Travel information for your next visit to Sweden
As one of the Scandinavian states, Sweden, the land of the Vikings, must be on any traveller’s bucket list (the other being Norway, Finland and Denmark). Sweden is a country:
- Sparcely populated (only about 9 million inhabitants), with a northern region often referred to as “Europe’s last wilderness”,
- a country with magnificent scenery, immense forests of pine, birch, spruce, covered by snow in the winter, cristal-clear lakes, unpoluted air, and therefore
- some of the “greenest” cities anywhere to be found in the world, but also with excellent night-life, museums, galleries and sights,
- an engrossing history, and unique culture, with
- friendly, unassuming and welcoming people, nearly all of them able to speak English.
- However, travellers should be warned that Sweden (as well as Norway and Finland) is not the cheapest country to visit.
Introduction to Sweden Country Information
Sweden is a constitutional monarchy, formally called the Kingdom of Sweden, with King Carl XVI Gustaf the President. The largest cities are Stockholm (about 1.3 million inhabitants), the capital, Göteborg (more than 500 000) and Malmö (more than 260 000). To the west the Scandinavian mountain range, with some peaks reaching heights of more than 2 000 m separates Sweden from Norway; in the north-east it borders Finland, whilst the two countries share the Gulf of Bothnia to the east. The Skagerrak and the Kattegat, two arms of the North Sea connecting it to the Baltic Sea, separates the country from the rest of Europe.
The longest north-south distance is 1574 km, of which about 15 % lies north of the Arctic Circle; the longest east-west distance is about 500 km. Although Sweden has been divided into 21 counties for administrative purposes, it can geographically and climate wise broadly be split into a southern, central and northern region, respectively called Götaland, Svealand and Norrland (about 58 percent of the country). The further south, the more temperate the climate becomes, with cool summers and cold winters; the more northernly, the more subarctic and arctic. Norrland is the region where the icy Lapland, with its Sami people is situated, where the Ice Hotel can be found, and the northern lights (aurora borealis) can be seen.
Accessibility to Sweden
Forming part of northern Europe, Sweden is easily accessible by all modes of transport:
- By air: Six airports service international flights, two at Stockholm (with Arlanda – ARN – the main port), two in Göteborg (Gothenburg), with Landvetter as main port, and one each in Malmö and Norrköping.
- By trains: Since the opening of the Öresund Bridge and tunnel linking Copenhagen (Denmark) with Malmö, trains from all over Europe, especially Eurostar reach destinations in Sweden easily. The Öresund day trains between Copenhagen and Malmö runs every 20 minutes, with a trip duration of only 35 minutes.
- By car: The same easy access by way of the Öresund Link applies to cars.
- By ferries or boat: Numerous ferry routes link Sweden with neigbouring countries, such as Germany, Denmark, Finland, the UK, Poland, etc. In this way travellers can also transport their cars to Sweden. Some of the ferries between Germany and Sweden, such as those of Stena Lines, TT-Lines and Scandlines even departs every 15 minutes. A trip with a fast ferry from Rosstock in northern Germany to Trelleborg in southern Sweden (about 30 km south of Malmö) takes less than 3 hours. Large cruise ships also regularly dock in Sweden’s main ports like Helsingborg, Göteborg, Stockholm and Malmö
- By bus: Just as with trains, bus services connect neighbouring countries with Sweden.
When to go to Sweden
It depends on which region the traveller wants to visit, or on his/her interests.
- Summer to autumn (May to September), especially midsummer (June to August) is the obvious choice, because of the good weather with less rain and more hours of daylight. All attractions, such as museums, are open and those in the countryside can easily be reached. In Norrland the midnight sun can be experienced. Snow may start falling from September, depending on the region.
- Winter to spring (Oct to April) might be just as captivating, with snow covering the country, especially in Norrland, where temperatures can fall to -30C, during midwinter from November to March. This is the time when ski resorts are open, snowmobiles and dog sleds await tourists to take them on safaris tracking the wildlife of the snowy wilderness, and when the northern lights can be observed.
Getting around in Sweden
Sweden’s excellent transport system makes it easy to discover Sweden. But since transport on the public system is quite expensive, booking discount tickets in advance is advisable. Otherwise, rail passes and city tourism and metro cards will cut the high cost of travel.
- By air: Daily domestic flights between main cities offer convenient transport for the traveller wishing to reach a destination fast.
- By train and bus: An efficient train system also ensures fast transport between most main cities and towns. However, the Swedish bus service has a more extensive network, should the destination be more off the beaten track.
- By car: Driving a car on your own on the excellent road network, especially during summertime, is the most fulfilling way of discovering what the country has to offer. During winter some destinations may not be easily reachable by road.
- By water: Regular domestic ferries operate between major ports, whilst boats also traverse the larger lakes. A trip on the 19th century Göta Canal connecting Lake Vättern in the south with Lake Vänern to the north during spring to autumn offers a convenient and scenic way of seeing the countryside. Most of the waterways are closed during winter.
Don’t miss when visiting Sweden
The following condensed choice out of the many, might interest most travellers:
- n Norrland, especially in Lapland the midnight sun during midsummer, and the northern lights during midwinter in the Abisko National Park north of Kiruna at a latitude of about 68 °N, about 145 km north of the Arctic circle. Also a stay in the Ice Hotel at Jukkasjärvi close to the Torne River, near Kiruna, and a sip of vodka served in glasses made from ice in the Absolut Bar. And what about a guided snowmobile safari in Lapland over snow, frozen lakes and rivers?
- In Stockholm: The old city, Gamla Stan, with its immense palace and winding cobble stone streets; the Vasa Museum where a perfectly preserved 17th century battle ship is displayed; a boat trip to the Stockholm Archipelago viewing some of the thousands of islands.
- A cruise on a section of the 614 km long waterway between Göteborg in the south-east, to Söderköping on the east coast, crossing Lakes Vänern and Vättern, such as the magical 190 km long Göta Canal.
- Drive by car over the Öresund Link between Copenhagen and Malmö, or take a train or bus for an exhilarating experiencing.
- The unique and remarkable UNESCO World Heritage site, Gammelstad, the best preserved so-called “church-village” with its more than 400 wooden houses, and the largest church of its type in Scandinavia.
Top sleep & eat secrets
Like public transport, accommodation is quite expensive. The only way of side-stepping it, is by way of camping, which is in most cases free.
- Hotels of different categories are to be found al over the country.
- Luxury hotels: The following can be recommended: Stockholm: The superb five star Grand Hotel in the heart of the city near to some of the most important sites; Göteborg: The exceptional and modern Upper House on the top floors of the Gothia Towers offers stunning views over the city; Malmö: the Radidisson Blu close to the town center.
- Less expensive: Stockholm: The family-owned Hornsgatan near the old town and near a metro station; Göteborg: The centrally situated small Vanilla; Malmö: The Andrahem, near the bus and train stations.
- Bed and breakfast establishments or apartments with self-service facilities can easily be found in cities and towns; however, some of them can also be expensive.
- Something special: The af Chapman is a restored 19th century steel sailing ship lying permanently at anchor at the shore of the Skeppsholmen islet, just opposite the Old Town, and is curently operated as a youth hostel.
Eat and drink like the swedes do
Just like the weather differs from north to south, the food also shows regional differences. In the north meat is the main ingredient, together with vegetables in traditional dishes; more to the south it becomes more varied, with emphasis on seafood, especially in Göteborg, which is considered a haven for seafood lovers. Dairy products are also a traditional favourite. But cuisine from all over the world will also be found all over, especially in restaurants in the larger cities.
- Traditional dishes prepared from local ingredients, such as fish, potatoes, pork, berries and other fruit, vegetable or milk are called husmanskost (husman = house owner; kost = food), thus every day food. In Göteborg the Restaurang Kometen is famous for its traditional cuisine. The Bla Porten Restaurant in Stockholm is also well-known for excellent and tasty local dishes.
- Smörgásbord is an internationally renowned Scandinavian buffet of hot and cold dishes, accompanied by different breads, to be found in most restaurants in Sweden. A special Swedish variation is the Julbord, served during Christmas.
Meeting the real people of Sweden
To be a real traveller, the art, culture and way of life of the people of a country should be experienced. In Sweden the following might be considered:
- The annual 400-year-old winter Jokkmakk Market in Swedish Lapland during February has been held for more than 400 years and offers a unique insight into the traditional culture of these indigenous people
- Valborg Day (“Walpurgis Day/Night”), annually held on 30 April is a centuries-old celebration of welcoming spring, with large bonfires and singing. The following day is a national holiday (Labour Day), but also King Carl XVI Gustaf’s birthday, celebrated with numerous parades and events.
- Christmas markets are held in all big cities and towns, such as at Stockholm’s Gamla Stan (Old Town)
- The vibrant annual Stockholm Cultural Festival with programs of all kinds lasts for 6 days during August.
- The week long Malmö Festival, also held annually during August, is one of the largest in the country, drawing up to 1.4 million visitors.
- In Göteborg the Way Out West Festival offers a three day experience during August of different musical genres.