Southwest of Stockholm is the city of Södertälje, close enough to the capital to be called a suburb and served by the Stockholm commuter rail network. Known for being very cosmopolitan, Södertälje is also a manufacturing city and is the base of the worldwide truck brand, Scania AB. There’s a museum all about Scania here, along with a smattering of other visitor attractions like a classic Swedish open-air museum and an interactive science centre for kids.
The city is on the Södertälje Canal, which was an integral link between the Baltic Sea and Lake Mälaren, and in the vicinity are walking trails, lakes, bathing areas and mysterious historical monuments.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Södertälje:
1. Tom Tits Experiment
This creative science centre and amusement park is in a grand 19th-century factory building and bursts with wacky activities and experiments for kids.
There’s a world of things to do inside, whether you’re making soap bubbles, playing with illusions, riding in a gyroscope, experimenting with colours, solving a mirror maze, or operating an elevator with your own bodyweight.
There’s also a slide that spirals from the 4th floor to the ground.
But the park is extra fun in summer when you can ride an industrial robot (robocoaster) and a free-fall, which drops 15 metres down the side of the building.
2. Torekällbergets Musuem
This sensational open-air museum is a snapshot of life in Södertälje and the eastern Södermanland in the 19th century.
The museum is divided between an urban (Staden) and rural (Landet) area and its big landmark is the Nora windmill (väderkvarn). This dates to the 1770s and moved to the museum in 1929. Like most Swedish open-air museums the historic architecture has been rescued elsewhere and rebuilt here, and unlike Stockholm’s Skansen, it’s completely free.
In the Staden area you can travel back in time at the town square where you’ll browse archaeological exhibits at the city museum and taste authentic pastries at a 19th-century cafe.
The rural zone has a 19th-century schoolhouse, a farmhouse, old soldiers’ dwellings and a petting zoo with horses, sheep and rabbits.
3. Marcus Wallenberg Hall
The Swedish truck manufacturer Scania AB has been based in Södertälje since the company was born following a merger in 1911. And at the brand’s head office there’s a museum mapping out Scania’s history.
This attraction is named for one of the company’s early financiers, and is crammed with vehicles spanning more than 100 years.
Scania is now best-known for its freight trucks, but in its time has produced tanks, half-tracks, 4x4s , motorbikes, cycles and buses, all of which are exhibited at the museum and have been restored to factory condition.
As well as studying the company’s heritage, you can ponder Scania’s future plans for sustainable transport.
4. Saltskog Gård
In the 1880s this farm outside Södertälje was taken over by the industrialist Carl Fredrik Liljevalch den yngre.
Not just a successful businessman, Liljevalch was a philanthropist and art patron and turned the farm into a cultural meeting place.
In that spirit he laid out a gorgeous park around the farm and extended the farmhouse into an opulent home.
The farmhouse was bought by the city in the 1960s and turned into a space for art exhibitions opening on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The surrounding park, planted with orchards and abundant exotic trees, is always open and promises a relaxed amble.
5. Biologiska Museet
Liljevalch funded the city’s Biological Museum, and it moved into its delightful Art Nouveau building in 1911. The collections were assembled much earlier, making this the oldest museum in Södertälje.
The museum has taxidermies of more than 100 animals and bird species from the Södermanland.
And while they may not be to everyone’s taste, the Art Nouveau design adds a lot of charm.
The dioramas still have the original paintings composed by Kjell Kolthoff, son of the museum’s conservator in 1913.
6. Telge Hus
If you need an idea for a stroll you can venture out to the enigmatic ruins of a medieval castle beside the Södertälje Canal.
Now, you might need to use your imagination to picture these bricks and stones as a fortress, but this site has proved very rich for archaeologists.
That’s because back in the mists of time battles took place right here.
Among the artefacts recovered was the wreckage of a 14th-century boat, arrowheads, horseshoes and various pieces of armour.
You can see them on show at the Torekällbergets Musuem.
The castle was abandoned by the end of the 15th century and has been reduced to faint ruins in a scenic locale.
7. Salems Kyrka
Go east to the southern shore of Bornsjön lake, where you’ll come to a medieval church embedded in lindens, oaks and birches.
This solemn Romanesque edifice is from the 1100s, and the tower’s architecture suggests it may have been used for a defensive purpose at some point.
Inside, some of the church’s fittings have been moved to Stockholm’s Swedish History Museum for safekeeping, but there are still exciting things to be found.
One is the 12th-century baptismal font with a primitive rope pattern on its base, and the other is a wooden crucifix from the 13th century adorning the chancel arch.
8. Sankta Ragnhilds Kyrka
At Stortorget in the heart of Södertälje is a church begun around the same time, but has had a more eventful history.
The oldest remaining portions are the 14th-century groin vaults in the nave.
After fires in the year 1650, the church got its Baroque facade, and needed to be restored again following another fire in 1881. Luckily that time most of the damage was superficial, leaving the sublime decoration inside unharmed.
The finest pieces here are the delicately carved altar and pulpit, from 1656 and 1657 respectively.
Also look up at the gallery, which has a marvellous organ case designed in 1864.
Not everything is as it seems on the square in front of the church.
Unlike most medieval town squares in the world this large plaza wasn’t intended has a place for Södertälje’s citizens to do business.
Rather, because of the city’s location, it was a chosen as somewhere for traders from the Baltic Coast and around Lake Mälaren to meet and trade.
Other than Sankta Ragnhilds Kyrka, the main historical monument on the square is the wooden Old Town Hall.
This dates to 1734 and used to be on the opposite side of the square but was moved in 1982. There are now reception rooms and a cafe inside, with a terrace in front.
North to south, and parallel to the Södertälje Canal is the city’s pedestrian street and main commercial artery.
This isn’t really a street for sightseeing as it was modernised after the war, but you can learn a lot about Södertälje on Storgatan.
When Varuhuset Kringlan opened here on the corner of Eksdalsgatan in 1965 it became one of Sweden’s first malls, and is now a listed building.
The stretch south of Stortorget is where most of the high street chains and big Swedish retailers like Åhléns are situated.
This is Södertälje at its most dynamic, and in the centre of the street is a line of cafes and restaurants.
11. World of Classics – Museum & Sales
Anyone with a penchant for classic American cars or all things retro will be in love with this museum not far east of Södertälje.
In a gigantic showroom is the largest single collection of American vehicles in Scandinavia, almost all from the 1950s and 60s.
There are Plymouths, Pontiacs, Chevrolets, Fords, Oldsmobiles, Dodges, Chryslers, Cadillacs and Buicks.
All are in impeccable condition and many are waiting to be sold.
In among the vehicles there’s a lots of other memorabilia from the period, like vending machines, gadgets, pinball machines, gas pumps, jukeboxes and furniture.
12. Tumba Bruksmuseum
A compelling piece of Sweden’s past is in Tumba a little way to the east.
For 250 years all of Sweden’s banknotes were produced at this paper mill.
The museum is housed in four buildings from the 18th to the early 20th century, all refurbished in 2005 when the attraction was updated.
In the main building from 1825 you can go into depth about the old techniques for printing banknotes and uncover the history of Sweden’s Riksbank.
In another there’s an exhibition about paper-making in past times, while the lodgings and schoolhouse show what it was like to live, work and grow up at the mill.
And then there’s the mill’s fire station.
dating to 1926 and equipped with fire-fighting equipment from the middle of the20th century.
13. SS Ejdern
In summer you’ll have the privilege of cruising on the world’s oldest steamboat to keep its original engine.
The SS Ejdern was assembled by Gothenburg’s Götaverken company in 1880, and ended up in Södertälje in 1906, after spending a couple of decades transporting people and goods on Roxen lake.
The boat has a the Swedish cultural label and between May and September makes regular excursions to the Island of Adelsö on Lake Mälaren.
On the way you’ll go ashore at Birka, once the scene of a Viking city and trading post.
14. Outdoor Recreation
It couldn’t be easier to get out on foot or by bike to enjoy the uplifting scenery all around.
Intrepid explorers might want to set sail for the lush, ancient islands on Lake Mälaren or the archipelago on the Baltic to the south.
But when it’s warm outside nothing beats lounging a beach.
The list of local bathing spots is enormous, but Farstanäsbadet to the south deserves a mention.
On an inlet in the Baltic, this is a perpetual Blue Flag winner, which means the water quality and facilities are more than up to scratch.
On terra firma there are three golf courses – Viksbergs Golfklubb, Salems Golfklubb and Vidbynäs Golf – all welcoming guests and taking advantage of the deep forest and lakeside views.
Hop on an SJ Regionaltåg train (regional rail) and in just 20 minutes you’ll be at Stockholm Central Station.
You may be up for shopping, nightlife, cutting-edge design, culture, family fun or history and can tailor your trip to whatever floats your boat.
One boat that no longer floats is the Vasa, a 17th-century warship salvaged, restored and put on show at its namesake museum on of Djurgården.
Visitors with families will have all they could wish for on this island at museums like the world-famous Skansen and amusement parks like Gröna Lund.
We have barely scratched the surface at this point, but Gamla Stan, the old core of Stockholm still has its medieval Hanseatic atmosphere, and the northern slopes of stylish Södermalm have the best views of the city across Lake Mälaren.