Weekend Away: Discovering Värmland
Located between Norway, Lake Vänern and the regions of Västra Götaland, Dalarna and Örebro, lies the province of Värmland. This cultural heartland 300km west of Stockholm is undeservedly overlooked by visitors to Sweden. Värmland-based Australian expat and travel writer Clarissa Hirst offers her suggestions for how to spend a weekend away here.
Karlstad is the capital of Värmland and is an ideal base for exploring the region. With 90,000 inhabitants, it’s a relatively small city but has a lively nightlife due to its thriving student population. Karlstad is also home to Sweden’s oldest stone bridge and the Löfbergs coffee factory. You can sip a cup of the famous Löfbergs brew from the Rosteriet café next door to the factory.
Take a day trip
A day trip to Arvika, Säffle or Molkom will take you through some of Värmland’s beautiful pastoral scenery. Sunne, with its beautiful church and scenic location by Lake Fryken, offers glorious hiking trails in the summer and skiing during winter. If it’s “lugn och ro” (rest and relaxation) you’re after, then the nearby Selma Spa offers saunas, a swimming pool and relaxing massage treatments.
Have a cultural experience
If you’re a lover of literature, you can enjoy a fika at the estate of Gustaf Fröding, one of Sweden’s most beloved poets. Or, take a guided tour of Mårbacka, the home of Nobel Prize-winning author Selma Lagerlöf. Audiences from all over Sweden flock to Värmland to watch performances by the Wermland Opera. Beautiful paintings by local artist Lars Lerin depicting his travels through Värmland and the world are on permanent display at his gallery at Sandgrund.
Enjoy the outdoors
With 10,000 lakes and swathes of dense pine forest, Värmland is a nature lover’s haven. Arvika is an excellent base to explore the region’s largest nature reserve Glaskogen where you can camp and fish, kayak, cycle or hike through the pristine wilderness. During winter, you can ice skate on a frozen lake or enjoy some cross-country skiing, while summer and autumn are ideal for berry and mushroom picking. The Klarälvsbanan, a 90km bicycle path built over an old railway line, takes you through scenic country landscapes.
Explore Lake Vänern
Värmland is one of three regions that borders Sweden’s (and Western Europe’s) largest lake. Head to Mörudden or Sydspetsen on the island of Hammarö for lovely picnic spots with idyllic lake views, or visit one of the world’s largest Picasso sculptures at Vålösund near Kristinehamn. During summer, you can take a boat trip to one of Vänern’s 22,000 islands.
Eat and drink
If you grab a beer at The Bishops Arms on a Friday or Saturday night you’ll have the opportunity to observe the weekly parade of raggare (lovers of hot rod cars and 1950s American pop subculture) cruising by in their classic old-model American cars. For a classy evening, book a wine tasting at Br. Olsson’s Elektriska or enjoy cocktails and tapas at Barón. For a weekend lunch, you can’t beat the scrumptious buffet at Värmlands Museum. You’ll find delicious veggie burgers at Street Friends in Våxnäs and sweet treats at Esters Cafe off the E18 in Långserud.
Sample local produce
Värmland transforms into foodie heaven during autumn and winter with its seasonal markets and food festivals showcasing regional cuisine. View pumpkin displays and sample everything from goat’s cheese to sourdough bread and pressed apple juice at the Alsters Herrgård Autumn market or the Taste of Värmland food festival. Christmas markets held throughout the region in November and December are a chance to purchase traditional Christmas decorations and stock up on glögg (mulled wine).