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Malin Kim guides you to the best guidebooks to discover our vast country.
Lately, I've started to get some more reactions from the blog's readers, which I appreciate. Thanks to everyone who has contacted me with encouragement, questions, comments and suggestions!
A recent question is whether I can give some tips on guidebooks about Sweden, so today I'll try to give some good advice. The range of literature on Swedish sights is actually surprisingly large and includes many books with specific focus. Anyone who wants help finding the most beautiful medieval churches on Gotland or the best hikes around the Åre mountains can find books for just that without too much trouble. But if I were to recommend some more general books in which cultural and historical sights feature prominently, I would highlight three in particular: Experience Sweden, Experience Swedish History and Worth a Detour.
The book Experience Sweden by Mats and Åsa Ottosson I usually carry with me almost everywhere I travel in the country. It presents each region separately and lists places of interest in alphabetical order, which makes it easy to find your way around. The various attractions are described briefly, but well enough to put them in context and provide a historical background. The book also includes simple maps and hints on beautiful itineraries, making it easier to plan your trip. On the downside, it is very far from comprehensive; there are many great sights that are not mentioned, so it is necessary to supplement with information from local tourist offices and the like. It does, however, provide a good starting point and also ventures to try to rank the sights in top lists to simplify selection. If you have to choose a single book to take with you on your Swedish exploration, this is a good choice.
A book with a little more focus on historical sights is Experience Swedish History by Dick Harrison. It is also divided geographically. It contains far fewer sites than Discover Sweden and does not provide suggested itineraries, but it does provide more information about the sites and buildings described. For those with an interest in history, this is a book that can point the way to exciting destinations while enhancing the experience by explaining the significance of the place. Dick Harrison's own fascination with historical phenomena shines through - as always - in the text and makes it a delight to read.
In the same series as the two books mentioned above is Upplev Sveriges natuur: en guide till natuurverlevelser i hela landet by Martin Emtenäs. I don't have that book, but it has received very good reviews from nature lovers and deserves attention. I myself hope that the series will be completed with a fourth book entitled "Experience Sweden's Cultural Heritage", but as far as I know Bonniers has no plans to do so.
I also want to make a case for a slightly older book: Worth a detour: a guide to 30 cultural monuments in Sweden, published by the Swedish National Heritage Board (Riksantikvarieämbetet). It focuses, as the title suggests, on sights with a cultural history connection. What makes it particularly interesting is the selection; it presents a number of well-known sights, but also highlights more obscure sites that deserve more attention. It is a book that helps the reader to understand the value of Enangers Old Church, Ekornavallen and Utöhus.
Finally, I would like to say a few words about foreign guidebooks on Sweden. There is a plethora of travel guides in English or German, presenting Sweden to visitors. They are, of course, intended for tourists from outside, but for that very reason they bring a special perspective. They are usually written by foreign authors, who highlight and explain things that a Swede rarely notices or finds reason to reflect on. These guidebooks can help us better understand what others find remarkable about Sweden and Swedes, and thus give us greater insight into ourselves. A few years ago, when I bought Lonely Planet Sweden for a foreign guest, I was amazed at how unique and fascinating Sweden was portrayed. The foreign guidebooks are therefore also worth considering for anyone looking for a travel guide to our own country.
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