Driving north from Stockholm, all signs point to Mora. Nestled against the northern shore of Lake Siljan, the city is close to the heart of Dalarna County and known as “authentic Sweden.” Despite a population of just over 10,000 people, Mora embodies the core aspects of Swedish national identity — in fact, some might say it is the birthplace of Sweden.
In the early 1500’s, chafed under Danish rule. In the winter of 1520 a young Swedish nobleman, Gustav Vasa, fled north after his father’s death in the “Stockholm Bloodbath,” stopping in Mora along the way to rally its citizens to overthrow the Danes. The burgers of Mora declined, and Vasa continued north.
But after a change of heart, the men of Mora chased after Vasa — on skis no less — to join him in the fight for independence. In 1523 Vasa was crowned king of the newly independent Sweden, and his dramatic return is commemorated each March with the running of the Vasaloppet, the world’s oldest and longest ski race.
Today, the important city is home to a collection of artwork by its favorite son, the renowned artist Anders Zorn. If Mora bore witness to a seminal moment in the foundation of Swedish national identity, Zorn ensured the city’s lasting significance in European history.
Although he may not be a household name in America, Zorn was a respected transnational portraitist throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who painted many members of the international elite and three U.S. presidents: Grover Cleveland, William H. Taft, and Theodore Roosevelt.
The artist’s loose brushstrokes and rich palette are reminiscent of the French Impressionists, which isn’t a surprising comparison to draw: Zorn spent eight years living in Paris and cultivating close friendships with notable French artists.
The Zorn Museum in Mora holds the world’s largest collection of the artist’s works, and showcases Zorn’s passion for collecting, including his repertoire of historical timber buildings, dating from 1237. The museum features rotating exhibitions of painting, sculpture, etchings, and drawings, as well as tours of Zorn’s richly appointed home and rustic studio in Mora.
Know Before You Go
Although it may be easiest to explore Mora by car, it is also possible to arrive by plane, train, or bus.