Värmland is beautiful province of west central Sweden, a popular summer holiday destination for locals though it remains fairly undiscovered by foreign tourism. I spent five blissfully relaxing days last May driving around this region with my husband. And so today I am sharing my favourite places to visit, stay and eat in Värmland.
Värmland county in Sweden
If you love the outdoors and active holidays, then this gorgeous region should definitely be on your map! Värmland is home to Sweden’s longest river, the Klarälven, and to 10,000 lakes which are scattered across a forested landscape. There are approximately 200 km of hiking trails – so make sure your boots are made for hiking, and that you’re keeping an eye out for the rare white moose known to roam the area.
Värmland is also home to Sweden’s biggest lake, Vänern. With over 22,000 islands and islets to explore you can be assured there’s zero chance of being bored here!
My trip was organised by Visit Värmland to showcase the best of the region, with a focus in particular on traditional Swedish cuisine and produce.
If you’ve ever been to Sweden, you would know already that they grow amazing food locally and their forests abound with edible plants. Värmland has a long history of delicious cooking, thanks to the plentiful supply of quality natural ingredients. From jams made from forest berries to goats’ cheese, from artisanal breads to craft beers.
Where to Eat in Värmland
The Edible Country
The Edible Country is a brand new concept that was launched across Sweden this summer. It offers visitors a unique chance to forage and create their own dishes (using recipes created by top chefs) in the middle of nature!
This initiative was developed in the hope of creating an alternative to unhealthy foods and an inactive lifestyle. The menu at The Edible Country is made up of ingredients that the visitors bring with them or forage themselves from nature and recipes created by four of Sweden’s Michelin-starred chefs. It’s a culinary adventure for food lovers with 13 outdoor tables across the country.
We enjoyed a wonderful lunchtime meal at our table located at Brattforsheden, a conservation area located near Filipstad. A nature guide and wilderness chef met us at the table to show us how to forage for herbs, cook a simple yet delicious lunch, before guiding us on an informative, beautiful walk around the gorgeous Varmland natural landscape.
Please note: Unless you have pre-booked the chef option at the time of booking, the Edible Country table is a self-guided experience. The tables remain in place from May through September/October with one or two days (location dependent) available to pre-book.
We spent one night at Krokstad Manor House, situated near Lake Vänern. Dating back to the 16th century, the manor has beautiful English Park surrounds. You can walk through the beautiful landscape, go horse riding, enjoy a boat ride on the lake, play some golf or simply enjoy the peace.
We enjoyed a delicious 4-course tasting dinner prepared by chef Håkan Mattsson: using suppliers primarily from the West-Sweden region and award-winning pork (Krokstad Herrgard is the only breeder in Sweden of Hungarian hairy pigs), Mattsson’s cuisine fuses the latest trends with local tradition.
Another lunch was enjoyed was at Sliperiet konsthall & Gastronomi. This unique building has origins as a wood grinding mill and pulp factory from 1903. Today, Sliperiet is part-restaurant and part-art gallery. A combination of various art forms comes together here, with world-famous artists exhibiting alongside those up-and-coming, as well as local artists.
Fine dining became a part of Sliperiet in 2015. One floor up from the art gallery, they serve lunch, à la carte, and tasting menus with handpicked ingredients tailored to the season.
One of the foodie highlights of my trip was Ölme Prästgård Gästgiveri. Formerly a rectory in the late 18th century, Olme Prastgard was turned guesthouse with high-quality food offerings. It’s located on a hill overlooking the plains of Ölme at the mid-point between Stockholm, Oslo and Gothenburg (about a 30′ drive from the city of Karlstad).
This scenic dining experience involves high-quality food and primarily locally sourced produce. The head chef Johan Johansson previously worked with Marcus Samuelsson in New York before returning to his homeland. I can vouch for the food being beautiful and truly delicious!
Where to Stay in Värmland
For part of our trip (and a definite highlight!) we stayed at Ulvsby Herrgård, a stunning manor house in Sunne. The place has a fascinating history as it was allegedly annexed by Queen Christina of Sweden in 1649. It was probably the gorgeous tranquillity of the countryside on the shores of Lake Fryken that attracted the queen, the way it does visitors today!
Ulvsby Herrgard is owned by the Krönsjö family and they’re renowned locally for their hospitality. Guests still flock to the manor from far and near for Sunday lunch or for fika (Swedish coffee and cake) at Café Tant Blå. We were welcomed by the lovely owner Marianne, who made us feel right at home! We couldn’t have wished for a better stay for our last night in Varmland.
The restaurant at Ulvsby Herrgard is a popular destination for locals. Head Chef Daniel Svedlund is one of best in the country and his tasting menus, based on local produce with pairing wines, are wonderful. We enjoyed a wonderful 5-course dinner and the next day a nice buffet breakfast followed by a 2-course lunch.
Sunne is famous for having been the home of Swedish author Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf. She was the first female writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1909. One of the suites at Ulvsby Herrgard is dedicated to Selma and we had the pleasure to spend one night there.
The suite is located in the new wing of the hotel, which has been completely rebuilt within the last two years. It is a beautiful bedroom with a lounge area, spacious bathroom (with lovely toiletries from a local Swedish aromatherapy bath brand); and a large terrace overlooking garden and lake views.
Ulvsby Manor also offers the tempting option of relaxing in their brand new spa, with its two sauna rooms and four copper bathtubs. It’s said that Queen Christina of Sweden loved to take baths in copper tubs with rose petals. She had great taste!
There are many activities you can do in and around Sunne: such as hiking, visit a high quality local food producer, visit the tropical greenhouse and an arboretum at Rottneros Park, and visit Selma Lagerlöf’s home at Mårbacka.
Our stay at Saxå Bruk was memorable and a true gastronomic experience. Saxå Bruk is beautifully situated by lake Saxen near the town of Filipstad. The history of this manor house dates back to late Middle Ages: there is written evidence from the 1540s pointing towards its involvement in the iron industry.
Today, Saxa Bruk operates as a hotel (spread over several old style buildings), restaurant and golf course. Rooms are designed in a reverential manner with fascinating historical objects and each one is dedicated to a figure connected to the region.
The manor is now owned by Carl Jan Granqvist; a man with an impressive resume! A Swedish restaurateur, food and wine connoisseur and television personality, he is also a University professor in the art of food. Carl Jan Granqvist is also responsible for opening Måltidens Hus, a hospitality and culinary arts centre in Grythyttan (about 20 minutes drive from Saxa Bruk), which belongs to Örebro University.
Special events are held at Saxa Bruk throughout the year. We attended the “Historical Gastronomy Performance” which started with a Champagne aperitif hosted at “Rosa Salen”, a stunning pink living room located upstairs in the main house. We then moved to the dining room on the ground floor where a 4-course dinner, cooked by chefs from Grythyttan School, was served with wine pairing.
The house is furnished with gorgeous antique furniture that Carl Jan inherited from his own family or procured from auction houses across Sweden. A few pieces definitely stood out, such as the sublime ceramics of Hertha Hillfon (which we used as tableware), dating from the beginning of the 19th century, the empire era. Equally amazingly, our first course as served on the coronation china of Oscar I!
A trip to Varmland wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Karlstad. Not very large, Karlstad somehow still possesses a big city vibe. If it’s sightseeing you’re after, definitely keep an eye out for the Lars Lerin art gallery and Stadsparken. For nature lovers: river buses depart from the harbour and offer popular summer tours of the Varmland archipelago and around Karlstad. I also very much enjoyed going for a run in one of Karlstad’s islets, Gubbholmen, which is entirely turned into a park – there’s even a communal outdoor gym made of tree barks.
Drottninggatan with its side streets offers the best shopping in central Karlstad. When you’ve shopped till you’re about to drop… there are plenty of charming cafés and restaurants to recoup!
I highly recommend a visit to Löfbergs coffee bar in Karlstad’s inner harbour. The company, founded in Karlstad in 1906 and still family-owned (in its 4th generation) is one of the largest coffee roasters in the Nordic region.
My husband and I were given a private tour of the factory to see the roastery and packaging area. We also attended a cupping (coffee tasting) session with Anna Nordström, speciality coffee manager at Löfbergs.
The coffee shop next to Löfbergs HQ is the ideal place to relax and drink coffee in Karlstad – and of course eat a delicious Swedish cinnamon or cardamon bun!
Karlstad harbour is a new area of the city and still developing, with modern buildings, offices and restaurants springing up by the riverbanks. It’s the perfect place to spend the long summer evenings sitting outdoors with friends and drinks.
Well worth a visit there is Good Guys Tap Room, a taproom and micro-brewery. The taproom is open to the public on Wednesday to Saturday in the evenings. As well as hearty craft beers, they serve really good homemade sourdough pizzas!
Don’t leave Karlstad without paying a visit to Artisan Bread, an artisanal bakery opened by Gustav Fagerman and Mattias Dröschmeister serving bread, pastries and coffee.
Where to Stay in Karlstad
In Karlstad, we stayed at Clarion Collection Hotel Plaza housed in a stylish 1890’s Art Nouveau building on Västra Torggatan pedestrian street. The hotel recently renovated the rooms on the top floor. We stayed in a beautiful, modern, very comfortable and cosy Deluxe Double Bedroom. I particularly loved the toiletries by Rituals!
We pampered ourselves in the relaxation area on the 5th floor with its state-of-the-art sauna that has glass walls overlooking Karlstad, as well as a large jacuzzi.
Included in the room rate at Clarion Hotel, all hotel guests can enjoy a warm main course (soup and buffet salads) every evening in the hotel bar, as well as something sweet with your tea or coffee every afternoon. Breakfast is served in the building’s inner courtyard; in addition to a large buffet and a custom coffee blend roasted by Löfbergs, there is a waffle room to make your own Swedish waffles with toppings of cream, jam and chocolate sauce – I highly recommend.
Disclaimer: I travelled to Sweden as part of a press trip. All opinions are my own.