The center of Scandinavia, Sweden is one of the world’s most livable countries due to its outstanding social welfare programs and high standard of living. Once the home of ferocious Vikings, Sweden’s modern face is one of neutrality, and has been since the turn of the 20th century. The country stands as the largest sovereign state in Scandinavia, bordered by Finland to the east, Norway to the west, and Denmark to the south. Like its neighbors, Sweden’s modern and traditional culture is shaped by its engulfing Nordic climate.
Stockholm is the largest city and the capital. It rests upon the Stockholm Archipelago, spreading across several small islands. The Royal Swedish family resides within, giving it an extra dimension beyond other popular tourist stops. Visitors should also head to Gothenburg, which is an industrial-based city on the western coast. Malmo, situated along the southern tip of Sweden, offers an intriguing landscape of maritime culture. Visby is a smaller town that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The university cities of Lund and Uppsala are also wealthy cities worth exploring.
Sweden is blessed with an exciting range of summer and winter activities. Ski at some of the world’s best resorts in Riksgransen or Are. Alternatively, travel to the northern borders where the untamed wilderness of Sweden’s cold yet exhilarating Norrland region greets you with unbelievably remote hiking trails, climbing expeditions and nature tours. Don’t let the Nordic name fool you, in the warmer months, go on a boat cruise, rent a kayak or hit the beach in southern and central Sweden.
In fact, summer is high season so accommodation in places like Stockholm and Gothenburg fill up quickly. Reserve your rooms well in advance, especially when traveling during the festival-rich month of August. Everything becomes more expensive between May and August so don’t expect to find many deals on attractions, lodging, or transportation. Real local cuisine consists of fish (mostly herring dishes), meats, bread and potato, but Sweden in general has become a hodge podge of international flavors.
The primary gateway into Sweden is through Stockholm Arlanda International Airport, which is one of the largest facilities in Scandinavia. Train connections make it possible to directly reach other neighboring countries and Germany. Ferry services between Sweden and other Northern European nations are also in abundance. The Baltic Sea is crossed many times daily by large ferry and cruise liners heading in and out of Malmo, Gothenburg, and Stockholm. A rail link between Malmo and Copenhagen, under the Orsund neck of the Baltic, has existed for more than a decade.
You don't go to Sweden to work on your tan, though. The country is situated so far north, and has such strong geographic influences that its climate remains generally wet and cold through most of the year. But, within the country there is climate variation - the norther regions get a lot more precipitation throughout the year, while the middle and southern regions have more mild climates by comparison. During the winter time the entire country gets a healthy blanket of snow, and temperatures can drop to some pretty frigid lows. But it's not all bad - despite getting a lot of precipitation and cold winter weather, people generally say the climate is less harsh than they anticipated.
Although flying is much more expensive, it is the most convenient mode of transport for getting around Sweden. Car rental is available, and there are some beautiful scenic routes for motorists. However, heavy snowfall and vehicle-destroying wildlife are hazards along the roads, especially in the northern half of the country.
- Ski the vast slopes of Sweden’s powdered winter highlands
- Explore the waterways that have led to this nation’s nickname as the Land of a Thousand Lakes
- Visit in August for the numerous events and festivals like Kulturkalaset
- Hike the wild frontier of Sweden’s Norrland region, complete with a stunning view of the midnight sun
- Watch the national football team compete against Europe’s finest soccer squads
- Scream your lungs out at Liseberg Funpark
- Take a kayak expedition throughout the islands of the Stockholm Archipelago