The 2004 manifesto of New Nordic Cuisine, signed by 12 visionary chefs, including Sweden’s renowned Mathias Dahlgren and Denmark’s revolutionary René Redzepi (of Noma fame), triggered a gastronomic renaissance in the Nordic countries. At the heart of this culinary movement are ideals of simplicity, purity, freshness and a conscious use of seasonal produce, elevating regional ingredients to create traditional Nordic dishes using new methods.
Spanning a diverse range of climatic regions, over 1500 kilometres of high mountains and long coastlines, Sweden boasts a rich variety of flora and fauna and with it an abundance of local culinary traditions. Our tour crosses from the northernmost point of the west coast, the stark beauty of the Bohuslän archipelago, whose waters team with native oysters, to the wild forests and the vast plains of Söderslätt and Österlen in the south, whose soil – among the most fertile in the world – yields most of the country’s cereal and crops.
It is this variation of landscape and climate that has necessitated the preserving of food, a practice finely honed by the Vikings. The drying, salting, smoking and pickling of herring was supplemented by a diet of hunted elk and bear, foraged wild apples and berries, and cultivated vegetables, barley, oats and wheat. Through this fresh, highly nutritious diet, the average Viking ate much better than the equivalent English peasant.
The Vikings also had a long tradition of cheese-making and were experts at refining cream into butter, a product they innovatively exported to Europe in aged oak casks. In southern Sweden, where some of the most fascinating and individual micro-climates create ideal opportunities for foraging and farming (organically and sustainably, of course), artisan producers are crafting wonderful cheeses, spirits, beers and, surprisingly, rather delightful young wines.
Accepted by the EU as a wine-producing country in 1999, almost a third of Sweden’s wine producers can be found in Skåne in the mild far south, a number of them revitalising the development of fortified fruit and berry wines that was prevalent in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
We finish our tour in Malmö, a hub of international gastronomy (due, in part, to the migration of Middle Eastern cuisine), with a number of excellent small coffee roasteries. Sampling falafel here is a must.
Other highlights include an excursion by boat to the tiny island of Ven, several Michelin-starred meals, a private dinner cooked by one of the country’s most renowned chefs and a leisurely walk through the Scanian (of Skåne) countryside under the guidance of an expert forager.
Gothenburg. Fly at c.10.00am from London Heathrow via Copenhagen to Gothenburg (Scandinavian Airlines). An afternoon tasting at the ‘fish church’ indoor market, built in 1874 and styled after a combination of stone Gothic and Norwegian stave churches. An introductory lecture precedes dinner at Michelin-starred Koka. Chef Johan Björkman uses only the finest local ingredients and has held his star since 2015. First of two nights in Gothenburg.
Gothenburg, Ljungskile. An introduction to Sweden’s famed kanelbullar (cinnamon bun) under a beautiful 19th- century glass ceiling, before a walking tour of Gothenburg. Time to explore the city’s Museum of Art, which houses a collection dating back to the 15th century, before driving north to Uddevalla. Sail to Ljungskile and observe a mussel harvest, mooring for a private dinner sampling the fjord’s delicacies against the backdrop of the Bohuslän archipelago. Final night in Gothenburg.
Gothenburg, Helsingborg, Skåne. A private tour of the Neoclassical Gunnebo House, a country villa with organically managed gardens and an award-winning bakery. Drive south, skirting the coast, to Helsingborg to visit Sofiero Palace, one of the Swedish royal family’s country mansions for more than a century. The garden has more than 500 rhododendron varieties. Dinner in Helsingborg before continuing to Skåne, where the following three nights are spent.
Skåne. Start the day with a chocolate tasting in the sleepy town of Österlen, led by the producers in their red brick factory. Visit a cheese maker and meet the owner of the small factory and farm. Some free time for lunch in seaside Kivik, home to an annual apple market, before a tasting of unsweetened must, in an area where the first apple trees were planted in the late 1800s. Dinner is in the hotel restaurant; the kitchen is run by the owners, former chefs
Skåne. A morning walk through the Scanian countryside with an expert forager before lunch at a traditional gästgifveri (inn). An afternoon berry-picking at a family-run fruit farm precedes a visit to Ellinge Castle, one of Skåne’s oldest manor houses, dating from the 12th century. Vodka is distilled on site here using mineral-rich water from the castle spring and estate-grown wheat and barley. For the final night in Skåne, a private dinner is cooked by Sweden’s first female Michelin-starred chef, Titti Qvarnström.
Skåne, Malmö. Cross the fertile province of Skåne towards Malmö, its largest city. A morning visit to one of the country’s wine producers, a supplier to several Michelin-starred restaurants. Walk the Solaris vines and taste the distinctive Scandinavian grape. Continue to Katrinetorp, a 19th-century manor house with landscaped gardens, for a traditional herring lunch, arriving in Malmö in the afternoon. A lesson in the art of fika (the Swedish coffee break) with a tour and tasting at a coffee roastery. First of two nights in Malmö.
Ven, Malmö. Take the ferry to Ven, a tiny Swedish island in the Öresund strait with 370 inhabitants. The ‘green island’, historically under Danish rule, houses one of the world’s smallest pot still distilleries and an observatory and museum dedicated to the 16th-century Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe. After lunch, return to the Swedish mainland and drive to Malmö for some free time before dinner at Vollmers (two Michelin stars), where chef Mats Vollmer creates intricate, innovative modern dishes in a 19th-century townhouse. Final night in Malmö.
Malmö, Copenhagen. After a free morning in Malmö, cross the Öresund Bridge to Copenhagen and fly to London Heathrow, arriving c.5.30pm.
Author, lecturer, consultant and former professor specialising in wine and beverages. A Swedish native, he is involved in the rural and sustainable development of food culture and tourism, and has a PhD in political science from Uppsala University. He is a co-author of Have Fork Will Travel: A Practical Handbook for Food & Drink Tourism Professionals and his forthcoming publications include Taste of Sweden and The Swedish Compass. Twitter: @UrbanLaurin
Price, per person
Two sharing: £3,770 or £3,530 without flights. Single occupancy: £4,110 or £3,870 without flights.
Flights with Scandinavian Airlines (economy class, Airbus A320 & CRJ 900); travel by private coach for airport transfers and excursions; boat travel as indicated in the itinerary; hotel accommodation; breakfasts, 3 lunches and 6 dinners with a glass or two of wine, water and coffee; all wine, spirit and food tastings; all admissions; all tips; all taxes; the services of the lecturer and tour manager.
Elite Plaza Hotel, Gothenburg: 5-star centrally located hotel in a historic palatial building with many original features preserved. Rooms are modern and comfortable. Talldungens Gårdshotell, Skåne: a tranquil family-run 3-star country hotel with an on-site bakery and restaurant. While each room has its own bathroom, in some cases this is a few yards along a corridor. Elite Savoy Hotel, Malmö: a historic 4-star hotel with classically styled communal areas. Rooms are modern and comfortable. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.
Fish and shellfish are integral to some meals. We suggest this tour would not be appropriate for non-fish /-shellfish eaters.
There is a lot of walking and standing on this tour, and it would not be suitable for anyone who has difficulties with everyday walking or stair-climbing. One day involves a lot of driving. Average coach travel per day: 77 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting: www.fco.gov.uk.