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This story was published before Summer 2021, when we launched our new digital experience.

Is This the Most Beautiful Town in Sweden?

And not only is it gorgeous, but the winter activities cannot be beat.


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Sweden as a country has so much history, culture, and stunning landscapes to discover. Among them is a town called Luleå, a city on the coast in the Swedish Lapland.

Luleå is the heart of Sami culture, the indigenous people of Northern Norway and Sweden. Here, you can experience what it’s like to work in a reindeer herding community by visiting some of the families who still practice this traditional lifestyle.

The most scenic section of the city is Gammelstad Church Town, a group of homes from the 1400s known for their well-preserved wooden structures. Also in this area is the stone Nederluleå Church, which is known as another local architectural highlight. Pair this with the dramatic landscape—vast valleys of snow and ice during the winter and fields of blooms during the spring and summer—and you have a destination just asking to be visited.

While the frigid winter temperatures may turn away some visitors, the winter is arguably the best time to visit Luleå. Due to a unique geographical location on an archipelago, the water around Luleå turns into extremely deep sea ice during the coldest months—and this opens up the area to an entirely new set of activities.

Taking in these sights is a luxury—not only in the amount of time it takes to get to Luleå, but also the very act of seeing them. Off the Map travel is a tour company offering all kinds of luxury experiences around the Lapland region, from a stay at the world’s first ice hotel to hunting down the Northern Lights on a snowmobile. Stay at the Brändön Lodge (it’s like your cabin dream house jumped out of your head and into real life) and take a trip across the frozen archipelago on a hovercraft. Pro tip for anyone planning a trip to this region: Visit Lapland launched a fantastic search engine for tours and activities in the region in 2018.

Adventure activities are only where the fun begins: Believe it or not, Luleå is also home to some truly first-rate dining. The Nordic region has their own version of the Michelin restaurant rating system called the White Guide. If you’re looking to taste some regional ingredients in their finest form, head to Restaurant CG, where you can dine in the wine cellar. And don’t sleep on the accompanying sauces to your main course—they really do add a whole new level to your meal. For dessert, don’t miss the cloudberry creations at Hemmagastronomi (also known for their Charcuterie plates that feature local game). And if you’re looking for something more casual, say a few drinks and light bites, Bistro Norrland’s highly varied menu will fare you well. If you’re looking for something a bit more, say, unique, guests at the Pine Bay Lodge can book an Aurora Hideaway Dinner on the frozen ice of the adjacent Pine Bay—more specifically, a small cabin surrounded in candlelight that you can only reach by snowmobile.

From the ancient wooden homes to the stark winter landscape, Luleå has a little bit of everything for all kinds of travelers: vast landscapes, unforgettable meals, adventurous activities, historic architecture, and generations of indigenous culture waiting to be experienced.


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