharing this glimpse of a wonderful destination.

  5. Reading your post I’m don’t know why I haven’t returned to Sweden yet. I’ve been as a girl with my Swedish friend on one of these Islands near Stockholm. We slept in a hut with a long drop and the only way to wash ourselves was in the sea (cold ). But it was wonderful!

  6. There’s an Abba Museum? Mamma mia, of course there would be! 🙂
    Might have to put that on my list of quirky things to do in Stockholm because well, why wouldn’t you?

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About Karen

WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren. I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 60 countries at the last count). I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica (I still hope to get there one day…), and my current favourite destinations are Italy, Spain and North America. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way.

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