Sweden highlight for camping holidays with children: a visit to Emil, Pippi Longstocking & other beloved characters
You don't have to be an expert on Sweden to have heard of Vimmerby in Småland: it is the small town where Astrid Lindgren spent her childhood and youth and which very often is mentioned in her stories. If you want to follow the traces of the author and her popular characters with your caravan or motorhome, Vimmerby and the surrounding area are the right place for you. The inimitable heroes from the beloved stories come to life in the theater park Astrid Lindgren's World. If you are planning a camping holiday with the family in southern Sweden, you simply cannot avoid this town.
In the small town of Vimmerby, everything revolves around Astrid Lindgren (1907-2002) and her world famous and beloved stories even though Astrid Lindgren "only" spent her childhood and youth in Vimmerby: At the age of 18 she left her place of birth in order to give birth to an illegitimate child in Denmark. Thereafter, Astrid Lindgren spent most of her life in Stockholm. But of course, she occasionally returned to Vimmerby to visit parents and siblings.
And this cozy town with all its small wooden houses, hilly alleys and cobblestone streets also keeps popping up in Astrid Lindgrens stories and novels: policeman Björk patrols the summer streets in "Kalle Blomkvist Master Detective". Mardie and Alva go shopping here. Here Pippi Longstocking strolls through the shops with her large bag full of gold coins. Emil comes to the market here and buys his horse. And this also is where the Red Roses and the White Roses fight their never-ending battles. Although Astrid Lindgren did not always clearly name the location of her stories Vimmerby, they all bear the familiar features of her hometown. Here you will find tips on what not to miss in Vimmerby and the surrounding area.
Photo: Claudia Rothkamp
Tip 1: Walk through Vimmerby in the footsteps of the film and novel characters
More than 100 years have passed since Astrid Lindgren's childhood and of course a lot has changed in Vimmerby - and again not. By walking through the small city center, many houses and buildings from that time can still be seen today, which Astrid Lindgren fans will recognize from the books and films. Standing on the large market square, the Stortorget, the Stadshotellet, which is known from the Mardie stories, will catch your eye on the right hand side. Here the maid Alva dances during the autumn ball with the chimney sweep. On the left hand side of the Stortorget you will see a corner house, which housed a pharmacy in the 1920s. It is said that Astrid Lindgren, who was friends with the pharmacist's daughter, climbed out of the window on a fire line here when she was a teenager and plunged onto the street. Apparently her father's comment on this was something like, "what a good thing that you fell down right in front of a pharmacy."
In the small alley Båtsmansbacken, which during that time was considered a dangerous quarter, the author chose to send Kalle Blomkvist and the members of the White Roses and Red Roses on their hunt for criminals. The house with the candy store, where Pippi Longstocking buys several kilograms of sweets, is not far away either: it's located right next to the toy store, where Pippi buys cuckoo whistles for all children of the village. In the next side street you will also find house where the scenes of Emils visit to the doctor in Mariannelund were filmed on the occasion when his head got stuck in the soup bowl. At the end of the Storgatan you will also find the former mayor's house, which probably served as a kind of model for Emil's appearance on the mayor's party by horse.
Tip 2: Astrid Lindgren's Näs - childhood home and exhibition center
Also worth a visit is the birthplace and childhood home of Astrid Lindgren on the former vicarage of Näs. Here she was born on November 14, 1907 and was named Astrid Anna Emilia Ericsson. The vicarage Näs is about 1.2 km from the center of Vimmerby. If you look closely, you will find numerous small details that served as inspiration for Astrid Lindgren's stories, for example the large elm in front of the former rectory, which became famous as Pippi's lemonade tree. Even inside the small red house, which Astrid Lindgren herself filled with childhood memorabilia many years ago, during a guided tour visitors can learn a lot about many details which inspired the stories. During the summer months, guided tours are offered here in English, Swedish and German. Since the small house only is suitable for small groups you should register in advance for the visit. Visiting the house is unfortunately not possible for visitors with wheelchairs or prams. Here you can find information about Astrid Lindgren's childhood home .
Tip 3: Astrid Lindgren's World Theater Park
As a child, Astrid Lindgren played and romped a lot in the fields and meadows west of the vicarage Näs. And this is exactly where the "Astrid Lindgren's World" theater park has been located for almost 40 years now. It's definitely a highlight for every child during a camping holiday. The focus here is not on rides or the like, but on playing and romping. Most popular examples for this are Pippi's "don't touch the ground"-trail, jumping in the hay in the hayloft by Rasmus’s barn or climbing around on the rocks at Matt's Fort. Many of the locations known from the stories were recreated in "Astrid Lindgren's World" and in summer different stories are brought to life on stage every day.
Photo: Örjan Karlsson / Astrid Lindgren's World
There is also improvisation theater spread across the entire park that encourages all ages to participate. And it actually does not matter for the children that the plays and role plays take place in Swedish language: it really only takes a few minutes for the children to play and sing along enthusiastically even if they do not speak a word of Swedish. For familys, a visit to Astrid Lindgren's World is not exactly easy on the budget, but definitely worthwhile. On the bright side: in addition to various restaurants and snack bars the park also offers numerous picnic areas where visitors are allowed to bring and consume their own drinks and snacks. In addition, there is of course a shop that offers all sorts of products related to Pippi, Emil and all the other beloved characters, e.g. soft toys and sweets, costumes, books, films and audio books.
By the way, right next to the park there is also a campsite with huts as well as an area for caravan and motorhome pitches. The park owners do have good reasons for that: very few children are satisfied with just one day in the park once they have experienced it. Prepare for a lot of nagging for at least a second day.
Our freeontour tip: During the Swedish summer holidays from late June to mid-August, there usually are the most visitors at Astrid Lindgren's World. If you have the option, plan your visit for the first weeks of June or the second half of August. There also are far less visitors in the second half of May, but during that period only a small number of actors are on site. Buying online tickets shortens the waiting time at the entrance in high season. Here you can find more information about Astrid Lindgren's World .
Tip 4: Visit Katthult in Gibberyd
When the Swedish director Olle Hellbom ventured into the filming of the "Emil" books in the early 1970s, he was said to have visited almost 100 different farms in Småland until he finally found Emil's "Katthult" family farm. The choice fell on the Astrid Johannsson Gård in Gibberyd about 30 km west of Vimmerby. Most of the "Emil" films were shot here since not only the buildings, but also the surrounding landscape still harmonize wonderfully with Astrid Lindgren's description in the stories. Although the farm is still privately owned so that the main house can only be viewed from the outside, "Katthult" is still worth a visit: Emil's woodshed with his wooden figures, the wolf trap and other remains of the film shootings are freely accessible. The farm nowadays even is signposted as Katthult. Here you can find information on the opening times of Katthult. Another tip for everyone interested in the Emil films: Only about 10 kilometers from Katthult, in Mariannelund, you can learn a lot about the film making of the Emil films in Barnfilmbynhuset.
Tip 5: Make a detour to Noisy Village
About 15 km from Vimmerby is the small village of Sevedstorp, where Astrid Lindgren's father Samuel August grew up. Sevedstorp was the template for the "Noisy Village" and also the location for the making of the corresponding films. The three well-known red and white houses can only be viewed from the outside, as they are privately owned. But in the main season in summer there is a small café in the former stable, animals to stroke and a huge swing. But much more important than the three houses is the surrounding nature, in which the "Noisy Village" children played. And of course the haystack that children can throw themselves into during the summer months. On the way to Sevedstorp you will also pass the historical wooden church in Pelarne, in which Astrid Lindgren's story began, so to speak: Here, in one of the oldest wooden churches in Sweden with roots from the 13th century, Samuel August from Sevedstorp married his wife Hanna.