outdoor gym

Outdoor Gym in Sollentuna

I was staying with friends in Sollentuna earlier in the year and they’d installed this amazing outdoor gym at the north end of Edsviken, right next to Edsvik Konsthall which is a lovely gallery and cafe in its own right. I’ve tried many outdoor gyms, and they’ve become more popular in the UK in recent years as well, but this one stood out as it had many different types of equipment which are not normally seen. Of particular note and my personal favourite (as this is what I do when I go to a normal indoor gym myself) was Olympic barbell style free weights. Now they’re not actually free as you can see from the picture, but they are free enough for you to squat with, clean and press with or variations thereof. This is the only time I’ve ever seen such equipment and there were a few other interest pieces as well which are worth checking out.

Edsviken

looking south over Edsviken

More over, just look at the view! How much better does it get than that. This other photo is looking south from just below the gym, on the path round the edge of Edviken. Here’s a map of its exact location if you don’t know the area.

reindeer tent

Autumn Walking in Sweden

As we come to the end of summer in the UK, I’m aware that in many parts of Sweden Autumn is already well on it’s way (although I understand that Stockholm is having a nice late summer this year). It’s at this time of year that I always loved to go walking in Sweden, especially in the mountains up north, as although it’s much colder, most of the mosquitoes are long departed and there are some beautiful autumn colours to be seen. The pictures here are of a camping trip in Storasjöfallet which is an amazing national park in the north of country. It’s well worth a trip if you can find the time, although it is a fair way off the beaten trail. We took the train the Gällivare (which is a direct night train) and then we had to drive for about 2-3 hours from there. We went with a guide and a small group for the trip and it was utterly fantastic. We walked for 6 days without seeing another person, just reindeer, as you can see in the picture, and the most glorious mountain scenery.

reindeer in sweden

Reindeer in the forest

We walked in the first week of September and it was frosty at night, so you needed to be well prepared (early snow could easily have come), and you needed to carry all your food as there were no mountain huts or anything along the way. There a plentiful supply of 2 things though: crisp clear mountain water and blueberries, both of which we indulged in heavily.

The guide we went with can be found at http://www.pathfinderlapland.se/ although at the time of writing he’s not actively running tours as he has another role. However his website says that he can put people in touch with Sami guides. I think we were extremely lucky to work with Lennart on that week, as he owned many reindeer and knew the mountains extremely well which is why we were able to get such excellent photos as these and be around the reindeer all week.

Sledging in Hagaparken Stockholm

As I write this winter is fast approaching and my recent thoughts have all been of snowy fun in Sweden. I’ll be in Åre in a few weeks myself for some top skiing action, but you can’t get up there every weekend! Fortunately there’s many top winter activities in Stockholm itself and a great one for young and old is Sledging in Hagaparken.

hagaparken winter fun

sledging fun at hagaparken

Here’s a photo of a few of us enjoying the excellent snow in February 2007. Stockholm is a fairly flat city and surrounding area, so the opportunities for downhill skiing and sledging are somewhat limited. Elsewhere on this site you’ll find some good recommendations of places to try skiing in the centre of town, but if you don’t want to go the whole hog and just have a quick mess around in the snow, then an afternoon sledging is always a winner.

Hagaparken has many excellent points which makes it a winner for a sledging day out.

  • A good side safe hill suitable for all ages
  • A nice cafe at the top to warm yourself up and gets some snacks in
  • Fantastic views over the Brunnsviken lake
  • Toilets and facilities in the cafe
  • Easy transport links either by car or public transport.

 

If you’re worried that you’re on holiday in Stockholm and you haven’t got a sledge, then even this is not a problem as you can nip into any branch of Stadium, of which there’s many distributed throughout Stockholm and pick up a sledge for 150SEK or so. This is what my friends in the picture did, and then they’re so cheap that you don’t even need to worry about taking them home if you don’t want to.

Edsviken Ulriksdal

Wild swimming at Edsviken near Ulriksdal

Edsviken Ulriksdal

a wonderful small beach on Edsviken near Ulriksdal

As i write this, I’m in the middle of a summer London heatwave and it’s been 30 degrees or so all week. All I wish right now is that I still lived in Sollentuna and that I could nip down the road for spot of wild swimming at Edsviken near Ulriksdal slott. The picture here is of Matilda sitting on the beach early one sunny summer morning in 2009. It’s taken from a tiny beach which is a local hidden secret, ironically though it’s only a few hundred metres from a major tourist site at Ulriksdal Slott.

As I’ve written on other pages on this site Edsviken is full of many wild swimming opportunities and this is another great one. For me I used to walk south from my house, past Silverdal and the police high school along a beautiful lakeside path for about 30 minutes and then you come to this little quiet secluded beach (there’s a map below of the exact location).

This beach is absolutely tiny though, there’s only room for a few families, but the swimming is great as it’s a gently sloping beach where small children can happily paddle quite a long way without getting into trouble. Once you go out about 5 metres though, there’s a bit of a shelf where the adults can kick off from and do some proper swimming. You might also be able to see in the background a small island which the more adventurous can swim over to.

The thing which is strangest though about this beach is that it’s incredibly close to the fantastic tourist site of Ulriksdals Slott. You simply walk north past the slott itself for about 300 metres and you come to this glorious private beach, but noone ever goes there whilst visiting the slott (castle) as who takes their swimming trunks on a tourist castle visit. This is sad for the people visiting the slott, but great for those in the know who fancy a chilled swim. For those with children there are always ducks on the beach as well which adds another entertainment. Sarah describes it to me as “The beach where the ducks are there eating ants” which is pretty accurate.

Finally on the ridge up above the beach is the Ulriksdals Garden cafe (Slottsträdgården Ulriksdal), which is another local secret (in fact I’d call it a local institution) with the most amazing vegetarian buffet lunch. More on this on another post, but it’s definitely worth a visit.

 

Boat to Grinda

Day trip to Grinda in the Stockholm archipelago

Boat to Grinda

what a glorious sunny day in the archipelago

If you haven’t been to the Stockholm archipelago, then you haven’t been to Stockholm as far as I’m concerned! A great way to start your exploration is to take a day trip to Grinda. Make sure you take your sunglasses and appropriate equivalent for the children, look at me squinting here despite my glasses!

The reason that Grinda is a good place to start is several fold:

1. It’s one of the closest islands to the centre of Stockholm.

2. It’s real archipelago, not an inland “pretend” archipelago island

3. There are regular boats from various central locations, both new fast ones and slow heritage ones.

4. There’s good facilities on the island, especially in high season. There’s a high class bistro / hotel. There’s several cafes, lots of beaches, a youth hostel, various accommodation and cabins associated with that. There’s even boat hire and a fully serviced guest harbour (if you’ve got your own boat) with its own bar and restaurant.

My personal favourite is to take a walk to the northern beach. It’s only a small island so it takes about 20 minutes from the main harbour on the south. There is in fact a northern harbour, but the boat service is very rare at this end, unless you’re calling a private taxi boat. You pass some interesting parts of the island on the way whilst you’re walking, and you can always stop off for a coffee or to look at the farm animals that you come across. Once you get to the northern beach though, you’re in your own little west facing paradise; you can watch the sailing boats slip in and out of the harbour round the corner of the bay and if you’re there long enough you’ll be surprised by one of the huge ferries from central Stockholm which suddenly appear from behind the horizon and cruise slowly right in front you on their way to Åland or some other Baltic location. You can even swim out to a fantastic little diving island in the middle of the bay, and take part in some excellent diving opportunities.

Just make sure that you check the ferry timetables home back to Stockholm, and that you don’t miss the last ferry of the day! Fortunately the ferry companies never seem to leave anyone behind, and on the one day when there wasn’t room on the last ferry of the day, they sent along a special boat for just me, my friends and about 4 other people, and we cruised back to Stockholm on our own private boat. It doesn’t get that much better than that!

Moose safari accommodation

Moose Safari near Stockholm

Moose safari accommodation

back to nature accommodation before you go in search of the Moose

One of my earliest experiences after I moved to Sweden (before I had my children even) was going on a Moose Safari near Stockholm. When I say near, the place is about 2 hours either by car or public transport, which in Swedish distance terms is fairly near. We arranged this through a small firm called Wild Sweden and I’m pleased to see that they are still going strong today. They are also affiliated with the Swedish youth hostel association, which is worth considering if you are a member there.

We drove up there for a weekend and stayed in the fantastic little huts you can see in the picture. This was just my type of place, no running water, no electricity, a great campfire, look after yourself in the forest for the weekend. It’d be an amazing place to go even if there wasn’t the promise of loads of wildlife to go and see, particularly the Moose. I’m certainly planning to go back there, maybe with the children now, as it’d be a fantastic time for them to live in the cabins in the forest for a few days.

It’s the type of trip where you need to be prepared to muck in and help out around the site, fetch water, clean up etc, but I love this type of thing. The night in the cabins though is truly amazing. There are little wooden beds raised off the ground that you can put your sleeping bag on, there’s a stove to have a fire in to keep you warm in the colder months and it’s a generally lovely camping experience. As they say on their website, you wake to the sound of the forest and nothing else.

wood chopping before the moose safari

Chopping some wood for the fire

In terms of the safari itself, the guides were very experienced and knowledgeable, and spoke English quite happily and easily. To see the Moose the easiest time is at dusk, so we put on all our waterproofs and warm clothing (and some insect repellent) and set off walking round the local area. The guide knew all the good places to observe the Moose and we saw several. At times it’s fleeting glances and then at others if you’re lucky you catch them feeding and can pause for a minute or 2 to watch these majestic creatures.

The guides also run other courses there such as beaver safari and various other wildlife watching. I’m hoping to take the kids back there as soon as I can. Obviously the moose are rather hard to capture on film, especially at dusk, but hopefully these photos give a good impression of the experience around the site itself.

You can book the Moose Safari direct with Wild Sweden or through the Activity Booking section of this site.

stockholm archipelago kayak

Stockholm archipelago kayak tour to Ängsö

stockholm archipelago kayak

25km kayak through the archipelago later, dinner is welcome whilst watching the sunset

One of my favourite experiences of my time in Stockholm was an archipelago kayak tour to Ängsö and back which I did with Kayak och Uteliv. These guys are a great school / organisation to travel with if you want to do a guided tour, but they’re also really good (or they were when I was there) if you want to just hire some equipment and set out on your own.

I did a number of courses with them over the years, including some excellent kayak safety courses where myself and Sarah practiced various emergency recovery techniques and the like. These were really valuable in our overall development, but our favourite trip had to be the 2 day tour to Ängsö starting out from the home base of Kajak och Uteliv.

We did the classic Stockholm archipelago kayak trip, which I sometimes struggle to find so accessible in the UK. We rocked up to the organisers, packed some camping stuff, filled up our water bottles and packed lunches, and set off for the the islands!

We paddled about 25km each day and we saw many amazing sights. I still remember a group of seals surfacing next to us, and on the other extreme we had to watch out for the massive Stockholm party ferry boats which ply their trade up the main shipping channel near Ängsö as well.

You can’t camp on Ängsö itself, so we set up the tents on an island a couple of kilometres to the east, which in itself is an amazing reflection of the Stockholm kayak experience. You can just rock up to any old island and pitch your tents and not be breaking any laws or trespassing, itäs how the outdoor life ought to be. (You just need to watch out for the ticks which are pretty common in the summer around there – I had to pull a few out of awkward places!)

As you can see from the photo, we had a lovely camp site looking west towards the sunset and there were also good swimming opportunities for those brave enough to sample the early June water temperatures (that’ll be me). There’s a few more cool photos in this flickr set

If you don’t fancy arranging your own trips manually when you get there, you can book a kayak tour in Stockholm directly here through our partner site.

edsviken kayak

Kayak from Brunnsviken to Edsviken

edsviken kayak

Graham kayaking on Edsviken near Tegelhagen

When I lived in Tegelhagen I was always thrilled by the fact that 15 minutes walk through the woods from my house was the amazing lake of Edsviken. Just beyond Edsviken if I took the bus or cycled a little further was the connected lake of Brunnsviken, and one of the things I loved to do was hire a kayak at Brunnsviken kayak club and kayak from Brunnsviken to Edsviken, stopping at a beach for lunch.

BKK is a great club as it’s easily accessible by public transport or road and has great equipment for hire at good prices if you’re not a member. If you’re a beginner or short of time you can just hire for an hour and paddle gently round Brunnsviken itself. There’s a couple of cafes and beaches and some lovely spots and views.

If however you’re feeling a little more adventurous, then you can head under the bridge which is actually the E18 road and you’re in open water. If you turn right you’ll come down to the main harbours for the large international ferries, and you can effectively paddle right out to sea from there (watch out for the ferries though!).

However if you turn left, you turn north into Edsviken, which is closed water and you can paddle up to one of the many lovely beaches along the way, or you could even stop at Ulriksdals Slott, where there are wonderful gardens and a castle, and a couple of great cafes as well.

Here’s a map showing where BKK is where you can pick up the kayak, and you can see that the exit from the lake is on the eastern side under the E18.


View Larger Map

Just watch out as you go under the bridge as there are boat traffic lights there, and it’s a very narrow channel. Watch out for bigger boats coming the other way! Depending on your paddling speed you can easily get well up into Edsviken in about an hour. I’d recommend one of the beaches on the west side, at either Ulriksdals Slott or a bit further north, but basically you’re free to pull in wherever and that’s the joy of kayaking in Sweden. Just remember to take a packed lunch!

If you don’t fancy arranging your own trips manually when you get there, you can book a kayak tour in Stockholm directly here through our partner site.

Väsjöbacken ski slope

Alpine skiing in Stockholm at Flottsbro

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere one of my favourite activities whilst living in Sweden was alpine skiing in Stockholm (or downtime skiing as some would refer to it). I guess that Stockholm is far more famous for cross country skiing or skating due to its very flat geography however there are still good opportunities for alpine skiing in the city. These are never going to have huge vertical drops or be proper mountains, but they’re all good hills to practice on, or teach your children on, or just to hang out on a bit. Flottsbro in the south of the city is one of the better ones.

When people used to come to visit us, it was always one of the ones that we would take them to, even though we lived in the north of the city. It was well worth the drive south, as it has good facilities compared to some of the local ski hills in Stockholm. It has a proper electronic card reader system for the lifts for a start, which is definitely a time saving bonus, and it has good quality ski equipment for hire for people who don’t have their own. Again a excellent point if you’re just in Stockholm on a city break or passing through on holiday.

There’s a fairly nice restaurant where you can hang out and keep warm when you’re not on the slopes as well. It has a sledging slope for the smaller children, and the final major benefit is that it has a chair lift, which is definitely a bonus compared to many of the smaller Stockholm slopes! All in all it’s well worth a visit. I did some interesting videos here of the slopes back in 2007, but I used a site called livevideo, which obviously over the years lost the war with youtube and now looks rather tired, and its performance it even worse, but you can view them here

 

boat tour around Stockholm

Boat tour around Stockholm with Waxholmsbolaget

One of the things that any tourist guidebook will tell you is that you need to take a boat tour around Stockholm, for a city on water it’s an essential thing to do. I completely agree with this, but I would advise you to ignore the standard tourist boats which depart from the centre of town (they’re nice, I’ve nothing against them) and instead take a trip on one of the waxholmbolaget ferries which depart from the same quays. To be fair, Stromma, the company which run many of the sightseeing tours, also run some absolutely excellent lunch and dinner cruises on some amazing boats, and also some archipelago sightseeing tours. Each has their place, but Waxholmsbolaget is so much more immediately accessible. It always reminds of taking the number 38 bus through London as opposed to getting on the sightseeing buses!

boat tour around Stockholm

2 boats from waxholmsbolaget waiting for passengers in Stockholm

I still remember the first time that I took my uncle on one of these when he came to visit and he was almost struck dumb by the beauty of the trip. He kept saying things like “I can’t believe all this is here, I just had no idea”. The thing about these boats is that they actually service all the islands in the archipelago for commuter traffic, for want of a better description. In the summer there are many more routes with higher frequency, but I’ve also taken friends visiting me on them in the middle of a snow storm in winter. The views are still great, but you might not want to sit on the outside deck! I also used to take my daughter on them to just hang out and watch the views.

To me there’s no comparison with the tourist boats which ply their trade in and around the centre of town. I guess on the tourist boats you get a commentary and the like, but that’s really the only advantage. If you take a waxholmsbolaget ferry, you get to see all the inner city stuff that you do on the other boats, but you also get to go somewhere, Vaxholm or an archipelago island for example, and on the way you get to see all the inner archipelago and all the beauty it contains. Being as it’s a commuter boat, you can simply hop on, buy a ticket on demand, go somewhere, get off , grab a coffee or some lunch and then hop back on to return to Stockholm. That’s just a single idea for using them as a viewing platform, but there’s much more that can be done with them in summer, using them for island hopping and weekends away, and searching out hidden beaches for the day. Check out some of the other categories and tagged posts to read about those ideas.