Sweden: The Land of Peace, Equality, Flowers and Smiling Children

by Deborah Davis

Deborah and her Daughter

Deborah pictured with her daughter Hannah

Our trip began with an arrival night dinner in Stockholm at the coolest, hippest restaurant in town, Sture Hof. The food, service, and atmosphere were a great first welcome. Even the bathroom was perfectly accessible, a nice surprise being I am so spoiled living in Florida, with one of the best accessibility codes in the world.

The next day we started out on foot from our centrally located Rica Hotel through the main plaza shopping area and saw beautiful public art work throughout the city.One in particular was quite profound, depicting a pistol tied in a knot so it could not shoot. Sweden has not been in a war in 200 years and this is a great piece which reflects that philosophy.

 The last war Sweden was in was with the Norwegians    

The last war Sweden was in was with the Norwegians. The peace document was signed 14th of August 1814.

Then it was onward to “Gamla Stan” (Old Town Square) the 13th century original town, which has been preserved from medieval times and has so much to explore. I knew it was “old” and therefore not going to be as accessible as the city, but was armed, ready to take on the cobbled streets with a strong husband, a young daughter and a freewheel attachment. Let’s go!

Gamla Stan    

The exciting and architecturally fascinating entrance into Gamla Stan

The Old Town of course has steps. We kept wondering how disabled people managed back then, then we remembered that medical technology did not enable most with traumatic injuries or birth defects to survive long enough to be a part of society. These (pictured) were minor--most were more than two up.

Old Town

Old Town

These were some of the less cobbly stone roads and slopes to climb in “Old Town” section of Stockholm.

The Nobel Museum, quaint town squares, great shopping, restaurants, the Stockholm Cathedrals and the Royal Palace make this section of Stockholm a MUST see for any tourist who can manage it. An electric wheelchair would be great here, but the only issue would be then getting into the facilities as there are no ramps. I was fortunate to be able to be carried up the steps of the places I wanted to go.

   Gamla Square   

Gamla Stan Square medieval architecture

We went to the many museums this richly cultural city had to offer and they were all fully accessible and treasures! We went to the National Museum (elevator pictured), The Royal Coin Cabinet at the base of the Royal Palace, the Vasa (pictured below), and the Moderna Museet. My then teenage daughter was very interested in art and history so I was happy to give her those experiences!

Accessible entrance to National Museum

Accessible entrance to National Museum in Swedish. It is also written Nationalmuseum  
The only difference is that in English it is two words but in Swedish only one word.

On the walk along the river from City to Skansen

On the walk along the river from City to Skansen, the Vasa Museum and Gröna Lund Amusement Park. Looking onto Djurgården Island.

On the walk along the river from City to Skansen

View from the waterside restaurant on Djurgården
We walked (and rolled) here from our hotel.

The Vasa Museum is astonishing and one of my favorite experiences (other than the Ice bar!). This 17th Century warship sunk on its maiden voyage--a huge embarrassment and tragedy as it took them 9 years to build it and was the most expensive project ever undertaken! It was a total loss. They found it and raised it 333 years later! You will be able to view how it was preserved and restored with all its intricate carvings! They took us to the front of the line with the wheelchair. It was a very moving and profound experience.

Vasa Museum  

The back of the Vasa Warship. To read more about the lessons learned from this historic failure:

Vasa Museum

Here is a replica of the ship that sank and is now fully restored in the Vasa.

Then there was the real (albeit short!) highlight of the trip: The Absolut Ice bar! It was fully accessible and even with my lack of temperature control, I was able spend enough time to taste two of the famous flavored iced cold vodka due to the super insulated parkas that patrons get to wear.

Ice Bar

Absolute -5 degree Celsius Ice Bar at the Nordic Sea Hotel

The food, while expensive in US dollars exchange rate, is one of the most pleasurable things about Sweden. Fresh, no hormones, no chemicals, farm raised food is an expectation of these savvy Europeans who have regulated the industry intelligently. They also have a large percentage of Vegans and Vegetarians in the population, so these options were always readily available.

Vegens will love Sweden

Vegans will Love Sweden!

Swedish Meatballs

The Swedish meatball was a restaurant favorite, we had it at least four times!

The subways are accessible, clean and quite beautiful with public art on walls and ceilings. They were easy to navigate and no drama with broken elevators or lifts (unlike Paris which is literally a nightmare.)
The streets are clean and flowers are alive and thriving wherever you look. Strange as it is almost like the wizard of Oz here as you cannot find a dead flower anywhere…trust me, I looked!

The streets are clean and flowers are alive and thriving wherever you look The streets are clean and flowers are alive and thriving wherever you look

The streets are clean and flowers are alive and thriving wherever you look

Even the animals are beautiful and happy here…and I made sure I documented them (this has become one of my favorite photographic specialties.)

Happy dogs

Pakistani Buffet

In Stockholm, there are so many ethnic restaurants-they love international, diverse foods--this one was Pakistani buffet, yum.

Many parts of city are easily walkable, for those who have partners with good walking skills. Expect some blisters the first days for walking companions so tell them to wear comfortable shoes. I was riding free of bumpy cobblestones and on some hard pressed dirt paths with my freewheel, and the help of some pushing, and was able to get to many places right from downtown without having to take transportation. We walked to all the following sites from our Hotel:

Hannah and Deborah

Deborah with daughter Hannah at one of the many sculptures in “Old Town”

Gamla Stam (Old Towne),The National Museum, The Vasa, Djurgården Island, The Gröna Lund, The Royal Theatre (though closed in Summer) ,Skansen, all the downtown shopping, The famous water side harbor, and The Royal Palace.

Fresh market square

The fresh market square for flowers and shopping directly outside of the Rica Hotel Stockholm

The Grand Hotel, next to the Royal Place on the Harbor is a must see. If nothing else just to have the fancy porters help you use the lift and visit the most elegant bar wood carved where you can sit and have tea or a drink overlooking the harbor…dreamy!

foyer lift

the lounge

The lift the Grand Hotel and the Harbor View from the seating area of the lounge

Then you can plan day excursions via the subway to the outlying cities like Sodermalm. This was once considered "working class quarters" but is now a Bohemiam part of town that has great hip restaurants and boutiques! We loved it!
But before you do anything I recommend you get your bearings by taking a sightseeing boat ride to learn about the layout of the land and the history of Sweden.

accessible boat

They have an accessible boat…Under the Bridges Boat Tour and I really enjoyed that experience and learned so much I would not have been able to otherwise.


You must take the Under The Bridges Boat Tour to get a shot like this.

view from boat

Or this:

view from cruise

Sweden has 9 million residents. Sweden & its beautiful old architecture were untouched by WWll.

view from cruise

Caption: This is a swimming area--they have won awards for their water quality many years in a row. This lake freezes solid over in winter and people walk across from one island to the other!

amusement park

Caption: View from the boat ride of the world famous Gröna Lund Amusement Park! We rode the Blue Roller Coaster twice!


We actually did these steps at Gröna Lund Amusement park until we realized later there was another way in on the side of park with no steps…(you should probably go into more detail)

new swedish friends

You must try the Beer Garden at the Gröna Lund. We meet new Swedish friends who taught us the value of a shot of Jägermeister! Full of herbs and vitamins, they said.

hannah is up there

Gröna Lund. My daughter is up there!

Then we were on to Skansen “Skansen is the world's first open-air museum, founded in 1891. Here you can stroll through five centuries of Swedish history, from north to south, with a real sense of the past all around in the historical buildings and dwellings, peopled by characters in period dress. Some 75 different species and breeds of Scandinavian animals are represented at Skansen – more than anywhere else. There are traditional breeds of cows, pigs, horses, sheep and goats, geese, hens and ducks. And there are wild animals such as brown bears, wolves, seals, lynx, wolverines and elks.” It was my daughter's favorite place in Sweden and I highly recommend it to families of all ages.


Skansen - the world's first open-air museum


Deborah in the Skansen Lemur cage where you can get up close and personal and climb the tree house.


Then there are the Lemurs! Skansen Farmstead, a 75 acre miniature Sweden history replica.

traditional dancing

Traditional Dance performance was lovely in the open air seating area in Skansen

The people of Sweden are respectful of all their citizens and it shows. They are environmentally, gay, disability, pet, and vegan friendly as well as being open to all cultures and races. The children all seem happy and carefree as do those residents we met and got to know during our visit. It is a model country and remains my favorite travel destination to this date.


View the full photo Gallery of this trip

An edited version of this article was published by the National Spinal Cord Injury Association.

TravAbility was founded in 2007 by Bill Forrester and Deborah Davis.

Our mission is to be agents of change; to inspire people who have never traveled before, to do so, and others to do more. To encourage all cultures of the world to see disability as an integral part of life, and to provide the motivation to create accessible environments that enable inclusion.

For more information on how you can make your business more attractive to the traveler with a disability contact Bill or Deborah.

Further reading on the significance of Inclusive Tourism:

The Economic Model of Inclusive Travel
Changing the demand drivers for the provision of products and services in Inclusive Tourism. The Why and How

Travel Industry Structure is a barrier to Inclusive Tourism

For examples of imagery that showcases people with a disability actively involved in leisure and tourism see