You can walk around and see Vänersborg's highlights in 2 hours or so. Torget, laid out in 1860 and once the town's market area, is still the center of town and a good place from which to start exploring. The chief attraction in town is the Vänersborg Museet, Östra Plantaget (tel. 0521/141-09), which displays objects from around the world. The West African bird collection is its most famous exhibit. A reconstruction of Birger Sjöberg's home is also on display, including many of his personal belongings and authentic pieces from the turn of the 20th century. (He, of course, was the city's great poet and troubadour, who referred to Vänersborg as "Little Paris.") Other collections are devoted to natural history, agriculture, and a history of music. In general, the museum's exhibits have hardly changed since the late 19th century, and it remains appropriately gloomy. It's open June to August Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday noon to 4pm. Off-season hours are Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday noon to 4pm. Admission is 20SEK ($4/£2) for adults, free for children 17 and under.
Anyone interested in handicrafts, particularly doll making, may appreciate the exhibits within the Vänersborg Doll Studio & Museum, Residensgatan 2 (tel. 0521/615-71). It's open June 15 to August 15 Tuesday to Friday 2:30 to 6pm, and Saturday 10am to 1pm; the rest of the year Tuesday to Friday 2:30 to 6pm, and Saturday 10am to 1pm. It's housed in the oldest wooden structure still standing in Vänersborg -- the building was built in the 1790s -- but the dolls go back only to the 1890s. You can view Birgitta Pererson's own prize-winning dolls, and her work is available for purchase in the on-site shop, along with a full range of doll-making materials. The entrance fee is 40SEK ($8/£4) adults, 20SEK ($4/£2) children 5 to 18.
The Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus called the dramatic, craggy twin bluffs of Halleberg and Hunneberg and the surrounding area "earthly paradise." We don't know why great men always wanted to exaggerate when writing about Vänersborg, but Linnaeus was more on target than Birger Sjöberg. The twin bluffs east of town are 500 million years old, and have been used as hunting grounds since the 1500s. Traditionally, this was Swedish elk country, but disease has reduced the stock to around 120 animals. However, there is still a great deal of other wildlife, including deer, hare, and foxes. King Oscar II began the tradition of holding the royal elk hunt here, and hunting rights are still held by the Swedish king. Today the "elk safaris" hunt with cameras rather than guns. Ask at the tourist office in Vänersborg if you'd like to frame some Swedish elk.
You also can visit the Naturskola Nature Center at Hunneberg (tel. 0521/22-37-70), a center that explores the history, flora, and fauna of the twin bluffs. It is open Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm, weekends by appointment. There's a cafe on-site and plenty of information available about the wildlife still living in the surrounding hills. You can also pick up information here about the 50km (31 miles) of hiking trails, the best along the Göta Canal. The cafe is open daily 10am to 4pm.
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.