Ohmygodohmygodohmygod. Oh sure, Lidköping was fabulous, lovely, excellent even. But the most exciting part was that we had a FULL, TODDLER-FREE WEEKEND.
That’s correct. Almost four years into being parents, and we’re already running about, care-free, tasting meringues and sleeping until nine in the morning. The obscene decadence of it. It was bliss.
But to Lidköping and its curious Swedish charm
Popular summer vacation spot in Sweden, beautiful almost 600-year-old city with a river running through it. Lake adjacent. Lots of happy people who like to dance and eat candy, too small for a real city centre but big enough for decent nightlife, sports and its own liquor store. Cobblestones, pretty churches and EXCELLENT bakeries.
With my Scandinavian travel experience still reasonably limited, I had imagined that my first real taste of Sweden (apart from the candy/booze run at the border around Christmas) would be Gothenborg or Malmö or something I’d heard of before, or at least could pronounce. Lidköping, a small town about four and a half hours from Oslo is home to just twenty-five thousand people, one of whom kindly invited us to a wedding there, and several of whom tried to run me over with bicycles. This little ‘dorp’, which is quite large by Norwegian standards was a pleasant way to be introduced to Sweden. Bicycles notwithstanding.
It is worth noting that even Wikipedia mentions that Lidköping is not to be confused with Linköping, a town further east, six times bigger and 3.5 hours and a lake away, and very easy to get wrong on Booking.com
My first surprise
The architecture was delightful! The journey there gave absolutely no hint that this town would be anything other than a bleak one-horse affair, and by the time we arrived it was well after dark, and so the romantically-lit town popped up out of nowhere and greeted us first with its beautiful Lidan river (from which the town gets its name) that snakes through the city’s centre. Our spirits, quite battered by the abundance of roadkill and stark industrial landscape encountered on the drive there, were lifted wonderfully by the lovely nineteenth-century buildings housing cafes, pubs and, I presume, apartments along narrow, cobbled streets.
It turns out this town is desperately old, a fifteenth-century affair, and although the buildings that elbowed one another and batted their eyelids at us were not the original ones from the fourteen-hundreds, they were distinctly aged, and maintained their mature charm. A fire tore down most of the “Old Town” section on the west of the Lidan about 150 years ago, so I just missed seeing the original architecture of the place by about a century and a half. East of the Lidan, where the shopping district lies is ‘New Town, which has its own cobblestoned charm. A few of the elderly, original buildings did survive the fire, and can be found at Limtorget (thanks Johanna for that piece of info!). Lidköping obtained in that fire (apart from, I assume, quite a lot of death), a nice neat town structure when all the buildings were replaced, making it wonderfully easy to navigate and find the places you’re meant to go (like weddings you are almost late for and the closing of the liquor store for the weekend).
My Second Surprise
This would be the local gentleman, quite intoxicated and heading home for the night, who took offense to our car and nearly got into a fight with it. By the time we eased our way into a parking space in front of our hotel, the conversation in the car had gone like this:
“I think he’s pointing at us”
“No look, he’s heading off”
“I think he’s trying to head off but his legs are going backward”
“Oh look, he’s coming back”
“No, I really think he’s trying to go the other way”
“Excuse me! Guy! Did you just bang on the bonnet?”
“I told you he was pointing at us”
“I think it’s the car he’s pointing at. He’s saying something to it, maybe we should get out and help”
At which point we exited and the man, alarmed at our sudden appearance from the belly of his enemy, swayed at us and asked us what this car was doing there. We told him, and then had to repeat ourselves a number of times until the man’s friend, a giant, collected him and told him in Swedish that we could not understand what he was saying because we were from Madagascar. I’m not lying about a single thing here, all of these things and all of these words actually happened. Remarkably, this piece of nonsense worked and the man chuckled and left, with a quick dirty look at the car one more time.
We didn’t get to the bottom of this guy’s beef with Martin’s car, but he didn’t come back again, which was a relief.
A completely useless video of me, drinking cheap bubbly in our hotel room in Lidköping after our alarming encounter with the drunk, car-hating, Madgascar-loving man on the street. It was originally filmed for a friend with far more incriminating content, but here are 16 seconds of nothing.
Things to do
The town, very tourist-friendly, offers a lot of activities for locals, including museums, hikes, castles and looking at boats. There’s a great big lake attached to it, and so that features heavily, but really if you are there for just a weekend like I was, it’s just nice to enjoy the town for itself. The town square was besieged by electoral campaigners and sports clubs on that particular weekend, and I don’t know if this is a regular thing or not, but it added a sense of hyperactivity to my experience, with pumping music, cross-fitting children, and people trying to get me to vote in the Swedish elections. I escaped the intensity by running into the world’s most charming bakery, Garströms Konditori, and the only downside was that everybody else had the same idea and so I grabbed my meringues and funny marzipan cakes to go. Even if nothing else about the town had been charming, this bakery would have made up for all of it. The building itself is over 130 years old, and the bakery originated in 1857.
I mean, the place is kind of heavy with bakeries. It’s a pastry-lover’s heaven. Every little street you turn onto has a bakery or some kind of eatery on it, so I recommend going to Lidköping when you’re off your diet. And it’s not just Swedish treats either, the Thai food I tried there was better than most of the stuff I got in Oslo (but I suppose that isn’t saying much), but I will advise you to avoid the fare at the Best Western, because my partner’s stomach disagreed heavily with the meat he ordered there, and it’s not particularly cheap. But the hotel was otherwise delightful and the breakfasts were better than hotel breakfasts I’m accustomed to (including those which I am accustomed to making, since I worked in a hotel kitchen for a while, and the breakfasts were… edible).
I asked a local (the beautiful bride) to give me some ideas of what there is for visitors to do in Lidköping, and her initial (unsurprising, considering that she moved to another city altogether) response was: “Erm, nothing?” But she quickly followed it up with a list of places to go that would be exciting for a visitor, if a bit worn-out for locals.
According to one of our Swedish hosts, all Swedes enjoy a good night at the club. Please note that I haven’t checked these places out myself, but they are the recommendation of a local who likes good people and dancing. Win-win.
The main club to visit would be Stadt, inside the Stadt hotel, which is a great choice if you want to start the evening early and skip the vorspiel (traditional Scandinavian before-party) because it’s also a restaurant before it takes off its business clothes for its glittery club attire. Alternatively, try Pitchers. As someone who only recently returned to the land of the dancing, I am pretty keen to try both of these places and see if the Swedish are keener dancers than the Norwegians (which feels like a given even as I write this).
For those who don’t share her enthusiasm for night clubs, there is Kinekulle Ring, a motor racing track just outside of Lidköping. Motor racing is one of those sports that, on a lazy Sunday with nothing to do, I could easily turn on my TV to the sport channel, grab a cold cider, start watching the all-day motorsport offerings and then quietly set the TV on fire so that I never have to witness such an atrocity again. So yes, I will not be going to Kinekulle, but perhaps in another life. Perhaps.
I was offered an alternative to motor racing that sounded far more entertaining because of the low barrier to entry, and that is go-karting. Lidkoping has a go-kart track called Motorsportarenan. It looks as though it is open year-round, but you will have to call in advance between September-May (winter-ish), just to be sure.
And of course, in the warm months there are also beaches for swimming and fishing; there is hiking all year; and there is a little bit of shopping one can do in the central city area around the river.
There is the Folketshus at which you can catch good movies or attend cultural events, and sadly we didn’t have time to explore this place on our short stay there.
One more thing worth doing here is buying candy! I suppose this applies to all of Sweden. I don’t know how these people are all so attractive, with full and perfect sets of teeth, because they are candy fiends. Even this small town had a sweet shop to be reckoned with. It doubled as the local video store (also! A video store! Was it the only part of the town that survived the big fire a few centuries ago?). The sweets are good, and they are plentiful. Just steer clear of the gold balls because they look classy like jewellery but taste plastic, like the kind of jewellery I can actually afford.
When they weren’t sportsing at me or telling me about my civic duty to vote (or fighting with our vehicle), the locals of Lidköping were friendly, patient and pretty warm to tourists. Coming from Oslo where people tend to grump around a lot and avoid eye contact, the place was quite exciting because eye contact is something I have sometimes considered paying for in Norway. When I say it like that, it sounds a bit like eye-contact prostitution.
Anyway, people in this town were friendly and I fully regret using the word prostitution in the same sentence as them and their town. So I will shut up now and say:
The people were chill. They be good. They tolerated me well.
Something interesting to know about Swedish:
Did you know that the language is fiendishly specific in the way it identifies members of your external family? Norwegian already improves upon the whole ‘grandmother/grandfather thing by allowing you to say ‘father’s-mother’ & ‘mothers-mother’, etc. But Swedish goes a step further and makes up whole new words like ‘Faster’ which is a combo of ‘Far’ (father) and ‘syster’ (sister) and Moster (same, but for your mother). The words actually work well in English too. I initially thought it would be Mante (Mor/tante) when I first wrote this post, and had a good laugh at how that would look in English. Maunt. Or better, Muncle.
Hahahahaha! Muncle! It’s somehow even better than Funcle. You Muncle.
Lidköping is extremely popular in the summer months. Its proximity to the lake, as well as its great camping facilities mean that people book their stays there long in advance, so if you are planning a mid-summer visit, don’t just rock up and expect to be housed. We almost didn’t even get a spot at the Best Western and our visit was in September.
Like Norway, Finland and the Faroe Islands, Sweden has a state liquor store (named Systembolaget). But unlike Norway you have to buy your beer there too, along with everything else that contains more than 3.5% alcohol (what even? Why bother?), so you can’t get your party supplies from a grocery store on a Saturday afternoon. HOWEVER. Compared to Norway it is fantastically cheap to buy booze there. I get the feeling Finland is cheap too, and I’m happily clueless about what goes on in the Faroe Islands.
There are probably seven thousand things worth noting about this place that I’ve forgotten in my efforts to remember the booze rules, but I figure that as long as you know this, you will enjoy your stay.