Southern Sweden is considered, even by many Swedes, to be a world of its own. Once a part of Denmark, the region is clearly distinguished from the rest of the country by its geography, culture, and history. Småland, the northernmost of Sweden's southern provinces, is also the largest, but its harsh countryside and poorer, bleaker way of life led thousands to emigrate to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. Those who stayed behind developed a reputation for inventiveness. The area has many small glassblowing firms, and it is these glassworks, such as the world-renowned Kosta Boda and Orrefors, that have given the area the nickname the Kingdom of Glass. Kalmar was a rather important outpost from the 13th to the 17th centuries because it was one of the southernmost cities in Sweden. However, in the Treaty of Roskilde, the King of Denmark–Norway was forced to cede what is now southern Sweden, and the town's importance diminished gradually over the years as its fortress no longer defended the country's southern border. Now the Öland Bridge makes it the gateway to that island. Better known for its heavy industry and university, Kalmar still has several good examples of classical Swedish architecture, and its magnificent Renaissance-style castle.
The attractive coastal town of Kalmar, opposite the Baltic island of Öland, is dominated by the imposing Kalmar Slott. Built in the 12th century, it was rebuilt in the 16th century by the Vasa kings. It remains the best preserved Renaissance castle in Northern Europe today. The living quarters, chapel, and dungeon can be visited—it's definitely worth a stop on your way in or out of Öland.
This is highly impressive building was designed by Nicodemus Tessin the Elder in 1660 in the Italian baroque style. Inside, the massive open spaces create stunning light effects. There are noon concerts on weekdays.
Kalmar Läns Museum
In addition to good archaeological and ethnographic collections, this museum contains the remains of the royal ship Kronan, which sank in 1676. Cannons, wood sculptures, and old coins were all raised from the seabed in 1980. Another exhibit focuses on Jenny Nyström, famous for her paintings of gnomes.