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Stockholm
 
Play hopscotch around the lily pad islands that make up the Swedish capital. Easy to explore on foot, start in Gamla Stan, the Old Town: it’s home to a fine collection of ochre-fronted townhouses and a hub of historical interest. The changing of the guard takes place outside the Royal Palace at noon. Across the city, museums brim with curiosities, from King Gustav Adolf’s stuffed stallion to the painstakingly restored Vasa galleon. From Skansen’s Open Air Museum that warps you back to the Sweden of yesteryear, to Skeppsholmen, a naval base turned modern art museum. In between, take a load off at the Kungsträdgården, once a royal kitchen garden, now home to summer concerts, food fests and novelty acts, and skaters skimming the ice in winter.
 
Sweden
 
From Swedish Lappland in the north to the Öresund Bridge linking Sweden with Denmark; from the Arctic to the Baltic; Sweden is home of the Vikings and of the ultra-modern cool – both in design and in attitudes. Sweden and the Swedes keep providing contrasting faces to visitors. Up the Skagerrak, down the Kattegat, turn left instead of right, and you’re coming into Stockholm, a capital built on 14 islands. A beautiful city, yet the inhabitants retreat to their sea or lakeside cabins in summer that offer the most idyllic retreats, in a Gulf-Stream climate far warmer and dryer than other Europeans could imagine. Stockholm itself boasts two working Royal Palaces (including Drottningholm), the Vasa museum displaying the 17th century warship that sank at launch and the unique Skansen open air museum, scene of many special occasions such as Walpurgisnacht, Midsummer Day (three days actually) and of course Christmas. Take time to cruise the Göta canal that crosses the country east-west, linking and fed by some of Sweden’s 96,000 lakes including the immense and beautiful Lake Vätern. Or in winter, head north to the nomadic Sami people with their reindeer herds – and the best chance anywhere of observing the Northern Lights.
 

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