The English were a little late to this party. They went north and south, while the Dutch took New York – leaving the Swedes to establish the first European colony along the Delaware River. Yes, there was a time when Sweden was a European military power working to establish colonies. The “New Sweden” colony (running along the Delaware from Wilmington to Trenton) lasted from 1638 to 1655, when it was brought under control of the larger and more prosperous New Amsterdam (Dutch) colony (which was eventually taken over by the British in 1664). Still, Swedish settlers remained in the Philadelphia area. The most visible example is Gloria Dei Church (Old Swedes, c. 1700), which is the oldest church in Pennsylvania, surrounded by one of the oldest cemeteries. It is still an active congregation that is part of Independence National Park, and open to visitors Tuesday-Sunday 9:00-4:00 (except during services). Free
combination of Ericsberg Castle (a 17th-century manor house in Sweden) and Mount Vernon, which is an interesting combination. The wings on each side of this central portion are what give it the Mt. Vernon-like feel. $10/adult $7/student The museum houses collections ranging from the history of New Sweden to contemporary Swedish art and culture (with some Viking stuff thrown in).
Viking sword and cloak pins from the spring 2019 exhibit
Besides the chance to learn some little known history, the museum is full of really cool details like this collection of mid-century textiles hidden in the basement:
Note: If visiting on a weekend April-October, you can walk to the open-air Southeast Asian Market for tasty and interesting eats. (Chicken Embryos and Mango Sticky Rice: Eating Our Way Through Philly’s Southeast Asian Market)
Field trips: The museum runs a variety of field trips for students pre-K through 12th (Vikings, Swedish holidays, Pippi Longstocking). Our group enjoyed in a fun program about the New Sweden colony back when the kids were studying Colonial America.
To top off Swedish Day, head a few miles north to IKEA for what is probably the best meal deal in Philadelphia – the Swedish meatball dinner (meatballs, mashed potatoes, lingonberry jam, and veggies) for $5.99. Plus, juice boxes in flavors like elder-flower or lingonberry and a nifty coffee machine that uses tokens to dispense lattes and cappuccinos. Visiting on a quiet weekday afternoon/evening is almost like a visit to an old-school (cheap) European cafe. And, if the museum visit inspired you, you can head into the store to purchase furniture and textiles that look remarkably similar to those on display at the museum.
Location: All 3 attractions are within a few miles drive south of Old City. There is plenty of free parking at the Swedish Museum and usually plenty of free street parking around Gloria Dei – and a big parking lot at IKEA.