Couched in a landscape of infinite lakes , Växjö is a small, forward-thinking city in the Småland Province. In this beautiful setting, Växjö has taken the mantle as Sweden’s greenest city. Here CO2 emissions have been cut by half since 1993 and are now less than a third of the EU average.
For culture, Växjö is in the Kingdom of Crystal, and its glassblowing heritage is recounted at the Swedish Glass Museum. To know more you can call in at glassblowing workshops in the region and witness more than 300 years of knowhow in action. Växjö also has a beautiful twin-spired cathedral, an inviting lakeside park and has endless inspiration for quick days out and excurdsions into its wonderful countryside.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Växjö:
1. Swedish Glass Museum
Despite the name this attraction is also a county museum, dedicated to Småland and established in the 18th century.
There’s still a sizeable exhibition about the county and its culture and history.
But since the 1930s it has turned its focus to Sweden’s glass industry, appropriate as Växjö is billed as the capital of the Kingdom of Crystal.
The museum has more than 40,000 pieces of glassware, produced at over 100 Swedish glassworks, with its oldest examples dating back to the 1580s.
There’s in-depth information on glassmaking and its ingredients and techniques, while the museum stages a series of exhibitions for contemporary glass artists every year.
2. Växjö Cathedral
The story of the city’s red brick and ashlar cathedral begins in the 13th century, when a masonry church replaced a wooden structure that burnt down.
Fire has a big role in the cathedral’s past, and a lot of the architecture is from a restoration in the middle of the 19th century following a blaze in the century before.
In the whitewashed interior, seek out the Gustavian organ case, dating to the 18th century.
The altar, pulpit and baptismal font are all the work of the modern sculptor Jan Brazda, who also had a hand in some of the brightly coloured stained-glass windows.
A Viking runestone was unearthed in the choir during excavations in the 1800s, and this has been placed against the cathedral’s eastern outer wall.
3. Swedish Emigrant Institute
Between 1843 and 1930 there was an exodus of around 1.3 million Swedes to North America.
This was an enormous event considering the population of Sweden today is just shy of 10 million.
The Swedish Emigrant Institute researches this wave of emigration, and has a museum with exhibitions charting the causes and consequences of the exodus.
There’s background on some of the more famous settlers and what they accomplished in places like Minnesota.
You can also get to know the works of Vilhelm Moberg, a Swedish writer who produced a series of historical fiction novels on emigration after travelling around America’s Swedish communities.
Curling around the north shore of Växjösjön is the city’s main park.
You could come to relax by the water, or head off on a wander to see what you can find.
Because there’s interesting history in the form of the Karolinerhuset.
This building dates to 1715 and was a high school up to 1850. Its most famous student was none other than the world-changing taxonomist Carl Linnaeus.
To honour Linnaeus there’s a garden planted with species from each of the 24 classes in his Sexual System.
There’s also a summer cactus garden with a theme that changes by the year.
5. Kronoberg Castle
On an island in Helgasjön lake are the ruins of a 15th-century fortress.
For around 200 years this stronghold was on the border between Sweden and Denmark and duly bore the brunt of serious fighting.
It was besieged, captured, reduced to rubble by the Danes no fewer than three times, and was rebuilt after each attack.
Finally, after the Treaty of Roskilde in 1658 secured peace between the Sweden and Denmark the fortress became obsolete and was abandoned.
It is connected to the shore by a wooden footbridge, and information boards fill you in about the fort’s stormy past.
From the shore the fort’s stout walls are very photogenic against the water, and you can enjoy the view over a meatball sandwich from the cafe here.
6. Ångaren Thor
Berthed near the castle is a steamboat, the S/S Thor, which celebrated its 130th anniversary in 2017. Thor makes regular sightseeing trips around the lake in the summer months, with additional sailings scheduled for weekends.
The boat is owned by the Småland County Museum and until the 1930s transported freight and passengers between Räppe and Asa.
Since then it has been taking tourists and residents on leisurely tours around the lake for beautiful vistas of Kronoberg.
On the cruise you’ll hear about the boat’s storied past and learn more about the lake’s nature and history.
7. Teleborg Water Tower
Just past the city’s southern limits is a nondescript-looking water tower that is more fun that it might seem at first glance.
That’s because the vaults in the tower produce the most amazing, sustained echoes, and people make their way from the city just to hear their voices bouncing off the walls.
Naturally the tower is no more than a cheerful detour, but it promises a bit of free entertainment, more so if you have children with you.
On a clear day you can get there on foot, and it’s well worth the walk as on the way you’ll get a good look at the Växjösjön and Trummen lakes.
8. Dädesjö Gamla Kyrka
Head out to the nearby village of Dädesjö to see this remarkable Romanesque church.
This monument is managed by the Swedish National Heritage Board an so remains open every day.
What you’ll discover here is the nave of a 13th-century church.
And while this is quite modest from the outside, the interior is adorned with vivid frescoes from the 1200s that have never been painted over.
These depict the nativity and various scenes from the life of Jesus, including the Massacre of the Innocents.
When the church was decommissioned in 1795 much of its decoration was moved to the neighbouring “New Church”, which has 13th-century images of Mary and St Olaf.
9. Växjö Konsthallen
If the weather takes a turn for the worse you could pass an hour or two perusing art at the municipal gallery.
Entrance is free, as are the exhibitions for both Swedish and international art.
The shows are very diverse and are designed to get people of all ages and backgrounds thinking about and discussing art.
In summer 2017 for instance there was an exhibition on graffiti and urban art, analysing people’s motives for making it, and weighing up graffiti’s status as an art-form.
10. Little Rock Lake Zipline
Journey north into the Småland wilderness and before long you’ll come to a new adventure centre.
This is a group of zipline courses raised high above the forest floor by towers.
There are three routes: Light Green/Blue, Black and Kamikaze.
As you may gather, these vary in length, difficulty and speed.
But all will provide you with astonishing panoramas of the four surrounding lakes and unending expanses of coniferous woodland.
The shortest takes around two hours to complete and the longest up to five hours, and you’ll be accompanied by a trained guide the whole time.
The most memorable part is the line crossing “Sawcreek Canyon” on the Black and Kamikaze route, passing over a fast-flowing stream between two cliffs.
11. Granhults Kyrka
Don’t pass on a visit to this astounding wooden church in a village just north of Lenhovda.
Granhults Kyrka is the oldest wooden church still standing in Sweden, and dates to the 13th century.
It owes its survival to the villagers who decided to look after the building even after it was taken out of use in 1829. The interior is almost completely coated with paintings by the 18th-century Växjö artist Johan Christian Zschotzscher.
And there’s a wealth of ornaments to check out, like a wooden Mary with Child statue from 1475, a cabinet with a polychrome image of St Olaf from the same time, and a patterned pulpit from the 17th century.
Outside stands a typical Nordic timber bell tower, erected in the 18th century.
In summer there’s always something happening on the shore of Växjösjön at Linnéparken.
This is the stage for Scensommar, a programme of some 50 concerts and kid-oriented shows from the end of June to the middle of August.
For live music come down on Wednesday evenings at 19:00, and bring a picnic basket and a blanket.
Youngsters will be treated to a puppet theatre, and there are also street entertainers bringing comedy, magic and acrobatics to the park.
For a full schedule see the Växjö kommun website.
13. Kingdom of Crystal
Växjö is on the west side of a designated region (Glasriket) that has been crafting fine glassware and glass artworks since the 1740s.
If the Swedish Glass Museum has caught your imagination you can tour the Glasriket and stop by the many glassworks still in business.
The town of Nybro is the heart of production and you can see glassblowers in action and buy the finest crystal and glassware at factory prices.
If you’ve ever fancied trying the craft for yourself the Målerås Glassworks outside Nybro lets you make your own glass bowl.
Once it has cooled you can come back the next day to pick it up at the gift shop or have it posted to you.
14. Huseby Bruk
About 20 kilometres southwest of Växjö is an estate that was a hive of industry from the 17th century onwards.
Huseby was mainly an ironworks, producing iron from limonite mined in the region’s lakes.
There’s a museum in the old ironworks and a lot of other light industrial infrastructure that has been left as it was a century ago.
The estate, now roamed by peacocks, has a display of antique wagons, a picturesque watermill, a working Archimedes’ screw and workers’ cottages.
You’ll also be shown around the richly decorated manor house, where King Oscar II was a guest in the 19th century.
There’s a schedule of events throughout the year at Huseby Bruk, the highlight of which is one of Scandinavia’s largest Christmas fairs in November, with 150 stalls.
15. Outdoor Fun
It’s impossible to state just how much water there is around Växjö.
And where there’s a lake there are beaches and swimming piers.
In the vicinity are scores of designated bathing areas, at least one at every lake.
So if you’re going to Helgasjön, Lädjasjön, Barnsjön, Åredasjön or one of countless more, there will be somewhere to swim, change and relax by the water.
Canoe and kayak rentals are available in Växjö, while the low terrain is easy to cover on two wheels.
You can hire a bike and head off on any number of excursions.
If you have time the Åsnen Runt, a four-day trail around the extremely indented shore of Åsnen, beside strawberry patches and apple orchards.