If you want to see the real Sweden, we’d recommend giving hotels a miss and vacationing like a Swede.
Rent a cottage in the countryside, as thousands of Swedes do every year, and you can truly get away from it all. Sweden’s a huge country with loads of beautiful, unspoilt scenery, so it’s relatively easy to find your own smultronställe (the Swedish word for a secret, idyllic place).
Whether you choose a charming log cabin in the woods or a modern lakeside house, you’ll be able to enjoy Sweden’s pretty landscapes up close and see parts of the country that most tourists never bother to explore.
Rental cottages (known as stugor in Swedish) can be surprisingly cheap in Sweden, especially once you get away from the main tourist areas and into the depths of the Swedish countryside.
What’s more, lots of Swedish cabins come with delightful extras like boats, lakefront terraces, and traditional wood-fired saunas.
Here are our 9 recommendations for the best areas to stay in!
Rolling farmland and long sandy beaches
Right down in the south of Sweden, Skåne is a flat landscape of rolling farmlands, sunny apple orchards and long sandy beaches.
We think it’s the perfect place to base yourself if you only have a short amount of time to spend in Sweden and want to get a taste for the countryside without getting too far from big cities like Malmö and Copenhagen (and their international airports!).
Stay in a cottage in Skåne and you’ll find there’s plenty to do, from kayaking and canoeing to fun historical tours in the cathedral city of Lund. Take advantage of Sweden’s right to roam when berry picking, or go the lazy route and head to one of Skåne’s many gårdsbutiker (farm shops) to stock up on locally grown produce.
Castles, theme parks and thick forests
Yes, Småland is a real place. And no, we’re not talking about the play area at Ikea, which shares the same name (trivia: Ikea was actually founded in Småland too!).
Visit Småland and you can xpect deep forests interspersed with glittering lakes and traditional glassblowing workshops.
Renting a cottage in the ‘Kingdom of Crystal’ is perfect for forest hikes, lake fishing, and visiting local glassmakers to see the renowned Swedish glassware being crafted.
Småland is also a great spot for cycling, visiting pretty castles and checking out truly Swedish attractions like the Astrid Lindgren theme park. There are more ideas for a trip to Småland in our guide here!
Bustling boardwalks and ultra-fresh seafood
For lots of Swedes, Smögen is the picture-postcard coastal town to visit during the summer.
And it’s easy to see why: Smögen stands out with its lively boardwalk, colourful wooden houses, and a strong fishing tradition that shines through at the many waterfront restaurants serving mountains of fresh prawns.
Renting a cottage here means enjoying the fresh catch of the day, exploring bustling seafood markets, and soaking in the vibrant atmosphere of this coastal community. Be warned: in summer, you’ll be jostling for space with wealthy yacht-owners from as far afield as Norway, so prices can quickly spiral upwards.
If you do manage to book a cottage, this guide has suggestions for other fun places to visit on Sweden’s west coast.
The Stockholm archipelago
Island serenity near the capital city
With tens of thousands of islands, the Stockholm archipelago is a pretty special place to explore.
Cottages here are often perched on rocky shores or hidden in small, forested islands, perfect for those seeking seclusion and natural beauty.
Activities include kayaking between islands, exploring secluded coves, and enjoying the archipelago’s tranquil ambience.
While some islands near Stockholm are surprisingly lively, like Vaxholm, others are practically untouched. This post has recommendations for the best islands to visit, depending on your budget and the number of days you have to spare.
Tips for renting a cottage in Sweden
- Summer is the obvious time to visit, weather-wise, but lots of Sweden’s best rental cottages are in ski resorts and are best visited during winter.
- If you’re looking to save money our tip is to try and book a place outside of the main summer and winter seasons, when costs fall considerably.
- Shop around for the best places. Local sites like Stugknuten may offer more variety and better prices than big sites like Airbnb or Booking.com.
- Check what’s included. Lots of Swedish cottages give you access to boats, saunas and private jetties for swimming and fishing.
- Stay away from big cities and coastal areas if you want to save money. Truly rural cottages tend to be cheaper!
A ski resort that’s also fun in summer
Åre is a ski resort, first and foremost – and we think it’s one of the best in Sweden. That alone makes it a wonderful place to rent a cottage, especially if you visit in the springtime, when you’re almost guaranteed great snow (and will have a bit more daylight to play with too!).
During the summer, Åre transforms into a haven for hiking, mountain biking, and fishing, with breathtaking mountain landscapes providing the perfect backdrop.
Renting a cottage here gives you easy access to rugged mountain trails and the chance to enjoy Sweden’s alpine scenery in a more temperate (read: not totally freezing) season.
Artsy hideaway with weirdly beautiful beaches
Österlen is hands down one of the most liveable parts of the Swedish countryside, with a thriving artistic community growing up among the pretty farmsteads.
Cottages here are often in close proximity to white sandy beaches, which are so beautiful in summer that they’ve been compared with Thailand.
Alongside the vibrant art scene, you’ll find lots of galleries and studios here, plus simple farm shops selling locally made jam, honey and cider.
Cycling, horse riding… and lots of pretty windmills
A long finger of sand and limestone off Sweden’s southeast coast, Öland is famous for its old windmills, which tower over the flat landscape.
Life is slower here than on the mainland, which makes it the perfect place to go hiking or horse riding before returning back to your rented cottage.
Want to really kick back? There are no fewer than 6 spas and bath houses across the island, including the famous Borgholms Kallbadhus, which invites you to unwind in its hot, dry saunas before jumping straight into the chilly sea.
Island life and one of Sweden’s prettiest towns
It’s rarely on the radar for people outside Scandinavia, but there’s a reason Gotland is so popular among Swedes.
Far from the mainland in the Baltic Sea, Gotland is famous for its beaches, its striking limestone formations and the well-preserved medieval town of Visby.
Gotland isn’t like the tiny islands in the Stockholm archipelago (mentioned above). This is a big, wild place with plenty to explore (and we’d recommend renting a car to really explore properly).
Cottages in Gotland offer a mix of natural exploration, with rugged coastlines and quiet forests, and cultural immersion in the island’s rich medieval history. This guide is packed with ideas for things to do once you arrive.