Sweden is famous for ABBA, IKEA and Volvo, but there’s certainly more to the country than this. You might think, that Sweden is a Scandinavian snow-covered and dark country and yes maybe in winter but in the summer months, it is the total opposite. Sweden is bursting with history, culture, natural beauty, food and more and is definitely somewhere to add to your bucket list.
Read our handy travel guide and learn about some of the best places to visit and what you can do across the country. Which sites and attractions you need to visit while there and the foods you should try. This guide will help you to make the most of your time in Sweden. Ha en trevlig vistelse!
Currency: Swedish Krona (Kr)
Time Zone: Central European Time (UTC+1) / Central European Summer Time (UTC+2)
Major International Airport: Stockholm Arlanda (ARN)
Sweden is very pro sustainability and does all it can to be environmentally friendly. Only around 1% of the country's waste actually goes to landfills. Sweden is so good at recycling and waste management they even import waste from neighbouring countries such as Norway and the United Kingdom, who pay them for this pleasure! Make sure to never litter, you can receive a fine of up to 800Kr
The Swedish love their coffee, drinking around 79.7 thousand metric tonnes of coffee a year making them the 6th largest drinkers globally. Fika is a mentality shared by everyone in Sweden where you should have at least 2 breaks in your day to relax with a cup of coffee, pastry and a chat. It is even considered rude if you don't partake in Fika, so avoid that faux pas!
Sweden is the largest country in Scandinavia and is the 5th largest in Europe, spanning 450,295 km² from the shores of the Baltic to the snow-covered lands of Lapland. Although one of the largest countries in Europe it is only the 15th largest by population, with around 10 million inhabitants. 88% of this population lives in urban areas.
Traditionally Swedes would only purchase and consume sweets on a Saturday. The country has even adopted a word for this, ‘lördagsgodis’ meaning ‘Saturday sweets’ This has been a cultural norm in Sweden since the 1950s when the Swedish Medical Authorities started recommending it for health reasons.
Sweden is actually called the Kingdom of Sweden. This is because they still have a monarchy, which is one of the oldest in Europe and the world. However, it's not been all smooth sailing for them. King Eric XIII was forced to abdicate the throne in 1439 after losing a war that he had inherited. The deposed king then turned to piracy to live out the rest of his life, taking revenge on Hanseatic seafarers who caused trouble during his reign. Today Sweden is now a neutral country, adopting this stance in 1914.
Here are our top travel tips for Sweden that you need to know before you go.
Bucking the trend of some other European countries, Sweden is often a cashless society. Of course, you should still get some Swedish Krona before arriving, it is always useful having the local currency. But Swedes tend to pay for a lot of things on plastic meaning some cafes, shops, bars and restaurants might only accept cards. This has been further pushed along by the COVID-19 Pandemic
In some of the country's major cities including Stockholm, there are numerous fake taxis driving around hoping to be hailed by an unsuspecting tourist. Fake taxis will charge you a much higher price than their legitimate counterparts, make sure to check for a yellow license plate in the window for a real taxi. There are also ride-hailing app alternatives you can choose from including both Bolt and Uber.
If you plan on making national or intercity train trips while in Sweden you should pre-book your tickets for the cheapest price. Similar to airline tickers, the nearer to the date of travel the higher the ticket becomes. Some cheaper tickets are released 90 days prior to the date of travel and can be booked online, simply visit the SJ website.
If you are dining out while in Sweden then avoid some of these faux pas. You should never get the attention of the wait staff by calling them, waiving, whistling or clicking for them, this is considered extremely rude. Simply grab their attention with your eyes and they will be over to help as soon as possible. In most restaurants, a service charge or tip is automatically added to your bill of around 12-15%. It is often regarded as standard that if a person invited someone to dinner then it is their responsibility to pay for it, so keep that in mind if you invite a Swede out for a meal.
Swedes just don't do small talk, so striking up a conversation with someone on the street is an uncomfortable one for a Swede. If you accidentally knock into someone don’t expect an apology as this just isn't the cultural norm, so don't take it as rudeness.
Good for: Fashion, Culture, Design & Music
Airport: Arlanda, Bromma, Skavsta and Vasteras Airports
Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and the largest city in the country. Here you will find an abundance of museums and cultural sites to visit. Stockholm is a medieval city spread across hundreds of islands, so make sure to visit the island of Gamala Stan, which is part of the city’s ‘Old Town’, dating back to 1252. Stroll down the cobbled streets and take in the traditional architecture of an ancient city. You will find the Royal Palace here, which today is still the residence of the Swedish Monarchy. The palace has some amazing museums you can visit including the Royal Armory.
If you are an ABBA fan, you must make sure you visit the dedicated ABBA museum and learn all about the band, their hits, and how they were formed. The museum has a great collection of outfits and more on display. ABBA is one of the most famous exports of Sweden to this day! Another quintessentially Swedish is flat-pack furniture giant IKEA. You will find the country's largest IKEA coming in at 594,167 sq ft, be sure to not stray from the path or you might get lost! If looking for a relaxing Scandinavian break then head to the Hellasgården lakeside sauna just outside of Stockholm to relax and destress.
Stockholm is easily traversed by foot which is great to take in the amazing sites and architecture. However, if visiting the city you have to ride the metro network or T-Bana as it's called, simply look out for the T signs and you'll know you've found a metro station. The T-Bana was built by detonating the hard rock beneath the city so has left natural, expansive and stone bare stations. The city has turned their metro system into not just something of practicality but also of art. Many of the city centre’s stations have received a beautiful paint job, be careful not to lose yourself in the art or you might miss your train!
Good for: Parks and Beaches
Airport: Malmö Airport
Malmö is the third-largest city in Sweden and sits at the southern tip of the country. Its skyline is dominated by the ‘Turning Torso’ a large white and twisting skyscraper, which is a juxtaposition to the low level and architecturally older buildings surrounding its base. Interestingly the Turning Torso is also the tallest building in Scandinavia, coming in at 190 m (620 ft). Although smaller than Stockholm, there is plenty to see and do here. Take a stroll around the city and visit some of the beautiful sights the city has to offer, such as St. Petri an imposing gothic cathedral, Malmöhus Castle, Malmö City Library and more.
There is more to the city than manmade structures and cute little cafes for Fika. Nature is a big part of Swedish culture, with the government even writing Allemansrätten (Right to access Swedish nature) into legislation. The city is abundant with parks and forests with one of my favourites being Pildammsparken. This park was opened in 1900 on the grounds of an old reservoir. Today the park is lined with hundreds of willow trees, wildflowers and lakes. Pildammsparken has some characteristic similarities to the ornate grounds of the Palace of Versailles in Paris.
Swedes love the beach and bathing and Malmo is no exception. A mere 20-minute stroll from the city centre is Ribersborg beach. A 2.5 km (1.5 miles) long sandy white beach perfect for families, with bbq spots, kids' play areas and cafes. The beach is the perfect destination in summer to soak in the Swedish summer sun and splash in the Öresund waters. The beach has a pier jutting out into the sea which has a special surprise at the end you have to visit. The Ribersborg Kallbadhus sits at the end and is a relaxing saltwater bathing facility with pools, saunas, solarium and massaging facilities. Don’t be shocked if you see some bathers in the nude, Swedes aren't prudish when it comes to nudity!
Top Tip: Although not in Sweden, Copenhagen is a mere 36-minute train ride from Malmö central station over the Öresund bridge.
Good for: Food
Airport: Göteborg Landvetter Airport
Approximately 1 million inhabitants smaller than Stockholm, Gothenburg is the country's second-largest city with around 600,000 citizens. Gothenburg is a great city to visit if you are heading to Sweden and has its own unique charm. Fika is a way of life for Sweden and this is no exception for Gothenburg, book on to one of the many Fika tours that explore the city, finding the best coffee and pastries all while seeing the amazing architecture and culture of the city. If you have a sweet tooth be sure not to miss this.
Gothenburg is home to canals, rivers and islands with the Southern Gothenburg Archipelago constantly being rated as one of the most popular places to visit in the city. To get there you will need to take one of the many ferries from the mainland departing frequently. The islands are quintessentially Swedish with dark red panelled houses lining the coastline. Visit some of the museums dedicated to fishing or dine on some of the freshly caught shrimp, crayfish and seafood.
Back on the mainland, explore what the city has to offer and head to the Botanical gardens and see some of the picturesque and ornate fauna there is to see. Even better, entry to the Botanical Gardens is free! The city is abundant with other great public parks and spaces including the Tradgardsforeningen. Another iconic Swedish brand is the car manufacturer Volvo. Volvo calls Gothenburg home and has been based here for its entirety. Make sure to visit the Volvo Museum and learn about the brand as well as the automotive industry in Sweden. Another great museum to visit is the city's Universeum (Science Museum). Gothenburg often overlooked by Stockholm is an equally attractive place to visit if you're headed to Sweden.
Good for: Skiing & Snowsports
Airport: Åre Östersund Airport
Åre is one of Sweden and wider Scandinavia’s premier ski and winter sports resorts. The resort was even rated the world’s top 10 in 2008 by Condé Nast Traveller, so you can expect an amazing time if visiting. The resort is open year-round with snowsports being possible in the winter months and mountain bike riding, hiking and kayaking all opening up in the warmer months, making Åre a flexible and versatile resort you have to visit.
During the winter when the resort is open for skiing there are 4 mountain areas you can ski or board across, catering to all level types from beginner to expert. Central Åre is the largest ski area with some of the longest runs and with a total of 21 lifts. The Åre Björnen area is connected to Central Åre making it easy to get between. Åre Björnen is perfect for families, young children and beginners and has 10 lifts available. The Tegefjäll and Duved areas are both connected to each other and offer great skiing conditions for all abilities with 5 lifts in Tegefjäll and 5 lifts in the Duved area.
Åre is full of bars, restaurants, cafes and hotels all at varying price points, helping you to book a visit at a price suited to you. To purchase lift passes please visit skistar.com or purchase them when you arrive. The resort offers an 8-day season ticket to be used anytime in the year for 3,263.10 Kr (Adult), 2,610.99 Kr (Youth), 2,610.99 Kr (Senior) and kids under 6 go free.
Depending on where you are in Sweden weather can vary. However, across the country, it is usual that in the winter it is very cold often snowing and during the summer temperatures rise to around similar climates as Southern England. In the very north of the country, snow can be found year-round on raised altitudes with shorter summers and long winters.
The average summer temperature enjoyed in Sweden is around 23°c (72 °f) with an average rainfall of around 6.6 cm (2.5 inches). In the far north of Sweden, the sun doesn't set due to being so close to the North Pole. However, as you get further down the country this begins to shorten to rising around 3:40 am and setting at around 10:00 pm, meaning average sunlight of around 283 hours. Sweden usually celebrates the Midsummer festival in June, which is a great time to visit Sweden!
Winter in Sweden is the polar opposite of summer. If visiting in the winter be sure to pack warm clothes because the average temperatures are around -2/-1 °c (27-30 °f). During the winter months, Sweden can receive averages of up to 4.5 cm (1.8 inches) of rainfall but can also expect average snowfall of up to 8.1 cm (3.2 inches). Opposite to summer in the winter the Northern parts of the country receive no sunlight and is plunged into complete darkness in January. In Stockholm, you can expect the sun to rise at about 8:45 am before setting around 3:00 pm meaning average monthly sunlight of around 32 hours.
France and Italy maybe the cuisine powerhouses of Europe but Sweden also has quite a few national dishes that you will have to try when visiting. The most iconic is of course the humble Swedish Meatball (Köttbullar) covered with gravy and a side of Lingonberry jam. The Swedes love their herring, be it pickled, fermented or fried, it is definitely something to try, as long as you like fish! When having your daily Fika, be sure to order a Kanelbulle (Cinnamon Roll) to go with your coffee. For people with a sweet tooth try a Daim bar, a thin crunchy caramel bar wrapped in chocolate or try some Saltlakrits, which is salty black liquorice!
Residents of the European Union or Schengen Area don't need any visa to enter Sweden and can spend an unrestricted amount of time in the country. As Sweden is a member of the Schengen Area an additional 60 countries are offered a visa waiver scheme meaning they can visit Sweden for up to 90 days within a 180 day period. If your country or territory does not fall under the visa waiver scheme, you may need a visa. To find out more please visit the official Swedish Government page on ‘List of foreign citizens who require Visa for entry into Sweden’.
For information about entry requirements and COVID-19 entry requirements please visit our dedicated COVID Travel Advice page and use our handy tool.
English proficiency is extremely high in Sweden, ranking 8th out of 112 countries by the EF English Proficiency Index. It is also common that Swedes are able to speak more than English and Swedish and may also speak or understand some other neighbouring languages including Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic and German. However, it is always useful to know some words or phrases in a nation's language when visiting.
Want to expand your Svenska (Swedish) knowledge? Use some of these handy phrases next time you're in Sweden.
Scandinavian Airlines is the flag carrier of Sweden as well as Norway and Denmark and is the largest airline in the country. The major international airport in Sweden is Stockholm Arlanda (ARN) which offers destinations across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, North America and North Africa. A range of Swedish airlines including Scandinavian Airlines, Norwegian Air Sweden, BRA Braathens Regional Airlines, Amapola Flyg, Jonair, Novair and TUIfly Nordic operate international and domestic services. You can fly to Sweden with non-Swedish airlines too! Air China, Air France, ANA, British Airways, Croatia Airlines, Emirates, Easyjet, Icelandair, KLM, Lufthansa, Iberia, Qatar Airways, TAP Air Portugal, Thai Airways and more all offer direct services to the country.
Other international airports you can fly to in Sweden include Göteborg Landvetter Airport, Malmö Airport, Stockholm Skavsta Airport, Bromma Stockholm Airport and more. For more information about domestic flights in Sweden please visit our dedicated Domestic Flights in Sweden page.
Top Tip: If you are travelling to Malmö it may be quicker and easier to fly to Copenhagen Kastrup Airport and then cross the Öresund bridge into southern Sweden and the Skåne County.
The local currency in Sweden is the Swedish Krona.
Exchange Rate: £1 = 12.4kr , $1 = 10.12kr , €1 = 10.53kr (May 2022)
Meal: 101.50 kr
Meal for 2 (mid-range): 800.00 kr
Beer: 70.00 kr
Water: 17.60 kr
Hotel 5*: 1,968 Kr
Hotel 4*: 1,192 Kr
Hostel: 362 Kr
Metro Ticket (one way): 34.00 kr
Taxi (per 1km): 20.00 kr
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