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A few hours drive across the border to Sweden lies the county Dalarna, where Ingeborg and I was invited with Visit Sweden and Visit Dalarna, in order to celebrate Midsummer, the most important day of the year in Sweden. But of course, as we were soon to discover, Dalarna has a lot to offer for anyone who visits.
Dalarna has a lot of forest. What I remember the most was all the trees, all the green, and amongst it, all the old, wooden, red houses. Driving through Dalarna (and of course, in a Volvo) felt like driving through a painting, I could barely fathom this was a real place, and not just all part of a museum, in 2019. Most of the houses look pretty old, but in a very picturesque, traditional way.
Being the home to the famous Dalahest, as well as being famous for housing some of Sweden’s most famous painters, Dalarna is a location familiar with visitors. But there’s always room for more tourists, and should you decide to visit this little piece of paradise there’s plenty of great places to visit, things to do and fika* to be eaten.
*Fika = a concept, a state of mind, an attitude and an important part of Swedish culture. Many Swedes consider it almost essential to make time for fika every day. It means making time for friends and colleagues to share a cup of coffee (or tea) and a little something to eat (like a piece of cake, cookie etc). // Source: Wikipedia
Here’s a few suggestions on what to see and do, as well as where to eat and sleep while you’re visiting Dalarna.
Adult: 100 SEK / Under 18: Free
Born in 1860 in Mora, Dalarna, Anders Zorn is one of the most, if not the most famous painters from this area. Whilst traveling internationally, selling his art as he went, Anders met Emma Lamm, who later became his wife. Emma entered the marriage as Anders’ equal, and worked together with him through his career basically as his manager. With a small wooden house in Mora as their home base, the couple would continuously use their funds to expand their home.
Sales were good for Anders and his art, and the only big sorrow the couple had was their lack of kids. Filling the emptiness this caused them both, they filled their house with Chinaware, imported expensive items to Sweden from the US (like a vacuum, water heater and fridge) and dogs (22 in total). They also shared their love for kids by giving aid to Moras orphanage, inviting friends to stay over at their place and shared their wealth with their housekeeping staff.
Zorngården consists of both the Zorn’s old house, a museum, the old farm and a café. Well worth a visit – something which more than 60.000 people do each year.
Adults: 220 SEK / Under 16: 60 SEK
Born in 1853, Carl Larsson was also a painter, and also Carl must be said to be one of the most famous painters from Dalarna. His drawings is familiar for a lot of us, and to me personally, they remind me of the many books I read as a child, which was full of illustrations from him. As a special bonus, several of the rooms in Carl Larssongården is easily recognisable from his paintings.
Carl was born into a poor family with an alcoholic father. Attending the “poor man school”, one of Carl’s teachers discovered his painting skills, and secured him a scholarship to art school, first in Sweden, and later in life in France. After an unhappy childhood, and having lost his first wife and their two children, Carl fled Sweden, and tried to make a living from his art in France. Without much success, at least one bit of happiness reached Carl, as he met his future wife, Karin.
Despite, or maybe as a result of, the lack of love and happiness in Carl’s childhood, he and his wife Karin filled their home in Sundborn with love and life. Both in their art, such as Karin’s weaving and Carl’s painting (some of them even straight onto the walls) and in their 8(!) children.
There’s also a lot of amazing furniture and decorations inside, and to this day, once a year, IKEA sends representatives here to collect inspiration for upcoming collections. With inspiration from both more traditional Swedish art, Morocco (Karin) and Japan (Carl) this house is exceptionally inspiring and beautiful. Sadly, there’s a strict “no photo” inside Carl Larssongården, so you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say; go there! (A few pictures from the inside can be seen here).
Have you seen these carved wooden horses, painted in different colours with traditional paintings on them? That’s the Dalahäst (Dala horse), famous from traditional folklore art from Sweden dated as far back as the 1600s.
The traditional version of the horse is painted bright red, the same kind of red you’ll see used on most houses in Dalarna. However, of course the horse can be found in all kinds of colours, and the patterns painted on also varies a lot from each horse. Even though the Dalahäst can be found in Swedish art from centuries ago the outside world first meeting with it was on the 1939 world exhibit.
We visited Nils Olsson Dalahäster in Nusnäs, one of the main producers these days of the Dalahäst. Here you can witness the production of the horses, step by step, from a plain block of wood to finished horse. You can also paint your own Dala horse, something we sadly did not have the time for.
Of course there’s also a big shop with all things Dalahäst (I had to get myself one of the traditional red ones to bring back home), and a café with a great fika.
Rättviks gammelgård, the old farm, was where we celebrated midsummer (the most important event of all year in Sweden, read more about that experience here!) But this place is also well worth a visit even if you find yourself there on a normal day.
Here you get to see about 30 old, traditional buildings from different eras in the area, and some interesting old wall paintings. A nice selection of old traditional costumes can also be seen. During summer there’s daily guided tours at Rättviks Gammelgård.
Adults: 230 SEK / Under 15: 100 SEK
At some point between the year 500 and year 1000, the mine of Falu was discovered. History says that a goat, Kåre, one day returned to his owner, with his fur all covered in something red. The owner just shrugged, but when Kåre returned covered in the same red the following day he got curious. Where had his goat been? He followed Kåre, and discovered this place Kåre would go to, where the soil would colour him red. The farmer started digging, and shortly after discovered the red was copper.
The Falu mine is all man made, using a technique where you set fires underneath the ground, heating the rock until it cracked. This was an incredible dangerous way of doing it, and a lot of people died in the process, as the rock caved in and fell over the workers, crushing or trapping them inside the mountain. Mats Israelsson (also known as Fat-Mats) was a miner who one day disappeared while working in the mine. He was discovered 42 years later – looking exactly as he did when he disappeared. The climate inside the mine, holding a yearly temperature at about 5 degrees c all year round, had preserved him, meaning his former fiancée could easily identify him.
At Falu mine you can participate in several guided tours daily. Remember to bring warm clothes and shoes to walk in – there’s quite some steps and pretty dark on the way down into the mine.
Oh, and remember to knock on the door before you enter the mine – you would not want to upset the mountain Gods, would you?
Rent a bike
At Rättviks camping you can play minigolf, rent a canoe or a bike. Seeing parts of Dalarna from a bike is most definitely recommended. It’s like you’re biking through a painting, an enchanted forest or a dream. With the green nature surrounding us, and small, red houses popping up everywhere, the only thing not so dream-like was how heavy on the gear the rented bike was.
Just in the area near Rättvik there’s several great opportunities to go exploring by bike. We did Dalhallarundan, Sweden’s first recreational round for bicycles. The entire round is 26 km, but you can of course make it shorter if you’d prefer that.
While on Dalhallarundan you’ll be both on bigger roads with idyllic farms, cows and horses on the sides, you’ll be in the forest enjoying the silence and the company of the tall trees, you’ll pass small cafés great for coffee and fika, and there’s plenty of options to go for a swim if you feel hot. You’ll even pass a golf course and a racecourse – if those are things that might interest you.
You can even get some shopping in (just remember to bring a backpack if you decide to, the basket on the bike is not that big). The buildings of Nittsjö Ceramics has been here ever since 1843, with the ceramics going on since 1917. Here you’ll find a wide selection of gorgeous ceramics, and a small café as well.
PS! Save yourself some trouble, by making sure you’ll do the Dalhalla round in the right direction. Being a “round” we assumed it could be done both ways, and so we just started out one way. Turns out we were wrong – as all signs along the road was only facing in the opposite direction, meaning we would have to stop every now and then to make sure we were actually still on the right track.
Second hand and being environmentally friendly is trending right now – a trend I’m greatly fond of! Furudals Retrois a retro second hand-shop located in Furudal, which sells retro, vintage and second hand furniture and interior. We found heaps of lovely items we’d love to fill up our car with and bring back home, but we (mainly managed to contain ourselves). A shop well worth visiting, with lovely staff.
However, I did end up having to buy this incredible pedestal! Where I live, I have no window frames, meaning all flowers and plants I have ends up having to live on the floor or on the balcony. Well, now this gorgeous brass pedestal lives in my living room, holding plants and making me happy every day I see it.
As a bonus, the shop is located just around the corner from Snitths hantverksbageri, which had the most incredible selections of fika.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sleep floating around between the trees in the forest? At Näsets Marcusgård you can do just that. If tents or heights are not your thing, they also have several other great options for you. Read more about our stay in the Supermoon here!
Gorgeous wallpapers, loads of spaces to hang out or chill, books available to borrow, several gluten free options in the breakfast buffet – and the view over the mine with your morning coffee.
An incredible place with a nice vibe, lovely staff, and both view over the mine and wallpaper on it’s own would be enough for me to recommend this place.
Åkerblad hotel has an idyllic location in Tällberg. With a mixture of both a relaxing, “mysig” Swedish vibe and some luxury (an entire spa-section, anyone?)
This hotel is a perfect stay whilst in Dalarna. It’s a Family owned business (currently run by the 19th to 22nd generations Åkerblad’s), traceable back to the 1600’s.
Located within a short walk of the lake (great for an after dinner-walk) this hotel really has everything. A delicious breakfast buffet and restaurant at nighttime, several saunas and pools and welcoming room and staff.
The restaurant at Hotel Åkerblad focuses on local produce, and you can get both traditional Swedish dishes and more gourmet-style courses. We had a 3 course, in which we got a bit of both – traditional with the Västerbotten cheese in the first course (where the normal menu was a pie, whereas I got a lovely toast).
The main course was an absolutely delicious entrecote, which I simply had to get a glass of red wine with, and then the dessert just had us over the edge – all food and service outstanding at this one!
Sjövillan is an idyllic restaurant where you can look out over the lake Siljan. Here you can sit both inside and outside, just next to the dock, and lean back and enjoy. We had a two course-meal, with a main and a dessert.
My main was suckling pig, served with chorizo mayonnaise, pica de gallo, grilled salad and french fries. A delicious combo, which tasted just as good as it looked. For desert both of us went for the VS MESS, which makes my mouth water just thinking back on it, being strawberries, strawberry sorbet, meringue, vanilla foam and freeze-dried strawberries. Sinfully delicious!
Located in the centre of Falun, Smak Tapas & Deli has a little bit of nearly everything for everyone. We both agreed that sharing the dishes for tapas is the nicest option, we were a bit concerned we’d find enough dishes a vegetarian and a coeliac could have. Luckily, this turned out to be just fine, we were in for a treat with different types of cheeses, olives, tomatoes, quiche, some spreads and bread. Yum!
Located in Rättvik (we visited at the end of our bike adventures on Dalhallarundan), Stiftsgården Rättvik is a great stop for lunch. With a huge buffet, with all allergies clearly marked (big thumbs up for loads of vegetarian and gluten free options), we ate like hungry wolves here.
Not only does this place have amazing food – their values and focus is also something just beyond your average place. With a focus on limiting the food waste, a zero alcohol-politic out of consideration for those struggling with addiction and with an inclusive working environment where people can gain work experience, this place is definitely worth a stop.
Shortly after we started driving back towards Oslo we started looking for a place we could stop to have lunch. We ended up here purely by accident, as we found the name funny (it translates to something like “Café in the sheep’s house”).
If you’re visiting Dalarna in summertime, and come from this direction, Café i Fårhus is definitely a must. This café is literally inside a barn, with several sheep, cats, kittens and chickens inside, as well as fika or actual lunch. Great food, fun for both children and adults – definitely worth stopping by unless you’re severely allergic.
ABOUT THIS POST
This entry was made after a trip sponsored by Visit Dalarna and Visit Sweden. However, I have not been instructed whatsoever what I should post or write, and all words, experiences and pictures are my own.