My first stop on this September's Sweden visit was the small town of Växjö in Småland. Read on if you want to find out about the five reasons why I think you should visit, too and what the film Titanic has to do with it all…
1. The House of Emigrants
Who remembers the poker scene at the beginning of Titanic? In a pub in Southampton, two Swedish guys lose out to Leonardo DiCaprio alias Jack who wins the two tickets at stake and gets to board the Titanic with his Italian friend Fabrizio. This was the first time I ever heard any spoken Swedish and because I have seen the film so many times (one of my favourites ever!), the swearwords that Olaf and Sven use really stuck with me…
What this scene tells us is that just like many other Europeans, a lot of Swedish people left their home country for a new start in America throughout the 19th and early 20th century. As I learnt on my visit in July, most of these Swedish emigrants came from Småland in the South-East of the country. This was mainly because the land here was very rich in stones and therefore difficult to farm.
At the House of Emigrants in Växjö, I learnt a lot of interesting facts about the Swedish emigrants. For example :
- why they left Sweden
- where they moved to in the States (Minnesota was quite a hotspot for Swedish immigrants and so were the city of Chicago, Washington State and, especially during the gold rush, California – statistically the state where most Americans with Swedish heritage live today)
- what kind of professions they carried out in their new home country and
- how they shaped the American heritage with their customs and beliefs.
The House of Emigrants in Växjö is quite small, especially when compared to the German Emigration Museum in Bremerhaven. In Växjö, there were just panels with images and descriptions in Swedish plus English underneath.
Nevertheless, it was very worth the visit. Also because the entry ticket (about 80 SEK) included a current exhibition about the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff during the last days of WW2 (the worst maritime disaster of all time) as well as entry to the adjoined Småland's Museum and the Glass Museum, where you can learn even more about the region of Småland and how the people used to live here.
After the visit to the House of Emigrants, I can understand why Olaf and Sven, the two Swedish guys in Titanic, were so desperate to get on board. Lucky for them though, they never made it on to the doomed ship.
2. The closeness to nature
Växjö is surrounded by the typical Swedish nature that you would expect to find here Småland. Just outside the Emigration Museum, there is the lovely riverfront of the lake Växjö.
Around the longest shoreline promenade of Sweden, you can fish and swim in the summer and ice skate in the winter. The perfect place relax and unwind after your visit to the museums! If you're lucky, there will even be some sunshine…
If you have more time, there is of course lots more to discover in the surrounding area of Småland. For example, the theme park Astrid Lindgren's World and Lindgren's birthplace in Vimmerby, Småland's famous glass factories known as "the Kingdom of Crystal", the medieval town and castle of Kalmar, the seaside town of Västervik etc. etc. …
For more details on these places, check out my blog post Quintessentially Swedish – Six reasons to visit Småland.
3. The brand new IKEA Museum in Älmhult
Another really cool day trip and reason why I wanted to visit Växjö was its proximity to the brand new IKEA museum in Älmhult. To get there, I just walked straight down from my hotel and hopped on the train at the local train station.
Want to know more about Sweden's most famous furniture store? I've written a separate post on my day at the IKEA Museum in Älmhult!
4. A typical (and beautiful) Swedish town
With its famous church and the many traditionally painted wooden houses, Växjö really looks like you would imagine a typical Swedish town to look like. Just outside the House of Emigrants, you'll find a few cute little red houses, which offer the perfect backdrop for your quintessentially Swedish souvenir photo.
In the town, you'll find modern buildings next to traditional wooden houses (some of them are even painted in pink!) Quite a few of these houses are coffee places, where you can do as the Swedes and slow down in the afternoon, enjoying your traditional Swedish fika (coffee and cake).
5. The fact that everything is reachable by foot (including the local cinema)
Växjö is not only a nice town to look at, it's also very easy to get from A to B. You can just walk everywhere and that won't take you very long. The beauty of a small town, right?
Luckily, Sweden is a country in which all foreign language films are shown in their original (non-dubbed) version. This is great news for all English speakers as most contemporary films these days are in fact English films. During my stay, I watched Absolutely Fabulous at Växjö's local cinema, a branch of the nationwide Filmstaden Bio. The entry prices here are not cheap (usually between 115 and 120 SEK depending on how long a film has been running, but with no price differences for matinees, afternoon, weekend or evening shows). If you're a student or senior though, you'll get a good discount!
Växjö also offers several shopping possibilities along its long high street. There is also a "young vibe". This is owned to the fact that Växjö has a large university and is thus a "student city". I noticed that on a Friday evening in particular as every student in Växjö seemed to have come out to meet friends in the city centre.
Now that you know what’s there to see in Växjö, let’s answer some of the practical questions you may have prior to your visit…
How do I get there?
I arrived on the budget airport of Stockholm Skavsta. This is mainly a Ryanair airport. From there, you can either board the airport bus (called Flybussarna) to Stockholm or go to Linköping or Norrköping in Småland. I took the latter and arrived in Norrköping within 45 minutes. I've heard that Norrköping itself is worth a visit, but I only had a short stopover there before I boarded the train to Växjö. You can conveniently book your tickets online at the Swedish rail company.
Alternatively, you can use your own car or you can rent one to drive to Växjö. If you're coming from Stockholm, you can take the high speed train from Stockholm to Växjö with one change in Avesta.
Where should I stay?
There are several small budget hotels and B&B's all over the city centre, which are generally a little less expensive than in Stockholm. I stayed at Hotell Värend, which was not too expensive and a convenient 10 minute walk from Växjö's train station (I just walked up the hill). You can explore more accommodation options – from hostels to a castle! – on the website of Växjö's official tourism organization.
You could also opt for an AirBnB (if you sign up for the first time, I'll give you 30€ off through this link), although I didn't find a good place in the centre. I believe that most of the AirBnB's in Växjö are outside of the city centre. If you have more time, an AirBnB in the surrounding countryside might be the perfect solution to explore a bit more of the beautiful nature around Växjö.
Where to eat and drink?
The restaurant "Sit & Go" (Storgatan 33) doesn't look like much from the outside, but I had a really affordable and tasty dinner there. Plus, the staff was friendly and there was a nice, relaxed atmosphere. It's also great for people watching (especially on a Friday night with all the students in town as previously mentioned).
Now it's your turn: Any tips for visiting Växjö? Let me know in the comments below!
Disclosure: I received no financial or other promotional funding for this trip. All opinions expressed in this blog post are therefore entirely my own, personal and unbiased.
All photos in this post were taken by © Sonja Irani / filmfantravel.com