Discover Norway For Members

Discover western Sweden: Nine of the best daytrips from Oslo

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
Discover western Sweden: Nine of the best daytrips from Oslo
Tourists walking in South Koster. Photo: Credits: Fredrik Broman/

There's more to Sweden than border shopping! Whether you're looking for outdoor adventure, bronze-age stone carvings, seafood safaris, or urban culture, there's a wealth of things to do just a few hours from Oslo.


You can drive from Oslo to the Swedish border towns of Töckfors, Svinesund, and Charlottenberg in an hour and twenty minutes, an hour and a half and an hour and 50 minutes, respectively.

And that's where many Norwegians stop, stocking up on cheap(er) alcohol, sweets and food at giant border shopping centres, and then driving back.  

It can be fun to walk or drive across the old stone bridge in Svinesund with its view over the strait, and Töckfors boasts the weird and strangely atmospheric Bastnas car cemetary. 

But there's no much else to do at these places than shop. Thankfully, you don't have to drive much further to find some much more interesting places. 

Kayaking in the Koster Archipelago. Photo: Henrik Trygg/Visit West Sweden

The Koster Archipelago 

The low islands of North Koster and South Koster, made of glittering grey and reddish gneiss rock, are fantastic places to walk, cycle, swim and kayak.  

You can get to Ekenäs, the main settlement on South Koster, in 30 and 50 minutes on one of the passenger ferries, which goes from the northern harbour in Strömstad, the sleepy sea-side town a 20-minute drive south of Svinesund. 

Ekenäs has a centre where you can learn about the animal, aquatic and plant life in the national park. 

The 5.5km path around North Koster takes you past rock formations and stunning swimming spots, while rounding the bigger South Koster involves a more challenging 14km walk, taking you over fields, through woodland and over rocky outcrops.

You can download an app, Vandring I Kosterhavet, which will show you the best routes.  

Perhaps the best way to explore the islands and skerries of the archipelago, however, is by sea kayak. In the peak summer months from July 1st to August 15th, it is forbidden to camp between 10am and 6pm at the Tenholmarna, Burholmen, Bockholmen and Store Bror, four of the most popular islands, so it can be better to time your visit for either earlier or later in the summer. 


You can rent kayaks in Strömstad or Ekenäs, or bring your own for a small fee on the ferry. There are also several companies offering guided tours. Recommended islands include Burholmen, Arholmen, Tjälleskär and the Stora Sockna mini ‘archipelago’. Also popular are Rundholmen and Tegelholmen and, finally, Ursholmen, which boasts the most northerly lighthouse on the Swedish west coast. 

Cycle the cross-border Unionsleden 

This June marked the launch of a new 350km Unionsleden cycle path between Moss in Norway and Karlstad in Sweden.

The second stage takes you on a 57km journey from the Norwegian town Askim and over the "Porten til Norge" bridge and then on to Töcksfors in the Swedish county of Värmland, while the third stage takes you on a 41km jaunt past lakes and canals (and back in the direction of Norway) to the historic iron-working town of Lennartsfors.

Lennartsfors is a charming place to end your ride, with a canal running between wooden houses painted in the Swedish Falu Rödfärg paint. For a longer break, you can continue all the way to Karlstad. 

Photo: Jonas Ingman/Västsverige

The Unesco-listed Tanum rock carvings 

A 30-minute drive south of Strömstad (and two hours from Oslo), you reach the Vitlycke Museum, which educates visitors about the nearby Unesco-listed Tanum rock carvings

The museum is built at the site of the Vitlycke Panel, the most famous of the 600 bronze-age carvings, which is just 200m from the museum building. There is also a reconstruction of a bronze-age farm to give visitors a better sense of the way of life of the people who made the carvings. 


You can visit three of the main sites via the 6km path from the museum, and the museum also organises tours of between one and four hours

Gravel biking in Dalsland 

The Dalsland Experience in the Swedish village of Skåpafors, a two-hour-and-twenty-minute drive from Oslo, offers guided tours on mountain bikes and gravel bikes - like mountain bikes but with drop handlebars - into Dalsland, an area sandwiched between Lake Vänern and Bohuslän which is famed for its varied landscape.

You can rent the bikes for 295 kroner a day and also go on one of the six guided tours, which take place on Fridays, Sundays and Mondays.  

Glaskogens Naturreservat 

A two-and-a-bit hour drive from Oslo will get you to Lenungshammar, the information centre and main campsite for the magical Glaskogen Nature Reserve

The reserve has a booklet you can buy 19 suggestions for walking tours and one tour by car, and there are two main campsites, both about a kilometre from the information centre. There are three cabins you can hire, and there are sites across the reserve for camper vans and camping. 


The reserve is popular for canoeing, and can also hire kayaks and canoes at the Glaskogen canoeing centre, which suggests tours of between four hours and five days, with nights spent at cabins or open-sided wooden vindskydd shelters

The reserve also suggests a range of mountain biking tours of between 18km and 60km. 

Arvika has some charming 19th century buildings. Photo: Alex Waldner/Visit Värmland

Spending an afternoon strolling and shopping in Arvika

Arvika, just over two hours drive west of Oslo, is a charming historic town and 19th-century industrial centre, known for its many independent shops. 

Just outside of Arviva, in Rackstad, there's a museum devoted to the artist colony, which drew painters, sculptors and craft-makers to the area in the late 19th century, among them the painter Gustaf Fjæstad and his textile designer wife, Maja Fjæstad, the sculptor Christian Eriksson, and the ceramicist Hilma Persson-Hjelm. 

The museum features works by several of the artists, has regular exhibitions, and boasts a pleasant café


A twenty-minute drive south of Arvika along the Glafsfjorden lake is the linen-weaving centre of Klässbol, famed for weaving high-end tablecloths and napkins that supply the Royal family and are used at the Nobel Prize Banquet.

There's also a vehicle museum showcasing vintage cars, mopeds, and cycles. 

Årjäng's Årjäntrollet monument is worth a visit. Photo: Alex Waldner/Visit Värmland


On the third weekend in September every year, the town of Årjäng hosts a market with a funfair, musical performances, and stalls selling locally produced food, crafts and other specialities. The market dates back to at least the 17th century and has long been a seasonal draw for visitors from Norway.  

Those interested in harness racing might enjoy a trip to Årjängs Travebana, a 1000m circular racing track in the town. The track also boasts the Nordic harness-racing museum, with a hall of fame featuring the best horses and riders in the sport. 

On the market weekend, a special series of races takes place at the Travebana. 

Half an hour's drive south of Årjäng in the direction of Karlstad, you can find Wikfors Bruk, an old iron-working town which is now the site of a series of food boutiques, craft shops and restaurants. 

You can go on lobster safaris from the fishing village of Fjällbacka. Photo: Fredrik Broman/

Go on a lobster or seaweed safari 

The coast of Bohuslän is home to a growing tourist industry based around seafood, with fishing boats taking visitors out on trips to fish for lobsters and other crustaceans. 

Many of these boats operate from the fishing village of Fjällbacka, with M/S Mira taking tourists out on a so-called 'lobster safari' for 900 kronor a person (although you'll have to pay extra to buy any lobsters you find).


In Grebbestad, to the north of Bohuslän, the company Catxalot has pioneered seaweed collecting safaris, where guests are taken out to snorkel, swim and collect ten different types of wild seaweed. They also offer tours by kayak, which involve seaweed collecting and preparation. 

Karlstad, with its position on the edge of lake Vänern, punches above its weight. Photo: Visit Värmland


With a population of just over 60,000, Karlstad ranks a lowly 17th in the list of Swedish cities by size. But with its handsome 19th-century buildings, and its position at the top of Lake Vänern -- flanked by the Hammarö peninsular and with the Segerstad and Värmland archipelagos on either side -- it punches above its weight. 

It's a three-hour drive from Oslo and just two and a half hours by train, making it an easy day trip from the Norwegian capital. 

From June 1st to August 31st., the local Värmlandstrafik transport company operates boat buses from the centre along the Klarälven River and along the shores of Lake Vänern to the nearby islands and towns. 

A popular stop is a private gallery run by the local artist Lars Lerin, who, as well as being one of Europe's foremost contemporary watercolour painters, is a TV personality in Sweden for programmes such as Lerins sommarö ("Lerin's summer relaxation"), which saw him and his now ex-partner Junior invite celebrities to their summer house in the Bohuslän archipelago. 



Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also