Planning a trip to Sweden? Check out these five reasons why I think the small town of Växjö in Småland, Sweden is worth a visit and what the film "Titanic" has to do with all that…
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.
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, a lot of these Swedish emigrants came from Småland in the South-East of the country. This was mainly because the land here was very rocky 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, 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. Nevertheless, the exhibition in Växjö was interesting and insightful as there were a lot of panels with images and descriptions in both Swedish and English.
Furthermore, the entry ticket (about 90 SEK) included access to 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 Småland Glass Museum.
Learn more about famous Americans with Swedish roots, such as Charles Lindbergh at the Växjö House of Emigrants
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 onto the doomed ship.
Read more about the House of Emigrants in Växjö
2. The closeness to nature
Växjö is surrounded by the typical Swedish nature that you would expect to find here in 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 to relax and unwind after your visit to the museums!
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. Explore a typical 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).
4. The fact that everything is reachable by foot (including the local cinema)
The town centre of Växjö
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.
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.
5. Meet Ingvar Kamprad – the world’s richest cheapskate!
If you always wanted to know how one of the world's biggest cheapskates became one of the world's richest businessmen, or if you're just a fan of the famous Swedish furniture store, you have to check out the IKEA museum in Älmhult. 😉
The region of Småland is well connected by trains, which you can conveniently book online via the Swedish rail company SJ. Hopping on the train in Växjö, it only took me about 40 minutes to get into Älmhult.
From there it's a short walk to the museum. After your train has arrived, take the stairs up to the bridge, then turn right and follow the way to IKEAgatan 5 (loved the fact that IKEA even got its own street name here).
Founded in 2016, this museum will tell you all about the worldwide success story of the Swedish furniture store, which was founded by Ingvar Kamprad (1926–2018), a local from Älmhult, when he was just 17 years old.
Although the IKEA empire has made Kamprad one of the richest people in the world, Ingvar apparently stayed true to the money-conscious values, which are said to be quite typical for people from Småland.
It has been reported, for example, that Kamprad drove a 1993 Volvo 240 until it basically fell apart and encourages IKEAemployees to make full use of both sides of paper. Furthermore, he reportedly pocketed the salt and pepper packets at restaurants and has been known to visit IKEA every now and then for "a cheap meal out".
Read more about the IKEA Museum in Älmhult
Now that you know what’s there to see in Växjö and surroundings, 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. From there, I boarded the train to Växjö. You can conveniently book your train tickets online at the Swedish rail company.
A typical Swedish view in Växjö
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 could also opt for an AirBnB (if you sign up for the first time, I'll give you 30 Euros 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).
My pasta / veggie meal at "Sit & Go"
Now it's your turn: Any tips or questions for visiting Växjö, Sweden? Let me know in the comments below!
Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links to Booking.com and AirBnB.com. If you click on any of these links and make a booking through them, I will receive a small commission fee.
All photos in this post were taken by © Sonja Irani / filmfantravel.com