Stockholmers by and large spend their holidays in the Stockholm Archipelago or Stockholms skärgård, which, with over 30,000 islands and islets, make it the largest of Sweden. There are some 50,000 cottages but it’s pricey to have a summer residence along that particular stretch of the Baltic nearest the city so they are mainly owned by the wealthy or inherited. (However, even the not so well-to-do in Sweden have access to summer homes – that’s the Swedish social welfare system for you). An excursion from the capital to the outer reaches of the archipelago through the Strömma Kanal requires a boat that can navigate its shallowness and the passages densely bordered by tall grasses that can narrow considerably at points. Cruising between the small islands reveals lovely archipelago-style houses with elaborate woodwork and beautiful gardens, oftentimes dotted with matching secondary and tertiary structures like guesthouses, boathouses, and sheds, all ever-so-tastefully done.
The island of Sandhamn, a natural harbour in the outer archipelago, has historically been a meeting place for international sailors and a key piloting station. Now it’s a popular vacation spot with a vibrant summer party scene. Though it has only 100 permanent inhabitants, 3,000 avid yachters and holiday-goers take up residence each summer and thousands of visitors flock to the island to experience its maritime terrain, its taverns and B&Bs, and to see and be seen at the marina and the prestigious Royal Swedish Yacht Club. Even from the innermost parts of the village can you find picturesque views to the sea, along characteristic gravel alleys framed by picket fences and native flowers. It’s the Martha’s Vineyard of Sweden, folks! (Even Mikael Blomkvist, a central character in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, is known to have a cabin there that he uses as a place to relax and write.)
The clichéd deep red is in full force here. Known for its use on wooden cottages and barns, the traditional Falu red paint, which dates back to the 17th century, is still widely used in the Swedish countryside.