The route is described starting in Karlstad and heading towards Kristinehamn and Mariestad, but you can naturally also cycle in the other direction.
Cultural experiences in Karlstad
The route leads you through central Karlstad and close to major local attractions. The big square Stora Torget in Karlstad is a good starting point from which to cycle northwards towards the art gallery Sandgrund Lars Lerin, where you can view world-class watercolours. Directly opposite, you’ll find Värmlands museum, which is one of Sweden’s most popular county museums and showcases international exhibitions and Värmland’s cultural history. The park between these cultural magnets contains a fun playground of experiences for children. If you have time and love music, you can enjoy operas and musicals of high artistic quality at Wermland Opera. If you are interested in the history of war, you can visit Brigadmuseum by the River Klarälven.
You don’t just cycle alongside Lake Vänern, the route also takes you along the shores of the River Klarälven, and Lake Kroppkärrssjön if you feel like a swim. If you need to stock up on groceries, you can visit the Välsviken retail park. Shortly after Välsviken, you will cycle on a picturesque forest road that leads to the countryside estate Alsters Herrgård, where you can take the opportunity to savour a coffee or lunch in the park with a view of Vänern. If you long for a swim, Alsters Strandbad is nearby, or you can continue by bike for a short distance and swim at Kungsnäs Badplats.
Further east towards Kristinehamn, you will cycle through fertile cultural landscape. Just before you reach the little settlement of Väse, you will catch sight of Vänern again. In Väse you will pass Café Gamla Skolan, which is open in summertime and serves home-baked delicacies in a rustic setting. If you’re cycling with children, we recommend a detour to Vilda Parken, with its skate park and manageably challenging low-level trail for adventurous children.
From Väse, the cycle route goes past the Vänerkajak kayak hire and tour company in Strandvik if you feel like changing your mode of transport for a while. Onwards over the Ölmeslätten Plain, you can turn off in the direction of Kummelön’s nature reserve and walk among hundred-year-old oaks and enjoy the birdlife (a detour of about 5 km). If you don’t make that detour, you will soon reach the beautiful stone church, several historic buildings in the church village and expansive views. If it’s lunchtime, we recommend a stop at Ölme Prästgård & Gästgiveri(on the other side of the E18 road) which is a hotel and restaurant listed in the White Guide for its exquisite menus. Stay the night and relish a world-class culinary experience. Here, the cycle route runs parallel to the E18 road for a while before you reach the Rastplats Stolpen rest area. Here, you’ll find access to a toilet, a kiosk and refreshments as well as Stolpens Trädgård with a pleasant garden displaying several unusual species of plants. Elofstorps Gamla Missionshus offers accommodation in double rooms with space for extra beds. In Ölme you can also stay overnight at Nancys Bed & Breakfast. In the vicinity, you’ll find a flea market and several farms with stables and animals, or you can stop at Ölme Ljus to buy hand-dipped candles. The Björns Bigård apiary makes runny, flavoured Swedish honey. (Please note! The gravel track between Ölme Prästgård and Stolpen may have areas of coarse gravel, which could cause punctures if your bicycle has narrow tyres.)
Cultural environments by Varnumsviken Bay
From Ölme, you cycle through forest across the peninsula to Varnumsviken Bay and a whole series of sights and attractions. The first is the manor estate park Gustafsviks Herrgårdspark, which is popular with visitors, especially in summer. The estate sometimes provides horticultural and pop-up activities and is frequently a venue for music and theatre performances. Learn about Gustafsvik’s exciting history from the signs in the area or an audioguide in Storyspot. If you’d like to go walking, Gustafsvik is the starting point for Järnleden, a quality-assured walking trail. From north to south, it was the former iron transportation route from Bergslagen towards Lake Vänern and further on to worldwide destinations by sea. At Gustafsvik, you can also replenish your water supplies and use a toilet, as King Gustaf III did there once upon a time. Quite soon after that on your cycle route, you will reach the chapel Österviks Kapell, where the artist Eric Rafael Rådberg used to live. The chapel is also a venue for music evenings, celebrations and several activities, for instance at the adjacent Stadsbondgården farm, where children can meet the animals all year round and play in the hay at certain times. You can stay the night in pleasant rooms at the B&B Strandgården (cross the railway at Strand) or at Hotell Marieberg. The Marieberg area is also home to Kristinehamns Konstmuseum, an art museum with contemporary art and a nice restaurant for lunch or coffee. There is also a flea market and a great playground with a zipwire and climbing frame for children.
Archipelago atmosphere and Picasso sculpture
When you reach the guest marina and motorhome parking Kristinehamns Gästhamn och Ställplats you will be in central Kristinehamn, which offers a range of accommodation – see www.visitkristinehamn.se for suggestions. The park Stadsparken, the history museum Kristinehamns Historiska and the town centre with its shops, cafés and restaurants are well worth a visit. If you want to explore the archipelago, we recommend you to take one of the archipelago tour boats to the islands. After you have passed the town centre, you come to 6 km of fine cycle paths out towards the archipelago and the Picasso sculpture. This section of your trip is flanked by bathing spots, cafés, the popular Herrgårdscampingen campsite and a lively boating scene, making it easy for you soak up the archipelago atmosphere.
Signage in progress
As the Vänerleden is a completely new trail that is under development, signage of the trail is currently underway. From Åmål via Säffle, Grums, Karlstad, Hammarö, Kristinehamn, Gullspång, Mariestad, Götene, Lidköping, Grästorp to Vänersborg, the Swedish Transport Administration will sign during the month of June and July. From Vänersborg via Mellerud, Bengtsfors to Åmål, signage will take place later in the summer (in late August and September). Until the signage is complete, you need to download gpx files to your phone. These can be downloaded here on the website.