If there is one thing that Sweden is known for, it’s for the scientists that have come from here. The most famous of which is the previously mentioned Alfred Nobel, a man who amassed a huge fortune from his creation of dynamite. Though he hoped that this new explosive would be enough to scare humanity, he despaired when they used his invention for warfare. In the last years of his life, he created the Nobel Prize to celebrate innovations/contributions to five sectors: physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. Another notable Scientist is Carl Linnaeus, who came up with the system for naming plants and animals that we still use today.
People have lived in Sweden for a long time, and they take care to commemorate that history. Though there are traces as far back as prehistory, the most recorded examples start occurring during the time of the Vikings and the Middle Ages. One of the districts of Stockholm, Gamla Stan, is the historic old town of the city, standing as a reminder of Sweden’s medieval past with its narrow alleys and architecture. Though it’s a politically democratic country, Sweden has its own royal family, and the Royal Palace that is their home was the seat of Swedish Royalty since its completion in the late 18th century. You don’t need to stay in the big cities to learn about what Sweden was like before modern times. Nobel’s manor house in Karlskoga where he spent the last three years of his life has become a memorial site and museum, equal parts educative and entertaining.
Though it celebrates its history, Sweden is by no means an antiquated nation. Factors such as a strong education system, a stable economy with plenty of tech companies and universal healthcare all come together to give Sweden one of the highest qualities of life for any country. Alongside the museums in the big cities, you’ll find trendy bars and nightclubs. They are also extremely eco-friendly, incentivizing recycling practices, which makes it an ideal location for green travellers.
Spanning from the Arctic Circle in the North to bordering the Baltics in the South, Sweden is a vast country, which has many different cultural traditions, geographical formations, and when the winter comes, how cold it gets. An almost equally religious and non-worshipping country, Sweden is mostly spread across one large landmass, though it’s also well known for its islands. The capital of Stockholm is spread across 14 islands. Its place on the map, being so close to the likes of Russia and mainland Europe, has influenced its history and cultural formation. It even once had its empire, though much smaller compared to the likes of the British and French empires at the height of their respective power.
Though it has deep historical roots which may make people think of the raiding Vikings and the knights of the Middle Ages, Sweden is now a very modern nation. Much of it may still be dominated by mother nature, but the pockets of civilization that are there provide endless opportunities for explorers.
The three main regions of Sweden are Norrland in the North, Svealand in the centre, and Götaland in the South. These regions cover 25 provinces, or landskap, which play a part in a native’s identity. These provinces are:
There are a few notable cultural traditions that take place in Sweden. The one that most people know is Fika. Fika is basically a cultural coffee break. At Fika, people typically enjoy a hot drink accompanied by some snacks, including but not limited to pastries like Semla, cinnamon or cardamom buns, and chocolate biscuits. Fika can be enjoyed whenever, but it’s usually done during the morning or afternoon. Fika is usually a good excuse to catch up with friends, or just take a breather from the daily hustle and bustle.
If you want to bring back a souvenir from your trip, try and look out for a Dala horse. They are these small painted wooden horses which originally came from the Dalarna region during the 17th century. Nowadays, you can find a Dala horse anywhere in Sweden. Dala horses come in many different styles, but the most common one is the bright red horse with the white, green, blue and yellow harness. The largest Dala horse is in Avesta, Sweden, though this one is made of concrete.
One of the reasons to visit Sweden is the natural beauty of the country. Though Sweden has been inhabited for millennia, there is still much of the country that is untouched by man, apart from the roads connecting towns and cities. Along the Western border that Sweden shares with Noway, the Scandinavian mountains, or Scandes, act as natural barriers between the countries, attracting mountaineers and hikers. Much of the country is dominated by forests. Lakes are dotted throughout the nation, some of them being the largest in Europe. To the South-East-East of Uppsala and close to the East of the capital of Stockholm is the Swedish Archipelago. The 30,000 islands that make up this region make it perfect for sailing and boating during the summer. You can easily hop between islands, travel up the coast or even sail out in open water in the Baltic Sea.
It’s also one of the places where you can see the Northern lights. During the winter months, the further North you go, you see the stunning natural phenomenon flicker across the sky. The best place to see this will be in the Northern half of the country, though the tip of the country is in the Arctic Circle, so keep that in mind.
Sweden is an extremely beautiful place to visit year round. The best time to visit is during the summer, as the rest of the year can be range from chilling to freezing cold, depending on the region. The cities are beautiful to visit year round, though pack more layers the further North you go.
Swedish is a Germanic language spoken primarily in the country, with an estimated 10.5 million native speakers in total. The language uses the Latin alphabet in writing. While Swedish is the most widely spoken language in the country, there are five other minority languages: Finnish, Sami, Romani, Yiddish and Meänkieli. English is also widely spoken here.
Most Swedish speak English, especially in major cities. However, it is important to know some Swedish phrases:
There are a few airports in Sweden that have flights from Continental Europe and the rest of the world. The capital Stockholm has three, the largest being Stockholm-Arlanda, then Stockholm-Bromma and Stockholm-Skavsta. There is also Gothenburg-landvetter, Malmö and Luleå. Some of them though, like Luleå, only do international flights during the Summer.
There are a couple of train routes that you can take to travel into Sweden from the rest of Europe, like Denmark, and Oslo in Norway. There are currently no train links between Finland and Sweden, though one is currently being constructed.
Getting to Sweden via bus is an affordable option.
As in most countries in Europe, you drive on the right-hand side and take over on the left. You must have turned 18 years old to drive a car. A foreign driving license may be valid in Sweden, but you would need to double-check this with the Swedish Transport Agency. Otherwise, you might need to get an International driver's license. If renting a car, you must have held your driving license for at least 2 years. Drivers under the age of 25 may be charged a young driver surcharge.
Sweden has a reliable bus service, though sometimes might face delays or cancellations depending on the weather. The buses connect to almost anywhere throughout the country. The train system connects a lot of the cities in the country, though not everywhere in the country. You can buy train tickets using the SJ app. Buses have a wider reach. Each region has their own bus network, and some of these networks have a corresponding app to make things easier. If you’re not a sailor yourself, you can still travel throughout the Swedish archipelago by ferry. are a great way of travelling between port cities and the islands. Stockholm is the only Metro service in Sweden.
Sweden’s cities are very walkable. Just be careful and wear good walking shoes in the Winter months. There are also cycle routes - some places are more cycle friendly than others - so you can either rent a bike, go on foot or walk and use the public transport network.