Mention Sweden and everyone will likely tell you two things: that it's beautiful and that it's expensive. While they're spot on about the former, they're not necessarily all that right about the latter. Far from a budget destination, it may come as a surprise that Sweden is ranked LESS expensive than many other popular backpacking destinations in Europe, including France, Belgium, Italy, and Ireland.
Most travellers will make a token visit to Stockholm on their Euro Trip and call it a day, pinching their pennies for more affordable climes. There are, however, a veritable smorgasbord of reasons to spend more time in Sweden. Here are just a few of the BEST reasons why you shouldn't rush your visit to Sverige.
1. Allemansrätten: The Freedom To Roam
Built into the constitution of Sweden is the right of every person in Sweden to walk, cycle, ski, and camp on any land that isn't a private garden, under cultivation, or near another dwelling. It's considered a human right to be able to move about freely in nature, regardless of who “owns” the property. Of course, there are reasonable restrictions and all persons are expected to behave responsibly. Nevertheless, it opens the door to amazing adventures for any visitor to the nordic nation.
What use would “the Everyman's right” be if Sweden didn't have the goods to back it up? Fortunately there are copious amounts of nature trails and outdoor activities in Sweden – even close to major urban centers. There are 29 national parks across the country where you can hike, ski, cycle, ride, and even kayak or canoe. With 53% of the country still covered in forest, you have plenty of options when it comes to getting out and staying out.
3. O p e n S p a c e s
With so much forest intact, it makes sense that Sweden is a country far from being crowded. Sure, it's no Canada, but Sweden has the 5th lowest population density in all of Europe, after Iceland, Russia, Norway, and Finland. Even in the larger cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö you wont be as cramped and crowded as you would be in other major European destinations. E n j o y!
4. GIANT CINNAMON BUNS!
Need I say more?
5. Surprisingly Cheap Flights
For 600SEK ($73USD) or less you can fly the width of Sweden (Gothenburg to Stockholm) – and in under an hour. You can find train prices even cheaper if you book ahead. Flights to places like the UK and Poland are often $20USD (or less!) and I've even seen one-way tickets all the way to Bangkok for under $200USD. Getting to and from Sweden has never been easier – or cheaper!
(So come and visit me, peeps!)
6. Everyone Speaks English
If language isn't your strong suit, fear not! Approximately 86% of Swedes speak english – and they do it well. Children learn english in school, and movies/television across the country are rarely dubbed. This has allowed Swedes to pick up the language at a young age, making life infinitely easier for those of us not yet fluent in the Scandinavian tongue.
7. Vegan Friendly
Max, the Swedish version of McDonald's, offers 4 veggie burgers and 1 vegan burger. You can find veggie dogs at 7/11's and yes, you can even find giant vegan cinnamon buns. Around 10% of the population doesn't eat meat, which means there are plenty of options for the veg traveller. As I've said before, Sweden has it all: from vegetarian buffets to vegan soft serve in a donut cone, you'll have absolutely no excuse to skip a meal.
8. The King's Trail
I can think of no better reason to spend more time in Sweden than the epic the Kungsleden. A 440km hiking route in northern Sweden, the King's Trail is a truly amazing trek I hope to one day undertake. During the summer, the Swedish Tourist Association (STF) manages cabins all along the Kings Trail so you don't even have to camp if that's not your thing! For an in-depth look at the Kungsleden, you can snag a copy of the english guide book by Claes Grundsten.
Fika is the Swedish equivalent of Britain's tea time...except with coffee. Swedes love their coffee, and they're only surpassed by Finland when it comes to its consumption. Alongside that cup of joe you'll often find some small snacks as well, usually sandwiches or pastries (more cinnamon buns!!). It's here where you can take a moment to sit back, relax, and indulge in some good ol' fashioned conversation. You can't visit Sweden without having fika, and you can't have fika without slowing down. So maybe you do need to budget more time for Sweden...
10. Public Transportation
In an expensive country like Sweden, chances are you'll be riding public transportation every time you can't walk somewhere. While it isn't my favourite transit system in the world, the public busses in Sweden are reliable. They also go pretty much everywhere. I've spent some time living on an island about 70km away from the second largest city, Gothenburg, and for 65SEK ($8USD) I could take public transportation all the way there, door to door. Not a bad set up, especially for the curious tourist who wants to get off the beaten trail.
11. The Swedish Number
Sweden has its own phone number and it's amazing. You simply dial up the Swedish Number and you'll be connected to a random Swede. That's it. You can ask them questions, get suggestions and ideas (like they did on TripCreator) or just listen to their silly accents! It's an ingenious way to promote tourism in the country, so give it a try!
Update: The Swedish Number was recently canceled as it was only a temporary ad campaign. It nevertheless won some serious awards and garnered WAY more interest than expected...so maybe it will return!
12. Swedish For Immigrants/Svenska För Invandrare
If you are REALLY interested in languages than you'll definitely need to spend more time in Sweden – a lot more. SFI is a language course offered for FREE to all new residents. Daily classes, evening classes, and distance classes are all available depending on where you are located in Sweden. If you want to learn more than just a few token phrases (and feel like relocating to Scandinavia) than this is a must. I spent 4 months in SFI back in 2015 and loved it!
13. Clean Air and Water
With all that nature at your doorstep, and the right to explore it, it would be a tragedy if Sweden was a polluted country. Fortunately, the Swedes have access to some of the cleanest air and water in all of Europe. Having the 8th cleanest tap water in Europe (and the 8th cleanest air!) you needn't think twice about drinking straight from the tap!
I first encountered a shoehorn in Canada while I was in high school. I promptly made fun of the person using it. I mean, why would you need a tool to help get your shoes on?? Years later I arrived in Sweden and discovered they were a common household item. I also discovered that they were awesome! Why these aren't more popular (beyond their use by the geriatric) I just don't know...because they truly make life easier. Try one I'm pretty sure it will change your life.
Fredagsmys is a relatively new – but extremely popular – Swedish tradition. It roughly translates to “Friday” and “cozy” and basically involves eating tacos and junk food every Friday night. It's pretty much my favourite thing about Sweden. It even has a song!
16. Cheap SIM Cards
As a Canadian, I'm used to overpriced phone plans and SIM cards. I expected such high prices to follow me to “expensive” Sweden but I couldn't have been more wrong. For a basic Pay-As-You-Go plan with 1GB of data and 200 minutes you can pay as low as $12USD per month. Access to phone and data will make planning (and sharing) your trip infinitely easier, so you really have no reason not to snag a SIM card and stick around longer than you planned.
17. The Swedish Passport
The Swedish passport is tied (with Germany) for being ranked the best in the world. With a Swedish passport you can travel visa-free to 157 countries around the world! Ok, getting one isn't really something you can do on a whim – it will take 5 years of residency – but it certainly offers up some interesting possibilities for anyone thinking they might want to upgrade their passport.
Like epic cinnamon buns, chokladbollar (chocolate balls) are a go-to treat in Sweden. You can find them at every cafe or grocery store, and they've become a particular favourite of mine. Every place will make them differently, so you'll have to venture out and try a few to see if it's your kind of treat. What makes chokladbollar interesting is that they weren't always called chocolate balls. Not so long ago they had a much more racist name...*collar tug*
19. The Music
I'm not just talking ABBA and Ace of Base here, folks (though I love them both). From indie sounds like The Knife and Fever Ray, to the folky musings of The Tallest Man on Earth and First Aid Kit, to the heavier fury of In Flames, to the catchy comeback tracks of Robyn, Sweden has exported a solid music scene that is worth taking the time to hear out. If you want to go beyond the ordinary, though, you'll have to listen to Swedish music IN Swedish. For a cultural sampling you can check out Laleh, Säkert!, the the golden boy Håkan Hellström. And of course, the Swedish Chef.
Lagom is generally translated to mean “just the right amount.” Not too much, not too little, it's arguably the foundation of how Swede's look at the world. In Sweden, life isn't about getting more – it's about getting the right amount. So don't hurry your trip to Sweden, but perhaps don't drag it out...just make it the right amount of time.
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That, in a nutshell, is why Sweden is awesome. To truly get a feel for the country, however, you'll simply have to visit!