Unlike France, Spain, and Italy, Sweden is not one of the most visited countries in the EU. Apart from IKEA and Stockholm, most people don’t know much about this country. So, is Sweden worth visiting?
It’s true, winters can be extremely cold and long here. To give you an idea, in January in Stockholm the sun rises at 8.45 am and sets at 3.00 pm. But the good news is that the summer days are long and full of celebrations and activities for all tastes! From its beautiful fjords to its vibrant culture and picturesque towns, we have no doubts, a trip to Sweden won’t disappoint you!
But what makes Sweden so unique and why should you prefer a holiday here over other Scandinavian countries such as Finland and Norway? Here are nine reasons why you should choose Sweden, giving you suggestions of places to see, things to do and festivities to join!
Breathtaking fjords, forests, and mountains
Sweden is by far one of the best destinations for nature lovers. About 60 percent of the Swedish territory is covered by forests making this country the second most forested in Europe, after Finland. But there’s more!
Swedish people claim they have the highest number of islands in the whole world. This is not too hard to believe if you think that the country has more than 260,000 islands. About 30,000 of these are located in the Stockholm archipelago which can be easily accessed by ferry from Stockholm. Here you will get the chance to bike or hike through nature trails, enjoy delicious picnics on the cliffs, or explore ancient Viking graves.
Sweden is also home to several mountainous areas, stunning fjords, and more than 100,000 lakes. Some of the most beautiful fjords can be found north of Gothenburg, such as Gullmar fjords, Saltkallefjorden, and Dynekilen fjord. In the summer, people like to swim and fish here.
The locals are extremely connected to nature and the concept of ‘Allemansrätten’ is fundamental for Swedish society. This word can be translated as ‘freedom to roam’ and refers to the right of the public to access natural areas and, sometimes, even privately owned land, lakes, and rivers. This means that, during the summer, you can come to Sweden and legally set up your tent wherever you want. You can wake up in front of a majestic fjord, sleep on the top of a mountain and, if you’re lucky, get to see the northern lights floating above your head.
Take part in the local festivities
Sweden is also home to several celebrations and festivities. Taking part in one of these events is a great opportunity to get to know the locals and their traditions.
One of the best moments to visit Sweden is in August, during the famous crayfish party. During this event, people gather to eat, sing songs, and drink together. The typical food eaten on this occasion is the crayfish, a tiny lobster caught on the west coast of Sweden. Crayfish parties can be small family gatherings or big parties with several people. If you’re invited to one, don’t hesitate to accept as you will surely get a unique experience out of it. Guests are required to bring some side dishes and during the night people drink lots of beer and aquavit.
Another summer festivity is the midsummer. This event is held in the middle of June to celebrate the summer solstice. People put flowers in their hair, sing songs, and dance around a maypole called Midsommarstången. The perfect hippie party!
If you’re coming here for the spring, don’t miss the Walpurgis night. This festivity is known in Sweden as Valborgsmässoafton and is celebrated by lighting a large bonfire. People normally sing and party till late at night to watch the many fireworks illuminating the dark sky.
Spot the arctic animals
Animals lovers will surely enjoy a trip to Sweden. This country is home to several animals, some of which can only be found here and in a few other countries. The white moose is surely the most unique! This species is predominantly found in Sweden, however, a few specimens have also been spotted in Canada and Alaska. According to an article by National Geographic, the white of their skin derives from a gene mutation, and for this reason, they are unfortunately very rare. However, the good news is that there is a good chance that their numbers will increase in the next few years.
Another unique animal is the lynx, the biggest wild feline in Europe. These felines hunt and eat reindeers in the north of the country and roe deer in the south. Unfortunately, these animals are also incredibly difficult to spot. The most populous areas are around Stockholm, in Sörmland, Uppland, and Bergslagen.
If you’re eager to see some wild animals, don’t worry. Many other animals can be easily spotted in Sweden, for instance, reindeers. They are semi-domesticated animals and there are currently about 260,000 specimens in the whole country. Reindeers live in the northern part of Sweden due to the cold climate of this area.
Some of the other animals living in this country include brown bears, beavers, European elks, wolves, and arctic foxes.
The mouthwatering local cuisine
When we think of European food we normally picture in our heads delicious pizzas, smelly French cheeses, and a table full of Spanish tapas. Certainly not the Swedish cuisine. We must admit that except for the famous meatballs, served in all IKEA stores, most of us wouldn’t be able to mention a single Swedish dish. However, there are a few delicious foods that you should absolutely try if you come to Sweden.
Number one on our list is the typical Smörgåstårta cake. This savory cake is made up of several layers of rye bread separated by a creamy filling. The toppings can vary depending on the recipe but mayonnaise and eggs are always used. Some of the other ingredients may include different cold cuts, smoked salmon, and several veggies and fruits such as lemon slices, grapes, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
If you like sweets, try out Dammsugare, a wonderful delicacy! This typical dessert consists of small cylinders made of marzipan of which both extremities have been dipped in chocolate. Inside you will find a delicious filling made of butter, cocoa, broken biscuits, and Punsch liqueur.
Regarding drinks, if you’re coming here during the winter holidays, make sure to try a glass of Glógg. This is a spiced alcoholic drink with a base of mulled wine or spirit. But the country’s favorite drink is surely Schnapps, distilled from potatoes or grains.
Ski, ice hockey, snowboarding, and more!
Given the cold and the amount of snow that the country experiences every year, it is not surprising that winter sports are among the most popular in the country. Swedish people love their ice hockey and bandy team and if you get the chance to watch a live match don’t miss it! This is one of the best experiences to mingle with the locals.
Sweden is also home to several ski resorts, so, if you like sports such as snowboarding and cross country skiing, make sure to check them out. Some of the other popular winter sports in the country include curling, ice fishing, and skating. If you like challenges you can also try your hand at iceboating. A unique sport in which you will have to sail on ice in a modified boat.
Picturesque towns galore
Stockholm is surely the most famous city in Sweden and if you’re coming here you cannot miss it. However, several picturesque towns are scattered all over the country. One of our favorites is Visby. You can reach this town by ferry from Stockholm and it will take you from 4 to 5 hours. This is arguably the best-preserved medieval town in the whole of Scandinavia and in 1995 it was elected a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visby faces the sea and is particularly known for its massive defensive wall, built between the 13th and the 14th century. Incredibly enough, 3.44 km of the original wall still stands nowadays!
Ystad is another great option for those interested in little towns. Here you will find the tiny colorful houses typical of Sweden and characterized by bright red roofs. This town is located in the south of the country and it will take you about one hour to reach it from Malmö.
Even though it’s more of a city than a town, Uppsala is also worth visiting. This city is the fourth largest one in Sweden with a population of approximately 180,000 inhabitants. Some of the most interesting sites in Uppsala include the cathedral, built in the French gothic style and dating back to 1272, the pink Uppsala Castle, dating back to 1549, and Gotlandsparken, a lovely green area from where you will have a stunning view of the city.
Meet the Sámi people
When we think of indigenous populations we normally picture in our head tiny villages in Africa or Asia. So, you may be surprised to know that Sweden also has its own indigenous people. Known as the Sámi people, this indigenous population lives in the north of the country and is one of Sweden’s official National minorities.
It has been estimated that 20,000 Sámi people are currently living in Sweden but more have settled in Finland, Russia, and Norway. The movie Frozen was inspired by them and for its sequel, the Disney Animation Studio received consultation from a Sámi group.
This population originally lived by hunting and gathering food. However, in the 17th century, they started to herd reindeers as their main business. Back in the day, the Sámi would move from place to place following their herds, however, nowadays they live in houses and only 10 percent of them still herd reindeers. Today, most Sámi people work in the tourism and fishing industry. They have their own original language and their folk costumes, known as kolt or gákti, are particularly famous for their bright colors.
Take the perfect picture of the northern light
Photography lovers cannot miss their chance to visit Sweden. All countries have beautiful sceneries that deserve to be captured into a photo but if you’re a photographer, you know that taking a picture of the northern lights has its unique charm.
Photographers from all over the world come to Sweden and wait till late at night in the hope that the northern lights will show up. The best chance to see this magical phenomenon is from September to March and the town of Kiruna is probably one of the best locations to spot it.
Plenty of music festivals and concerts
Swedish people love music! Not by chance musicians known all over the world such as Avicii, Abbas, and Tove Lo all come from this country. If you also love music, don’t miss the opportunity to take part in the Summerburst festival. This electronic music festival is one of the biggest in the country and it is held every summer either in Stockholm or in Gothenburg. Musicians from all over the world come here to perform their latest hits and, in the past editions, people such as David Guetta, Avicii, and Deadmau5 performed here.
Another unique experience can be done at the Dalhalla. This is the perfect location for those who prefer classical or jazz music. The Dalhalla is an open-air theater located close to Lake Siljan. This theater is in a unique venue situated in a former limestone quarry, about 60 meters deep. From June to September several concerts are regularly held here ranging from opera to choral works and jazz sessions.