Explore the beautiful Bohuslän region north of Gothenburg
Come to Sweden, she said.
With over 200,000 islands in between her borders, Scandinavian sister Sweden boasts the most islands offshore of any country around the world. Exploring archipelagos is an essential part of the experience here in Sweden if you ask me. Even the Swedish capital Stockholm straddles a series of islands that are best experienced by boat. But if you want to see Sweden off the beaten path, beeline to Bohuslän. This is Western Sweden. And it is beautiful. Continue reading “Spend a Weekend Away in the West Sweden Archipelago on Tiny Åstol Island”→
Nearly two thousand years before Viking legend Ragnar Lothbrok and his progeny prowled the fjords and forests of Scandinavia, ancient civilizations were already making distinct marks defining cultures and religions across this region. Oh sorry, hold up – you don’t know of Ragnar Lothbrok? Don’t watch the HBO series, The Vikings? His story is epic. No? It’s ok. Don’t worry. It isn’t required before visiting the Tanumshede petroglyphs. You’ll learn plenty while on site. And anyway, this is about pre-Viking peeps. We’re going all the way back to the Bronze Age. In Scandinavia. West Sweden to be specific. Västsverige.
BRONZE AGE IN SCANDINAVIA | 1500-500 BCE
Scattered along a 25km stretch of what used to be a fjord, circa 1500 B.C.E., the area around Tanumshede, Sweden is home to the largest concentration of Bronze Age rock carvings in all of Scandinavia. Thousands of images have been chipped into the flat rolling granite stone that is characteristic here. And while you need not seek out all 600 panels in existence, you can prioritize a few and get a little more perspective about the ancient peoples who lived on this land.
PETROGLYPHS = rock carving or drawing
The petroglyphs around Tanum aren’t actually carvings per se. And don’t call them decoration. Although I can definitely see their graphic potential. They are well executed and super interesting. Anthropologists believe that these images were chipped into the stone to be used as a practicable road map of sorts – outlining the religion, rituals, and hierarchy of these ancient societies. Nowadays, we can readily see them in well-marked and easy to find sites, recognized by UNESCO World Heritage Convention since 1994.
TO PAINT OR NOT TO PAINT
Many of the images on the panels have been highlighted in bright red or white paint. And although controversial from a preservation perspective, I will admit the color helps instantly identify the iconic imagery and makes it fun to find. Especially when you are searching for specific shapes sited on the nearby signs; luckily presented in several languages. When looking at those panels that are not painted, the distinctive shapes become decidedly more difficult to discern. I truly believe my children would have been much less interested in the outing without the colored, easy to read pictures.
Can you find the foot? What do you think it represents?
Largest petroglyph figure in Scandinavia
LITSLEBY – ROCK OF THE SPEAR GOD
We stayed in nearby Fjällbacka and made a half-day trip to check out some of the panels at Litsleby and Aspeberget. Litsleby is famous for its depiction of a Spear god, possibly even Odin, the leader of the Norse Gods. Standing at 2.3 m, this is the largest figural petroglyph in all of Scandinavia. He is impressive. All of him. Is that a spear in your hand or are you just happy to see me? Hello, Odin.
And while the king of Nordic Mythology may have had the largest (you know what) my favorite depictions were of the vessels. (Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching too much “Vikings.”) But the elegant and easily recognizable ships seemed to sail across the stone. Besides dozens and dozens of ships, we could also point out reindeer and humans and bulls and balls. I’m not being cheeky. It’s true. They’re all there. And it was truly entertaining traipsing around Tanum to find them. Even in winter, when the weather can be windy, we had fun climbing around rocks in the West Sweden hills.
Lots of pre-Viking vessels
Difficult to see when not painted
Follow the Tanum Heritage markers to see the panels
In summer months, you can see what a bronze age settlement would look like
On the road to Tanum Petroglyphs
Vitlycke 2, 457 93 Tanumshede, Sweden
Interactive experience detailing Bronze Age settlements and artifacts.
Every day May-September 10-18:00 plus Saturday and Sundays starting late March and into early November. Check website for details.
STAY In TanumSHEDE:
Tanum Camping Vitlycke 4, 457 93 Tanumshede, Sweden
Tel +46(0)525 200 02
Conveniently located across the street from the museum; cabins and plots for rent.
STAY IN FJÄLLBACKA:
Stora Hotellet Bryggan
Ingrid Bergmans Torg
Reception: Galärbacken 2, 457 40 Fjällbacka, Sweden
Tel: +46 (0)525-76 50 20
As a family of five, we prefer the space and flexibility of renting a home or apartment. There are many for rent in this area, start by searching near Fjällbacka and Grebbestad, both adorable outposts with groceries, shops, restaurants and things to do. Never used Airbnb? Click here to get 255Dkk off your first booking. Not in Denmark? Don’t worry – your discount will convert to the correct currency.
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Picture this. A European sized rental car jammed to the gills with two growing teen brothers and their not-so-little tween sister. Shove in the majority of the Christmas dinner fixings, all the wrapped gifts as well as some that weren’t, stockings to hang, candles to light, fishing poles, winter clothes, and wellies. We’re going on a road trip to Sweden. Or rather. We went. To little Fjällbacka, Sweden. I want to take you along.
Warming up with tea and cardamom in a cozy Swedish Airbnb cottage.
Exploring the Fjallbacka harbor | West Sweden
HELSINGØR-HELSINGBORG FERRY CROSSING
From Copenhagen, it is only a five-hour drive north to little Fjällbacka, Sweden. A mere 400 kilometers. That’s 250 miles if you work in those. Doable in a day. Even with a packed car and unconvinced children. It doesn’t feel so far really, especially when you punctuate the trip with the quick and efficient ferry crossing between Helsingør, Denmark and Helsingborg, Sweden. You can book ahead online and save some money. But if you’re anything like our family, we need the flexibility of rolling up and catching the next ferry whenever we actually make it to the terminal. Luckily here, there are crossings every thirty minutes, so you never have to wait for long. If you haven’t already, you can buy a ticket right at the terminal from the automated machines, then proceed to your designated lane.
SWeDISH BORDER PATROL
Don’t forget your passports. There is a border check before you board. To avoid an issue, a valid identification is recommended for all members traveling with you. It is a simple and easy procedure, just don’t forget or you won’t be allowed to cross. When instructed, roll on board the M/F Tycho Brahe or the M/F Hamlet (appropriately named for the nearby Elsinore Castle which Danes claim is the home of the Shakespearean prince.)
Once aboard, lock-in or bring your valuables, as you aren’t allowed to remain in the car for the crossing. And don’t dally. Chop chop. Hurry upstairs toot suite. With only twenty minutes between the countries, there’s just barely enough time to grab a snack, peruse the Duty-Free, stock up and get back to your car before landing across the sound. The Øresund.
NORTH TO FJÄLLBACKA, SWEDEN
Once in Sweden, follow the signs towards Göteborg (Gothenburg). You will remain on the E6 for most of the drive to charming little Fjällbacka on the west coast of Sweden. This is Västsverige. West Sweden. We rented a cozy cottage from Airbnb near the water.
Never tried Airbnb? We love the flexibility, charm and homey feel of staying in an apartment or private home when we travel. Being able to save costs while cooking part of our meals in an added advantage. Space for growing children to claim – that we all can get behind.
Click here for 255 Dkk off your first booking at Airbnb.
MURDER MYSTERY TOUR – CAMILLA LÄCKBERG
Fjällbacka is famous for a few things. Lobsters. Ingrid Bergman. And murder. Or murder mysteries rather. Local writer Camilla Läckberg’s popular crime series is set in and around little Fjällbacka. I hadn’t read any of her books, but now have them on my list! If you are a big fan of the series, you can take the Murder Mystery Tour nearly every Saturday, starting again mid-February. You will learn some history of the fishing village and get a first-hand look at infamous sites set in the books; led by the author Camilla herself. For more information and bookings, see here.
Ingrid Bergman, of Casablanca fame, grew up spending summers here on her family’s little island, Dannholmen, off the shores of Fjällbacka. The town clearly feels a deep connection with the Swedish actress and has named their center plaza Ingrid Bergman Torg where you can relax and get an intimate look at her life and family time here in Vastsverige. If you have littles in tow, you may enjoy the small playground situated nearby, beneath the huge granite cliffs that border the village.
Close to Ingrid Bergman Torv, you will find the arched entrance to the Kungsklyftan. The Royal Gap. Take the stairs and scramble up over the rocks. Don’t worry, no special equipment or experience is necessary or required. You will soon come to a large channel between two granite cliffs. Wedged overhead are four enormous boulders. Up here even on a windy day, the channel is serene. The Nordic light was raking through in its winter zenith. Low and pointed and beautiful. It felt otherworldly. To me. I can’t assure you the teenagers felt the same. *Wink, wink. But, we had the gap to ourselves. And it was beautiful. A bonus for a winter visit for sure.
At the end of the Kungsklyftan, you can take stairs to the top of the cliff. I highly recommend the easy ascent. The views from the top over the surrounding archipelago are fantastisk. That’s Swedish for fantastic. There is a path that you can walk to return you down to the other side of the village, but the wind was extreme and we enjoyed the view and returned down the same stairs.
Take the stairs up from Kungsklyftan for views and heathery hiking
Climb up the stairs from Kungsklyftan for views over the Västsverige archipelago.
LOBSTER AND SEAFOOD
For all of its famous residents and epic landscape, Fjällbacka is really just a simple fishing village. Herrings. Shrimp. Crabs. Oysters. Mussels. AND LOBSTER. Hummern around these here parts. Västsverige is known for its seafood. Especially the lobster. Black gold, they call it. As it can fetch a more than a fair price at market. Care to pluck the crustaceans yourself? You can. Charters are available, veritable seafood safaris, complete with a full feast afterward. Unfortunately for us, they aren’t available at Christmas. Lobster traps lay dormant upon every dock. Taunting us with treats we wouldn’t be able to try.
We settled for sampling other local seafood specialties from Fjällbacka Fiskaffär down the street – a fresh fish shop and delicatessen. Luckily, we caught it open in the hours before Christmas. And while we may have missed the local lobster and oysters, I can highly recommend their house-cured gravlax (salmon) and the unassuming Fjällbacka seafood salad – a Swedish staple done to perfection. Filled with crab meat, shrimps and fish in a dilled mayonnaise and soured cream mixture delicious on toast.
Gorgeous even in the fog – Fjallbacka in winter.
Don’t miss this delicious local fish market and deli.
Fjällbacka lobster hunting
The mild days of summer bring swarms of sailors and seafarers to this gorgeous Swedish coast. Come winter it’s quiet. And charming. And personal. Literally, it felt like we were only a few of the people here this past Christmas. It was perfect. For me. Easy to explore. Serene to soak in.
Like a little anthropology with your travels? You’ll love the region even more. Sporting the highest concentration of Bronze Age petroglyphs in Scandinavia – sites around Tanum are easy to find and fun to discover.