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The Scandinavian country of Sweden invites visions of snow-capped peaks and wandering reindeer, forests bristling with lush greenery and summers bright with the midnight sun. The household names of Ikea and Volvo speak of warmth and safety, giving just a glimpse of the true nature of the largest Scandinavian country and its 9 million people. The sprawling countryside fills the air with aromas of pine, spruce, and birch forests that stretch to the edges of reflective lakes while popular beaches draw crowds from across Europe in the summer months along the west and south coasts.
Photo courtesy: Johan Willner at imagebank.sweden.se
Life moves with a relaxed ambiance that is nurtured by the liberal and open attitude of larger cities and casual conservative ideals of the secluded villages. Individual rights and freedoms are encouraged providing a person does not impinge upon another person’s rights. Sweden is a country of cozy cottages and untouched forests, islands studded with rocks and enchanting Viking legends. During the earth’s warming period of the Late Paleolithic era around 12,000 BC, hunter-gatherer-fishers using flint technology inhabited the areas now known as Sweden.
The first written reference to the country arrived in the 1st century AD from the hand to Tacitus, a source from Germania but Norse mythology references a long line of kings dating back centuries before the common era. The Age of the Viking began in the 8th century and lasted until the 11th century, and scholars believe the seafaring explorers ventured mainly east and south along Finland, the Baltic countries, Russia, and even as far south as Baghdad while passing through Constantinople.
The raids and infamous acts of the Viking explorers were documented on runestones in Sweden, including the Greece runestones, which are a collection of 30 raised stones inscribed with runes related to the voyages of the Norseman to the Byzantine Empire. The founding date of the Kingdom of Sweden remains unknown. Christianity spread across Sweden in the early 9th century but gained prominence in the mid-11th century when Sweden was officially considered a Christian nation. Three centuries of internal power struggles among Nordic knights took place between the 12th and 15th centuries leading to a Golden Age of the Swedish Empire in the 17th century when the country emerged as a great northern power seizing territory across Russia, Poland, and Lithuania and gaining territory in Norway by the early 19th century.
During the industrialization of the Western World, many Swedes left in search of more work and to escape the growing famine that was overtaking the country, resulting in Sweden’s diminished power. Sweden has become more diverse as the population grew with immigration accounting for nearly 15 percent of the population as of 2013, a number that increased after the 2015 European migrant crises when Sweden received thousands of asylum seekers and migrants from Africa and the Middle East.
Sweden is located in Northern Europe between the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia. The coastline forms the eastern edges of the Scandinavian Peninsula, and the Skanderna Mountains form the border to the west separating Sweden from Norway. Finland touches the northeastern edge of the country, and the southern waterway separates the country from Germany, Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Sweden is the largest country in Northern Europe and the fourth-largest country within the confines of the European continent and covers nearly 174,000 square miles. The landscape undulates from the highest point at Kebnekaise peak located more than 6,900 feet above sea level to the bay of Lake Hammarsjön, which is located nearly eight feet below sea level. Despite the northern latitude, much of the country maintains a temperate climate throughout the year though winter manifests in cold bursts of snow and sub-zero temperatures, but in general, the country mainly hosts oceanic, humid continental, and subarctic climates.
Sweden remains a constitutional monarchy, but the role of the monarch has been limited to ceremonial and representative functions. The high standard of living reflects the nation’s wealth as the world’s seventh richest country in terms of gross domestic product and is moving closer to a liberalized energy sector in receiving electricity from hydropower, nuclear power, and biofuels.
The tradition of simple cuisine has gained prominence with dishes like Swedish meatballs often served with gravy, boiled potatoes, and lingonberry jam. Much of the cuisine, however, is connected to the traditions of fish and dairy products, from herring served various ways to crayfish. Pancakes remain a popular treat at breakfast, dinner, or dessert.
Whether you are interested in the abundant and modern fashion brands and home decor, taken in by Swedish cinematic history with Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman, fascinated by the Viking lore, or interested in exploring the native deciduous forest, Sweden provides endless summer sun, captivating winter marvels, and remarkable history that spreads from the Baltic Sea into the Arctic Circle. Sweden is a travelers’ paradise meant for lovers of the outdoors and culture, majestic lakes and friendly locals.
The city of Stockholm is referred to as “Beauty on Water,” as well as, ”Venice of the North.” The capital city of Sweden includes a number of islands and peninsulas that are divided by the outflow of water from Lake Mälar and leading into the Baltic Sea. While settlements in the area date back to the 9th century BC and the city is mentioned in the Norse sagas under the name Agnafit, Stockholm changes with the times, and is as dynamic and modern as ever.
The old town of Gamla Stan hosts an imposing palace, soaring cathedrals, and narrow cobblestone lanes dating back to the Middle Ages. Ferries, bridges, and the metro connect the 14 islands that comprise the greater metropolitan area, making transport convenient and easy. Style seeps deeply into the fashion and architecture as the interior design and city planning are thoughtful, and even the coffee shops display elegant furniture and sophisticated lighting.
The position of the city between the sea and the fertile farmland has given natives of the city a reputation for being food obsessed. The bounty of ingredients supports the edgy local food trends and push traditional Swedish cuisine to the limits and beyond as restaurants serve truffle cheeseburgers, acaí breakfast bowls, fried herring and so much more.
The historical core of the city was built in the 13th century on the island next to Helgeandsholmen. The city rose to distinction as a result of Baltic trade that connected the secluded shores of Scandinavia with broader port cities like Hamburg, Gdánsk, Visby, and Riga. When Sweden grew into a major power in the 17th century, Stockholm developed into the official capital of the kingdom with a monopoly on trade in the region. The city shifted to technology in the latter half of the 20th century as it grew in cultural diversity, replacing the historical areas with modernist architecture that illustrated the image of contemporary Sweden.
The city’s location on the water provides a temperate year-round climate that contrasts with its northern latitude position that brings summer averages of 67 degrees Fahrenheit and winter lows of 27 degrees Fahrenheit. A large part of the population lives in the heart of downtown and utilizes the efficient T-bana (the metro), as well as the highly-used bus network and scenic bicycle lanes. The contrasting visuals provide images of the past, present, and the future of the city that includes both medieval streets and futuristic skyscrapers, department stores and grand avenues alongside elegant waterways to the fashionable neighborhood south of Folkungagatan.
A visit to Stockholm would be incomplete without wandering through Old Town, which acts as a living museum. The winding streets hide mysterious vaults and ancient frescoes and lead to the Nobel Museum and the Royal Palace. The palace is located on the edge of the water that borders Old Town, and the structure reflects the might of the former Swedish Empire in boasting 600 rooms and a collection of museums.
The Vasa Museum displays the remarkable eponymous battleship. The vessel was intended to be the star of the Imperial fleet before it sank during its maiden voyage in the 17th century. The salvage took place in the 1960s allowing archeologists to utilize 95 percent of the original ship in the display. Nordiska Museet boasts Sweden’s largest collection of cultural history in a building erected in 1907. Exhibits include Sami objects, boats, and the largest assortment of August Strindberg paintings.
The medieval market town of Ystad is a beautiful representation of historical Sweden preserved in exquisite detail. The authentic ambiance emanates from half-timbered houses and the labyrinthine cobbled lanes, though the murky docks remain the best way to enter the historical city center. The quaint atmosphere of the old homes overflows with rural charm as the seductive scent of chocolate wafts through the air.
Nearby, the Österlen region stretches along the coastline from the northeast of town to reach Kristianstad. The town once acted as Sweden’s doorway to Europe from the 1600s to the mid-1800s when the new inventions of the continent reached the town before entering mainland Sweden. Ferries to Poland and the Danish island of Bornholm continue to crisscross the Baltic Sea, but the preserved old town maintains a majesty of its own. The town was founded in the late 13th century after the Bishop of Roskilde brought peace to the area in the two centuries earlier. Fishing families settled at the mouth of the river in search of herring, and the town officially joined Sweden following the mid-17th-century Treaty of Roskilde. At the time, the town had a population of 1,600. As of 2015, the town hosts nearly 30,000 residents.
Most recently the town was used as the setting for the popular Swedish mystery book, film, and television series, Wallander. Trade remains a significant element of the economy with many locals working in handcrafts, tourism, and the active port. The essential experience in town is to discover the streets and quiet spectacle of the unspoiled architecture at your leisure. The former Franciscan monastery of Klostret i Ystad hosts local textiles and silverware, as well as 80 gravestones that date between the 14th and 18th centuries.
The town of Marstrand overtakes an island found 30 miles northwest of Gothenburg. During the summer, the island is a destination for vacationers looking to sail around the waters and bathe in the long-lasting sunlight. Others visit to enjoy the preserved historical architecture of the impressive castle. The town was established in the 13th century under Norwegian rule with residents active in the fishing trade. Herring fishing supported the village and helped residents achieve remarkable prosperity, including permission from the pope to continue fishing on holy days.
The fast-moving and vast wealth of the herring trade also brought about an atmosphere of greed, corruption, and immorality that came to give the town the reputation as the most depraved place in Scandinavia. After the conspicuous murder of a clergyman in the late-16th century, the city burned down, the herring disappeared from the water, and the wealth gained from the fishing trade soon followed. By the 19th century, the salting-houses once used for herring were converted into bathhouses as Marstrand reinvented itself into a fashionable resort destination. The popularity of Marstrand as a summer getaway grew in the 1880s when King Oscar II retreated to the island, and the marvelous seafood remains an attractive perk to any visit.
As of 2010, the city was home to over 1,300 residents in an area covering less than a half-square-mile. The island city hosts the Match Cup Sweden each year, as part of the World Match Racing Tour. The event attracts the world’s most formidable sailing teams from around the world for a battle that puts nerves against skill on the water and tests the outer limits of physical ability. The historical city center draws large crowds in the summer, but the marked nature trail provides easy access around the rocky ridges of the island for marvelous views and remote sunbathing alcoves no matter when you travel.
The medieval capital of the Gotland region includes a picturesque blend of cobbled lanes, painted cottages, vibrant wildflowers, and dramatic stone ramparts. Every street creates another scene that appears as if built from a storybook. Historical Gothic churches remain mostly intact and Medieval Week transports visitors back in time with knights, queens, and peasants that roam the streets while dining, drinking, and dancing takes place in the background of the UNESCO World Heritage site. Settlements in the area date back to the Stone Age with evidence of a sacrificial site found along the foundations of the town.
The Gotlanders established trading houses on the island between the 11th and 12th centuries before the formation of the Hanseatic League, a federation comprised a group of towns interested in protecting their maritime commerce. The city became the principal center for the League around the mid-12th century after establishing free trade with the whole of Saxony which transformed the city from a local village to an international city. German architectural design decorated the city with warehouses rising up to six stories tall with hoists facing the street to ease transportation, elements still visible in the town center today. The plague, fighting between Denmark and Sweden, in addition to piracy, ravaged the city between 15th and 16th centuries before the powers of the Reformation brought the final blow to the once great trading city.
The historical remains hide within the two-mile long tower that encircles the city center. The capital of the island has mild winters averaging 30 degrees Fahrenheit between November to March and rising to an average 68 degrees Fahrenheit from May to September. The Swedish author Mari Jungstedt has used the island as the setting for nine detective novels, as well as serving as the inspiration for the setting of Kayao Miyazaki’s celebrated animated film Kiki’s Delivery Service. The main areas to enjoy when sightseeing in Visby are:
- The ruins of St. Karins Kryka reflect a medieval gothic church that has become a destination for musical and theatrical performances, in addition to the host of an artificial skating rink placed inside the antique stone walls.
- The celebrated exhibits of the Gotlands Museum boast incredible 8th-century artifacts that represent pre-Viking picture stones and skeletons taken from chambered tombs. The collection also displays medieval wooden sculptures and preserved silver treasure weighing more than 150 pounds.
- The ruins of Sankta Maria Domkyrka contrast the Gothic styles of other church remains in the city. The late 12th-century edifice has whimsical towers topped with baroque cupolas as stained-glass windows add color to the exterior walls and ornate ornamental screens cover the wall at the back of the altar. The city highlights the incredible acoustics during intimate musical performances in the summer, while the stairs behind the Cathedral lead to the hilltop and offer splendid views of the city and surrounding countryside.
The city of Gothenburg shines with Neoclassical architecture that looms above the shuffling trams and the constant movement of the city. Locals stretch beneath the sun along the winding canals as cultural and social events take place all around them on any given day. This highly walkable city hosts elegant boutique shops, sophisticated 17th-century canals, lush parks, and a reputation for reinventing the cuisine of Sweden. Gothenburg is the country’s second-largest city with a population of nearly 573,000 residents as of 2016, and Gustav II Adolf founded the city in the 17th century in an attempt to establish a center free from the influence of the Danish kingdom.
By the 1600s Denmark was notorious for controlling Sweden’s west coast and charging extortionate tolls from vessels docking on the coast. The medieval center of commerce once stood less than 25 miles up from the Göta River modern-day Gothenburg, but the city moved to the present-day settlement to avoid the harsh tolls. The mixture of British, Dutch, and German traders who settled in the city left a legacy of culture, from architecture to cuisine, with strong influence from the Far East reflecting the importance trade for Sweden and its 19th-century monopoly on the route. Under the name of the Swedish East India Company, Gothenburg sold exotic spices, teas, and fine cloth that attracted merchants from all around the world interested in finding, purchasing, and selling the merchandise around greater Europe.
The broad avenues and quiet canals bring a charming environment that contrasts with the city’s title as Sweden’s largest seaport. The cosmopolitan destination shines brightest in historical old town and its neighborhoods divided by the Stora Hamnkanalen. The impressive shipyard acts as a backdrop to a long stroll through the medieval streets that lead to the main square of Gustav Adolfs torg. Avenyn Boulevard, in the contemporary center of the city, buzzes with chic restaurants and trendy bars.
The quieter side streets hide alternative cafes and the celebrated art museum of Konstmuseum. The symmetrical façade is unmissable and reflects the design popular in Fascist Germany in the 1930s. The interior contains contemporary exhibits on photography as well as up-and-coming Nordic artists. The collections reflect a tradition of European art dating between the 15th to the 17th centuries spanning six rooms. The most famous piece in the museum is Rembrandt’s Knight with Falcon.
Outside of the city is the leafy park and miniature zoo known as Slottsskogen, which encompasses nearly 340 acres of land. Elk, seals, penguins, moose, and deer roam around the leafy landscape between April to September, while the parkland hosts serene walkways shaded by maple, beech, and oak trees. Cafes, playgrounds, summer concerts, and trails for roller skating, biking, and jogging make the park a vital part of the city’s vibrant culture during spring, autumn, and summer.
Quality of Accommodations
Sweden has exceptional standards for accommodations with a wide array of selections found across the country, from youth hostels to luxury hotels, campsites to guesthouses. Self-catering accommodations are available, but cabins and homes have become popular in recent years due to their access, their space, and their fully equipped kitchens.
The prices for accommodations across Sweden vary according to the day, week, month, and season. Prices tend to rise during low season and midweek, while Friday and Saturday have cheaper rates. The majority of hotels also lower their prices during the peak summer season, especially along the west coast. Bed and breakfasts provide the comforts of private rooms and the charms of local culture coupled with meeting people. Farmhouses also provide similar appeal with quaint rooms away from the bustling streets of the major cities and overlooking the pristine nature for which Sweden is known. Large chain and independent boutique hotels provide friendly, attentive service and luxurious space most often including a buffet breakfast.
The top-end hotels tend to offer accommodations that represent the history or culture of the castles, mansions, monasteries, and spas. Mountain huts and lodges in Sweden are dispersed along the major hiking trails, especially in the Lapland region. These types of accommodations provide basic provisions and offer hiking equipment for hire. Some of the mountain huts do not have showers, but they do have saunas in Scandinavian tradition. The huts and lodges can range in their size and comfort from standard hostel experiences with cooking facilities to hotel-like properties offering full or half-board options with additional guided activities.
The hostel experience in Sweden is very different from the typical European hostels and work more like budget hotels. The majority of hostels in the country are not considered backpacker hangouts and instead accommodate Swedish families, couples, and retired travelers looking for a more rustic experience. Swedish hostels do have odd reception hours with general service occurring between five to seven in the evening and eight to 10 in the morning.
Camping is a popular pastime in Sweden with hundreds of grounds open across the country between May and September. Facilities on the camp grounds often include pools, restaurants, playgrounds, beaches, trails, canoe or bike rentals, kitchen and laundry facilities, as well as clean and comfortable restrooms. The prices for camping depend on the grounds with larger more luxurious sites charging higher fees.
Sweden has a reputation for unique design and incredible luxury, which is on display with their most distinctive hotels.
- The Ice Hotel first opened in 1990 nearly 125 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It remains one of the most unique destinations in the world with a new hotel constructed every winter with new architectural design making it different and equally captivating each year.
- The Tree Hotel offers seven rooms designed by some of Sweden’s leading architects and their specific inspirations. The hotel offers tranquil scenery in view of the Lule River Valley in the midst of the lush forest. The owners of the hotel prepare each meal and even bring it to your room if you’d like to eat privately.
- The Sala Silver Mine is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Västerås. The mine itself is captivating but the suite located nearly 510 feet below the earth’s surface crowns the attraction. The thick stone that protects the room keeps the temperature at 35 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.
- Falknästet is perched atop a rugged cliff in the Kullaberg Nature Reserve. The single room is situated in what was once an observation post located 230 feet above sea level. The glass windows offer a panoramic view of the sea’s rolling whitecaps. The hotel is one of the country’s most exclusive honeymoon destinations.
- Sweden’s original floating hotel of Salt & Sill is located off the coast of a tiny island known as Klädesholmen. A pontoon supports six two-story terraced homes that are divided into bright rooms that are decorated with contemporary Swedish design. The auxiliary boat contains a spa and hosts a restaurant specializing in fresh, regional seafood.
- Nature lovers can dive into the views of Varghotellet located adjacent to Sweden’s wilderness park that specializes in Nordic fauna. Bears, muskoxen, reindeer, and lynx roam the enclosed wilderness and offer guests the opportunity to view the large, wandering wildlife for which Sweden is known.
Considerations before Traveling to Sweden
Sweden is known for its vast landscape and the modern design trends of its capital city Stockholm. However, the largest country in Scandinavia offers pristine wilderness to contrast with the gleaming urban styles of cities like Gothenburg. The outdoors provide Sweden’s biggest adventures and attract locals and tourists alike that are interested in scenic hikes, fantastic water adventures, and magnificent wildlife. Alongside it all is the allure of the legendary Viking ruins and medieval castles to offer a different perspective on the evolution of the country’s culture. Whether hoping for a family-fun introduction to the fabled wolves of the countryside or searching for an unforgettable vacation hidden within the celebrated pine forests away from the city lights, you will find comfort throughout the wilderness that encompasses 80 percent of Sweden’s landscape.
Stockholm and Gothenburg, the capital and second-city of Sweden, are the gateways to the country when flying. Sweden’s northern latitude, as well as its position along the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia, make an overland journey from countries outside of the region of Norway, Finland, Denmark, Germany, or the Baltic countries long. The easiest way to reach Sweden is by air. The major airlines traveling between North America and Sweden include Norwegian Air and SAS. At the time of writing, some Delta and United flights also reach Sweden, but these routes depend on the time of year and your departure city. Some European-based airlines also offer discount rates at random intervals throughout the year when stopping first at a hub destination, such as British Airways with a stopover in London or Icelandair with a stop in Keflavik.
Flights from Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa often stop in London, and various airlines service the popular airports around the United Kingdom and Western Europe. Is is relatively easy to reach Sweden’s airports, especially when traveling from cities like London, Manchester, Glasgow, or Dublin. If traveling overland into Sweden, Copenhagen, Denmark has a connecting train to Malmö, the largest city and capital of Sweden’s Scania county. The Øresund Bridge also links Sweden to Denmark by crossing the Øresund Sound.
Entry into Sweden is straightforward with visitors required to fill out and turn in a brief customs card with their passport when at immigration. The customs process rarely results in any hassles unless bringing items deemed illicit by the Swedish government into the country. All weapons, animals, meat, dairy, produce, and syringes must be declared upon arrival. Visitors from North America, Australia, and New Zealand do not need a visa for visiting Sweden. As part of the Schengen zone, visitors from these areas of the world are offered an automatic 90 days before needing to depart the Schengen Zone or apply for a long-term visa. Sweden does not require any immunizations before entering the country unless you have traveled to a foreign country with prevalent yellow fever zones. The Centers for Disease Control recommends travelers remain up to date on their childhood vaccines before leaving their home country, which includes measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, and polio.
Citizens of the European Union can enter Sweden with a passport or national identification card and stay indefinitely. Citizens of South Africa, as well as many other African nations, eastern European countries, and citizens of a number of Asian countries require a tourist visa to enter Sweden and the other countries associated with the Schengen zone.
The majority of tourists flock to the shores, mountains, and national parks from May to September as sunlight spreads across the landscape for up to 24 hours a day until the leaves begin to change in northern Sweden by the time late August rolls in and the first snowfall in September. Snow blankets the landscape between September to March and can remain well into April depending on the year. The spring provides ample showers across the country, especially in the valleys, which are known for their humidity. The north often retains snow well into May. Adventurers will enjoy the majesty of the mountains and the trees with nearly 100,000 lakes and 29 grand national parks to take in. Hundreds of castles highlight the storybook architecture and distinct heritage of the country. There are lots of opportunities to live like a local as Swedes relax in the warm steam of saunas and watch passersby during the fika, which loosely translates to “coffee break.”
Travelers from North America will need to purchase power converters or power adapters before leaving for Sweden. Scandinavian countries use two round prongs that service 220 to 230 volts of electricity as opposed to the two flat prongs that service 120 volts. An adapter helps connect the prongs of a different size or configuration into the necessary prong shape but a converter not only adapts the shape of the prongs, it also changes the voltage to an acceptable charge. Some appliances, such as hair dryers, do not adapt well to new voltages. Electronics like laptops, tablets, and smartphones most often charge well with only an adapter, but you should always check whether or not your electronic device is dual voltage, which work using 110 volts or 220 volts at frequencies of 50 Hertz to 60 Hertz.
The charger connected to the device in question should have the information written in tiny print. If the device is dual voltage, you only need a plug adapter and not a converter, but if you still have questions after looking for the fine print on the charger—or you cannot find the small print—err on the side of caution to keep your electronics from exploding and always test your adapters before leaving home.
ATMs and Money Exchange
Sweden uses the Krona, also known as the Kronor when referring to the plural. Coins consist of quantities in one, five, and ten while notes range from 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 kronor. Sweden does not limit the currency visitors can bring in or out of the country, so you can plan ahead in securing currency. Sweden joined the European Union after the Treaty of Accession in 1994, but a 2003 referendum had more than half the population voting against membership of the Eurozone, resulting in the Swedish government not adopting the monetary unit of the euro. Some stores, hotels, and restaurants across the country do accept euros in limited amounts, but it is better to come prepared with Swedish currency.
The easiest and most cost-effective way to access money while in Sweden is by using ATMs. While the machine typically charges a flat transaction fee for withdrawals on top of the fee your bank may charge, these fees are generally minimal and account for less than the cost of interest payments or currency exchange fees. The majority of hotels, stores, and restaurants in Sweden accept major credit cards like MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and Diners Card. Traveler’s Checks were once a safe way to carry money across borders without fear of losing the currency, but the commissions for exchanging the checks, in addition to a major decrease in offices exchanging the checks for local currency, have made traveler’s checks more of a hassle than a necessity.
If you prefer traveler’s checks to using the ATM or credit cards, remember to take out large denominations rather than small increments, as many offices accepting the checks charge per check instead of a percentage of the overall check. Banks offer standard exchange rates across Sweden, but the amount of commission charged differs per branch and per city. Currency exchange office in major airports, cities, and train stations take commissions as well, but often provide a better exchange rate than the banks giving you more kronor for your euro or dollar.
Weather and When to Visit Sweden
The idea of Sweden may conjure up images of endless snowfall, reindeer, and the colorful facades of Stockholm, but the remote Scandinavian country is so much more than what people expect. The winter months do bring snow and long hours of darkness, but the weather patterns in Sweden shift dramatically by the season and are shaped by the coastline, the mountains, and the location in the northern latitude. Instead of deterrents, the different seasons in Sweden act as reassurances to visit at any time of year. The high season spreads from mid-June to August as the summer light stretches until 11 pm in the south and never truly sets in the north as one passes the Arctic Circle. The major sights in Sweden remain open year-round, but some smaller restaurants or shops will close in July and August when their owners take their vacations.
September and October act as the shoulder season after the crowds of summer have departed. The weather remains enjoyable, especially in the south and central regions. The resorts along the beaches close, but smaller crowds make the popular trails and highlights in the cities much more enjoyable. The winter months of November to May are the low season for tourists, but Sweden remains a haven for winter sports and excursions to see the northern lights.
More than temperature, daylight plays a key role in national and international tourism to Sweden. In the winter, the sun often rises in Stockholm after 9:30 am and then sets around 3 pm. Darkness blankets parts of Sweden that are north of the Arctic Circle 24 hours a day in the winter between mid-December to mid-January. February is Sweden’s coldest month with average temperatures of 10 degrees Fahrenheit in the south but down to -22 degrees Fahrenheit in the north. The summer sees an average temperature between 55 degrees and 63 degrees Fahrenheit.
When to visit Sweden is not so much dependent upon any time of year being better than another, so much as considering what you want to see and experience while visiting.
Customs and Etiquette
Polite and conservative define the cultural landscape of Sweden, where boasting in public or exuding self-importance is frowned upon by most. Aggressive and discourteous behavior, such as arguing with guests or asking about private details of someone’s life are discouraged in polite society. Residents of Sweden are proud of their country and the liberal society they have constructed that supports nearly 10 million people with nearly zero tolerance for sexist, racist, or inappropriate jokes. In business, Swedes have a high expectation of themselves and their partners to achieve maximum efficiency and quality with a work-life balance well in place. Women account for nearly 50 percent of the workforce, giving Sweden the world’s highest percentage of working women.
Family is important in Sweden and has inspired a cultural emphasis on the work-life balance that allows parents to spend more quality time with their loved ones. A priority in the work place is that of lagom, a word that means doing the right amount of work to complete a task effectively. The term fika also displays a strong Swedish custom. Loosely translating to the term “coffee break,” these occur twice a day in the office to allow people to break away from the stress of their tasks for small amounts of time and enjoy the simple pleasures of a conversation, coffee and a sweet treat.
The office environment has a relaxed ambiance in both dress and atmosphere with suits or formal wear worn only for important meetings and not daily. An increasing number of businesses have moved to Sweden as the cultural ideal of keeping an open mind to new and exciting possibilities resulted in Forbes naming Malmö, Stockholm, and Gothenburg on a list of the world’s most inventive cities. Honesty and speaking directly are considered desirable traits, as is meticulous planning. These ideals can at times come across as rude or rigid to outsiders but is a large part of Swedish culture and the pillar of respect.
Respect is the cornerstone of Swedish society in all its forms. Men continue to tip their hat to women or remove their hat when talking to someone. Maintaining eye contact is the strongest sign of respect during conversation. Punctuality is also a sign of respect and should be maintained whether in social or business settings. The handshake remains the most common greeting and farewell in Sweden whether for adults or children, but hugs are appropriate when meeting friends.
If at a dinner or a social function, a toast will often occur. It is impolite to take a sip of your drink before the host gives the toast. When at a restaurant, it is normal to beckon a waiter by waving your hand and making eye contact. Any extra knowledge you have about Swedish history, living standards, sports, architecture, and economy is appreciated beyond knowing about Ikea. The most common word used in Sweden is tack, which means both thank you and please.
Sweden gained its international reputation of liberalism in the 1970s and continues to support the cultural liberation of its people. Locals are uninhibited about their bodies whether in the changing room of a boutique shop or in the warmth of a sauna, and nudity is common when visiting lakes or beaches in the summer as locals swim or sunbathe.
Food in Sweden
The cuisine of Sweden derives from the climate and accounts for the cold winters and the intense summers. Whether in a home or at a restaurant, Swedish cuisine focuses on fresh and available ingredients. Western nations have created a misconception of Swedish food revolving around meatballs and smoked salmon, and while these dishes have a large part of the Swedish cooking tradition, this view of the country’s gastronomy only limits what you can find when visiting. For instance, lingonberry jam is the most widely used condiment in Sweden, and it accompanies a surprising variety of dishes that range from meatballs to pancakes, porridge to black pudding.
Swedes can roam freely around the countryside due to the Right of Public Access law so both locals and explorers can pick berries from the forest and use the tart red fruits to make preserves. Pickled herring is another common dish associated with Sweden rooted in the abundance of herring in the waters around Sweden, as well as a heritage of pickling for storage or transport. Much of Sweden’s gastronomy revolves around fish, meat, and potatoes. Salmo and herring are the most common types of fish on a smorgasbord served cold or warm. Fish found throughout Sweden has an excellent value and quality, along with pork and beef due to the long traditions of fishing and farming.
The countryside is rich in cheeses that are perfect for snacking on, and dill and parsley flavor a variety of sauces that grace many dishes. Sweden also has a large selection of vegetarian options due to its connection to potatoes and an influx of vegetarian-focused restaurants in larger cities. In smaller towns or villages, pizzas and salads remain popular but are often limited in options. Coffee is a staple drink for Swedes at any time of day and often accompanied by a pastry or slice of cake. Always freshly-brewed and delicious, Swedes have found a perfect blend of bitter and sweet for each day’s “fika.”
Starköl beer is the most common alcoholic drink served in Sweden and has an alcohol content of over five and a half percent. Akvavit is a type of schnapps made from potatoes and served ice-cold. Swedes often use beer to chase shots of the akvavit and the flavors of lemon, cumin, or dill. In the winter, the flavor of glögg takes over the markets and the restaurants with the mulled red wine and its intense flavors of clove, cinnamon, sugar, and akvavit to fortify the warming winter drink.
The act of tipping is not customary in Sweden, but the influx of travelers over the decades have shifted the expectations of tourists. Swedes have not started to tip, as the shift in the zeitgeist has not woven through the local culture, but Swedes do customarily round their restaurant bills up to the nearest 10 kronor or extra if they felt the service exceptional. In the cases of service exceeding expectation, patrons could leave a tip of five to 10 percent. Any amount over the expected bill will be appreciated. Look at the final check before paying as in certain restaurants a gratuity is already included. Servers sometimes do not receive the tips on a check paid with a credit card, in which case cash is best whenever possible.
Bartenders do not expect or typically accept tips, but servers working the tables appreciate a few coins as a reflection of great service. Taxis in other countries may expect some gratuity, but taxi drivers in Sweden welcome patrons who round to the nearest full krona as a comment on their exceptional service. Similarly, door staff and bellhops will welcome gratuities when helping with heavy bags, but a tip is not necessary. For concierges and housecleaning staff, the gratuity is included in the price of the room, but if the concierge or the housecleaning staff provide stellar service that surpasses your expectations, five to 10 kronor is a standard tip. Those working in the spa and stylists do not expect tips.
Swedish was not recognized as the official language of Sweden until 2009. It is similar to the sister Scandinavian languages of Danish and Norwegian in maintaining partial intelligibility forming a dialect continuum—a language chain crossing neighboring areas that cause discernable differences in dialect but retain elements of similarity. The diversity of Swedish dialects has significantly shifted over time with some dialects evolving to near distinctive languages. The different dialects of Sweden consist of:
The majority of people born in Sweden speak Swedish as their first language, but the government has also recognized five minority languages in the country. As of 2015, more than 200,000 people spoke Finnish as their first language, which represents approximately five percent of the population. Norrbotten is Sweden’s northernmost county and hosts the largest population of Finns in Sweden due to the proximity to the Finnish border.
The language of Meänkilei is also known as Tornedal, Tornionlaaksonsuomi, and Tornedalian. Between 40,000 and 70,000 people mainly of Tornedalian descent speak the language. The heritage of the language and those who speak it consist of descendants from Fenno-Scandinavia. It is considered a dialect of Finnish spoken in the northern region of Sweden and in the Thorne Valley. Saami is another minority language of Sweden spoken by approximately 9,000 Saami/Lapps people, those indigenous to northern Scandinavia. The Saami have three different languages, including the Uralic language, which takes from Finnish, Estonian, and Hungarian, as well as Germanic lexicon.
The government has also recognized Romani as an official minority language of Sweden spoken by the nomadic ethnic group indigenous to northern India. Yiddish is also an official language of Sweden spoken by approximately 4,000 Jewish people of the estimated 18,000 Jewish people living in Sweden. The language derives from old German with Slavic and Hebrew influences. The different ethnic communities in Sweden retain connections to their heritage and homelands by speaking Bulgarian, Greek, Italian, Dutch, Serbo-Croatian, and Turkish but do not have a long enough history of use in Sweden for the government to recognize them as official minority languages.
While not a national or minority language, English has been taught in schools since the late 1940s. Enough of the population speaks English to raise a debate about whether it is a foreign language or a second language due as well to the influence of Anglo-American culture in broadcasting film and television, in addition to the importance of English in global travel and business.
Sweden has created one of the most efficient public transportation networks in Europe with a comprehensive system that connects the south and a bus route that connects the towns and villages of the north. As a model of national connectivity, there is no wrong way to explore as every method of transportation provides a comfortable, efficient, safe, and reliable mode of getting from point to point.
The country is nearly 1,000 miles long from the southern tip to the northern border to make the various modes of transportation possible for a range of planes to ferries, buses to trains. Scenic train rides offer the incredible grandeur of Sweden as seen through the window while private cars provide the freedom of exploring the remote reaches of the northern counties. Public transportation is heavily subsidized and organized into 24 regional networks, as well as to connections to international destinations that cross the Øresund Sound into Denmark.
Sweden has a coastline nearly 2,000 miles long and a collection of islands that spread from the southwestern shores up to the northeastern seaboard. The incredible connection to the water accounts for a countless number of marinas, harbors, and ports found across the country that welcome ferries to dock on the archipelagos and the mainland. Coastal ferries connect the islands of the Stockholm and Gothenburg archipelagos to the main cities, as well as the bridging the gap between Fjäderholmarna islands and capital’s city center. Sweden’s southeastern archipelago has 10,000 islands alone, including 1,650 islands connected to the Blekinge archipelago and accounting for the variety of ferries that crisscross the waterways around the southern and northeastern edges of the country. The ferries and boat services often connect to the main town of the different island chains with the smaller island reachable by transfers.
Sweden has an area of nearly 173,000 square miles to make it the largest Scandinavian country, as well as the largest European country in size. National flights between domestic airports have become a comfortable way to explore the diverse cultures and landscapes of Sweden in a short amount of type. SAS offers the largest number of domestic flights between Sweden’s major airports and the smaller landing strips across the country. The majority of domestic flights depart from Stockholm and can reach virtually any airport on the mainland. Some of the smaller airlines travel to the more remote corners of the country but may only allow carry-on bags, so be sure to consider your plans fully before booking a flight.
Flying may be the fastest way to get from city to city in Sweden, but trains provide a quick, comfortable, and easy way to access the many different regions across the country while including scenic views of Sweden’s vast expanse. The service also makes any train ride in Sweden excellent. Many Swedes travel by train in the summer between mid-June and mid-August, so reservations are necessary and often compulsory. Book your seat on the train far in advance to ensure a seat. When venturing to more remote areas of the country, the train will often take you to the largest city in the region, and then you can connect to a smaller bus to transfer to the town or village.
Many train routes travel to northern Sweden in the summer but then conclude after the high season due to low demand and harsh weather conditions. However, the beauty of the forests and lakes in the area are a huge attraction for locals and visitors during the summer while the northern lights attract visitors in the winter. In the summer, the Inlandsbanan scenic train stretches from Kirstinehamn in the south to Gallivare in the north and allows visitors to create their own itinerary along the route. Long distance trains often have couchettes, sleeper cars, and self-serve dining cars and some overnight trains also show movies to help pass the time.
Buses provide one of the best options for shorter excursions and travelers looking to cut cost, even at the expense of time. The largest express bus provider travels to over 150 different destinations with local or regional buses connecting the larger travel hubs to the more remote areas. Long-distance buses are less frequent and less comfortable than the train. Due to the vast size of the country, the winding road networks, and the distances between stops, buses are not the best option for long-distance journeys across Sweden unless funds are a factor.
However, for shorter journeys connecting regional towns, cities, and villages, regional buses remain a great option for travelers, especially in the north where buses carry mail to the isolated communities. Several companies provide daily services in the north with fares varying in price during the season and from day-to-day business. Large bus companies service major destinations year-round in the south and central regions of Sweden.
A Swedish road trip promises the freedom to explore the roads at your preferred pace and to reach even the most of remote of destinations. Renting a car in Sweden is easy and driving around the country is generally simpler than in other European nations. Light traffic and superb road conditions help to make any car ride pleasurable and your explorations manageable. Road signs are easy to understand even when not born and raised in Sweden, and there are no toll roads or other such complications.
Major international car rental companies service the major cities and airports across Sweden. The majority of rental agencies require the driver to be at least 20 years of age, but do not require an international driver’s license, only a license issued by your home state, accompanied by a valid credit card, will do. When driving in Sweden, you must remember to do the following:
- Drive with your headlights on at all times, even during the day
- Use snow tires between December to March
- Watch out for moose, deer, elk and other wildlife known for roaming across the forested roads at sunrise, sunset, and throughout the night
- If you do hit an elk, deer, or moose, you are bound by law to report the incident to the police
- Keep the speed limit of 68 miles per hour on the highways, 43 miles per hour on smaller roads, and 31 miles per hour on city streets
- Fines for speeding must be paid to the officer on the spot
- Avoid alcohol completely if driving, as even a single glass of wine could place you over the legal alcohol limit for drivers in Sweden, which results in fines or jail time
Sweden was made for cycling enthusiasts of all shapes, sizes, and ages. The country has developed networks of paths that connect towns, cities, and the wilderness, including the 130-mile path around the historical province of Värmland and the towpath wandering round the Göta Kanal. Stockholm and Gotland are the ideal destinations for leisurely explorations by bicycle with networks shared by pedestrians routed through the city and reaching neighboring towns.
If you prefer the challenges of mountain biking to the speed and distance of cycling, the northern terrain offers extreme expeditions into the snow-clad slopes of Åreskutan mountain or along the rugged hills of celebrated ski resorts during the summer season. The coastal beauty and valley grandeur of the south provide a perfect blend of scenery and tranquility for cyclists. Alternatively, the strong features and sparseness of the northern territories, in addition to the soaring forests and pristine lakes of central Sweden, prove any and every region of the country has perfect conditions for cycling excursions of any duration.
Sweden is one of the safest countries in the world to travel through, and travelers to the big cities or the countryside only need to exercise basic common sense and safety measurements. Crime rates in Sweden are lower than in most other European countries and far lower than those of the United States.
Whether traveling as a family, a couple, or as a single traveler, Sweden is remarkably safe to visit. It would be foolish to assume the large cities like Stockholm are free of petty crimes like pickpocketing or bag-snatching, making it important to keep your cash, passport, and valuables on your person or in your accommodations. However, these issues are few and far between. In case you do have reason to visit the police, the majority of officers speak English, and you will find them to be courteous and concerned about a crime being committed against a visitor to their city.
Common sense dictates that visitors to larger cities should stay away from the central train station at night, but otherwise the majority of cities have no unsafe neighborhoods. The rural areas of Sweden are more dangerous at dawn or dusk due to the wild moose and deer roaming across the roads than of anything else. The varied weather also influences the road conditions across Sweden with snow or icy roads being more dangerous than the threat of pickpockets in the urban areas.
When driving, keep your headlights on at all times and check the road conditions for snow and ice before departing for your destination. Visitors to Sweden more often break the law without knowing and therefore should avoid drinking alcohol in public places, including on trains. Officers can arrest you if they deem you drunk in public, and drug offenses meet harsh sentencing as well.
When exploring the countryside, beware of common insects like ticks and mosquitoes. Take precautions against bites. While the mosquitos in Sweden do not carry diseases, they torment visitors between June and mid-August around the swampy and humid grounds during the late afternoon and early evenings. Weather thick clothing with light colors and apply repellent on any exposed skin when active. If camping, keep your fire smoky by using peat if necessary, as the mosquitos do not like the smoke.
Similarly, ticks have become an issue in Sweden due to the increase of milder winters over the years. The increase of ticks has also brought an increase in tick-born encephalitis across Europe, a disease that causes fever and nausea. A third of all ticks also carry Lyme disease. Ticks in Sweden are predominantly active on the east coast and the islands between March and November, and they prefer warm temperatures with moist undergrowth like bushes and meadows with long grass. Vaccinations, sprays, and creams from local pharmacies help to deter ticks, in addition to a diet high in garlic.
Sweden hosts approximately 3,200 brown bears, 350,000 moose, 250 wolves, 650 wolverines, and 1,500 lynxes. The predatory species in Sweden seem terrifying, but the last time a wolf attacked a person in the wild was in the 1820s, and no lynx or wolverine attacks have ever been recorded against a person, not even in local folklore. The most dangerous animals in Sweden are not what most people expect when exploring the wild.
Instead of bears or wolves, wasps and bees pose the biggest risk to public health when adventuring through the wilderness. If venturing into the wilderness on a longer trail or a multi-day trek without a guide, be sure to let the tourist centers know your itinerary and estimated time frame, especially when visiting during the shoulder seasons, as the unexpected shifts in weather cause unforeseen hazards.
Sweden’s health services are renowned as a competent state-run institution. If traveling with prescription medicine, bring a legible prescription on your trip, you could refill your medication while in Sweden, as most medications are available in the country but possibly labeled under a different name. In case you need to visit a doctor, Sweden’s medical system requires those in need of care to go to a local medical center or hospital instead of a private general practitioner. You will need to show your passport upon arrival. Pharmacies independent of the hospitals provide advice on how to treat everyday issues and conditions as well as sell nonprescription and prescription drugs. Citizens of the European Union can visit a doctor with proof of holding a European Health Insurance Card with costs changing depending on the in-patient or out-patient procedures.
Although Sweden remains a destination in the hearts and minds of travelers eager to explore Scandinavia, many do not realize the extent to which the lasting beauty of the terrain and the exceptional local culture will capture their heart. While Norway is known for its fjords and Finland is famous for the Lapland, Sweden boasts gorgeous fjords, a historical connection to the Lapland, as well as incredible islands forming countless archipelagos, views to the colorful northern lights, and seemingly endless forests and shimmering lakes. Whether planning an unforgettable family vacation or hoping for a romantic getaway into the untamed wilderness, searching for elegant beach resorts, or eager to relax near the cozy fire after a day on the slopes, Sweden overflows with the picturesque coastlines, spectacular architecture, breathtaking expanses, and Viking folklore sure to capture your imagination.
Unique Views and Sites
Famous Swedish Castles
In modern times, castles represent fairytale structures and sophisticated histories, but castles in Sweden were originally constructed for military defense. During the rise of provinces in Sweden’s medieval period, the kingdoms of Svea and Göta ruled before the united Swedish kingdom rose to European might in the mid-17th century. As a result, the country boasts spectacular castles ranging from the medieval to the Renaissance periods that display the different aesthetics of the ages and different purposes for the resident, may it have been practicality or a show of wealth.
The following castles have become famous for their architectural allure and fascinating history:
- Gripsholm Castle overlooks the shores of Lake Mälaren in the south of Sweden and was built in the 1530s under the reign of King Gustav Vasa. The interior furnishings showcase the tastes of the noble family between the 16th to 19th centuries and displays Renaissance architectural design.
- Drottningholm Palace was constructed in the 1660s as the residence of Queen Hedvig Eleonora. The grand design of the structure has led to its nickname “Versailles of the North.” It remains the residence of the current Royal Family and retains a stunning baroque flavor.
- Ekwtorps Fortress is an ancient picturesque castle in Öland erected over three settlement phases. The foundations date back to the Iron Age with newer towers and walls dating to the 13th century BC. The complex has preserved the Iron Age homes.
- Bohus Fortress is a medieval castle standing on the border between Norway and Sweden in the Kungälv region. The structure was built in 1308 during the reign of Norwegian king Haakon V Magnusson and acted as a military defense post against Sweden.
The city of Malmö was once Denmark’s second-city after Copenhagen well into the mid-17th century when Denmark returned the counties three major counties back to Sweden. The town was established in the 13th century due to the high concentration of herring situated off the coast. The medieval center remains a highlight for visitors eager to stroll around the pedestrianized cobbled lanes, enjoying the lively restaurants and trendy bars. Skyscrapers add a touch of contemporary Swedish architecture to the skyline above the historical walkways, and the popular beaches reflect the multi-cultural evolution of the city’s movement away from its roots as a localized fishing village while retaining a cosmopolitan ambiance from trade. More than 150 nationalities refer to Malmö as their home embodied in the Italian coffee culture, international cuisine, chic bars, and popular Middle Eastern markets. The contemporary art scene thrives, as well as experimental modern theater. When exploring Malmö, the highlights include:
- Malmö Museer, which offers access to three main museums within a single space, including the Aquarium providing views to bats and electric eels.
- Gamla Staden, the medieval center revolving around the town square of Stortorget and little square of Lilla Toret.
- Moderna Museet Malmö, the museum gallery hosting permanent exhibitions displaying works by Matisse, Dali, and Picasso within a 1901 turbine hall.
Kosterhavet (Marine Park)
The Koster Islands preserve Sweden’s first Marine National Park located two hours north of Gothenburg. The car-free islands help conserve the natural beauty of the landscape and the delicate environment of the sea around what was once a collection of small fishing villages. Remarkable plants and flowers blossom against a background of windswept grass and bright red houses. The unique seaside location features rugged island terrain and pebbled beaches, as well as the Ursholmen lighthouse, the most westerly lighthouse in Sweden. Boats, diving excursions, and kayaking tours provide access to the remarkable seal colonies perched on the boulders that edge the islands, and you can also access the lobster community using sustainable practices to help revitalize the reserve.
Sjofallet National Park
The oldest national park in Europe was designated in 1909 and sits in the heart of Sweden. The park boasts one of the tallest mountains in the region, Mount Sjofallet, which reaches nearly 4,200 feet above sea level. Streaming lakes intersect with large boulders as mountain trails wind through deciduous forests. The marvelous landscape protects resident bears, large elk communities, and the elusive lynx in addition to packs of wolves. The vegetation is mainly pine trees, and the rounded shape of the mountain makes it easy for beginning hikers to traverse without issue. The Dievssávágge Valley creates the natural northern border, and the Áhkká massif contains glaciers glinting in the summer sunlight.
Ängsö National Park
Photo courtesy: 2benny at Flickr
This remarkable national park is famous for its captivating natural beauty that has been untouched by civilization. The island landscape remains a cultural and historical monument after the land rose out of the sea in the 17th century and removed the narrow sound that once divided the single island. Forest overtakes a third of the national park with rare trees amidst the ash, oak, maple, and birch. Ospreys and eagles often nest on the island, and the human impact on flora and fauna remains minimal from farming activities in Sweden approximately four centuries ago.
Abisko National Park
The national park in the Swedish Lapland north of the Arctic Circle has become one of the most popular places in Sweden to view the northern lights. Abisko National Park covers 30 square miles near the border of Norway and is located in Sweden’s northernmost municipality. The park was established in 1909 with the intent of preserving the northern Nordic nature in its original condition. The 270-mile long Kungsleden hiking trail that follows the Scandinavian mountain range starts at the Abisko Turistation west of the eponymous village and winds through the national park. In the winter, the landscape attracts cross-country skiers and snowshoeing enthusiasts while in the summer, hikers arrive to enjoy the “midnight sun” The abundance of open sky with the lack of light pollution along with the long winter nights have also made the region perfect for viewing the aurora borealis.
The city less than 40 miles northwest of Stockholm feels like a different world as it hosts the medieval university of Uppsala with a relaxed ambiance and a diverse student population. Bicyclists glide alongside the waterways and parks and add to the serene atmosphere that carries an air of sophisticated academia. Uppsala is Sweden’s fourth largest city and acts as the historical and spiritual heart of Sweden with antique and contemporary culture bursting from the cozy cafes, hip bars, and charming boutique shops. The Fyris River flows through the heart of town creating a path along old homes, through the historical city center, and leads to the 6th-century religious center and ancient burial ground. No visit to Uppsala would be complete without visiting the following:
- The Uppsala Cathedral was erected in the 13th century and consecrated in the 15th century. The distinctive landmark retains its neo-Gothic style with pointed spires and magnificent stained-glass windows, as well as stunning murals.
- The Gustavianum was erected in the 17th century opposite the cathedral. The former main building of the university now hosts collections of Nordic and Egyptian antiquities, as well as a large Anatomical Theater. Permanent exhibitions include Viking relics like jewelry, medals, and swords, as well as Egyptian mummies.
- Just outside of town stands the Gamla Uppsala, the land of Vikings. The landscape hosts 300 burial mounds and is the resting place of old Viking royalty, from kings to queens to legendary heroes before Christianity took hold of the region in the 12th century. Visitors continue to follow the “Pilgrim’s Walk” connecting the ancient site of the former church to the Domyrka (cathedral) in Old Town.
A snowmobile excursion in Sweden is a snowy safari in the remote wilderness of the north. Traverse mountainous terrain and tundra and enjoy the winter world found in the Arctic Circle accompanied with visits to the Sami community, hot tubs, saunas, mountain lodges, campfires, ice fishing, and unforgettable scenery. Thrilling snowmobile excursions will lead you into the fabulous scenery at a fast pace to explore the wonders of Sweden.
A winter adventure in Sweden is not complete without an experience on a dog sled. The traditional method of traveling through the snowy expanse, ski resorts around the country provide the best introductions to dog sledding as you explore the mountainous landscape on short trips with an instructor. Longer, multi-day trips are also available with dog sledding guides after an introduction. Dog sledding through the white wilderness can include 10 to 25 miles a day, and whether searching the scenery for reindeer and arctic foxes or looking for the visions of the northern lights, a dog sledding excursion provides a unique experience into the great white expanse of Sweden.
Sweden is an incredible place to hike due to its well-kept trails and a remarkable network of lodgings found along the longer national routes that cover more than 400 different hiking trails that crisscross the country. The King’s Trail stretches more than 220 miles across the country and connects Abiski National Park in the north to Hemavan in the south. The trail winds around the bubbling brooks as rivers carry white foam along boulders, towering mountain plateaus abound, and several of Sweden’s 29 national parks. Excellent hiking trails also traverse the coastline for remarkable views of the breaking waves along the beaches in addition to the trails that cross the thick forests and open fields of the interior terrain.
Regions like Småland highlight the rich wildlife and small red cottages ingrained in the culture. The Jämtland Triangle covers more than 25 miles that wind through the mountains. The trail features cabins, saunas, and eateries along the way to support hikers interested in enjoying panoramic views and surprising gourmet cuisine. The Right of Public Access law in Sweden’s constitution keeps Swedes able to enjoy their magnificent scenery by allowing them access to any public lands across the country, as long as they leave the surroundings undisturbed.
Alpine and cross-country skiing, along with snowboarding, fill the slopes with every style around Sweden. Swedes boast about being able to ski almost anywhere during winter with more than 100 resorts offering access to the snow-covered slopes around the country. Åre in central Sweden has one of the best reputations in Northern Europe with a wide range of activities ranging from downhill ski runs to off-piste slopes. The resorts also provide a great range of slopes for beginners and children whether snowboarding, carving or heli-skiing. Riksgränsen is a park with distinctive terrain located in the far north and provides a great place to indulge in off-piste snowboarding absent of trees and access to the aurora borealis.
In autumn, winter, and spring ice skating is possible around the country, especially on the many frozen lakes and frozen waters between the islands of northern archipelagos. The ice skating experience differs between the southern, central, and northern areas due to the difference in snowfall and weather conditions creating a smooth and snow-free experience. Instead of circling a manicured rink, visitors to Sweden can enjoy long-distance or tour skating, which consist of using skates with blades longer than traditional ice skates to glide across longer distances.
Kayaking, Canoeing, Whitewater Rafting
Whether wandering along the southern waters between the collective archipelagos or wading in the lakes of the Swedish Lapland, the landscapes and waterways around the country provide great access to kayaking and canoeing excursions. Be it north and south of the Arctic Circle, within the plains and marshes, on the lakes of Värmland or seas of the southwest, there are many options to consider. One of the most popular excursions takes kayakers along the 14 islands of Stockholm’s archipelago in the province of Östergötland. Rafting is also a great excursion when searching for adventures on the water with the most popular route taking rafters down the Klarälven River in the Värmland region.
Scenic cruises in Sweden allow visitors to discover the splendors of the coastline, lakes, and the famous charms of the Gota canal. The different excursions provide views of the different archipelagos along the sea or the beautiful forests from the many glassy lakes that are spread across the mid and northern landscapes. The different types of cruises highlight the distinctive characteristics of the land, sea, and canals.
The beauty of the landscape shines brightly when seen from the scenic train ride known as the Inlandsbanan. The route travels over 800 miles between Kristinehamn in the south to Gällivare in the north. The train ride runs from mid-June to the end of August, as well as offering chartered trips throughout the year. The comforts of the train and the beauty of the landscape come together for an unforgettable excursion across Sweden.
Anglers of all kinds will enjoy the different types of fishing in Sweden. Whether wading in the river and casting a line for fly-fishing, dropping a heavier hook into the sea in search of herring, or traversing the larger lakes for freshwater fish like trout, Sweden provides fishing enthusiasts with endless opportunities in which they can indulge. In the colder months of winter, fans of fishing can also experience ice fishing. Swedes have taken to carving holes in the ice in search of arctic char or pike on Storsjön, Näkten, and Vattudalen Lakes.
Like the tradition of a coffee break, enjoying the warm and humid environment of a sauna is a celebrated pastime in Sweden. The quiet heat benefits your health, opens the pores, and demands a tranquil moment away from the fast-paced life outside. Saunas in Sweden are found at community swimming pools, town centers, lakeside resorts or huts. It is not uncommon to follow a session in the sauna with a quick jump in a cold lake or pool.
Zicasso offers a wide variety of custom-tailored tours to Sweden. Each trip is personalized to suit your desired destinations and activities for the perfect Swedish vacation with very close attention paid to your preferences and requirements. Experience the flexibility and convenience of self-planned, independent travel, or consider a packaged group tour curated by a travel specialist for hassle-free experiences with gorgeous accommodations, authentic and gregarious local guides coupled with unforgettable excursions. We will match you with two or three Sweden specialists eager to help you craft your perfect vacation.