NEWS WANDERLUST

Surf and Spa in Varberg, Sweden’s Best-Kept Secret

Hidden on Sweden’s west coast between Gothenburg and Skåne (though easily reachable by both train and car), this picturesque small village is a well-kept secret. Varberg’s reputation as a spa and wellness resort actually dates back to the 1800s, making it the perfect destination for a serene vacation focusing on relaxation and health. The city is also celebrated for having one of Europe’s best surfing beaches, and along with a long beach promenade, a charming downtown with a weekly market, quaint shops, and an abundance of restaurants offering both magical sea views and delectable food, this secret Swedish hideaway is definitely worth adding to your travel wish list.

Where to Stay (and Spa)
Drop your bags, relax, and recharge at Varberg’s Stadshotell in any of its incredibly stylish, intimate, and thoughtfully decorated rooms. Book the De Luxe Royal Suite and unwind at the hotel’s Asia Spa, where offerings include various saunas, Japanese baths, and healing activities like Ayurvedic treatments and massages. Take part in any of the complimentary workouts, such as yoga, pilates, and qigong, before digging into the organic breakfast buffet, consisting of a wide range of locally produced food. Another tranquil oasis in the city is Varberg’s Kusthotell, perched right on the waterfront by Kåsa beach. Enjoy the magical view over the sea, unwind in the hotel’s Thalasso spa, and make sure to book the saltwater seaweed massage.

Varberg's Stadshotell

De Luxe Royal Suite at Varberg’s StadshotellPhoto: Courtesy of Varberg’s Stadshotell

What to Do
An iconic landmark in the city is Kallbadhuset, a nudist bath house built on stilts in 1903. You can enjoy refreshing cold dips in the salt water on Wednesdays and weekends all year round. If you prefer to keep your clothes on, at least come here for the spectacular view over the impressive architecture of the building. This is also where the 1.5-mile-long beach promenade starts, and it stretches all the way down to the famous beach Apelviken. A stroll along the sheltered bays and rocky cliffs hugged by dark blue waves shouldn’t be missed during your Varberg visit. As you start to walk south from Kallbadhuset, you will quickly pass another must-see pride of the city, which is Varberg’s Fortress. Built in the late 13th century and used as a military fortification and prison until 1931, the majestic fort today exudes an erstwhile charm and hosts a museum, hostel, and two restaurants. Take a break at restaurant Fästningsterassen and enjoy the remarkable view over the ocean as you sip on a cold drink. Top it off with some more fresh saltwater air and the sound of rolling seas as you continue to wind your way down along the waterfront.

Kallbadhuset in Varberg

Kallbadhuset in VarbergPhoto: Alamy

When you have passed Kåsa beach and Subbe lighthouse, athletic people in dry suits, surfboards, and a sweeping stretch of golden sand will let you know that you’ve reached the end of the promenade. Since it’s one of northern Europe’s best wind and kite surfing beaches, Apelviken is actually a rousing area not just during summer. When the surf’s up, rent your wet suit (you’re in Sweden, so yes, you will need this all year round) and board of choice (wave surfing and stand-up paddleboarding are also available in addition to kite and wind surfing) at Surfers CenterSurfskolan, or FahlenSurf and hit the waves.

Where to Eat
Fuel up with fresh stone-oven baked sourdough bread at the picturesque bakery Kustbageriet. Revel in organic baguettes, brioche, breakfast rolls, and other breads filled with parmesan, nuts, dried fruit, and much more. Those with a sweet tooth will feel at home here, too, since its homemade biscuits, croissants, and cinnamon buns are known to be outstanding. Don’t forget to take a peek at the bakery’s own range of muesli, cookies, and marmalades before you leave. Lunch should be ordered at Hattaviken, an astounding restaurant located right by the water on the peninsula Getterön, offering Scandinavian cuisine including Swedish specialties such as meatballs, herring, and lingonberries. A Swedish touch can also be seen in the minimalistic and wooden interior, which is inspired by the Scandinavian nature, style, and products.

A lunch alternative can be found at Hamnpaviljongen, rumored to be serving Varberg’s best burgers (try its appetizing Truffle Deluxe). For a bit more of an upscale and unique dinner option, try stylish Hus 13 at Varberg’s Fortress, offering a four-course menu, à la carte, and wine tasting. Relish in local delicacies and an attractive ambiance.

Although roaring waves and gusts of wind might be what make Apelviken appealing to most people, the beach is also worth a visit for those who prefer turf over surf, thanks to its many restaurants, and especially the barbecue restaurant John’s Place. Perched right on the beach since the ’70s, this pearl of a place focuses on grilled seasonal food. Although the meat here is superb, there are vegan, vegetarian, and seafood options as well, such as tuna, hummer, and a pea and mint “steak.” If you can’t get enough during dinner, luckily, there’s a little shop there, selling spices and herb mixes, linen cloths, and lovely soaps, so you can bring some of John’s Place back to your own. Brittas is another popular relaxed gem on the beach, serving burgers, wood-fire oven sourdough pizzas, and a famous sangria.

Kustbageriet and John’s PlacePhoto: Courtesy of Kustbageriet /@kustbageriet; John’s Place / @johnsplace1970

The same owners have Le Bistro Roulant, an old double-decker turned into a hipster fast-food hangout, where hot dogs, sandwiches, ice cream, and coffee are on the menu. Another jewel with a similar vibe is Surf Saloon. Come here for the creative and innovative range of pizzas (try the High Reef with braised short rip, Taleggio cheese, truffle mayo, pickled red onion, and salad) as well as burgers, soups, and salads. Surf Saloon also offers breakfast and yoga on the beach during the summer, which means that you start your day with sun salutations and downward-facing dogs mixed with organic homemade muesli, berries from the area, and freshly brewed coffee. A similar concept is offered by another favorite, Juice & Yoga, which offers yoga and fresh smoothies and juices in the park Kärleksparken during the warmer months.

Le Bistro RoulantPhoto: Courtesy of Le Bistro Roulant

Where to Shop
When your fingers start to get a little too wrinkly from all the time spent in water, either surfing or sauna-ing, it’s time to take your wallet out for a shopping spree. Believe it or not, this village can definitely take good care of your hard-earned Swedish kronas. Revel in fresh flowers, local produce from the area, and homemade handicrafts at the market on the main square on Wednesdays and Saturdays all year round. For some international flair, visit the boutiques MarinaWonder, and No.30, and browse through racks and shelves full of designers including Ralph Lauren, Ganni, and Marc Jacobs, as well as Swedish favorites like House of Dagmar, Totême, and Filippa K. The lifestyle store Basement Design, selling interior design, organic skin care, food, and accessories, is another must in the city. The skin-care brand L:A Bruket can be bought all over the world today, but few probably know that it was actually founded in 2008 in Varberg, where the production still takes place. Stop by the brand’s store in the northern part of the city and try its vegan, organic, nontoxic products, made out of natural ingredients.

A few other gems can be found just a short drive outside the city center, one being Studio Pompone, an incredible interior design store selling everything you need for your house, both from small and well-known brands. The same area, called Träsvlövsläge, also offers a real insider tip worth writing down: the ice cream café Tre Toppar in the quaint fishing harbor. Tre Toppar’s secret cone recipe, creative toppings, and wide range of flavors are the reasons why both locals and tourists pilgrim here. To complete your trip, try two other popular escapes: the Apple & Pear Juicery in Tvååker and Strömma Farm Lodge’s shop and café (try their salmon salad and homemade pastries).

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