Vänern: relaxing at Sweden’s largest lake

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Vänern, Sweden’s largest lake, covers an area almost ten times the size of Lake Constance. There is plenty to experience here – whether on the water during a boat trip or at the shore in one of the picturesque nature reserves or cosy coastal towns. Here you can find out what you shouldn’t miss at Lake Vänern, which accommodation is particularly suitable and when and how to get there.

Sweden's largest lake

Lake Vänern is not only Sweden’s and Scandinavia’s largest lake, but also the largest lake in the EU. It is located in southern Sweden and has a catchment area of over 47,000 km². Thanks to its archipelago, there are around 22,000 islands in Lake Vänern.

Size5,519.1 km²
Scope1790 km
Water volume153 km³
Average depth27 m
Maximum depth106 m

Why holidays at Lake Vänern?

There are few lakes that are as impressive as Lake Vänern in Sweden – no wonder, since the largest lake in the EU is also the third largest in Europe (on the continent it is only surpassed by two lakes in Russia). With around 2,000 kilometres of coastline, there is plenty to experience and discover – from tranquil fishing spots and nature reserves to dreamy bathing spots and cosy towns with a rich cultural offering. Whether in a holiday home or on the road in a motorhome, Vänern is the perfect place for a relaxing holiday in the great outdoors.

Vänern: Holidays
Lake Vänern is the largest lake in Sweden and invites you to enjoy a variety of tours.

Where in Sweden is Lake Vänern located?

Lake Vänern is located in south-west Sweden between the three historic provinces of Dalsland, Värmland and Västergötland. The three largest cities at the shore are Karlstad, Lidköping and Mariestad, the next largest city is Gothenburg – it takes about two hours to get from Sweden’s second largest city to Lidköping on the southern shore of Lake Vänern.

Sweden’s second largest lake, Lake Vättern, is also not far away, lying slightly to the east of its big brother. Besides, it is not far to Norway, Oslo is closer to the lake than Stockholm. If you are travelling through Sweden on a road trip, Örebro is a good place to head for – the cosy town is roughly halfway between Karlstad and the Swedish capital.

Lake Vänern: weather and water temperature

Due to its location in the more southerly part of Sweden, the weather on Lake Vänern tends to be mild, especially in the summer months. The best time to visit is therefore from May to September, when temperatures are at their highest. On both the northern and southern shores, temperatures reach their average highs between June and August and can easily exceed 20° Celsius, so a dip in the water to cool off is definitely possible.

Due to the sheer size and different conditions of Lake Vänern, the water temperature of the lake varies from place to place. It is generally warmer in the sheltered bays and bathing areas on the shore than on the open water. In the summer months, the water temperature on the shore is often over 20° Celsius, and in July and August the water can warm up to 23° Celsius.

Towns and places of interest at Lake Vänern


Karlstad is the largest city at Lake Vänern and also the largest city in the province of Värmland. The historic harbour town lies on the northern shore of the lake and offers not only many hours of sunshine in summer, but also a rich cultural programme.

You can visit Karlstad Cathedral, for example, which dates back to the 18th century, or one of the many museums, including Värmlands Museum, which presents the history and culture of the region, and Sveriges Brigadmuseum, where you can learn a lot about the development of Sweden’s armed forces. Further, you can not only relax on the banks of Lake Vänern, but also in Mariebergsskogen, a large and beautiful city park in the university town.

Vänern Karlstad
The river Klarälven flows into the Vänern near Karlstad.


Mariestad is located on the eastern shore of Lake Vänern and boasts one of Sweden’s best-preserved town centres. Here you can enjoy a wonderful stroll along the shore and take a break in one of the many cafés. The cathedral church, whose tower is over 80 metres high, is also worth seeing in the cosy old town, as well the industrial museum. Mariestad is a good starting point for a tour of the archipelago, as Sweden’s largest inland archipelago lies to the north of the city in Lake Vänern. Here you will find, among others, the islands of Torsö – a car-free nature reserve – and Brommö.


Vänern Lidköping Läckö castle
Läckö Castle is located north of Lidköping on an island in Lake Vänern.

The small town of Lidköping is located on the southern shore of Lake Vänern. The town is best known for its Rörstrand porcelain, which is produced here in the second oldest porcelain factory in Europe. At the Rörstrand Museum you can find out more about the history of the porcelain factory.

Another exciting museum is the Vänermuseét, which is dedicated entirely to the lake it was named after. In a permanent exhibition, as well as in changing special exhibitions, you can find everything you need to know about the lake.

One of the most popular excursion destinations on Lake Vänern is Läckö Castle, which sits enthroned on the tip of the island of Kållandsö off Lidköping. The history of the baroque castle dates back to the Middle Ages: it was initially used as a fortress, but in the 17th century it was remodelled and extended according to plans by Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie.

Today, Läckö Castle hosts a wide variety of exhibitions, as well as opera performances and midsummer festivals. Another highlight is the unique and sensual castle garden, where up to 12,000 plants grow in summer.

Activities at Lake Vänern

Beaches at Vänern

Vänern beach
There are countless bathing spots at Lake Vänern.

Due to the enormous length of the coastline, there are numerous beaches and bathing spots at Lake Vänern, both private and public. As the temperatures both on land and in water often exceed 20° Celsius in the summer months, swimming in the country’s largest lake is very popular – also because the water is clean and clear.

Bomstadbaden & Skutberget near Karlstad, for example, are popular bathing spots at the northern shore, where you can not only find shallow sandy beaches but also bathing rocks. There are a number of particularly child-friendly sandy beaches on the south-west shore of Lake Vänern, such as Skräcklaparken and Gardesanna in Vänersborg.

Outdoor tours on Lake Vänern: Fishing, canoeing and more.

If you want to see more of Lake Vänern than just the beach and water, the best way to do this is on a tour through the countryside. Of course, it is possible to enjoy boat trips on Lake Vänern, for example from Kristinehamn on the eastern shore. However, there is no regular ferry service.

Vänern outdoor
The Vänern archipelago is ideal for canoe tours.

Besides, you might like to organise and design the tour yourself. You can also explore Lake Vänern independently by sailing boat, canoe or kayak, for example. In the Vänern archipelago, you can easily go island hopping and discover one island highlight after another.

Alternatively, you can hike or cycle along the wooded shore, for example in one of the four nature reserves along the shore.

Fishing fans can also get their money’s worth here – fishing in Vänern is possible without a fishing licence and you can catch up to 35 species of fish here, including perch, pike, salmon and vendace. You can also catch zander, although that is prohibited between April and May.

Which is the best place to visit at Lake Vänern?

Of course, it’s impossible to objectively say where the most beautiful places are at Vänern. Nevertheless, there are a few highlights that stand out – for example, Läcksö Castle, mentioned above, or one of the nature reserves. Another place that should not be left out is Kinnekulle – a 300 metre high mountain and popular hiking destination on the southern shore of Lake Vänern. Here you will find a lookout tower from which you have a fantastic view over the lake region. A 40-kilometre hiking trail that goes around the mountain leads through beautiful nature reserves and past cultural monuments.

Accommodation at Vänern

Accommodation at Vänern in a holiday home

There are many holiday homes to be found at the shores of Lake Vänern, as those are very popular in Sweden. Holiday homes at Lake Vänern in particular are often located directly at the water and provide a garden. In addition to the proximity to the water and the independence, holiday homes also offer plenty of space and their own cooking facilities, making them the ideal accommodation for families and larger groups. Pets are often welcome, however, you should check this individually before travelling.

Camping at Vänern

Camping in Sweden is just as popular as holiday homes. Accordingly, there are several campsites at Lake Vänern, for example in Karlstad, Lidköping or Mariestad that welcome visitors. Camping is very popular in Scandinavia as it is close to nature. Almost all campsites at Lake Vänern are directly located at the shore. They are simple, but also inexpensive. However, nowadays many campsites offer a wide range of accommodation and services.

If you want a completely independent holiday, you can try wild camping. The Swedish Everyman’s Right allows you to spend the night in a tent for one or two days in the great outdoors. Especially in summer, the friendly surroundings around Lake Vänern are ideal.

Travelling to Vänern

Travelling by plane

If you want to travel quickly and comfortably by plane, you should head for Gothenburg. It is the second largest airport in Sweden and therefore well connected to the rest of Europe. From there, you can continue your journey by public transport or organise a rental car.

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