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Gränna

Grännaberger, or Gränna Mountain, can be reached either by car from the road between Gränna and Tranås or by climbing the steps that begin in a couple of places in town. At the top, you'll be rewarded with a fine view. If you're energetic, you can walk along a trail to Skogstornet (Forest Tower), from which you'll get a panoramic view of the area around Lake Vättern.

The Gränna area is a rich repository of Iron Age weapons, tools, menhirs (monoliths), and burial grounds, some 4,000 years old. Gränna was also the birthplace of the North Pole balloonist-explorer Salomon August Andrée, who made an ill-fated attempt in 1897 to cross the pole in the balloon Ornen ("Eagle"). The remains of the expedition were found in 1930 and can be seen in the Andrée Museum, Brahegatan 48 (tel. 0390/410-15; www.grennamuseum.se). With funding by Alfred Nobel and King Oscar, the flight north toward the pole lasted only 3 days. The balloon was forced to make a landing on ice. After 6 weeks of trekking, Andrée and his men died, from either the cold or trichinosis, contracted when they ate raw meat from a polar bear they'd speared. Their frozen but well-preserved bodies and their equipment were discovered by a Norwegian sailing ship, and the artifacts of that trip are on display at this museum. Museigården, a part of the museum, houses exhibits illustrating the history of the area. The museum is open from mid-May to mid-September daily 10am to 6pm, from mid-September to mid-May daily 11am to 4pm. Admission is 50SEK ($10/£5) for adults, 30SEK ($6/£3) for students, and 20SEK ($4/£2) for children 7 to 15.

Motala

Motala is rather bland but makes an excellent center for exploring nearby attractions. It also boasts outdoorsy options, the best of which is cycling. Bikes can be rented at the tourist office kiosk down by the harbor from June to mid-August daily from 9am to noon and 4 to 8pm, for 100SEK ($20/£10) per day.

Another good bet is the boat trip along the canal to Borensberg, 20km (12 miles) east of Motala. In summer, this 5-hour trip leaves Motala at 10:30am and costs 300SEK ($60/£30) round-trip, 240SEK ($48/£24) one-way.

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Varamon Beach lies just 3km (1 3/4 miles) east of town. The beach offers a kilometer (2/3 mile) of golden sand, making it one of Scandinavia's largest inland bathing beaches. It has the warmest waters in Lake Vättern (which isn't saying much), and the sand is often thick with milk-white bodies soaking up the summer sun. It's also a venue for windsurfing. Locals like to call Varamon their "Riviera of Lake Vättern."

Motala has some museums, but all are of only minor interest. The best is the Motala Motor Museum (tel. 0141/588-88; www.motala-motormuseum.se), lying at the edge of the harbor. Cars of various eras are intriguingly exhibited here -- for example, parked outside an Esso Station. All the vintage cars displayed in the showrooms are kept in mint condition. Admission is 50SEK ($10/£5) adults, 40SEK ($8/£4) students, 30SEK ($6/£3) children 7 to 15. Hours are May to September daily 10am to 6pm; October to April Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm, Saturday and Sunday 11am to 5pm.

Örebro

We suggest you take a bike ride out to Lake Tysslingen; you can rent a bike at Servicecentralen, Hamnplan (tel. 019/21-19-09), for 70SEK ($14/£7) per day, 300SEK ($60/£30) weekly. Or, instead of riding around the water, you can sail over it; the tourist office can provide information about boat tours of Lake Hjälmaren on either the M/S Linna or the M/S Gustav Lagerfbjelke. A 3-hour boat cruise costs 350SEK ($70/£35) round-trip.

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The town's major attraction is Örebro Slott (tel. 019/21-21-21; www.orebro.se/slottet), a castle that for more than 700 years has kept a watchful eye on everyone crossing the bridge over the River Svartån. (The castle lies on an island in the Svartån and dominates the town.) The oldest part of the castle, a defensive tower, was erected in the latter half of the 13th century. The tower was expanded in the 14th century to make an even larger stronghold. Over the years, the whole thing has been restored, and then restored again. Today it has a grand, romantic exterior, although not much remains inside. There is no original furniture, and much of the interior is used for county offices. Nevertheless, tour guides valiantly struggle to re-create the romance and lore of the slott (castle). The beamed Rikssalen, or Parliament Hall, remodeled in 1927, has several portraits, notably those of Karl XI and his family; if you're wondering why their eyes are bulging, that's because of the arsenic used to whiten their faces. The newly organized Slottsmuseet functions as a county museum, displaying the saga of the county since the days of the Stone Age. From May to September only, guided tours in English are conducted daily at 2pm, costing 50SEK ($10/£5) per person.

Beautifully situated on the banks of the Svartån in the center of Örebro is the little, wooden, open-air village of Wadköping (tel. 019/21-62-20). The village consists of a collection of ancient buildings -- 18th-century timbered structures in traditional barn red, and lovely, bright 19th-century wooden houses -- from Örebro and the surrounding countryside, all moved to this site in the Stadsparfken (city park) in 1965. Nowadays, Wadköping is a thriving community with a cafe, craftspeople at work, shops, some minor museums, exhibitions, a theater, and puppet shows. The entire area can be visited May to August Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 5pm, September to April Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 4pm. Admission is free.

The major church in town is St. Nicolai Kyrka, Stortorget (tel. 019/12-40-25), dating from 1260 and standing on the main square of Örebro. It was extensively restored in the 1860s, so little of its former medieval character remains. The church is a frequent venue for temporary art exhibitions. It was here in 1810 that Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, Napoleon's marshal, was elected successor to the Swedish throne.

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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.