Swedish Heritage Itinerary

By Explore Minnesota

Swedish Heritage

Make your trip a smorgasbord of Swedish and other Scandinavian culture, food, historic sites and shopping.

DAY 1: American Swedish Institute & Ingebretsen’s, Minneapolis

Visit the American Swedish Institute (ASI), located just south of downtown Minneapolis, for exhibits of Swedish, Swedish-American and Nordic culture. The ASI's historic Turnblad Mansion features sculpted ceilings, intricately carved wood, beautiful rugs of Swedish wool and exquisite porcelain kakelugnar. In 2012, ASI opened the new Nelson Cultural Center, which brings modern Scandinavian architecture to the ASI campus and made it Minnesota's first museum to earn LEED Gold Certification for its eco-friendly design. A destination unto itself, the on-site FIKA cafe serves traditional and contemporary Nordic fare like potato dumplings, meatballs and gravlax.

Continue your tour at Ingebretsen’s, a south Minneapolis market featuring fine Scandinavian gifts, food, needlework and clothing since 1921. Register in advance and take classes in traditional needlework and knitting, or make lefse, kransekake (a spectacular cake) or troll masks.

DAY 2: Scandia, Lindström, Mora & Swedish Counties

Travel to Scandia to visit attractions that celebrate the history of Swedish settlement in Minnesota. The Hay Lake Monument honors the first three Swedish men who settled here in the early 1850s. The Hay Lake School and the Johannes Erickson Log House Museum illuminate the lives of 19th-century Scandinavian immigrants. Tour the 11-acre Gammelgården Museum, a site with historic buildings built by Swedish immigrants in the 1850s. See Minnesota's oldest Lutheran church, a log home, barn, parsonage and cottage.

Travel Highway 8, now designated as the Moberg Trail, to Lindström, which is known as "America's Little Sweden." Swedish heritage abounds in this town, from the water tower in the shape of a Swedish coffee pot, to the Glader Cemetery (the oldest Swedish burial ground in Minnesota), the stately Gustaf Anderson House, and the Moody Round Barn built by Swedish farmers. Lindstöm is the fictional home of Karl Oscar and Kristina, characters in Vilhelm Moberg's popular emigrant novels. Tour the Karl Oskar House, a home that inspired Moberg's writing, and find statues in the town of Karl Oskar and Kristina. Go to Chisago City to visit the Vilhelm Moberg statue. Dine at one of the area restaurants, and you might hear the old Småland dialect still spoken here today.

Travel north through Isanti County, sometimes called the Dalarna of America, though its first Swedish settlers were from the province of Hälsingland. Stop in Cambridge and visit the archives room and pioneer cemetery at Cambridge Lutheran Church to learn more about the families who came here in the late 1800s. Several other sites in Cambridge and Stanchfield house memorabilia and genealogical records of Swedish immigrants.

Continue to Mora, home of the world's largest (25 feet high) dala horse, the Mora klocka (a Swedish bell tower), and monuments in the city parks honoring the town's heritage. Mora is also the home of the annual Vasaloppet ski race. Stop at Vasaloppet headquarters in the center of Mora to learn more about sites and the town's sister city, Mora, Sweden.

DAY 3: IKEA, Bloomington

Shop at IKEA, the world's largest retailer of ready-to-assemble furniture and home products. The first IKEA began in the 1940s in a small Swedish village, and today IKEA stores are in more than 40 countries. The Minnesota store is located south of the Twin Cities in Bloomington, next to Mall of America (another exceptional shopping destination). Plan to have a meal in the IKEA restaurant, which features Swedish meatballs, lingonberry beverages and a whole range of other foods, including a breakfast plate (with scrambled eggs, bacon and potatoes) for 99 cents. Bring more edible treats home from the Swedish Food Market.